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The Christmas Tree Arrives at the Plough

I’ve always wondered how they got that huge Christmas tree into the Plough & the Stars.

And make no mistake—every year, the Plough, at 2nd and Chestnut, manages to wedge a fir tree that stands over 20 feet into a corner or the restaurant, not far from the fireplace. (Not too close, though.)

I had heard rumors that it was lowered into place through trap door just an arm’s length from the restaurant’s second level. I Never quite believed it, but still … how else? Continue Reading

Pipe Major Emeritus Joe Tobin
News, People, Videos

Getting the Last Word In

There’s the buildup to the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame Dinner. Nominations. Selections of honorees. Meetings. Jobs handed out. More meetings.

Finally, there’s the night itself, when all of the honorees gather together in the ballroom at the Philadelphia Irish Center to receive their awards and their richly deserved applause.

Honorees this year were Mary Frances Fogg, Dr. Denis Boyle, Kathy DeAngelo and Dennis Gormley, along with the Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe Band, recipients of the Barry Award. Joe Tobin, pipe major emeritus, accepted on behalf of the band. Continue Reading

Mick and Liz
Music, Videos

Watch: Two Great St. Malachy Concert Videos

You can read about Ed Reavy on Wikipedia:

“Ed Reavy was an Irish-American musician, composer of numerous traditional Irish dance tunes. Born in Barnagrove, County Cavan, he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1912 where he settled in the Irish-American enclave of Corktown.”

Or you can just get out of Wikipedia altogether and listen to some of the finest traditional Irish musicians play Reavy’s music. We recommend the latter. One note is worth a thousand words.

Mick Moloney and friends, playing at the 28th annual Irish Concert at St. Malachy Church last Sunday, ripped through a bunch of Reavy tunes as their last full set. We have the video here. You’ll be listening to Mick, uilleann piper Jerry O’Sullivan, accordion player Billy McComiskey, local fiddle phenom Alexander Weir, four-time All-Ireland fiddler Dylan Foley, concertina great Brenda Castles, and fiddler Liz Hanley. Continue Reading

Music, News, People, Videos

Video: The Emerald Pipe Band, from Then Till Now

It started out as a police and fire band—only there weren’t really enough cops and firefighters to fill out an entire band. So membership in the Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe Band was opened up to civilians.

From that point on, the band has moved from its humble beginnings in an American Legion hall, marching in parades throughout the Delaware Valley, to its longtime practice hall in the ballroom at the Philadelphia Irish Center/Commodore Barry Club. After that move, the band became an integral part of the Irish community, playing for everything from county banquets to the annual Joe McGarrity memorial in Holy Cross Cemetery to—of course—the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade. Continue Reading

News, Videos

For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow

 

When the Delaware Valley Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCE) presented County Tyrone-born accordion player Kevin McGillian with its Lifetime Achievement Award, we captured video of his big moment.

CCE Chairperson Katherine Ball-Weir presented opening comments, and led the tribute.

News, People, Photos, Videos

Tribute to Kevin McGillian

Dozens of people crammed into the tiny MacSwiney Club last Saturday night to pay tribute to Kevin McGillian, who has been playing Irish music on his button accordion at ceilis far and wide since he arrived from Tyrone in the 1950s.

The Comhaltas Ceoltiori Eireann Philadelphia-Delaware Valley Division gave McGillian its lifetime achievement award, appropriately during a break in a ceili at the Jenkintown club. Playing button accordion in the ceili band was Billy McComiskey, a four-time all-Ireland champion who drive up from Baltimore to be part of the event. Later in the evening, he gave McGillian his accordion to hold and the octogenarian, who has been battling cancer, coaxed a tune out of it. McGillians sons, Jimmy and John, also joined in the music making. Continue Reading

Music, News, Videos

The Galway Girl Comes to Philly

Sharon Shannon is talking on the phone from her home in Galway and she is surrounded by cats. “I have 11 of them,” she says, “and one is a kitten who’s very playful making the rest of them play.”

She also has eight dogs, all of which live in the house. “You can imagine there is a lot of cleaning,” she says.

But she’s waiting for the arrival of her animal minder who will be staying with her menagerie while Shannon, a legendary accordion player, heads off on her US tour that will bring her to the Tin Angel in Philadelphia on Wednesday, October 7. Opening for her is the John Byrne Band, which is fronted by a Dublin-born singer-songwriter who now calls Philadelphia home. Continue Reading