News, People

2019 Commodore John Barry Award Recipient: Russ Wylie

Russ Wylie, second from right

“The way I approach it is, if I can be kind to others in my little orbit, in my family and the people who are around me, if everybody did that, it would be a wonderful world. So I’ll just keep trying to do that. And that’s the best I can do.”

If, indeed, everyone was able to do just a small bit of what Russ Wylie does, the world would be a better-than-wonderful place. The man who is being honored this year with the Commodore John Barry Award by the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame has lived a life guided by that principle, one that along the way has resulted in considerable and far reaching contributions to the Philadelphia Irish community. His work on behalf of the 69th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Old St. Mary’s Church, the Commodore John Barry Memorial at the United States Naval Academy, St. Anne’s Church, Duffy’s Cut and the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick has insured that the people who may have once been consigned to merely a place in history will instead live on for future generations to know and actively remember.

Born in 1949 and raised in South Plainfield, N.J., Russ grew up influenced by the kind of example he himself lives by today. He describes his father, Russell D. Wylie, as “the kindest man that I’ve ever known.” Trained as a machinist, his dad worked his way up to the position of plant manager at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., which at the time was the top research facility in the world. “He was fascinated by scientific things. He didn’t go to college, he went to technical school. But he could do anything. He and his dad had a custom auto care business in Plainfield, where they would do custom upholstery, redo convertible tops, work on the inside and do bodywork. They’d even do custom work for private airplanes. My dad taught me a lot of stuff, we had a workshop down in the cellar of our house, and he taught me carpentry, painting … we had a lot of good memories working together in the shop downstairs. My mom [Edwina Hazen] was a nice lady, she loved gardening and was very close to her sister, my Aunt Marian. I’m very fortunate to have been drawn to my parents in this life.” Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

Saturday, November 2

Strap on your dancing shoes and be prepared to show off your best bib and tucker—whatever that means—for the 114th annual Mayo Association of Philadelphia Charity Gala Ball. The ball starts at 7 p.m. at the Irish Center, 6815 Emlen Street in Mount Airy. Price of admission is $30.  Tickets can be purchased online. (An optional dinner is available from 6 to 8 p.m. at additional charge.)

The night will be jam-packed with music, starting with DJ John Shields, and moving on to one of New York’s hottest groups, the McLean Avenue Band, with an additional appearance by Emerald pipers. The evening culminates in the crowning of Miss Mayo. Tickets are still available. This one typically fills the ballroom. Continue Reading

Arts, News

It’s Art, It’s Unique and Contemporary, and it’s Straight Out of Ireland

Talk about Ireland, and most people envision green, rolling hills, pastures dotted with sheep, thatched cottages, quaint little villages, sprawling beaches and high, craggy cliffs. And make no mistake, Ireland is all of those things and more. Chances are pretty good that you’ve seen paintings, photography, crafts, knitwear, glassware and other works of art that depict all of the above.

Maybe you haven’t seen everything, even if you think you have. The folks at the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia believe there are more and unique ways of capturing the essence of Ireland. And they’re presenting a sweeping three-day event called “Straight Out of Ireland” that displays a wide variety of art that captures new and distinctive ways of seeing the Emerald Isle.

The works of more than 25 Irish artists, and a dozen American artists who have been influenced by Ireland will present their works in an Immigration Center benefit from November 15th through the 17th at Sacred Heart Academy (480 South Bryn Mawr Ave, in Bryn Mawr. Many types of art will be showcased, including exquisite paintings, glassware, needlework, sculpture, fabrics, and much more. You’ll also have a chance to meet the artists.

“We really wanted to showcase contemporary Ireland,” explains Emily Norton Ashinhurst, executive director of the Immigration Center, who hopes that “Straight Out of Ireland” will become the Center’s signature fund-raiser. “I think that while we all love the traditional Celtic art we’ve grown up with, I think sometimes we tend to forget that there is a great deal of work being done currently. Ireland has such a rich history, but I don’t want to forget that it has a very rich current art scene. There’s a real mix of media—and that’s one of the cool things. We have some knitwear, we have some textiles, we have jewelers, we have painters, sculptures, photography and ceramics. We have a lace artist. It’s some really cool stuff. And from the local people, we have a furniture maker, somebody who does wooden bowls, and more. It’s just a wonderful showcase of work that is coming out of Ireland and inspired by Ireland.” Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

Wow, do we have a week for you … and looking a bit beyond, even more.

Here’s what’s what.

Saturday, October 26

Celebrate Halloween with the Shantys at The Fainting Goat, 105 South MacDade Boulevard in Glenolden. Happy hour starts at 5 p.m. Wear a costume!

Sunday, October 27

It’s got pancakes! It’s got Irish music! Sweet! Take in the pancake session with Maggie’s Boots at Philly Wolf Den, Wolf and South Chadwick Street in Philly, starting at 12:30 p.m. Musicians are welcome to join in the tunes. Pancakes and other goodies will be served until about 3. Suggested donation: $10.

On a more serious note, the film, “Dan Berrigan Pray for Us” will be shown at the Irish Center, 6815 Emlen Street in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia. The film documents Father Daniel Berrigan’s life around the time of the Vietnam war. It’s free, with refreshments following, with the screening starting at 2 p.m. Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

A bit of a lull in the proceedings this week, but you definitely need to check out the following:

Saturday, October 19

Here’s how to have fun and support a couple of good causes. It’s the first ever Casino Night sponsored by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, to be held in a beautiful refurbished barn in Malvern.

The event starts at 6:30 p.m., featuring live music by Raymond McGroary, open bar with beer, wine and soft drinks, hors d’oeuvres and desserts, an outdoor cigar bar—and of course, a stack of chips to get you started off in a beginner-friendly game of blackjack, poker or craps.

Proceeds benefit the Duffy’s Cut Project and the Friendly Sons Immaculata Scholarship Endowment. Continue Reading

Music, People

Fiddler C.J. Mills: ‘I’ll Play Until I Can’t Play Anymore’

It’s a late Saturday afternoon at Paddy Whack’s Irish Sports Club, tucked away in a strip shopping center off Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philly.

Inside, fiddler C.J. Mills and frequent partner, singer-guitarist Seamus McGroary, are blazing away at a set of reels, playing for two little girls in sparkly dresses who are performing that day for Celtic Flame School of Irish Dance.

Suddenly, Mills leaps from the stage and climbs atop two high-top bar chairs, and plays away as if fiddling while poised inches away from the ceiling tiles is something he does all the time.

In fact, it is what he does all the time. He’s also renowned for jumping up and down while he plays on stage, as if he can’t contain the energy of the tune he’s cranking out. And he’s also known for playing with his electric fiddle propped behind his neck, which he does while he’s performing the balancing act on the chairs in Paddy Whack’s.

It took a while for him to learn how to play the fiddle version of a high wire act, but he loves doing it—and the audience loves that he does it. Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

We’ve had festivals of one kind or another for a month—and it’s not ever. There’s a great one in New Jersey this weekend.

Here’s what’s up.

Saturday, October 12

The Smithville Irish Festival kicks off at the Village Greene of Historic Smithville in Galloway, N.J. They’ve got a full schedule of music on two stages, dancing, food, pipers, vendors, and more.

Sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians of Cape May County Division II and all Irish Martyrs, the festival starts at 10 a.m.

You’ll recognize some of the bands—they’re among the best in the area.

Birmingham Six will be on the main stage, along with Jamie & The Quietmen. In the Gazebo, it’s John O’Callahan and Bill Felix and Tom Brett. Continue Reading

Audio, Audios

Podcast: Interview with Fiddler Winifred Horan

Fiddler Winifred Horan is best-known for her work with the band Solas, but she has also forged a productive and creative solo career.

Now she is out with a beautiful new CD, “The Memory of Magic.”

We spent a good long time recently talking about the new album, and the thought and inspiration that went into it.

You can see Win Friday, October 25, at 8 p.m. at the Philadelphia Irish Center in a concert presented by the Philadelphia Ceili Group. She’ll be joined by pianist Utsav Lal and guitarist Dan Faiella.

Purchase tickets here.

Here’s our interview.

Editor’s note: All Irish Philly podcasts are now available on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, TuneIn and Spotify.