How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

It’s not a jam-packed week to be Irish, but what there is, well, it’s truly outstanding.

If you want to watch three of the best and fastest moving field sports in all of athletics—hurling, camogie and Gaelic football—check out the Gaelic Athletic Association’s Annual Continental Youth Championships this weekend at Greater Chester Valley Sports Complex, 37 Line Road in Malvern. (There is no parking at the fields or on Line Road. There is a satellite parking lot at East High School, 450 Ellis Lane, West Chester, with shuttle buses running every half hour.)

Philly is this year’s host for the massive event, with up to 25,000 kids from 4 to 18, and it’s billed as the “biggest tournament of Gaelic sports outside of Ireland.” We’ve been before, and we can’t argue. Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

This week features a few big fund-raisers, so it’s time to hit the ATM and be prepared to give generously.

On Saturday, there’s a benefit for the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It takes place at Keenan’s North Wildwood, 113 Olde New Jersey Ave., North Wildwood, N.J., from 3 to 7 p.m. It costs $30 to get in, and includes domestic bottle beer, wine, food, and music provided by a DJ. Tickets will be available at the door. For details, contact Kathy Fanning at 267-237-2953.

Closer to home on the same day, the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center, otherwise known as the Irish Center, is hosting a fund-raising bash at J.D. McGillicuddy’s, 8919 West Chester Pike in Upper Darby. The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m.

For $25, you get light food, music and raffles. There will also be a special raffle for four tickets to the Carl Frampton-Emmanuel Dominguez fight on August 10. Continue Reading


Jamison’s Alice Marie Has the World on a String—Well, Four, Actually

The musicians of Jamison are motoring noisily through sound check at Curran’s Tacony on a steamy Friday night, getting ready to begin their show. Off in a corner that is only marginally quieter than the rest of the area around the bar is the band’s fiddler Alice Marie Quirk, the humidity making her long curly hair even curlier.

She has just arrived from a 4thof July gig at a retirement community—a pretty fair indication of how busy and versatile she is. Her sound check is just a few minutes away, but for now she is taking a few moments to tell her story—how she made the transition from classical viola to fiddle in a Celtic rock band.

It’s an incomplete transition because classical music remains an important part of her life, but for some time she has been a fixture on the Philly paddy rock scene.

Quirk—who just goes by the name “Alice Marie” because people tended to mistake “Quirk” for names like “Kirk” and unfailingly mispronounce it—has come a long way from her Bachelor of Arts degree in music, with a minor in theology, from Immaculata University and her teaching certification from Eastern. (She also taught music for a time in the Philadelphia School District.) Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

Summer doldrums may be setting in, but fear not. There are two big Irish fund-raisers coming up—both of them next Saturday, July 13, with one at the shore and the other in Upper Darby. So unless you’re prepared to drive like the wind up the AC Expressway (it’s been done, of course) you might not catch both.

We’ll start with the shore gig, a benefit for the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Yes, it’s months till the next parade, with the bands, the floats and all the dudes wearing funny hats, but it’s always a good time to support the cause.

It’s at Keenan’s North Wildwood, 113 Olde New Jersey Ave., North Wildwood, N.J., from 3 to 7 p.m. It costs $30 to get in, and your entry fee gets you a lot—domestic bottle beer, wine, chow, and tunes by a DJ. Tickets will be available at the door. Details, contact Kathy Fanning at 267-237-2953. The shore’s a great place to be this time of year, so if you’re planning on a beach trip, don’t forget to check in. Continue Reading

Dance, Music

Remembering Eugene O’Donnell

The world of Irish music and dance is mourning the passing of the supremely gifted fiddler Eugene O’Donnell. News of his death came Friday, June 28, from his longtime musical partner, multi-instrumentalist and folklorist Mick Moloney.

In the Philadelphia area, he is best known for that partnership. He was also a founding member of the Philadelphia Ceili Group.

As a fiddler, he was renowned for his mastery of slow airs—although he certainly had a broad repertoire—but for many in this region, he was also known as one of the greatest step dancers ever to have taken to the floor.

According to Compass Records, for which he recorded, O’Donnell “began Irish dancing at the age of three and was the first Irish dancer ever to dance on television in London at the age of 12, all the while playing and perfecting Derry-style Irish fiddling. As a teen, O’Donnell won an unprecedented five consecutive All-Ireland dancing championships.”

O’Donnell arrived in Philadelphia from Derry in 1957. From there, it didn’t take long for him to begin sharing his many gifts.

Many recall him for his superb musical skills, but they also remember him as one of the finest, most inventive, and occasionally the most exacting of dance instructors. Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

We’re coming into the big 4thof July week, so the Irish events seem to have given way to picnics and fireworks. But what there is this week is pretty great.

Let’s get right into it.

Tonight (Friday), you’re really going to want to catch the fabulous Byrne Brothers at the Irish Center (Commodore John Barry Arts & Cultural Center), 6815 Emlen Street in Philly’s Mount Airy neighborhood.

The Dublin/Donegal family includes: 14-year-old Luca on button accordion, Finn, age 12, on banjo, mandolin and whistle, Dempsey, 9, on whistle and bodhran, together with dad Tommy and show director playing uilleann pipes, guitar, whistles, fiddle, bagpipes and bodhran. Mom Julie handles the sound.

The boys are also Ulster Irish Dancing Champions, and Finn qualified for the World Irish Dancing Championships in 2017.

This is one incredibly talented family. How can you not go?

Doors open at 6, and the show starts at 7.

Details and ticket info here.

Sunday is Celtic Heritage Day down at the wharf in beautiful Bristol Borough, Lower Bucks County. You’ll find plenty to do, with music by the John Byrne Band, the Jolly Tinkers and The Shenanigans, with an appearance by the Fitzgerald Irish Dancers.

There’s a raffle for a wheelbarrow of goodies, together with vendor tables, food and drink, and activities for the kids.

It all starts at 1.

It’s at 100-148 Basin Park, if you’re setting your GPS.

That’s it for this week, but we’d also highly recommend that you check out our calendar for event like Irish music sessions that happen on a regular basis throughout the Delaware Valley. When it comes to music sessions, you might want to call first. They’re occasionally canceled, or the times are changed.

Take care and have a happy and safe 4thof July.


A Photographer’s Look Back at the Glen Hansard Concert

I had been pining for months since I had learned Glen Hansard was coming back to Philly with his The Wild Willing Tour. After brushing off his music twice before, he quickly became a musical hero whose artistry seemed to speak directly to my soul.   

Although I don’t seem to recall this interaction in the least, apparently NPR had done a story on him and my wife loved his song “Falling Slowly,” which we played in the car. When she pushed me on it, I dismissed it. A friend also recommended him. Again, I didn’t retain it. 

However, perhaps close to a year later, this same friend mentioned him again to me in reply to a Facebook post about what artist inspires you as a human or on a deeper level. It was something like that. Chris, the friend, really talked him up. For whatever reason, this time it stuck with me. So much so that I drove 45 minutes that day to the only Barnes & Noble in the area that had a copy of his famous  “Once” on DVD.   

I watched it that night. And the following day, I bought the digital version of the soundtrack and almost burnt it out. Not sure how I went from blowing him off to then becoming almost like a cult follower. 

Regardless, I was now all in. I brought that friend, Chris, with me to see him live. I owed him that much, right? I wasn’t sure what to expect from his live show or the opener.  I did know that I would not miss it.   

Arriving at the Merriam Theater, it became very clear that Glen had amassed a serious following in Philly. We made our way to our seats. I determined my shooting points for the show, then just waited. The house lights went out and next thing I knew, Glen came out with just an acoustic guitar. I thought to myself, “No opener?” I certainly wasn’t complaining. He got to the mic and launched immediately into a lively version of “Say it to Me Now,” which I knew from the “Once” sound track. 

Glan Hansard pulls you in right away.  After he ended the song, he thanked everyone for coming in early for the show.

He then began to talk about the opening act, Junior Brother, an eclectic singer/songwriter from County Kerry, who would go on to thank Glen for lending him his guitar to use that night. JB also thanked the crowd for coming to see his show, which offered sometimes humorous songs and stories done with an acoustic guitar and foot tambourine for an overarching folk sound.   

When Glen took the stage again, he started with a fully electric “Fool’s Game.” Having this preconceived idea of him as perhaps docile based on the “Once” sound track, I was blown away with just how high-energy, charismatic and animated his show can be.

Early on in his show, he mentioned that he was unsure about booking Philly again “this soon” as he was just here last year. The filled theater quickly showed him the love that this city has for him.

His show ended close to midnight, about three hours after it began. 

Glen interwove various tales, sometimes leading him to other off-topic tales.

The one that really struck me was when he spoke about eventually becoming pen pals with someone in the military who was deployed. Admittedly, he confessed much of the communication was one-way, that the soldier really was just looking for someone to listen to him, as he shared what was going on during deployment. 

It’s because of this that Glen continued this interaction but then became alarmed when the communication stopped. For some time, Glen was unsure of the fate of his friend until one night after a show, the solider came up and greeted him, offering him great relief. 

It was an amazing show with incredible music and wonderful tales. 

To see his entire set list, click here.


A Look at the Past and the Future at the Immigration Center

(Photo by Tom Reing)

Young people and those who’ve been around a lot longer have a lot to learn from each other, and a good deal to share with the rest of the world.

That’s the general idea behind “How I Got Here – Where I’m Going,” a series of monologues to be presented Monday night at 7:30 at the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia, 7 South Cedar Lane in Upper Darby.

The monologues will be presented by three actors from Philadelphia’s acclaimed Inis Nua Theatre Company, and the material is drawn from both the senior and youth programs at the Immigration Center.

Tom Reing, the theatre company’s founder, is directing the presentation.

“It’s an intergenerational piece where we have some immigrants who became Americans, and some first-generation people,” says Reing. “Then we have some young people who have connections to Ireland as well and are part of the youth group—they’re the next chapter of the story.” Continue Reading