An Ireland Trip of a Lifetime for Teens

A trip to Ireland is always a thrill, but here’s one for teens—rising high school sophomore, junior and senior, to be specific—that will leave lasting memories, not just of places, but of the peers they’re going to meet along away.

It’s the Summer Immersion Program, sponsored by Philly’s Irish Diaspora Center, and it takes place from June 21 to July 3.

This is the second such trip sponsored by the center, and organizers hope it will be even bigger and better than last year.

Some of the kids who went to Ireland for the trip last summer had been to Ireland before; some hadn’t. But it’s a cinch that even if they’d gone before, they had never seen Ireland in quite the same way.

“We’re trying to show them a different experience from what they might have seen previously in Ireland,” says Center Executive Director Emily Norton Ashinhurst. “I think the beauty of this program is that the students who are participating get a feel for Ireland that you don’t get when you’re on even the best bus tour.

“Our young people last year were able to meet up with young people in Ireland, and form networks and connections that they continue to maintain today. They’re still talking to friends they made over there. That’s really the point of the trip—to give them connections back to Ireland and build those connections for the long term.” Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

It’s a relatively short week—but the weekend in particular is pretty crowded with great goings-on.

Here we go.

Saturday, February 1

It’s time for Irish Rebel Saturday with the 2nd Street Plough Bhoys at Marty Magee’s, 1110 Lincoln Avenue in Prospect Park. Shaun, Matt and Joe will perform an all-rebel set for the Bhoys, our local Celtic Supporters Club, and it all starts at 4 p.m.

Also Saturday, Poor Man’s Gambit plays at Rigby Mansion, 523 East Church Lane in Philadelphia. It’s all tunes and food—bring your fave dish to share for the potluck. There’s a $20 suggested donation. The show starts at 6 p.m.

Later on, the John Byrne Band is in concert at the new Kelly Center for Music, Arts, and Community, 4 East Eagle Road in Havertown. The show starts at 7:30. Tickets are 15 bucks.

Finally, there’s a beef and beer Team Orange Fundraiser for Delco Gaels/Dancing Like a Star at Paddy Rooney’s Pub, 449 West Chester Pike, in Havertown. It starts at 8 p.m. Music by Shaun Durnin.

Tuesday, February 4

There’s ceili dancing—it’s billed as “stress-free,” always a good thing—at Annunciation Church, Brookline Boulevard and Wexford Road in Havertown. The foot-stomping starts at 7 p.m. Continue Reading


A Conversation with the Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney

The Chieftains, the powerhouse group that reawakened an interest in traditional Irish music 57 years ago, is headed back to the Kimmel Center on March 11 for their Irish Goodbye tour. What that means exactly is perhaps deliberately left unexplained. Does it mean we’ll never hear from the Chieftains live again? Or is there a hidden meaning altogether?

We recently chatted with the Chieftains leader Paddy Moloney to find out more about that subject, plans for the show, and to look back on more than half a century’s worth of Chieftains music-making.

Here’s what he had to say.

Irish Philly: Well, let me just jump right in here and ask about your return visit to the Kimmel Center and Philadelphia.

Paddy: One of my favorite cities is Philadelphia, I just absolutely love it. It’s magic altogether, it’s a great place to go.

Irish Philly: Well, I do know. The Kimmel Center is an especially great place to play.

Paddy: Oh the Kimmel, well the Kimmel to me is like an egg. And the people are up at the top of that egg looking down at the top of you. And everything just evolves—it’s brilliant. Coming back, I just absolutely adore the place. And we’ve been going there many times and always loved it, always loved the Kimmel. There are great people there, too.

Irish Philly: Yes. Well I have to tell you something. Several years ago, I was a drummer in a bagpipe band, and my band accompanied you guys.

Paddy: Great stuff.

Irish Philly: That was a real thrill for us, let me tell you.

Paddy: Well, we’re going to reenact the same thing again this year. With the march, “The Battle of San Patricio” and “The Andro” at the end, the people dancing around and all that. We’ve also got a choir, one of your local choirs joining in to do the songs we did on The Long Journey Home—Shenandoah, and the song that Elvis Costello wrote the words for, I did the music. And that was the anthem from The Long Journey Home. So, we have that as part of the show that’s going on. Continue Reading

Arts, Music

Caitríona O’Leary Sings Ón Dá Thaobh

Caitríona O’Leary did not conceive of the concept to translate the music of Joni Mitchell into Irish, that idea originated with the poet and writer Liam Carson who is the founder and director of IMRAM, the Irish Language Literature Festival. She did not do the initial translation of the lyrics from English to Irish (although she has done so on other projects), that “transcreation” was brought about by poet Gabriel Rosenstock.

But it is the Donegal born singer who has infused the words with her ethereal voice and her passionate rendering of the Irish interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s classic song, “Both Sides Now.”

In her vibrant and eclectic career, Caitríona has performed music that spans multiple genres, a variety of time periods and several languages; it’s absolutely instinctual that she was drawn to singing Joni Mitchell in Irish, “Ón Dá Thaobh.”

“She’s such an amazing songwriter. Her music just bowls me over, it really does. I can’t sit through all of the album ‘Blue’ without just being an emotional mess, reduced to tears every time. It’s so unique, actually, she has a voice all her own – her singing voice, but also a poetic voice. She just touches on subjects and brings everything to life, she brings a whole story to life in just a few words. I think she is absolutely remarkable, so it was a total joy for me to immerse myself in her music and her songs, and to be part of the “transcreation” of them into Irish…that’s the word that Gabriel Rosenstock always uses. He doesn’t translate, he transcreates. Of course, he says that in Irish!” And, in Irish, that word is “trascruthu.” Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

This is going to be a busy week, with a particularly busy weekend.

Let’s jump right into it.

Friday, January 24

A quick look at tonight’s schedule: The Shantys will appear at the Black Taxi, 25th and Aspen Streets in the city’s Fairmount neighborhood, starting at 7:30 p.m. Tunes and pints!

Saturday, January 25

It’s Burns Night at Plough & the Stars, 2nd Street between Market and Chestnut in Old City. Poet Robert Burns was Scottish, not Irish, but he was a Celt, and that’s close enough—and the Plough is nothing if not Irish, of course. The festivities start 6 p.m. There’ll be pipers on hand to play tunes, Highland dancers, and an opportunity or two to sample a wee dram. And best of all (maybe not, though—it’s an acquired taste) haggis! Continue Reading

How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish in Philly This Week

Big doings in Irish Philly land this week.

We’ll just launch right into things, first a little out of sequence.

Tuesday, January 21-Sunday, January 26

The 25th anniversary show of Riverdance will be at the Merriam, 250 South Broad Street, this week, featuring Anna Mai Fitzpatrick in a lead dance role and once local (Pittsgrove, N.J.) phenom Haley Richardson on fiddle. Some changes are in store for the show but at heart it’s going to be that same incredible Riverdance you’ve loved all along—lots of high stepping and incredible music. If you’ve never seen Riverdance before—hard to believe you haven’t—by all means, make time in your schedule.

The best way to buy tickets is through the Commodore John Barry Arts & Cultural Center (the Irish Center). The center gets $1 for every ticket sold using the code IRISH. A very worthy cause.

Now back into sequence … Continue Reading



The Eagles might be out of the race to the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean Philly fans won’t be tuning in on Sunday for a bunch of games that will move two teams closer to the Big Game. With cheese steaks off the menu, you might want to try this delicious, Irish-inspired make-ahead meal that you can pop in the oven just before half time.

Cottage Pie with a Cheddar Crust


In a land where sheep were traditionally a primary food supply, it’s not surprising that lamb is the foundation for many Irish farmhouse dishes. Cottage Pie, a long-time favorite, was originally created as an economical way to use leftover lamb and was always a favorite with farmers. This meat and vegetable pie, which is topped with a crust of mashed potatoes flavored with Kerrygold’s Cheddar or Dubliner cheese, can easily be doubled for a crowd. Continue Reading

Dance, People

Soul Sisters, With a History of Accomplishment

Regan Sweeney and Olivia Lisowski finish each other’s sentences. They’re a font of shared experiences, with a deep love of Irish dance, music and culture.

And one more thing: family.

“Our families are very close, ever since we were little,” says Regan. “We’ve done everything together—more siblings than cousins. And we’re lucky to have that because she (Olivia) lives in Havertown, I live in Malvern, and we just do a lot of the same things together. Since our moms (Sheila McGrory Sweeney and Maureen Heather Lisowski) are sisters, they’ve really instilled in us the idea that family is important.”

They also share each other’s victories. For Regan, a member of the McDade-Cara School of Irish Dance, it was a 1st place finish for her Loyola University Maryland Irish dance team at the Southern Region Oireachtas in the college ceili competition. The week before, she finished 17th in her solo competition at the Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas in Philadelphia.

For Olivia, a sophomore at West Chester University, it was being crowned Mary from Dungloe by the Donegal Association of Philadelphia. The college ceili competition and Mary from Dungloe happened on the same night in early December. Continue Reading