Nearly 1,000 people filled the pews at St. Malachy’s Church in North Philadelphia on Sunday for the annual “Mick Moloney and Friends” concert that benefits St. Malachy’s School, an independent Catholic school that educates more than 200 minority children in a parish that was once Irish.
The families of many former parishioners return to St. Malachy’s every year to hear folklorist Moloney tell stories and jokes and play the traditional music that the parish’s founders—a group of Irish immigrants and the Sisters of Mercy– listened to in the late 1800s when St. Malachy’s was the “little church in the woods.”
This year, the Galway-born Moloney, who is professor of music and Irish studies at New York University, brought friends Billy McComiskey (accordian), Dana Lyn (fiddle), and Jerry O’Sullivan (uillean pipes), along with Saul Broudy on guitar and vocals with Dennis Gormley, one-half of McDermott’s Handy, on electric guitar. Also on hand: Pastor Kevin Lawrence and retired pastor John McNamee, along with student Jalesaa Figueroa, a 2007 graduate of St. Malachy’s who is now a senior at Little Flower High School.
Figueroa, who lives with her disabled grandmother, threw herself a benefit concert and dinner this year to cover her last year’s tuition at Little Flower. A soloist in St. Malachy’s choir, Figueroa was the star of that particular benefit—and she came to St. Malachy’s benefit to tell the audience that she owed everything to the school that needed their help.