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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

The Philadelphia Irish Center

The Philadelphia Irish Center

This time of year, if you want to be Irish in Philadelphia you often have to go to New Jersey. But that’s okay, because many Irish Philadelphians do.

Slainte—Frank Daly and C.J. Mills of Jamison—will be at Keenan’s in North Wildwood on Saturda at 5, then with Jamison at Casey’s, also in North Wildwood, at 9:30 that night. Quite a day. Hope their voices hold out because Jamison is heading over to Shenanigans in Sea Isle City on Sunday.

The Broken Shillelaghs will be at the Gloucester County AOH (you don’t have to be a member to attend) on Saturday too.

But the big story on action news. . .er, Irish Philadelphia, is the Fundraiser for the Irish Center on July 19 at Maloney’s Pub, 2626 County Line Road in Ardmore. If you’ve been reading along with us, you know that the Irish Center, which was founded in 1958 and is the hub of many of the activities in the Irish community, just got slammed with a huge tax bill, the result of a citywide reassessment that affected many other private clubs in Philadelphia. An appeal brought the 800 percent increase in the center’s taxes down to a 300 percent hike, but the Center still can’t afford it. To make matters worse, the range hood in the kitchen needs to be replaced (it’s at least $20,000). Without it, the kitchen won’t pass a Board of Health inspection and the Center will lose its main source of income—events and catering.

The Center has faced money shortfalls before, but this is the first time it’s faced an imminent shutdown. The Center is the home to all the county societies, the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Ceili Group (and its annual traditional music festival), the Next Generation (the group of youngsters who learn and perform traditional music together), weekly ceili dance classes conducted by John Shields, and the Cummins School of Irish Dance. It’s where the Donegal and Galway, and Mayo Balls are held, the Philadelphia Mary from Dungloe is chosen, the Derry Society holds its socials, famous Irish musicians play in the ballroom or the cozy Fireside Room, the seniors meet once a month for lunch and some music, and Gaelic football fans watch their favorite teams on pay-per-view while eating a full Irish breakfast on Sunday mornings.

Think of what it will mean if those groups no longer have a central place to meet and there is no one stage where Irish traditional music can be performed.

If you can’t come to the fundraiser (it starts at 6 PM), consider making an online donation on the Irish Center’s website, the fundraising website, or by sending a check to the Commodore Barry Club, 6815 Emlen Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119.


How to Be Irish in Philly

How To Be Irish in Philly This Week

Blackthorn's Michael Boyce at a prior Penns Landing fest.

This is one jam-packed weekend if you like rugby, Irish music, dancing, and fun. Surely, one of those things will entice you out either to the 2011 USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championships in Chester on Saturday and Sunday, the Irish festival in Mont Clare throughout the entire weekend,  or the Irish Festival on Penns Landing on Sunday.

Notre Dame is one of the teams competing over the weekend at the Philadelphia Union’s waterfront soccer stadium during the sevens—so-called because the team is made up of only 7, rather than 15 players, which amplifies the action. The matches will be televised by NBC, but only if you go out can you also enjoy the Saturday night concert by the Dropkick Murphys.

Speaking of Notre Dame, the AOH Notre Dame Division 1 annual Irish festival is this weekend too. The fun starts Friday night at St. Michael’s Picnic Grounds under the pavilion in Mont Clare, PA. Enjoy the music of Jamison, the Belfast Connection, Misty Isle,  the Bogside Rogues, and a ceili with Tom McHugh, Kevin and Jim McGillian.  There’ll be food, vendors, pipers, Irish dancers, $2 pints all weekend long and tickets are only $15 for the entire weekend. Doesn’t get any better than that. Oh, wait, yes it does. All proceeds from this annual festival go to support AOH charities.

It’s year 13 for the Penns Landing Irish Festival which draws thousands to the Delaware River for free music and entertainment along with plenty of vendors selling beer, food, and Irish stuff. This year, Blackthorn, the Hooligans, and Jamison will appear on the main stage. There will be nonstop Irish dancing and kids activities.

The events simmer down during the week (though there’s a session every night somewhere) until Friday, when the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion and the Rosenbach Museum present the world premier of “Stoker’s Dracula,” adapted and performed by Philadelphia actor Josh Hitchens. The story by the Irish writer will be told by candlelight in a dark room. Sounds like spooky fun!

Also on Friday night, catch Philly-based, Dublin-born singer-songwriter John Byrne with jazz vocalist Lili Anel at Milkboy Café on Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore. Byrne has received accolades for his debut album, “After the Wake,” and Anel, who grew up in New York but now makes Philly her home, was recently honored as best female singer/songwriter and best female jazz vocalist in the prestigious New York Music Awards.

As always, there’s more information on our calendar, the cutest, most cuddly calendar in the entire Delaware Valley.

Columns, How to Be Irish in Philly

How to Be Irish In Philly This Week

Double proof that you don’t have to be Irish to be an Irish musician: Isaac Alderson and Jonas Fromseier.

Isaac Alderson was 11 or 12 when he discovered Irish music. A friend of his mother’s gave him a set of practice pipes and he was hooked. By the time he was 17, he was being paid to anchor Irish sessions in his native Chicago. At the 2002 Fleadh Cheoil in Ireland—the Superbowl of traditional musicians—Alderson was named the All-Ireland Senior Champion in three instruments, uilleann pipes, flute and whistle, becoming the first American ever to perform that particular hat trick.

Alderson will be on stage at the Irish Center this Saturday, bringing with him Fromseier, the Danish-born bouzouki and banjo player who, with a grant from the Danish government, wound up in Galway studying Irish music after a stint with a Danish Irish trad group called “The Trad Lads.” (The Danes, while not Celtic, do have an Irish connection: They conquered the little island long ago when they were members of the well known group, the Vikings.)

Before the Vikings land here, check out “Cherish the Ladies,” Joanie Madden’s fabulous girl group, performing at the Sellersville Theatre on Friday night. Band members change, but the quality of these amazing musicians never dims. Plus, Madden is a hoot.

Another unusual sighting this week: Belfast-born indie musician Henry Cluney from the group Stiff Little Fingers will be performing at Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Sunday is also the second in a series of fundraisers for the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade, this one at AOH 39 on Tulip Street in Philly. On board for this one: Winners of the “best Irish band” in the US battle of the bands sponsored by Strangford Lough Brewing Company in Northern Ireland, Jamison Celtic Rock.

For Valentine’s Day, the Irish Immigration Center is hosting a luncheon and party at the Irish Center, 6815 Emlen Street, in Philadelphia on Monday at noonish. Great food, music, dancing—and love, they promise, will be in the air.

This week, two great Irish plays debut as part of the Philadelphia Irish Theater Festival. The Abbey Theatre of Dublin’s “Terminus,” a playing serial killers, avenging angels, and love-sick demons (of course, you’ll laugh), is at the Zellerbach Theatre. On February 16 and 17, Father David Cregan, OSA, PhD, associate professor of theatre and English, will host a post-show question and answer session with the cast. On February 17, catch the opening of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, one of the Martin McDonagh’s wildly dark and comic plays about a soldier who returns home to find that his only friend. Wee Thomas, the cat, has been assassinated. Bad things ensue. This one is at Plays and Players Theatre on Delancey Street in Philadelphia.

On Friday, Boston’s Matt and Shannon Heaton (with new baby, Nigel!) will be performing at Trinity Episcopal Church in Swarthmore. Shannon, whose newest CD is “The Blue Dress,” was named Live Ireland’s Female Musician of the year two years running (2010 and 2011).

Friday night is also the kick-off concert for the Mid-Winter Scottish-Irish Festival in Valley Forge, now in its 19th year of making winter bearable for fans of Celtic everything. There’s music, drink, food, dancing, and Irish tchotchkes for sale. Always fun.