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Mick Moloney


Another Year of Joyful Noise

Athena Tergis and Billy McComiskey

Athena Tergis and Billy McComiskey

No one can recall quite when Mick Moloney started playing his annual benefit for St. Malachy School, the most recent of which was held a couple of Sundays ago in the church on North 11th Street.

The parish’s retired pastor Father John McNamee figures it’s at least 22 years since he bumped into Moloney at a presentation on ethnic music at the Balsch Institute. The two struck up an immediate friendship, and Moloney soon suggested a fund-raiser for the little school a few blocks from Temple University in North Philadelphia.

Since then, Moloney’s annual gathering of musical friends has become, McNamee says, “the longest and most successful benefit we have all year” for a school the American Ireland Fund has called “a preeminent symbol of ecumenism and outreach to poor and disadvantaged youth and their families.”

Without this concert and other fund-raisers, Father Mac told his audience, “We’d have closed down 15 years ago.” And he added: “I can’t imagine this neighborhood without this school.”

Neither can we.

Thanks to Moloney and a few of his fellow musicians—Athena Tergis, Brendan Dolan, Billy McComiskey, Brendan Callahan and Caitlin Finley—we won’t have to.

Here are a few photographic remembrances of the day.


Musicians Rally for One of Their Own

From left, Mick Moloney, Jimmy Crowley, and Robbie O'Connell.

From left, Mick Moloney, Jimmy Crowley, and Robbie O'Connell.

Sitting on the stage at the Shanachie Pub and Restaurant between Irish trad buddies Robbie O’Connell and Jimmy Crowley, musician and folklorist Mick Moloney recalled the time in the early 60s when he met famed Irish balladeer Danny Doyle in Dublin.

“The hardest thing about playing in pubs was getting paid at the end of the night,”  he said. He recalled one barkeeper with Parkinson’s disease whose hands shook so badly that “it was four or five different grabs before you could get your money. Whenever I get together with Danny, we always talk about that.”

These days, however, Doyle, who has recorded 35 albums and performed at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and the National Concert Hall in Dublin, hasn’t had any gigs to get paid for. In August, surgery  for a carotid blockage left Doyle unable to perform. So on Sunday,  Gerry Timlin, co-owner of the Shanachie, organized the benefit to help Doyle meet the bills. And before they headed to another benefit at St. Malachy’s Church and School in Philadelphia, Moloney, O’Connell and Crowley stopped in at the Ambler pub to sing for their friend. So did a gang of other performers, including McGirr and Alberts, the King Brothers, and the Malones. Bill Reid of East of the Hebrides Entertainment, emceed the event which interspersed raffle drawings with some great music.


Joyful Noise

Fiddlers Dana Lyn and Athena Tergis share post-show refreshments with Tergis's daughter Vivienne.

Fiddlers Dana Lyn and Athena Tergis share post-show refreshments with Tergis's daughter Vivienne.

Mick Moloney couldn’t recall precisely how many years he and his musical friends have staged their annual benefit for St. Malachy School in North Philadelphia. It really seems like forever. It’s well over 20 years, anyway.

And yet, at the same time, nothing about Moloney’s music ever feels old. If anything, this year’s concert—under the watchful eye of pastor John McNamee, assorted angels and a small gathering of saints—sounded as fresh, full of energy and divinely inspired as ever.

How could it not? First, you have Moloney—himself a one-man band and a living, breathing repository of Irish music, history and culture. Accompanying Moloney this year as special guests were the durable veterans Robbie O’Connell and Jimmy Crowley. Representing the younger generation were fiddlers Dana Lynn, Athena Tergis and Philly’s own Brendan Callaghan. (And a little later on, representing the even younger generation, were locals Caitlin Finley on fiddle, Emma Hinesly on flute and Jeremy Bingaman on bouzouki.)

The church was very nearly filled with Irish music fans, parishioners and the very supportive neighbors of this church community south of Temple’s main campus, which has been described as “Philadelphia’s island of grace.”

(And with the shooting death of Philadelphia Police Officer Charles Casidy still fresh in everyone’s mind, the neighborhood can use all the grace it can get.)

“Father Mac,” who has served as St. Malachy’s pastor since 1984, thanked audience members for their goodwill offering—and it’s certainly going to come in handy. “We have 216 children in our school,” he said from the altar, just before volunteers started to take up the collection. “Only 20 of them are Catholic. Our tuition is $1,600, which is considerably less—about $500 less—than the average Catholic elementary school tuition. You help us to cover the difference between what it costs us to provide the education and what it costs the parents.”

For their goodwill offering, the audience received plenty in return. Moloney and company, lined up in front of the marble altar and surrounded by pumpkins and fall flowers, served up one great old song after another, including “McNally’s Row of Flats,” from Moloney’s 2006 CD of the same name, and endless jigs and reels. Indeed, the night concluded with “a blast of reels,” with all the musicians crowding onto the stage. The hall echoed with whoops, clapping hands and stomping feet.

If you missed it, no worries. We have photos and video.