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.