County Wexford singer Michael Londra burst on the scene as the lead singer in the United States tour of Riverdance, the cultural phenomenon that itself inspired all of the Celtic and Irish groups and shows that have also swept the country over the years. He was, by many standards, something of a late bloomer. He was 31 when his career began in earnest.
Since Riverdance, he’s performed in many venues and shows, from Broadway to an acclaimed PBS special in 2011. He’s also a producer of musicals, which has kept him off the road recently. But Londra’s back, and he’s performing—including a show, Michael Londra and the Celtic Fire, at Annenberg Center Live March 16.
We recently interviewed Michael Londra about his life and career. Here’s what he had to say.
Colm Keegan made his mark as a principal singer in the well-known Celtic Thunder, but before he embarked upon a performance career, he was a high school music teacher, with a master’s degree in music.
For years, he’s thought about a way to merge Irish history with music, and there never seemed like a good way to do it—until now.
On Saturday, March 9, Keegan brings the first chapter of a new series called Irish History through Music to the Commodore John Barry Arts & Cultural Center (The Irish Center), 6815 Emlen Street, at the corner of Carpenter and Emlen (SEPTA’s Carpenter station on the Chestnut Hill West Line), in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.
With her violin, Tara McNeill provides what she calls Celtic Woman’s fourth voice. And a lovely voice it is.
From early childhood, when she first took up violin, harp and singing, violin has always been her first love. The sound of the violin, she says, conveys layers of emotion that have always appealed to her.
In 2016, she realized a life’s ambition—joining Celtic Woman as a principal member, replacing the previous violinist Mairead Nesbitt.
Listeners throughout the country tune in to hear Marianne MacDonald every Sunday at noon as she hosts “Come West Along the Road” on WTMR 800 AM. The show features traditional Irish music and interviews, along with local concert and event news.
She’s been hosting the show for many years, and for her, clearly, it’s a labor of love. “It’s a highlight of my week,” she says, “and I really look forward to hearing from my listeners.”
It would have to be a labor of love. The show takes a lot of preparation, and costs thousands of dollars to produce.
You can help out. An on-air two-hour pledge drive will take place this Sunday, December 2. Listeners can phone in their pledges and donations of any size at 856-962-8000.
Derek Warfield, leader of the Young Wolfe Tones, continues his illustrious musical career, now exceeding the 50-year mark. We recently interviewed him, and he looked back on those 50 years—his life, musical upbringing, career, and hopes for the future of the Irish musical tradition.
Joanie Madden brings her band Cherish the Ladies to the Commodore John Barry Arts & Cultural Center (The Irish Center) Saturday, December 1, for the first stop of the Celtic Christmas tour. Tickets here.
Joanie, who recently won the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish-American Writers and Artists, recently took time for a chat about the award, the band, her career, and the new Christmas music tour.
Jeff: So I guess I’ll just jump right into it. You recently received the Eugene O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish-American Writers and Artists. That had to be gratifying after so many years of performing.
Joanie: Well, you know, Jeff, first off it’s great to speak to you again, and secondly, you know, it’s always nice to receive awards and honors and we had a great night. It was actually Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas presented me with the award, and it was great to join this illustrious list of names of people that have won it previously. But it was a great night. What was great about it for me, more importantly, was that so many of the musicians in New York and New Jersey and Connecticut came out. You know, all my great friends in the music business, so it was wonderful to see them all there for that.
A bright, balanced blend of Irish music and dance drawing on seasonal inspirations, Irish Christmas in America arrives on stage at Sellersville Theater 1894 Tuesday, November 27. Fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada, of the Irish traditional supergroup Téada, has been producing the show for 14 years, which never ceases to delight audiences from one end of the country to the other—regardless of whether their roots are Irish.
“We started in 2005, a few years into touring with Téada, he says. “We really enjoyed it, so we kept on doing it.”
March, of course, is perhaps the best time of year to acquaint people with Irish culture, but, he adds, Christmas is a great time, too.
Irish Christmas in America features some of the finest musicians and dancers you’re likely to find, including well-known singer, accordionist and story-teller Séamus Begley and harper Gráinne Hambly, who has performed frequently in the Philadelphia area over the years.
Author, journalist and broadcaster Jude Collins visited the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center in Philadelphia Sunday to give a talk on his new book, Martin McGuinness: The Man I Knew (Mercier Press).
The book is a collection of interviews with prominent figures in recent Northern Irish history, all reflecting on the late Martin McGuinness, prominent Irish republican Sinn Féin politician, a warrior turned peacemaker, who became deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.
McGuiness died in 2017.
Among those interviewed are prominent unionists, including Eileen Paisley (widow of Ian Paisley), Michael McGimpsey and John McAllister, peace talks chairman U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, and friends and allies such as Gerry Adams and Martina Anderson.
Was McGuinness, as some thought, a terrorist who somehow became a different man? Or was he, as others believed, always the same man—a man who never wavered in his pursuit of the same goal but who, when the time came, simply embraced a new approach?
Collins digs deep to find the answers to this and many other questions. He sat with us for a brief interview preceding his talk.
Here’s what he had to say.
Editor’s note: All Irish Philly podcasts are now available on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and Spotify.