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Up the Celts: A Benefit Irish Rock Band Festival on CD

Twenty years ago, seven of Philly’s top Irish rock musicians and bands helped raise money for the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Philadelphia by contributing tunes to a benefit CD called “Up the Celts.”

Now, a new CD is on the streets—Up the Celts Volume 2—with 15 contributors this time around, including Jamison, Raymond Coleman, The Shantys, the Birmingham Six, the Bogside Rogues, the John Byrne Band, and more.

As with so many projects and initiatives, this one was held up by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We started off this project in February,” says Brian Coleman, AOH Philadelphia County Board president. “We had all the bands on board right at the beginning of March—and then, you know what happened.”

When the pandemic hit, many businesses slowed down or just plain came to a full stop. In this case, it was Disc Makers in Pennsauken, N.J. When they finally did open up again, Coleman says, there was quite a backup. “We weren’t exactly first in line,” he adds.

The initial plan was to have the CD ready by St. Patrick’s Day. Then, the release date slipped to Irish Weekend in North Wildwood—a big event in September that was also canceled. In the end, Coleman says, the new deadline became Christmas. 

A week or so ago, the CDs arrived and are now available.

Just in time, Coleman says, for Christmas gift giving. They’re $15 apiece (and roughly $5 shipping).

The money raised will go to support the AOH/Ladies AOH state convention, scheduled to be held in Philadelphia this summer, along with local AOH charities, such as the Hibernian Hunger Project.

Bob Hurst of the Bogside Rogues played a critical role in recruiting the bands and handling the production end of things.

“We in the bands all talk to each other, and Brian approached me to get involved because I do have this network of musicians.” Hurst says. “He asked me to coordinate getting the bands on board, getting the tracks from them, and just get it all in hand. And I worked with my contacts over at Disc Makers to bring the whole package together and put it out there in a saleable format. So that’s where we are.”

Some of the tracks are tunes a few of the bands had already recorded for their own purposes. But one of the most exciting aspects of the CD is the tracks that are all new.

“We have eight original songs on the CD never heard before. The bands went into the studio to record these,” says Coleman. “And the bands did everything free of charge. There was no cost to us. Bob Hurst provided his services free of charge. I’m sure he even put a few bucks in out of his own pockets, as did graphic artist Ed Rooney at AOH Division 61, who did the artwork. So I have to thank them both for their great service.”

Nobody’s arms needed twisting, Coleman adds with a laugh. Once word got out to the bands, he says, “they were coming to us. They all wanted to be on the CD.”

Want to give it a listen? CDs are now available from some of the bands, such as Jamison, as well as a couple of local AOH divisions, together with a website: WWW.UPTHECELTS.ORG.

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