Smith, whose parents came to the U.S. from County Cavan, invented the mechanical lure in 1912 to prevent the killing of live jackrabbits by greyhounds during the sport of coursing. His invention eventually led to dog racing as we know it on oval tracks around the world.
Greyhound racing was introduced in England in 1926. A year later, on May 24, 1927, 8,000 people showed up at Dublin’s Shelbourne Park for the debut of greyhound racing in Ireland. Despite the closing of tracks around the world, dog racing remains a popular form of gambling entertainment in Ireland, and a new track is set to open next fall in Limerick.
In 2008, Massachusetts voters, by a margin of 56 to 44 percent, elected to ban the sport effective January 1, 2010. Only seven states now permit greyhound racing, down from 16 states a decade ago.
Declining support for the industry in America is attributed to the struggling economy, protests and campaigns by animal advocacy groups, and the widespread availability of casinos and alternative forms of entertainment.
In Europe, a similar trend is taking shape. Tracks have closed all over Spain, and dog racing in England suffered a major setback last year with the closing of the Coventry track.
One country that is bucking that trend, for now, is Ireland, where a new state-of-the-art stadium is being built in Limerick. Seventeen tracks across the country currently do well, despite growing protests and a troubled Irish economy.
Marion Fitzgibbon, who is a past president of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the Echo that she is dismayed that the Irish government is subsidizing the new Limerick stadium.
“We were hoping that the old stadium would be torn down, and that something else would take its place instead of another dog track,” she said.
“But betting on horses and greyhounds is still very big in Ireland, and with this new stadium they’re trying to appeal to a younger crowd who want gourmet meals and enclosed corporate boxes.”
Fitzgibbon, who is a long-time member of Limerick Animal Welfare, said that she was very pleased with the abolition of greyhound racing in New England. Her hope is that the trend will eventually sweep her own country.
She said that the Irish governing board has taken some measures to promote greyhound adoption and enforcement of animal welfare regulations.
“But there’s still a tremendous amount of cruelty and mistreatment within the industry, and there’s way too much over-breeding,” she said.
Fitzgibbon said that about 16,000 puppies and retired greyhounds become surplus for the industry each year, with many of them ending up maimed and abandoned.
Louise Coleman, director of Greyhound Friends in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, has placed thousands of greyhounds in homes since 1983 through her adoption shelter. She recently took in another 20 greyhounds from the recently closed Raynham Park.
As president of the American-European Greyhound Alliance, Coleman describes the current situation as a “transitional” period for greyhounds around the world, with so many tracks closing and so many dogs in need of homes.
Coleman shares the concerns of Fitzgibbon about the over-breeding of greyhounds in Ireland.
“The economy in Ireland isn’t in very good shape, and I wonder how long the racing industry will survive there,” she told the Echo. “It’s amazing how fast racing ended in New England, and it could happen in Ireland. In that case, a lot of homes will be needed.”
The Irish government cut funding to the industry by 13 percent for 2010, on the heels of a nine percent reduction last year. And in another sign that the industry may be in trouble, fewer races will be held during the quiet winter months.
“Down the road, I wonder what will happen to the breed itself,” Coleman said.
“When greyhound racing as it has existed ends, who will breed the greyhounds? It will be up to us as stewards to make sure they are taken care of.”
Anyone interested in greyhound adoptions can contact Coleman at www.greyhound.org.
Edward Joseph Toner Jr. was born in Queens, New York and resided in Howell, New Jersey from 1966 to 1993 before moving to Brick. A graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, Toner became a naval aviator and served in three squadrons and aboard six ships before retiring in 1971.
He was a decorated veteran of both the Korean War and Vietnam and was a captain for TWA for 30 years before retiring in 1987.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Marlene (Greene); six children, Eamonn, Patrick, Deirdre, Eileen Becker, Timothy and Kevin; his brother, John; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
After a funeral Mass he was interred in Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Arneytown.
Though the lines describing his passing are few, those describing Ed Toner’s life are far greater in number. Some of them were recorded by the Echo in June, 2008 in a story of how he met his wife, Marlene, a native of Dublin.
Ed was one of the first pilots to fly the Atlantic for Aer Lingus, then AerLinte Eireann, when, in 1958, it started up its own transatlantic service linking Dublin and Shannon with Idlewild Airport in New York.
The Irish airline had cabin crew for its four Super Constellation aircraft, but no pilots trained for the plane at the time.
So it was decided to recruit American pilots to get the new service off the ground. Ed Toner was one of them.
“I got the job as co-pilot. There was the Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid, Saint Brendan and St. Columcille,” Toner told the Echo back in 2008.
“On my second crew rest layover in Dublin at the Royal Hibernian Hotel, I decided to check out the nightlife at the Metropole,” he said referring to a famous ballroom in the Irish capital at the time.”
It was here that he met Marlene Greene. Over time, the two would get to know each other by letter, airmail of course. And it was by airmail that Ed Toner eventually proposed, and Marlene accepted.
And so began their long and happy life together.
The non-title contest, on a card featuring two world championship bouts, is scheduled for eight rounds.
Duddy is hopeful that his ninth appearance at the fabled Garden — a record for an Irish fighter — will be a memorable one for his legion of fans.
“I’ve watched his tapes and he’s a strong, come-forward fighter,” the Derry Destroyer [27-1, 17 KOs] said of Astorga. “I won’t have to look for him in the ring. It should be an exciting contest for the fans.”
“I’m feeling good and hope they’ll enjoy a great night,” he added.
“He’s gonna win,” Duddy trainer Harry Keitt guaranteed. “He’s in much better shape for this fight than the one before.”
Keitt and Duddy reunited some three weeks before the fighter’s last bout, a lopsided points victory over Michi Munoz last October. They have been in the gym for close to three months since. It’s one of the longest training stints Duddy has undergone in his seven-year career.
“John’s in tip-top shape. He’s strong, in magnificent shape and is gonna win, possibly by KO, although we won’t be looking for it,” the bullish Keitt predicted. “If we get the KO, we’ll take it. But we’ll just be looking for the ‘W’ [win].”
In Astorga, who at 31 is a year older than him, Duddy faces a KO artist, albeit one with a brittle chin of sorts.
A native of Chihuahua, Mexico, now residing in Texas, Astorga has scored nine knockouts in his 14 victories and lost three times, all via stoppage. Two of those three defeats have come in his last four fights: against James Cook [TKO 4] and Ronald Hearns [TKO 8].
Astorga also has one draw on his ledger.
The 44 year-old political advisor worked in the destitute Caribbean nation for two years prior to the epic earthquake that took his and the lives of more than a hundred thousand people last week.
Grene, a dual national, was born in Chicago, but was raised in County Cavan and is married to County Down native Jennifer. The couple have three children.
Andrew’s twin brother, Gregory Grene, is a well known musician in the New York based Celtic Rock group, the Prodigals. Greogry confirmed the death of his brother, to the Echo on Tuesday.
The Grene family lives in Hicksville on Long Island. Their eldest two sons Patrick (21) and Alexander (19) both attend their father’s alma mater, the University of Chicago. The youngest, Rosamund, is 14 years old.
Alex spoke to the Echo in the days after the earthquake of the family’s fervent wish that their father would be pulled alive from the rubble. They waited and tried not to despair as days passed with no news of their father and husband.
“You always entertain the hard mental questions,” said Alex earnestly, and with unbelievable poise, in the face of such trauma.
“Many possibilities cross our minds, but we just hope he will be found,” she said before the saddest of news reached the family from the stricken island.
“We know he was on the top floor of the UN building when it collapsed,” Alex added.
Others in that same meeting included the chief of the UN Mission in Haiti, Mr. Hedi Annabi, and a delegation from China. The body of Mr. Annabi was recovered earlier in the week.
The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Miche_l Martin, extended his condolences to both Mr. Grene’s family in the U.S. and to his many family members back in County Cavan.
“He was a true humanitarian, working for the good of the people of Haiti,” said Minister Martin in a statement.
“Andrew is part of a long and honorable Irish tradition of public service with the United Nations. His family, and indeed Ireland, can be very proud of his work.”
Grene worked for the United Nations for the last fifteen years. He was originally a speech writer and then moved into peacekeeping programs. He was dispatched to Africa and East Timor prior to going to Haiti.
He was last home in New York with his family at Christmas.
The more than fifty visitors came to the nation’s capital from both coasts and the heartland of the Midwest to listen to briefings from three top staffers in the Obama administration who work in the areas of both domestic and foreign policy.
The briefing, which was designated as a background one by the White House, was preceded by a very much on the record one in the nearby Hay-Adams Hotel where the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform hosted a lunch during which the delegation was brought up to date on the immigration reform situation in Congress by former congressman Bruce Morrison, who acts for the ILIR as an advisor and lobbyist.
Morrison said that the first signs of action in the Senate could be expected soon, as early as February or March.
The subsequent briefing at the White House, which lasted over two hours, and which was set in train by Stella O’Leary of the Irish American Democrats, was an opportunity for delegation members to ask a wide variety of questions.
The ILIR’s Ciaran Staunton said it was a groundbreaker in that for the first time, the Irish were raising their immigration concerns directly with the White House.
In addition to questions on immigration reform, the visitors asked a wide variety on other issues of Irish American concern, most notably Northern Ireland.
Created by an inspired assist from Shane Horgan, O’Driscoll’s score with the very last play of the game means that Leinster can now afford to lose their last pool game against London Irish at Twickenham on Saturday and still reach the knockout stages.
If they manage to stay within seven points of London Irish, who surprisingly lost 31-22 to Welsh side Llanelli, to secure a losing bonus point, they will top the pool. However, another win will see them guaranteed an important home draw in the quarter-finals.
Coach Michael Cheika admitted that not delivering a home quarter-final in his five seasons in Dublin was a major regret. “I realise I haven’t delivered it to the fans, and we’re really committed now so we need to win and make sure we pay them back.”
Without a match for three weeks due to freezing conditions, Leinster took a while to get into their stride and only led 7-0 at the break. They eventually forged ahead with tries from Isa Nacewa and Gordon D’Arcy, however, Brive responded with a couple of tries of their own, and it was only 20-10 going into the last minute.
However, Horgan was put into space about 20 meters from the Brive line and he produced a brilliant one-handed reverse pass which O’Driscoll gathered without breaking stride to dive over for the crucial fourth try. “It wasn’t going well for us,” added Cheika, “but we stuck at it and showed good belief. When the play needed to be executed right, the players backed themselves and got it done.”
Munster also got it done albeit in less fraught circumstances when they traveled to Treviso in Italy and registered a crushing 44-7 victory which also puts them in pole position to book a home game in the quarter-finals.
If the 2006 and 2008 champions get the better of Northampton at Thomond Park on Friday, they will top the pool, and even the highly unlikely prospect of a defeat will see them through as one of the best runners-up.
Given that French champions Perpignan had lost in Treviso and that Northampton had only won by three points, coach Tony McGahan was understandably pleased with the outcome. “I’m delighted to get that result, others have come here before and struggled. As for the Northampton game on Friday, we’ll be in an excellent state of mind for that one.”
Munster had wrapped up the bonus point by half-time with tries by Denis Hurley, Keith Earls, Donncha O’Callaghan and Paul Warwick, and they were able to take their foot off the pedal during the second half before Earls again and sub Donnacha Ryan added further tries.
Ulster retain a slim chance of reaching the knockout stages following their 21-13 win against Edinburgh in atrocious conditions at Ravenhill, however, their prospects weren’t improved by Stade Francais’s narrow 15-13 victory over Bath.
Ulster now need to turn Bath over at the Recreation Ground on Saturday, securing a winning bonus point along the way, and hope that Stade lose in Edinburgh, but realistically, a place in the Challenge Cup last eight now appears to be their best bet.
Darren Cave and Isaac Boss scored tries for the northern province while Ian Humphreys landed three penalties and a conversion in a contest that was spoiled as a spectacle by constant wind and rain.
Meanwhile, whatever happens this weekend, Connacht are guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup following their 20-10 victory over Montpellier in last Friday’s pool-deciding game at the Sportsground.
That’s not the only good news as the scheduling dice has rolled nicely for Michael Bradley and his players who travel to bottom-placed Madrid on Saturday in search of a sixth win out of six in the competition as well as a bonus point which could earn them a prized number one ranking going into the knockout stages.
While a win in Madrid, which will secure a home quarter-final in early April, would appear to be a formality given both the Spaniards’ inexperience and Connacht’s 46-6 stroll against the same opposition in Galway earlier in the season, the bonus point could turn out to be highly significant.
If the number one ranked side going into the last eight wins their home quarter-final game, then they are assured of a home semi-final as well. At the moment, London Wasps need a bonus-point victory over Racing Metro in Paris on Thursday to grab that top ranking, but if they slip up, Connacht are best placed to come through as the number one team.
If all will be revealed this weekend, what is currently certain is that Connacht have cut an impressive swathe through a demanding Challenge Cup pool despite some contrasting poor form in the Celtic League. Winning on the road in Montpellier gave them a chance, and then an outstanding double success over English Premiership club Worcester set up last Friday’s key game.
Although Montpellier decided not to play their France internationals, Francois Trinh-Duc and Fulgence Ouedraogo, as well as the goal kicking Argentine, Federico Todeschini, they weren’t at the Sportsground just to make up the numbers.
Having won the toss and chosen to face a strong wind in the first half, Connacht battened down the hatches superbly and were level 3-3 at the break. “Delighted. It was one of the best halves of rugby we’ve played,” said Bradley. With scrum-half Frank Murphy in superb form, the job was finished with tries by wings Liam Bibo and the fleet-footed Fionn Carr while Ian Keatley converted both and added a second penalty.
Across town a bit there was a gathering at the Irish Consulate. It was a reception to introduce to the world a library posing as a book. Well, nine volumes to be precise.
Indeed, what was being unveiled on the 17th floor of 345 Park Avenue was a scholarly version of the trinity mystery: nine books in one dictionary.
“The Dictionary of Irish Biography” has been in the works for 14 years and is the dream writ very large of the Royal Irish Academy aligned with the publishing acumen of Cambridge University Press.
It is described in a glossy brochure as a collaborative project between the two that is available in print and online. Which begs the question: how many giga whatsits do these nine volumes make?
Anyway, 700 of the keenest scholarly minds devoted to Irish studies have combined in the telling of 9,000 life stories that fill the pages of the dictionary, which can be purchased at a decent discount up until the end of this month.
The brochure, useless for bench pressing, but for sure easier on the biceps than the volumes, described the dictionary as being “the indispensable reference work for Ireland.”
It went on to list some familiar names, ones that you would expect to find in such a work. Even so, with 9,000 men and women between the hard covers there are clearly many individuals who do not trip off the tongue.
“The dictionary will put their lives into every major library in the world and on the shelves of scholars, journalists, teachers, broadcasters, diplomats and general readers. It will be especially important in helping to sustain Irish studies courses in universities throughout the world,” stated the brochure.
Journalists? Those creatures with such short attention spans?
Anyway, there was an impressive list of speakers in the room to speak of the dictionary, its value, its importance, its immense scope.
Nicholas Canny of the Royal Irish Academy stressed the point that the dictionary was an all-island tome, while Professor Maureen Murphy of Hofstra University flew the Irish studies in America flag.
Her professorial colleague, Joe Lee of New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House, forsook the microphone and podium and took to the floor to extol, in what amounted to one of his famous lectures, the innumerable virtues of the great work. Lee said a great deal of the tomes though resisted the temptation to open with the line, “and in the green corner, weighing in at….”
The man could sell sand in a desert but you could probably buy a desert for the dictionary’s sticker price of $1,200 (just $995 until the 31st deadline).
That said, there is an online option and its free up until the end of February, so people can get a peek at what they will be trading the arm and a leg for.
Still, and you don’t have to take the word of all the eminent writers who wrote nice blurbs in the brochure, this is truly a piece of work, Ireland’s living sea scrolls, the story of a people reflected in the lives of a tiny but outstanding fraction of them.
But not a small number, mind.
“The mammy always told me I was one in a million, at least up until my teens. But the truth is I’m not even one in 9,000,” said I to Consul General Niall Burgess, the evening’s host, this after confirming that half a lifetime of writing for a living had not opened a door into the dictionary of dictionaries.
“That’s because you have to be dead to be in it,” the CG replied with a smile that could only be described as charitable.
“I can wait so,” I replied in turn.
Wait and wait and wait.
In the meantime, at the cost of no limb, you can explore this extraordinary treatment of the great Irish story until February’s end by going to the website http//dib.cambridge.org/ and click on “Create an Account” located just under the login button. The offer code is DIB2010.
A few years ago, a well-known Broadway actress was playing the female lead in a show in which her character was killed off at the end of the first act. Being a practical sort, she put her free time to good use by writing two books in her dressing room: a novel and a memoir.
Actor Sean Cullen, who’s been playing Cmdr. William Harbison in the Lincoln Center Theater’s production of “South Pacific” since the show opened in March 2008, has done something similar. He wrote a play based loosely on incidents from the lives of his grandparents and his parents. The resulting drama is “Safe Home,” directed by Chris Henry.
The actor, whose Broadway credits include “James Joyce’s The Dead,” is refreshingly candid about the origins of “Safe Home.”
“I began it late one night on the floor of a friend’s apartment on Elizabeth Street,” he writes in a program note, “after I’d had too much to drink and couldn’t suppress the urge to write . . . something.”
That night on Elizabeth Street was 16 years ago, more than a decade before the current revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic was even a dream.
Any work Cullen has done on “Safe Home” since taking up residence at the Vivian Beaumont has been in the nature of rewrites. He makes no secret of the fact that his play is extremely close to the bone.
The first characters the audience at the Interart sees are named Ada and Jim, which are the actual names of Cullen’s argumentative grandparents. “They named their sons Jimmy, Pat and John, my father,” he says.
The play in its present form was triggered, at least in part, by a letter Cullen’s sister Colleen discovered two summers ago. “My uncle Jimmy had written it from a cold and lonely outpost in Korea, in the summer of l952,” he says. “Drafted in pen and pencil,” he adds, ” and clocking in at eight pages, it is a shockingly poignant document.”
“Safe Home,” set in working class Buffalo, New York, in the early 1950s, is an honorable, if somewhat conventional first work. The play’s eight scenes jump about a bit in time, moving from 1952 and 1953 to l951, and then shifting back and forth several times.
Director Henry’s strong six-actor cast does a good job of bringing clarity to Cullen’s twisty, potentially confusing plotlines. Sincere and earnest in the extreme, “Safe Home” is the work of a writer who deserves to be encouraged.
The man who will be this year’s grand marshal told a packed room at his installation last week that he had spent almost all of his adult life on Fifth Avenue every time St. Patrick’s Day rolled around.
This year it will be no different in terms of location, but Kelly will have a double task in his most capable hands as he commands the city’s police department even as he lead marchers up the avenue in the 249th consecutive parade.
In his acceptance speech, witnessed by family members, including his wife Veronica, five former grand marshals and a large crowd of enthusiastic well wishers, Kelly spoke of former Irish president Mary Robinson’s famous candle in the window, a beacon to the Irish emigrant no matter where he or she ended up in the world.
“We’re the ones for which that light was shining,” said Kelly.
“We too have in inextinguishable love for the home of our ancestors,” he said.
Kelly spoke movingly of the shared history, the struggles and triumphs of Irish immigrants, most especially those of the first generations, such as his own parents.
Kelly, whose Irish roots are in counties Roscommon, Longford and Cavan, said that the St. Patrick’s Day parade was a celebration of the vibrant future of more than 70 million people around the world who traced their origins to Ireland.
He thanked his wife Veronica, sons James and Gregory and brother Donald, and said he was counting on the NYPD, his aides and all in the room to make this year’s parade the best ever.
That room was clearly excited at the prospect of Kelly leading the parade. A number of speakers, including outgoing grand marshal Mike Gibbons, Cardinal Edward Egan and Irish Consul General Niall Burgess, heaped praise on the man who has served two mayors as commissioner and who has presided over a drop in crime that is the envy of the nation.
“I would like to thank Michael J. Gibbons, the outgoing grand marshal, for making the 248th New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade an outstanding success. We especially thank Michael for the wonderful work he did on the parade’s behalf as last year’s grand marshal and for all the support he has provided our annual parade in the media and public life over the years,” said parade chairman, John Dunleavy, before passing on the sash and duties of grand marshal to Kelly.
Former grand marshals on hand to salute Kelly, in addition to Gibbons, were Congressman Peter King, Tommy Gleason, Tommy Smyth, Mary Holt Moore and Barney Ferguson.
Other well known faces in the crowd and on the dais included Tom O’Brien, president of NBC in New York, the city’s sanitation commissioner, John Dougherty, Dr. John Lahey, president of Quinnipiac University, Rev. George Reilly vice-president of Villanova University, New York City’s Commissioner of Public Records, Brian Andersson, and former congressman Mario Biaggi, who was given a standing ovation.
Parade chairman Dunleavy announced that this year’s parade would be dedicated to the Boy Scouts of America who are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. A number of scouts and scout leaders attended the installation ceremony which was kicked off in rousing style by pipers from the NYPD Emerald Society.
Often crossing generational lines, hard-core fans of Irish traditional music continue to purchase CD’s with technology-defying persistence, even though overall CD sales for trad have tailed off during this deep, destructive recession in the U.S. and Ireland.
Irish traditional musicians are getting savvier about recording technology and more mindful of recording costs without compromising the quality of performance. Whether on established indie labels or self-issued, the Irish Echo’s top ten traditional albums of 2009 prove the undimmed brilliance and resilience of recorded performance during these tumultuous times.
1. “Pride of New York” by Joanie Madden, Brian Conway, Billy McComiskey, and Brendan Dolan (Compass Records 745222).
Fiddler Brian Conway had the No. 2 trad album of 2008, “Consider the Source,” and was named the Irish Echo’s Traditional Musician of the Year, and Billy McComiskey had the No. 1 trad album of 2008, “Outside the Box.” Flute and whistle player Joanie Madden and pianist Brendan Dolan appear on both those recordings. From this longstanding performance ease with each other came “Pride of New York,” an album paying homage to the vibrant legacy of New York’s Irish traditional music while establishing the quartet’s own distinctive identity. This is the hard core of Big Apple trad: tempo-perfect, deft, tight, melodic, sweeping, and swinging. Every one of the 13 tracks is a standout, from Madden’s haunting slow air solo, to Conway’s immaculate hornpipe solo, to McComiskey’s riveting solo on reels, all backed superbly by Dolan. The album is further distinguished by essays from Paul Keating and Peter Brice, tune notes by Myron Bretholz, and design and artwork by Robert Hakalski. (I wrote for it too.) Hold tight to the reins of this PONY express. It moves with the pulse of memory and the passion of mastery, meriting the rare status of contemporary classic.
2. “The New Broom” by Willie Kelly and Mike Rafferty (self-issued; Larraga Music).
How does Mike Rafferty do it? Now 83 years old, the East Galway-born flutist has made what could well be his finest recording to date, a magnificent collaboration with the much younger, fellow N.J. resident Willie Kelly on fiddle, backed by Mike’s son-in-law, Donal Clancy, on guitar and bouzouki. Rafferty and Kelly have known each other since 1982, and their close friendship and deep mutual respect provide rich dividends here. An Irish saying that appears in the CD, “A new broom sweeps clean, but an old one knows the corners,” applies to the music made by all three instrumentalists. They play cleanly and thoroughly, and know how to reach into the corners. The trio’s performance of such medleys as “Reilly of the White Hill / Martin Wynne’s” reels, “Dash to Portobello / The Ladies’ Pantalettes” reels (Michael Coleman memorably recorded that last reel in May 1927), and “The Green Fields of Woodford / The Fly in the Porter” jigs is especially captivating. Leaving velocity to NASCAR-minded musicians, Rafferty, Kelly, and Clancy perform at a beautiful, unhurried pace, with just the right temperament, touch, and what can only be called telepathy.
3. “On Common Ground” by Cillian Vallely and Kevin Crawford (self-issued; BallyO Records BOR 001).
Two members of Lunasa, still the best all-instrumental band in Irish trad today, venture out for a duet recording, and it’s a dazzler. Born in Birmingham but a resident of Clare since 1989, flute, low whistle, and bodhran player Kevin Crawford and Armagh-born, Woodside, N.Y., resident Cillian Vallely on uilleann pipes and low whistle perform music that’s fluid and full-blooded, with a trace of sharpness to avoid any simpering sweetness. Their initial twin low whistle playing on the jigs “The Ivory Flute / Straddle the Donkey / Visit to Ireland” incorporates subtle variations and flourishes to keep the musical pot simmering, and the eventual entry of Vallely’s pipes adds to the track’s piquancy. The duo maintain a tempo that’s dynamic without being too fast or too slow, allowing ample opportunity for embellishment and spontaneity in the service of melody. “On Common Ground” is a pinnacle performance from Cillian Vallely and Kevin Crawford, two uncommonly gifted Irish traditional musicians.
4. “The Incident” by Beoga (Compass Records 744992).
The best traditional band to emerge from Ireland this century, Beoga means “lively” in Irish, and that they are. The addition in 2005 of Limerick-born singer and fiddler Niamh Dunne, daughter of uilleann piper Mickey Dunne, was a stroke of inspiration for the founding, formidable, all-instrumental quartet of Liam Bradley on keyboards, Damien McKee and Sean Og Graham on button accordions, and Eamon Murray on bodhran. This is Beoga’s third album, full of heady playing, tangy exotic touches, and impish wit. The standout song sung by Dunne is “Strange Things,” originally composed as “Strange Things Happening Every Day” by gospel-soul pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-73), who had a hit with it in 1944. Beoga draws much of its repertoire from tunes penned by band members, especially Graham, who contributed the reels “Three Seats Magoo” (McKee’s nickname is Magoo) and the titular “The Incident.”
5. “Double Play” by Liz Carroll and John Doyle (Compass Records 745022).
Nominated for a Grammy, “Double Play” is the second formal duet album by fiddler Liz Carroll and guitar and bouzouki player and singer John Doyle. They are one of the world’s most accomplished Irish traditional duos, and this is their finest CD yet. It features 14 tunes from the prolific pen of Carroll, and Doyle’s growth as a composer himself and as a singer is obvious. Never before have I heard Carroll play with such combined ferocity, finesse, and invention, all matched by Doyle.
6. “If It Wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews” by Mick Moloney (Compass Records 745252).
No one is more knowledgeable and discerning about vintage Irish Americana than Mick Moloney, and this CD testifies to his ongoing exquisite excavation of 19th and early 20th century song artifacts into which he breathes imaginative new life. From “Far from the Shamrock Shore” in 2002, to the towering achievement of “McNally’s Row of Flats” in 2006, to “If It Wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews,” encompassing songs from vaudeville and early Tin Pan Alley, Limerick-born Mick Moloney has reminded us in America of the musical trove we hastily overlook. The title song is a deceptive hoot, conveying through humor a serious observation about multi-ethnic cooperation. Posterity will undoubtedly place a very high value on this labor of love by Moloney. We should prize and enjoy it right now.
7. “Ceolmhar” by Holly Geraghty and Jonathan Roche (self-issued; CMPCD01).
Since 2001, Ballindine, Mayo, concertinist and harper Holly Geraghty and Brosna, Kerry, button accordionist Jonathan Roche have played together simply because they enjoy it. Out of that most natural of musical affinities comes “Ceolmhar,” a self-issued recording whose title reflects the spirit of their playing: tuneful. Their music gives the impression of being easy, which is the hardest of all effects to convey, and every one of the 14 tracks on this CD showcases the pleasure each has in performing. Eight of the tunes were written by Geraghty, who reveals signs of becoming a composer of lasting impact. This young Irish duo bursts with talent.
8. “Casadh na Taoide” by Liadan (self-issued; LN0002).
Out of the Irish traditional music incubator of the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance came the motivation to form Liadan in spring 2004. The sextet’s self-titled debut album in 2006 stamped them as a band to watch, and “Casadh na Taoide” displays even more polish and poise than their first CD. The lineup replacement of flutist and vocalist Sarah Jane Woods with singer and flute and whistle player Catherine Clohessy has injected greater spark in the group’s overall performance, guaranteeing that Liadan’s reputation will continue to climb.
9. “Reelin’ in Tradition” by Mick, Louise, and Michelle Mulcahy (Clo Iar-Chonnachta CICD 180).
It’s not fair. No three family members should have the abundance of musical talent that Mick, Louise, and Michelle Mulcahy of Abbeyfeale, West Limerick, have. On this, their third album together (“The Mulcahy Family” and “Notes From the Heart” came out in 2000 and 2005, respectively), the Brosna, North Kerry-born Mick Mulcahy on C#/D, B/C, D/D#, C/C#, and D button accordions joins daughter Lucille on uilleann pipes and D and E-flat flutes and daughter Michelle on harp, concertina, fiddle, and piano for a largely familiar repertoire that’s freshly and impressively played.
10. “Dublin Made Me” by Liam O’Connor and Sean McKeon (Na Piobairi Uilleann NPU CD 017).
The fiddling of O’Connor and the piping of McKeon are breathtaking here. Their often stunning symmetry flirts with overreaching only to remind us of how utterly in control they are. The duo stands solidly on a precipice where individual risk and mutual support vie for attention, yet not once do these musicians let ego dictate execution or technique overwhelm balance. This is an outstanding duet debut by former TG4 Young Traditional Musician of the Year winners, who are helping to remake and reassert the musical traditions of Dublin.
Next week: Trad Artist of the Year, albums 11-30, best tunebooks, and best archival releases, led by the late Eddie Clarke’s monumental, four-CD “Unheard.”