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Enjoying life again after some great news

POSTED ON March 7th  - POSTED IN Arts

Dean and Elaine.

Thanks to everyone who has been in touch regarding my boyfriend’s ill health. I am delighted to announce that Dean got the all-clear a few weeks ago and is currently 100 percent cancer free. We went through eight terrifying months, but it was worth it. Dean’s type of cancer, Sarcoma, is a very aggressive form and so we must remember that there is a risk that his cancer may return but we’ll deal with that if and when it happens. It is very difficult to date someone with cancer as you try your very best to be a “normal” couple but there is a third person in the relationship, cancer, and cancer takes priority as you deal with it.

When Dean got the OK it was like winning the lottery. We were given another chance, a chance that many cancer patients don’t get. I agree with John Lennon’s statement that “Life is what happens to you

while you’re busy making other plans.” I always presumed that I’d meet a guy, we’d date for a few years, move in together, get engaged, get married, have a few kids and live happily ever after! But you have absolutely no control over how things pan out. I had never lived with Dean before and we had planned on being in Ireland together last summer but when Dean became sick I went to be with him.

Now that his chemo and radiotherapy are over, we have our lives back and I can concentrate on my PhD and finish it. During Dean’s treatment I was unable to concentrate on anything else. I am in New York and everything is going well. As I am in the middle of writing my PhD, I have a substitute teacher teaching all my classes this year so I can finish my project.

I’m enjoying my life again as Dean is healthy. I went to Atlantic City last weekend with 10 girls as my friend Jen is moving from New York to

London with her job. She is from Cork and has been living New York for the past five years. She gave me so much support and advice during the tough time last summer. She is an amazing friend. We gave her a good farewell in Atlantic City. She’ll be missed. Good luck in London darling.

The St Patrick’s Season is in full swing here in New York. I love seeing everyone out and about but this year I won’t be attending as many events as I have to focus on my PhD and get it finished. The Irish-American community is unique and advice I always give newly arrived people from Ireland is to get involved in the community at some level. I have been a part of this vibrant community for the past nine years and would not be as happy in New York were it not for it. The support I have gotten and the friendship I have made through it will last a lifetime. I will be attending a number of events during the next few weeks, so make sure and come up and say “hi” if you see me. Until then, slán, x



Míle buíochas as ucht gach duine a bhí i dteagmháil liom. Tá áthas orm insint díobh go bhfuair mo bhuachaill an All-Clear agus faoi láthair tá sé go hiomlan saor ó ailse. B’ocht mhí fíor-dheacair é agus is ailse an-dáinséarach é Sarcoma agus dá bhrí sin caithfidh muid tuiscint go m’fhéidir go dtiocfaidh sé thar n-ais ach beidh orainn

déileáil le sin má thagann sé thar n-ais. Tá sé iontach deacair siúl amach le duine l’ailse mar tá tú ag iarraidh bheith mar gnáth-lánúin ach tá an tríú duine sa ghaol, an tinneas agus is é sin an rud is tábhachtach. Caithfidh tú dul i ngleic leis.

Nuair a bhfuair Dean an OK, bhí sé ar nós gur bhuaigh muid an crannchur naisiúnta. Tugadh deis eile dúinn, deis nach bhfaigheann mórán daoine agus iad i mbun cóir leighis d’ailse. Aontím leis na ráiteas, “Tarlaíonn do shaol nuair atá tú gnóthach ag déanamh pleananna”. Bhí mise  i gcónaí ag ceapadh go mbuailfeadh mé le fear agus ansin, bheith muid ag siúl amach ar feadh cúpla bliain agus ansin gheobhfahd muid geallta agus ansin pósta agus ansin bheith cúpla páiste again ach ní bhíonn aon smacht agat ar cén chaoi a thiteann rudaí amach agus ba é an chéad uair domsa cónaí le Dean ná nuair a bhí sé i mbun chemotherapy. Bhí méféin agus Dean le bheith in Éirinn don tSamhraidh ach nuair a d’éirigh Dean tinn chuaigh mé chun bheith leis.

Anois go bhfuil an chemo agus radiotherapy thart, tá mo shaol ar ais agam féin agus is féidir liom díriú isteach ar mo Ph D agus críoch a chuir leis. Ní raibheas in ann smaoineamh ar aon rud eile. Táim i Nua Eabhrac anois agus gach rud go breá. Os rud é go bhfuilim ag cur deireadh le o thráchtas Ph D, tá múinteoir ionadaí faighte agam chun mo ranganna Gaeilge a mhúineadh i mbliana. Táim ag baint sult as an saol arís mar go bhfuil an tsláinte go maith ag Dean. Chauigh mé chuig Atlantic City an deireadh Seachtaine seo caite le deichniúr cailín mar go bhfuil mo chara Jen ag bogadh ó Nua Eabhrac go Londain leis an jab. Is as Corcaigh í agus tá sí ina cónaí i Nua Eabhrac le cúig bhliain anuas. Thug sí an méid sin tacaíocht agus comhairle dhom agus Dean tinn, is cara den scoth í. D’fhágamar slán leí le turas iontach go Atlantic City. Bhí an-chraic go deo againn. Go n-éirí leat i Londain a chroí.

Ár ndóigh tá séasúr Lá le Pádraig faoi lán seoil. Is breá liom gach duine a fheiceáil amach ag na himeachtaí ar fad ach i mbliana ní bheidh mé ag freastal ar an méid sin ócáidí mar go gcaithfidh mé díriú ar mo chuid scríobhnóireachta. Is pobal ar leith é an phobail Gael-Mheiriceánaigh agus comhairle a thugaim d’aon duine a bhfuil tar éis bogadh ó Éire go Nua Eabhrac ná bheith páirteach sa phobail gníomhach seo mar is ann a bhfuil mise lonnaithe le beagnach naoi mbliana anois agus tá an phobail ar nós clann mhór áit is féidir tacaíocht a fháil agus cairde iontacha a dhéanamh. Beidh mé ag freastal ar cúpla ócáid anseo agus ansiúd so má fheiceann sibh mé bí cinnte haigh a rá liom. Go dtí sin, slán, x.

O’Rourke brings songs, stories to New York

POSTED ON March 5th  - POSTED IN Arts

Declan O’Rouke.

When the Dubliners celebrated their 50th Anniversary with an appearance on RTE, they were joined on stage by a young Dubliner with a rich voice and an unforgettable head of curly black hair. It was singer-songwriter Declan O’Rourke, who as a boy emigrated from Dublin to Australia with his favorite video tape – the recording of the Dubliners’ 25th Anniversary Concert, in his suitcase.

Pull up the RTE performance on YouTube and you’ll see just how poignant it is and just how good his voice is. But it’s not singing the classic ballads of Ireland that O’Rourke is known for – it’s the stories he tells through his extraordinarily well-crafted songs.  He brought his songs and stories with him to The Irish Arts Center in New York City recently to kick off SongLives, a series curated by Susan McKeon that showcases Ireland’s contemporary songwriters.

The Irish Arts Center’s commitment to supporting artists from all backgrounds was so evident that evening as was the hospitality that the venue is known for. For me, SongLives at the Irish Arts Center with Declan O’Rourke felt like getting a great recommendation on a new band from a close friend. And now it’s my turn to tell my friends about the man with the curly black hair, the rich voice, and the songs that will knock your socks off.

After listening to his songs, you might think that O’Rourke was born singing and playing music, but he actually didn’t start until he was teenager living in Australia. He eventually returned home to Dublin to immerse himself in the lively singer-songwriter open-mic scene. He went on to record three albums and play as the support act for Snow Patrol, Teddy Thompson, Paul Weller and others. But after hearing his moving songs, and noticing his dynamic stage presence, I have no doubt that it’s time for O’Rourke to be the main act. Not just in Ireland, but right here in the tri-state area. And that’s just what he’ll do tonight, Feb. 29, at Stage One at the Fairfield Theatre Company in Connecticut.

Music fans in Fairfield will see why both Paul Weller and Josh Groban have covered his song “Galelio (Someone Like You).” Look out for that song, you’ll melt when you hear it. And be prepared for some sad songs, but not without a little humor mixed in.  Humor and messages about staying true to yourself, and enjoying life – that’s how O’Rourke will pick you up after his most beautifully melancholic songs about hardship and loss. Oh, and the curly hair helps too.

The Irish Arts Center has two more shows in the SongLives series – March 23rd with Michael Brunnock and Brendan O’Shea, and May 11th with Mark Geary and Ann Scott.

For some Irish sounds around town this week pencil in Jameson’s Revenge & Shilelagh Law at the Rockaway Rugby Club on 3/3, and Mary Courtney and Morning Star at O’Brien’s in NYC on 3/4 .

Oscar-nominated McTeer delights at ‘gorgeous’ role

POSTED ON February 22nd  - POSTED IN Arts

Janet McTeer.

Janet McTeer says she was delighted to hear she and her “Albert Nobbs” co-star Glenn Close had been nominated for Oscars for their portrayals of women living and working as men in 19th century Ireland.

“I was surprised [to hear my name announced] and just sat there with bated breath, waiting to see if Glenn was nominated, too, and she was – so that was very exciting. Then I had to go on television and act all calm and collected. Then we went back to Glenn’s house where we did some press together, at which point, we became like two teenagers jumping up and down, ” the Best Supporting Actress nominee told the Irish Echo in a recent telephone interview.

In addition to the incredible joy she feels for being recognized by the film industry for her work and for getting the opportunity to share the experience with Close — who is up for the Best Actress statuette — McTeer said she also is pleased the Oscar glow is drawing attention to a small-budget movie that truly deserves to be seen.

“You do a little film like this that doesn’t have a lot of money behind it and the fact you can put your heart and soul into a project — Glenn has, even more than I have — and then all this attention happens, which hopefully means more people will go see it. It is so thrilling. So thrilling,” said the 50-year-old British actress, who is best known for her performances in the films “Tumbleweeds,” “Songcatcher,” “The Intended,” “Tideland” and “The Woman in Black,” as well as in the TV miniseries “Into the Storm” and the stage dramas “A Doll’s House,”  “Mary Stuart” and “God of Carnage.”

McTeer said she signed up for her role in “Albert Nobbs” after falling in love with the story of an abused young woman who adopts a new identity as Albert, a quiet, hardworking, but lonely hotel waiter in pursuit of a better life in an era when females had little control over their own fates. In the film, McTeer plays Hubert, a housepainter who befriends Close’s Albert and confides he is also a woman living as a man.

“Someone said it takes an ordinary person an extraordinary amount of courage to get through an ordinary day. I like films like that or stories like that — about people just living their lives and how much courage it takes people sometimes to get through life. I felt this is one of those stories,” McTeer explained. “I love the fact that it existed in a time before labels. People were just living their lives, trying to get through and also these people didn’t define themselves as lesbians or cross-dressers or transsexuals or whatever. Hubert was just living the life of Hubert and Albert was just getting by.”

She noted a central message of the film is acceptance.

“To judge somebody because they are a decent person, not because of anything else,” McTeer added.

The actress went on to say Hubert was a “gorgeous part” and deciding to play him was a “no brainer.”

“I wanted Hubert to be, as a function in the piece, everything that Albert wasn’t, everything Albert wanted to be – confident, trying to be fulfilled, happy with who he is, lacks fear, has a great home life. Just a really grounded, happy, confident human being with a great, warm heart,” McTeer recalled.

Close produced and co-wrote the screenplay for “Albert Nobbs,” which is based on a short story by Irish novelist George Moore. Co-starring Brenda Fricker, Brendan Gleeson, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Jonathan Rhys Meyers and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, the film is in theaters now.

McTeer will soon be seen in the fifth and final season of Close’s TV legal drama “Damages.”

Saw Doctors are ready to rock in U.S.

POSTED ON February 15th  - POSTED IN Arts

Leo Moran, left, Davy Carton, center, and their fellow Saw Doctors recently collaborated with Petula Clark on a cover of “Downtown.”

Leo Moran, the lead guitarist and occasional vocalist of the Saw Doctors, is someone who peppers sentences with positives: he uses the word “wonderful” five times and “delighted” twice over the course of a half-hour chat that I have with him on the phone. Taking full advantage of modern technology he phoned me on Skype, from the car-park of the Black Box in Galway City – a venue where the Saw Doctors have often performed. (“An impressive signal,” he noted.)

Clearly Moran is a glass half-full type of person, and with good reason. He is a member of one of the most consistently successful bands in Ireland, which has produced 18 top-30 singles and three number ones. The band’s seventh album, “The Further Adventures of the Saw Doctors” will be released in the U.S. just before St. Patrick’s Day, on March 13; and next week they will embark on a U.S. tour.

Not bad for a group that describes itself as hailing from a “repressed, Catholic, conservative, small-town, agrarian, angst-ridden and showband infested society” – that is, Tuam, Co. Galway. Formed in 1986 the Saw Doctors have been responsible for some of the biggest home-grown hits to grace Irish radio through the 1990s and as recently as last year. “I Useta Lover” is their most familiar single, but “N17,” telling of a young man living in London who would love to be driving back to Galway, has a particular meaning for Irish people who live abroad.

That song has a new resonance at the moment. “Some of the songs we had written back sounded old five years ago but they sound new again,” Moran said. “Particularly ‘N17’; which is a good feeling, to see that they’re connecting with people in the way that they hadn’t for a few years.”

Their most recent hit is a cover of “Downtown”, featuring Petula Clark, who first sang it in the 1960s and in the video looks astonishingly good for her 79 years. After they’d decided to record the song, it emerged that their manager had a connection to Clark. “It turned out that she was interested in singing along with us,” Moran said. “What a privilege to work with a true global musical legend. And the song is fantastic as well.”

Perhaps because of its upbeat brand of nostalgia, the song reached number 2 in the Irish charts over Christmas.

Many of the Saw Doctors’ songs have commented on different aspects of Irish identity. When I asked Moran how he felt about the current crisis in the country, he was able to view even that in a positive light. He acknowledged that many people are seeing real hardship, but noted that the Tiger boom had damaged the sense of community that had been so strong in Ireland before.

“The prosperity thing that happened in the start of the millennium was very false anyway,” he said. “The more affluent they became the more removed they became from each other. There is more of a community spirit, which is something we all grew up with and know and love. So it’s not all a bad thing that we didn’t continue in that false prosperity curve that we were on for so long.”

In one of their most obvious references to Irish society and culture, the band recorded a song entitled “Michael D. Rocking in the Dail” in 1994, celebrating the man who now holds the Irish presidency.  Moran remains loyal to President Higgins, who taught him when he was a student at NUI Galway. “Michael D. opened up our minds to ideas, concepts and parts of the world that we had never known before,” he wrote to me in an email after we spoke. “He’s the right man for the job, plus he’s also highly opinionated and he might speak his mind in some situations where it might not be in his job description – he’s a bit of a punk behind it all.”

The Catholic Church holds a more ambiguous place in The Saw Doctors’ repertoire.  Moran is pleased that the worst activities of representatives of the Catholic Church have been brought to light. “I think the best part of our anger was directed in a humorous way rather than being straight on angry because we don’t seem to be good at being straight on angry.”

“But we did grow up in a very repressed and oppressive kind of a Catholic regime. And to see the bad parts of that blown away was very satisfying for us.” Irish teenagers are much better educated and open-minded than when he was growing up, Moran said.

Despite more than 20 years of performance, the band are ready for their tour of the U.S., which will take them across the continent, incorporating Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Florida, North Carolina and Iowa as well as Toronto.

And Moran had an optimistic view for Ireland too. “There’s all these macro vocabularies going around – economic crisis and all the words that go with it, all the media hype that it entails, our leaders are going to Germany, and we’re signing up for treaties and all this stuff. And that’s all going on and it’s quite real,” he said.

“But people have to eat their dinner and grow spuds and do a bit of work and meet each other and sing a few songs and have a few drinks. Maybe it’s hard; but people’s spirit and intelligence and creativity will always be there, and good things will always be going on.”


The Saw Doctors tour of the US and Canada begins Feb. 22. For more details see



Hinds is ‘amazing’ in spine-chiller: Daniel Radcliff

POSTED ON February 8th  - POSTED IN Arts

Ciarán Hinds stars in ‘The Woman in Black’.

British film star Daniel Radcliffe has nothing but the highest praise for Belfast-born actor Ciarán Hinds, his co-star in the summer blockbuster “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II,” as well as the new release “The Woman in Black.”

In James Watkins’ gripping big-screen adaptation of Susan Hill’s 1983 supernatural suspense novel, “The Woman in Black,” Radcliffe portrays Arthur Kipps, a young Victorian-era London lawyer sent to the English countryside to settle the affairs of a deceased client. He travels to her derelict home on the outskirts of a small village and finds the house is not as empty as he expected. As he speaks to some of the terrified townspeople, he learns their children die shortly after a woman clad in black is spotted by someone at the house at the focus of Kipps’ investigation.

Hinds, an accomplished stage actor who has also appeared in the movies “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” “The Debt,” “Eclipse,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Veronica Guerin” and “Road to Perdition,” plays Sam Daily, one of the less superstitious neighbors in “The Woman in Black,” a low-tech, old-fashioned ghost story. Daily tries to help Kipps unravel the mystery, even though he and his wife, played by Janet McTeer, have lost a son of their own under questionable circumstances. The tragedy has left Daily heart-broken and his spouse slightly insane.

In a promotional clip taped on the set of the film and posted on YouTube, Hinds said the relationship between Daily and Kipps is something of a paternal one in nature.

“But you have to understand the man is in denial, as well,” Hinds noted. “[Daily] hasn’t fully faced up to his own grief and history, so it’s not as if he’s fully forthcoming with everything. He’s almost like a guide, but at the same time he’s looking for help, as well.”

The 58-year-old actor went on to describe the movie as “a spine-chiller about an atmosphere that is created by what goes on rather than the things that go bump in the night.”

“You don’t know what’s behind that door. You hear a sound and maybe there’s something, maybe there’s nothing. Maybe it’s your imagination. So, it’s quite psychological, but things do manifest themselves, as well,” he noted.

Radcliffe told the Irish Echo during a roundtable interview with reporters in New York recently he was thrilled to again share the screen with Hinds after having worked with him briefly on “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.”

“It was an amazing cast, particularly Ciarán,” Radcliffe said of “The Woman in Black.” “Janet is amazing, but I only got to work with her for four days total, but she’s great. Ciarán. I’ve seen loads of amazing actors, but nobody makes it look quite as easy as Ciarán Hinds. Ciarán just has an ease about him and a natural instinct. He’s just amazing. Most actors, you can sort of see a shift or something when they hear the word ‘action’ and Ciarán sort of slides into it and you never see a shift. Suddenly, he’s just acting. It’s just wonderful.”

Hinds also has kind words for his 22-year-old co-star’s first major film performance as an adult.

“Daniel is such an open-hearted person by nature and very committed to what he does,” he said in the online video clip. “This is a great thing for him because he’s got to hold this thing on his own. He’s the protagonist. You see it through him. He’s got to go through the whole emotional journey of it.”

Even though the stars had previously met when Radcliffe was playing the titular wizard and Hinds portrayed Aberforth Dumbledore in the last “Harry Potter” film, the younger actor said they didn’t really get to know each other well until they reunited for “The Woman in Black.”

“We worked together on that brief scene [in ‘Potter’] and got on really well,” Radcliffe recalled. “I really liked him, but it was three days we were filming on that. I’ve filmed with so many actors for that brief scene where they come in, you get to meet him, get to work with him and then they go and you see them at the premiere. And if you got on, then you chat with them. But, with Ciarán, it was actually wonderful because we did that brief scene, then went off and made ‘Woman in Black,’ and then had to re-shoot the scene between me and Ciarán for the ‘Potter’ movie. It was one of the scenes we had to re-shoot. So, that was actually helped a huge amount by the fact that by the time we got back to re-shooting it, we had worked together another 6 ½ weeks. It was great.”

Radcliffe also joked about the one downfall of working with actors of Hinds’ and McTeer’s stature on “The Woman in Black.”

“The combined tallest height in film history of a couple,” Radcliffe groaned. “That was pretty intimidating for little ol’ me, which is why every time I watch the scene – particularly if I’m watching it with someone I know –where I’m talking to Janet outside the mausoleum, I say, ‘I step onto the box; step off of the box.’ Because you can really see the moment where I’m like, ‘Right, I’m tall now.’”

“The Woman in Black” was No. 2 at the North American box office its opening weekend.

Cover is flawless in ‘The Philanderer’

POSTED ON February 1st  - POSTED IN Arts

Rachel Bochan (Grace Tranfield) and Bradford Cover (Leonard Charteris) star in Bernard Shaw’s “The Philanderer.”

“The Philanderer” By Bernard Shaw * Director: Gus Kaikkonen * Pearl Theatre Company 307 West 38th St. at 8th Avenue * Through Feb. 19

George Bernard Shaw was 37 in 1893 when he wrote “The Philanderer,” the first play he did on his own.

Supposedly due to strict censorship of the period, and the play’s somewhat sexual content, it wasn’t produced until 1902 or even 1905, depending on the source to which you refer.

Shaw had, before “The Philanderer,” made a single attempt at collaboration, “Widowers’ Houses,” which he wrote with a friend who was a published critic, William Archer, as he himself was.

Shaw had for some 20 years been writing mainly about music, which came naturally to him, since there was much of it in the “shabby, genteel poverty” of his childhood on Synge Street in Dublin.

His journalistic assignments appear to have come mainly, at least at the beginning, though Archer’s influence.

Shaw later rewrote “Widower’s Houses” on his own, and it stands as his first produced play, though it was given just two private performances. His third play, “Arms and the Man,” came along in 1904 and was successful enough to change the course of his life.

In between there was “The Philanderer,” which Shaw appears to have suggested stands as something of a self-portrait. Shaw seems to have seen himself as the rather rough-hewn Leonard Charteris, involved with two women, the sedate and modern Grace Tranfield, and the tempestuous Julia Craven, to whom he had been attached in somewhat earlier days.

Shaw did know women who might have served as models for Grace and Julia. One, Jenny Paterson, was a friend of his mother, while the other, Florence Farr, was an Abbey Theatre actress. What was precisely the nature of their relationship remains something of a mystery to this day, but actress Farr’s rage at discovering Shaw’s fondness for Paterson appears to have formed the basis for Act One of “The Philanderer.”

Under the skilled direction of Gus Kaikkonen, whose sixth Pearl production this is, “The Philanderer” ranks as just about the strongest show the group has done since moving to their new home on West 55th Street.

Actor Bradford Cover has been a resident company member of the Pearl since 1994, but it’s doubtful if he’s ever come across as successfully as he is playing Leonard Charteris. He gives a flawless performance, which centers and balances the play to perfection.

With J.R. Sullivan currently in his third season as artistic director, the Pearl appears to have achieved a comfortable and workable arrangement involving company members working alongside those chosen from the rich pool of New York actors for their suitability for a particular role.

In the case of the eight actors required for “The Philanderer,” five are members of the Pearl company and the rest were hired for the production, including Karron Graves as the willful Julia and Shalita Grant as her younger sister, Sylvia. Also new to the company is Chris Richards, playing a Page Boy and a Butler, and understudying Leonard Charteris.

The other four Pearl regulars in addition to Cover are all excellent. They are: Rachel Botchan as Grace Tranfield; Dominic Cuskern as her father, Joseph Cuthbertson; Dan Daily is Colonel Daniel Craven, father of Julia and Sylvia; and Chris Mixon is Dr. Percy Paramore.

It’s a pity that “The Philanderer” is performed so seldom and that it remains virtually unknown even to many GBS enthusiasts. It may be its author’s first completed play, but it’s full of life and energy, and the Pearl has done it richly and well.


Crowd approves of new band’s genre-blending

POSTED ON January 25th  - POSTED IN Arts

Conor McGuirk and Brian McArtin of Broken Banjo Strings.

When you go out to see live Irish music you run the risk of breaking a leg on the dance floor or straining a facial muscle from smiling too much or any number of precarious situations that go along with having too much fun. But if Broken Banjo Strings is the band you’re out to see, you’re in good hands. The trio, who recently had their very first official gig together, is comprised of a police dispatcher, an occupational therapy student and an EMT.  Live Irish music by emergency personnel – now you’re talking!

Day jobs aside, the members of the band – Brian McArtin, Katie Linnane and Conor McGuirk, are master musicians who love both traditional Irish music and American roots music, and blend the genres well. Their first gig at An Beal Bocht Café in the Bronx showcased their new sound, their young energy and their impressive musicianship.  Traditional jigs, reels, and airs were played right beside Richard Shindell songs, Counting Crows covers and old Appalachian tunes. It was a good mix of new and familiar, and the crowd definitely dug it.

I’ve heard that it’s tough starting a band, but Broken Banjo Strings makes it seem easy. It started when McArtin – a Yonkers musician who dove into the Irish music scene over 10 years ago – began running the popular Sunday evening session at the Rambling House in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx. Linnane, an accomplished fiddle player and instructor from Pearl River, N.Y., and McGuirk, an all-Ireland accordion and piano player from Queens, became regulars at the session. And given their musical chemistry it was a no-brainer for the three to take their show on the road. After seeing their first gig I give them kudos not only for their playing, but also for their passion and eclectic song choice. I recently read a quote from Irish traditional flute player, Desi Wilkinson. He said “play only tunes and songs you’re mad about.”  Well, Broken Banjo Strings play songs they’re mad about and they play them well, and that’s why I see great things ahead for the trio.

McArtin tells me that the group has plans to record an album in 2012, but for now I look forward to my next chance to see them live. That’s coming up on February 10th at An Bael Bocht Cafe, and on St. Patrick’s Day at The Rambling House.

If you’re looking for some good tunes this week, head to Tir na Nog in NYC for Morning Star on 1/27, Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar in NYC for the Mikey Finns on 1/28, and Rory Dolan’s in Yonkers to see the Narrowbacks on 1/29.

‘Let the People Sing’ tells Wolfe Tones’ story

POSTED ON January 18th  - POSTED IN Arts

Brian Warfield of the legendary Irish folk and ballad group, The Wolfe Tones , meets up with his fellow band members, Tommy Byrne, and Noel Nagle in Dublin Airport to embark on an international tour. At the Aer Lingus counter Warfield finds out his bag is too heavy to check, and when he opens the suitcase to lighten the load, he reveals a sea of green, white, and gold headbands – the signature garb worn by Wolfe Tones fans around the world. Too many to carry on the plane, he gladly forks one over to the Aer Lingus attendant. The men can’t help but laugh, and neither could I.

This is a glimpse into the life of the Wolfe Tones from a new documentary from Kenneally Films, “Let the People Sing: The Wolfe Tones Story.”

When you spend 48 years on the road telling stories of Ireland and its people through song, you inevitably rack up a few stories of your own. Finally, the Wolfe Tones story has been told through interviews and never-before-seen archive material in the film.

“Let the People Sing” provides a history of the band while spotlighting the group’s unbelievable accomplish-ments in the face of great controversy brought on by the political nature of many of their most popular songs. The interviews and commentary reveal the struggles and celebrations of the band, but the most powerful aspect of the film is the footage from their concerts around the world. Crowd shots spanning decades capture fans yelling out every single word of each ballad, swaying, jigging, clapping, and even holding hands with complete strangers for crying out loud. It’s an eye opener to the sheer power of the WolfeTones’ music.

Lucky for us New Yorkers, the Wolfe Tones come to town each St. Patrick’s Day season. And New Yorkers know that it’s not just the history of Ireland that the band is interested in sharing through their music. Many of their songs speak to the Irish American experience, especially the well loved song, The Streets of New York. Byrne, Nagle, and Warfield speak of their love for America and the Big Apple in the film, even calling the US a “second home.”

The Wolfe Tones’ New York City home this March will be at Connolly’s Klub 45 on the 10th, 15th, and 16th.  Go enjoy a burger, a beer, and a ballad. Hear the stories of Ireland and Irish America, buy yourself a tricolor head band and don’t be afraid to hold hands with a stranger!

For some tunes around town this week check out McLean Avenue duo with Padraig Allen at the Pig & Whistle in NYC on 1/19, Shilelagh Law at the Glenrowan in Yonkers on 1/20 and Black 47 at the Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck on 1/21.

Legendary venue to begin 4th act in 2012

POSTED ON January 11th  - POSTED IN Arts

The original Towne Crier Café, which opened 40 years ago.

Along with spending a day at the Galway Races and sailing to the Caribbean aboard an Irish music cruise, a trip to see live music at the Towne Crier Café has been on my bucket list for quite some time now. So I was feeling a bit blue when I heard that the venue in Pawling, N.Y., would close its doors after their line-up of February shows. Then I read the happy news that founder and owner, Phil Ciganer, plans to continue his mission of presenting live music in the Hudson Valley in a new location in 2012. Yes! I had not missed the boat on this one.

The decision to relocate came about as a result of an expired lease and the building going on the market. The Towne Crier Café moved twice after Ciganer opened it in 1972, the second time 23 years ago. Irish artists continued to flock to the venue through the changes.  The Hothouse Flowers, Cherish the Ladies, Solas, Eileen Ivers, Paul Brady & Andy Irvine, and Lunasa have all graced the stage at the Towne Crier, and when I asked Ciganer what his favorite Celtic music memory at the club is, he simply said: “They have all been really special.”

I must admit that I feel a little strange writing about a venue I’ve never been to, but when I recommend that Irish Echo readers stay tuned to hear more about the new location of this venue, trust me on this one. The Bothy Band has played there, and so have the Clancy Brothers.  Seriously, the Bothy Band and the Clancy Brothers! Phil Ciganer is definitely doing something right.

Besides, I tend to go there in my imagination each time I listen to one of my favorite recordings of live Irish music, “The Clancy Tradition Live at the Towne Crier Café.”  The 1998 album features very fine and lively music, but just as present as the Clancy Tradition is the joy of the audience. Each time I hear it I can picture myself front row in a cozy café swaying and singing along in the company of true music lovers who know how to have a good time.

I’ll keep you posted on Ciganer’s future plans for the café, and since I don’t have the time or money to take off to Galway or the Caribbean I look forward to grabbing hold of my next chance to see live Irish Music at the Towne Crier Café, no matter where it’s located.

In the meantime, check out Mary Courtney followed by Broken Banjo Strings at An Beal Bocht in Riverdale on 1/13, and on 1/14 you’ll have to choose between Jameson’s Revenge at Ulysses in NYC, the Cunningham Brothers at Byrne and Hanrahan in Yonkers, and Cathie Ryan at the Walkabout Clearwater Coffeehouse in White Plains. That’s the Sound Around this week!

Irish music usually means very happy venue

POSTED ON January 4th  - POSTED IN Arts

Liz Noonan, left, pictured with Colleen Taylor and Tara Cuzzi, the student hosts of WFUV’s “Ceol na nGael.

This year I made a New Year’s resolution that will be hard to break. I normally set myself up for failure by resolving to stay home more, save money, and behave myself, so I’m taking a different approach this year. In 2012, I resolve to continue to step it out, follow my ears to find the best music the city has to offer, and spread the word to Irish Echo readers about all the fun there is to be had.

I’ve been deeply involved in the Irish music scene in the tri-state area since I began working at WFUV radio in 2001. WFUV is a member-supported public radio station that broadcasts from Fordham University in the Bronx. As a Fordham sophomore, I was given the job of co-hosting the Sunday Irish music program, “Ceol na nGael.”  For a girl who grew up listening to the show and falling madly in love with Irish music, this was a dream come true.

I spent my undergraduate years at Fordham studying hard, listening to countless albums from artists whose work is rooted in the music of Ireland, and squeezing in a trip or two (or two hundred) to the nearby McLean Avenue area to hear live Irish music.  I would drag my tired bones into work on Sunday mornings brimming with excitement over the music I enjoyed the night before. WFUV gave me the chance to share that excitement with tens of thousands of listeners who tuned into 90.7 FM from noon-4pm each Sunday.  It was the time of my life, and still is. Over a decade later, I continue to spend my Sundays at WFUV as the producer of the program.

I have learned a lot during my time at Fordham and WFUV, about media and radio, my heritage and my community. I’ve learned that I’m very lucky to be living in New York City, a place that is rich with all kinds of Irish music, and I’ve learned that anywhere there is live Irish music it is usually a very happy place.  Still so many musicians go unrecognized, and so many music lovers don’t know where to go for their fix of Irish music. So I’m setting out to tell you about all the mighty music happening in the tri-state area.

Hat’s off to WFUV and the Irish Echo for giving me the opportunity to give some well-deserved exposure to the bands and artists who are passionate about the music of Ireland, and cheers to the artists who bring the music into our lives. My experience has shown me what a great source of joy it is to so many people.

I want to be your fun hunter, your session seeker, your concert connector, and your Irish album advisor. If you’re on board, check in with me weekly here at the Irish Echo and reconsider your New Year’s resolution!


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