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Traditional music is 52-week phenomenon

POSTED ON March 14th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Mick Moloney will perform at Symphony Space tomorrow.

Ah, the St. Patrick’s Season, the time of the year when gigs are plentiful and traditional musicians take center stage.  As you’re well aware, St. Patrick’s Day is this coming Saturday, which means that the multi-week season of Irish-themed festivities (which began, as far as I’m concerned, with Joanie Madden, John Whelan and Anna Colliton’s cameo on the Feb. 27 episode of “Gossip Girl”) is winding up to culminate in a full day of celebratory excess.  I’m sure it’ll be great craic, especially since the day of recovery is already built into the weekend.

However, such craic sometimes obscures the spirit of the music.  Most casual St. Patrick’s Day listeners aren’t privvy to its deeper history and significance, and occasionally see traditional music as little more than a curio, rolled out for the season and then put away for next time, like a holiday decoration, or the Shamrock Shake.  What these people don’t appreciate is how active trad musicians are year round, and how high the standard of Irish music is in the United States.  Here in New York, not only are many of our locally-grown musicians considered top players (All-Ireland champions, even), but we also boast an almost unfair share of exceptional musicians from Ireland living in the five boroughs.  The abundance of sessions here means that everyone can get out and play together regularly, and that musicians passing through from abroad have well-tilled and vetted landing spots for tunes.

Looking beyond simple seasonal fare shows how much more more complicated the music is than one might typically think.  While the core, inner game is one that bears on the past, the tradition is flexible enough to allow players to move beyond maudlin repertoire and basic session playing to explore serious ideas and sounds.  Lunasa (which I will talk about next week) and Mick Moloney, in his various recent projects (including this week’s “Celtic Appalachia” concert), are two timely examples of this approach.

At the same time, the tradition is built for wit and humor.  One of the great moments I’ve seen at a session happened in Dublin a few years back at the Palace Bar, when a younger gentleman sang “Girls on Film,” a pop song by the 1980s group Duran Duran, as a traditional ballad.  The performance brought the place to a standstill and afterward everyone – crowd and musicians alike – had a good laugh.  It was hilarious and fit in perfectly.  (And before anyone recoils in horror at the cheek, I will remind that there is a recording floating around out there of East Clare fiddle legend Paddy Canny playing the Mariachi classic “Cielito Lindo,” and that our own legend Msgr. Charlie Coen plays a brilliant version of “The Galop” from Jacques Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld,” a piece known to most as “The Can Can.”)

Just a couple things to keep in mind this St. Patrick’s Day:  Have fun and definitely stop into any bar or restaurant that is featuring traditional music – you’ll love what you hear and it’ll help keep the music in good graces.  And if you really feel the need to shout a request at the musicians, make it “free the Tarbolton three” – it’ll be totally unexpected and they might even thank you for it later.

‘Horizon’ has curiosity value, but little else

POSTED ON March 14th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Wrenn Schmidt (Ruth Atkins) and Lucas Hall (Robert Mayo) in “Beyond the Horizon.”

“Beyond the Horizon” By Eugene O’Neill * Directed by Ciaran O’Reilly * Irish Repertory Theatre * Run extended through April 15

Twice in recent seasons, Ciaran O’Reilly, producing director of the Irish Repertory Theatre, has addressed himself to early plays by Eugene O’Neill with spectacular results. First, in 2006, there was “The Hairy Ape,” originally produced in 1922, and then, three years later, in 2009, he directed an equally stunning production of “The Emperor Jones,” which had first been staged in 1920.

Now, he has attempted a hat trick with a production of O’Neill’s first full-length work, “Beyond the Horizon,” which is very seldom revived. The awkward play is mainly of interest, however, because it brought the playwright the first of his four Pulitzer Prizes.

The result, through no particular fault of O’Reilly’s, is disappointing, because it simply doesn’t offer him, or any director, the opportunities the other two early vehicles provided with such abundance.

O’Neill locates his play specifically on the Mayo farmstead in Eastern Massachusetts in a period of time stretching rather casually from 1907 through 1916, and dealing with a family with two sons and a convenient uncle who is the captain of a ship making regular and lengthy sea voyages.

One of the sons, Robert Mayo, fairly obviously patterned by O’Neill on himself, dislikes the farm and longs to go to sea and experience the world about which he reads so ferociously.

O’Neill, of course, did go to sea, however briefly, writing about the experience in a series of one act plays that have come to be known as “the Glencairn plays” in honor of the name he had given the ship at the center of the stories.

The playwright also suffered from tuberculosis, although, unlike Robert Mayo, who dies at the end of “Beyond the Horizon,” he survived.

In the play, on the night before Robert plans to ship out as part of his Uncle Dick’s crew, he confesses his love for Ruth Atkins, a pretty girl from a neighboring family. It turns out she returns his love, which motivates him to cancel his plans to go to sea. His brother, Andrew, who also loves Ruth, is devoted to the farm, but takes Robert’s place on the uncle’s ship.

Robert stays on the farm, marries Ruth and has a daughter with her. The marriage, however, based on a certain superficial mutual attraction, has quickly turned sour and turned into hostility, with Ruth resenting Robert’s relentless reading and dreaming of distant places.

If O’Reilly can be faulted on anything, it’s probably that, after the preview period ended, and the play opened officially, the pace was still decidedly laggardly, with this basically simple play taking nearly three full hours to unspool its plot. That may be partially a result of the fact that, of the cast’s nine actors, only one had previously worked at the Irish Rep. That situation, of course, should improve with further playing.

The overall cast isn’t among the Irish Rep’s best, with only one actor, Lucas Hall, who plays Robert, really rising to meet the demands of the role.

The Rep production is, if anything, seriously under-produced, with Hugh Landwehr’s simple set merely suggesting the farm in Massachusetts, with the play’s action being played out on chairs and tables hauled on and off as required by the text’s six leisurely scenes, three in each of the show’s two acts.

Eugene O’Neill’s memory deserves to be revisited, but, in the case of “Beyond the Horizon,” it’s perhaps somewhat difficult to see quite what the Pulitzer people saw in the play when it opened at the Morosco Theater on Feb. 3, 1920.



Students get lesson in Irish song and dance

POSTED ON March 14th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

The McLean Avenue Band.

“Easy & Free,” that’s the name of the debut album from McLean Avenue Band. It’s also a great way to describe college students. Especially the Fordham University undergrads who were treated to a night of Irish music from the band on the Rose Hill campus in the Bronx recently.

The event, sponsored by Fordham’s Gaelic Society, featured music from the Yonkers-based band along with the fancy footwork of Dublin-born dancer, Joanna Barry Connolly.  The band, who released their debut album last year, is led by none other than Padraig Allen – you probably know him from his work with the Whole Shabang or Derek Warfield & the Young Wolfe Tones.  Padraig is a natural entertainer with an exceptional voice, an amiable demeanor, and a gift for putting a new spin on traditional songs. Pair him up with Jessica Semins, a passionate singer and fiddle player taught by renowned Galway fiddler, Pete Kelly, and you’ve got two vibrant young musicians who were born to be on stage. Other members of the band include the three time all Ireland accordion champion Buddy Connolly, guitarist and bass player Joseph Biancorosso, and the Tipperary-born drummer Tony Ryan.             You’ll hear everything from traditional jigs, reels, and ballads to Bob Marley and the Cranberries at a McLean Avenue band show, and the addition of dance into the McLean Avenue experience is brilliant. Especially the contemporary style of Joanna Barry Connolly, founder of the dance company, Emerald Fire. The group has mastered the art of blending the old and new, embracing the traditional while adding their own signature sound – a sound that screams fun. The perfect band to give college students a lesson in Irish song and dance on a university campus.

As I enjoyed the show from the back of the room, it wasn’t just the music and dance that caught my eyes and ears. It was the heartwarming aura of community, of people brought together by the music. Students mingled with deans, undergrads greeted members of Fordham’s Jesuit community, a grandson sat and listened to the music with his grandparents who he had invited to campus, Gaelic Society members talked with their non-Irish friends about the songs that they grew up with.  All these good feelings, the singing, the dancing , the celebration were enjoyed without a drop of alcohol.  Just well done Irish entertainment and a community eager to come together to hear it.

McLean Avenue Band is keeping busy this month, including a show at Bergen Community College on St. Patrick’s Day. For a full line up of shows and more information about the band visit their website,

For some more St. Patrick’s Day fun check out Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill, Jameson’s Revenge , Shilelagh Law , and a Band of Rogues at Connolly’s in Manhattan, Black 47 at BB Kings also in Manhattan, or the Narrowbacks at The Rambling House in the Bronx.

And to all Irish Echo readers, Happy St. Patrick’s Day. May you find good Irish music wherever you go!


The ‘rumbly tumbly’ family’s rise and fall

POSTED ON March 14th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Honor Molloy had some cake at the Manhattan launch of “Smarty Girl” last week.

“Loosely based” would be the wrong term to use when talking about Honor Molloy’s new novel “Smarty Girl” and her Dublin childhood. She offers instead “fictional riff.” The names have been changed and many imagined details added, but the fundamentals are real.

“My mother is an American who went to get her PhD at Trinity College in 1953. She met my father, a charming young man who’d dropped out of school at the age of 14 on account of the Christian Brothers beat him blue,” she said. “He was an actor/comedian [John Molloy] and together they produced stage plays, radio programs and television shows.

“The book takes up during the halcyon days of what I call the ‘rumbly tumbly’ family and journeys through the destruction of that family and my mother’s flight out of Ireland with her six children,” Molloy added.

Honor Molloy

Place of birth: The Rotunda, Dublin

Date of birth: May 25, 1961

Residence: Brooklyn


What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

When I am writing, I write on the weekends. I do a self-imposed blackout on internet interaction for the whole weekend so that I don’t get distracted from the deep work. In the morning, I go to a neighborhood indie coffee shop to moodle and/or review notes and then walk the mile to the Brooklyn Writers Space on Garfield Place. The workroom is a quiet room filled with 20-or-so carrels, windows at my back, and a skylight above my preferred desk. I am so conditioned to work there that as soon as I hit the desk and power up, I’m typing away.


What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Hone your discipline. Get to the desk. Get to the desk as often as you can. Need help? Read Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” and Dorothea Brande’s “Becoming a Writer,” two very different approaches to building a writing practice.


Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.

“Ringolevio,” by Emmett Grogan, “Cat’s Eye,” by Margaret Atwood, and Hari Kunzru’s “The Impressionist.”


What book are you currently reading?

“Carry Me Down” by M.J. Hyland.


Is there a book you wish you had written?

“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” by Carson McCullers.


Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

Nicholson Baker’s “The Fermata.”


If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?

Samuel Beckett.


What book changed your life?

I read “Conference of the Birds” by John Heilpern (at the age of 22).


What is your favorite spot in Ireland?



You’re Irish if . . .

you like Tayto Crisps.


“Double Dublin!”

In “Double Dublin!”, Kevin Holohan and Honor Molloy will read comic extracts from their novels “The Brothers’ Lot” (published to critical acclaim on the both sides of the Atlantic in 2011) and “Smarty Girl” on this coming Sunday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., at the Brooklyn Public Library, Dweck Center, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Lower Level, Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn.


Salon hears of saloon barred from NYC telephone directory

POSTED ON March 14th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Charles Hale.

For the past 10 months the Irish American Writers & Artists, whose signature event is the annual presentation of the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award, has sponsored another event, the IAW&A Salon, which has grown rapidly in popularity in the Irish-American community in New York. The salon allows members 10 minutes to present a reading, musical performance, comedy skit, video or any performance art of their choice. The salon is open to all, but readers are drawn from the membership. Occasionally, though, visitors from Ireland and other places do get to the microphone.

Hell’s Bells and the “The Bells of Hell” was a central theme of the salon last week, held in front of a full house at the Thalia Café at Symphony Space.  Malachy McCourt, one of the owners of the old Greenwich Village saloon Hell’s Bells, told a riotous story of how the name of the saloon was banned from the New York telephone directory. And, as has become the tradition at the Thalia Salon, Malachy closed out the evening with a song, leading the attendees in a chorus of “The Bells of Hell.”

There were a number of highlights: David Coles invoked the spirit of Hell’s Bells, reading from his novel “In the Midnight Choir.” Coles writes of New York City life in the 1970s, which includes many nights in two Village saloons, Hell’s Bells and the Lion’s Head. A wonderful story from a first-time reader.

Salon regular John Kearns reminded the audience that his play “In the Wilderness” will be opening in early June, while another first-time presenter, Guenevere Donohue, read and sang from her new play “Killer is My Name.” As Guenevere described it, “Killer” is personal myth, memory as legend, and the mystery of the Marine, poet, and spy who was her father. I look forward to hearing more from this talented artist.

Robert Haydon Jones read “My Tawdry Story,” a tale about what happens to a highly respected senior citizen from Connecticut when his DNA is a perfect match with semen found at an unsolved rape murder in Miami more than 30 years ago. Jones artfully presented this taut, riveting tale.

Upcoming Irish American Writers and Artists’ salons are Tuesday, March 20, at the Cell, located at 338 W.23 Street, Tuesday, April 3 at the Thalia Café at 95th Street and Broadway and the Cell on Tuesday, April 17.  The salons start at 7 p.m.


For more information about the salons or the Irish American Writers & Artists contact Charles R. Hale at

Coyle & co. drop some ‘Downton’ hints

POSTED ON March 14th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Actor Brendan Coyle, in the role of John Bates, described his Irish and Scottish grandfathers as “strong, stoic gentlemen.” He’s pictured with Joanne Froggatt who plays his true love Anna Smith in “Downton Abbey.”

Production is under way on the third season of “Downton Abbey,” the British costume drama that has become an unexpected pop-culture phenomenon with great reviews, high ratings and a loyal following.

Written and produced by “Gosford Park” scribe Julian Fellowes, the series follows the lives of the wealthy Crawley family and those who serve them in their mansion in the early 20th century English countryside. The Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning show features an extraordinary British, Irish and American cast headed up by Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern. It also includes Brendan Coyle, Maggie Smith, Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Siobhan Finneran, Joanne Froggatt, Jim Carter, Allen Leech, Jessica Brown Findlay and Maria Doyle Kennedy. “Terms of Endearment” and “Steel Magnolias” star Shirley MacLaine will be part of the ensemble next season, as well.

Although fans will have to content themselves with watching DVDs or reruns on PBS until fresh episodes of the show start airing, some stars of the series have been dropping hints about what audiences can expect when the show returns.

Discussing the future of the denizens of “Downton Abbey” in a video clip posted on the show’s Web site, “Notting Hill,” “Blow Dry” and “Iris” star Bonneville said: “That’s the great thing about Julian’s scripts. Each time you open them you have no idea what’s going to be coming up next.

“We know it’s an era, obviously, where we’re in mourning and recovering from the Spanish flu,” explained the British actor, who plays Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham. “The world was completely smashed to bits by Spanish flu. There were far more casualties during that than there were in the First World War. So, as the season finale comes along, we’ve come out the other side of that in to January 1920 and, of course, it’s a whole new decade ahead. What’s going to happen? They don’t know there’s a general strike and a world crash coming around the corner, an economic crash. They didn’t know that was on the horizon, so I think the events of 1920 and 1921, which is what will happen in the third season, will be much more of a focus on the world around the house and the rebuilding of the house emotionally and socially, if you like, since the effects of the First World War.”

Coyle, an actor born in England to an Irish father and Scottish mother, chatted with fans online after the second season finale and dished about the fate of his popular character John Bates, Lord Grantham’s valet, who was last seen marrying head housemaid Anna (played by Froggatt) before being tried and found guilty of murdering his horrible ex-wife Vera, played by Doyle.

“He begins Series 3 in prison,” Coyle teased. “I can’t say anymore, honestly.”

Insisting he has no idea if a Baby Bates might be on the way, the actor went on to assure fans the show will have plenty of romance and intrigue to hold their attention next season.

“There is a wedding. Or two?” he said, possibly alluding to Lady Mary’s on-off engagement to her cousin and Downton Abbey heir Matthew Crawley, played by Dockery and Stevens respectively.

“Shirley MacLaine is amongst us,” Coyle added. “The scripts are superb. Stick with us.”

Coyle described the addition of MacLaine as the Countess of Grantham’s mother as “ingenious.”

“She is much loved here,” he said. “Her scenes are brilliant and I can assure you she will be a dazzling addition to ‘Downton Abbey.’”

So, what is it about his quiet, honorable character that so many people find appealing?

“I think it harks back to a time when people didn’t always ‘express themselves’ or talk about ‘how they feel.’ His stoicism and restraint seem to have struck a chord,” offered Coyle, who began his career in the Irish theater and co-starred in the TV movie “Omagh,” miniseries “North and South” and drama series “Lark Rise to Candleford.”

The actor said he looked to his own family for inspiration when figuring out how to play Bates.

“I thought a great deal about my two grandfathers who I was lucky enough to know into my 20s,” he noted. “Strong, stoic gentlemen — one Irish, one Scottish — that I was privileged to know. I watched ‘Gosford Park’ and read about the period and the Boer War which his Lordship and I did serve in.”

Asked by one cheeky fan if he was startled to learn there are a number of American women who would “like to rip Mr. Bates’ stiff collar off with their teeth,” Coyle didn’t miss a beat and replied: “Beyond startled. Somewhat bemused; very amused. Americans have lovely teeth.”

Kennedy said she had a blast playing Bates’s treacherous estranged spouse Vera, even if it was only in a few episodes of Season 2.

“It was just so hilarious. I never, ever played such a witch in my life before, never. You always hear actors say witches are the best to play, but they really are fun,” the Dubliner told the Irish Echo in a recent phone interview. “Because it’s a period piece… it’s all kind of contained and there’s this terribly fake nice language. So, she’s sipping her tea very delicately and at the same time saying, ‘Well, here I am and I’m going to ruin your life…’ It was just hilarious and not something I get to do normally. I really enjoyed it.”

The actress, who is known for her roles in “The Tudors,” “The Commitments,” “The General” and “The Matchmaker,” will soon be seen in Fellowes’ “Titanic” miniseries, which will air on ABC in April.

“We had a big press launch in London for ‘Titanic…’ and Julian and I were on a panel together with a couple of the other actors – Toby Jones and Linus Roache — and the producers, so because I was right beside him and we were hanging out for a little while, I tried to convince Julian to let me come back to ‘Downton Abbey’ to do a bit of haunting, but he wasn’t really going for it, no,” she laughed.

Roche puts his stamp on world architecture

POSTED ON March 14th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Kevin Roche pictured with a model of a New York University dormitory building at the headquarters of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates LLC in Hamden, Conn. PHOTO BY PETER MCDERMOTT

Kevin Roche is not resting on his laurels.

That much was evident at a panel discussion on his work in January at the Museum of the City of New York. The institution at 103rd Street and 5th Avenue was at the time exhibiting “Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment,” which originated at Yale and will likely be seen in the city of his birth,  Dublin.

One of the panelists on that evening, Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen, has said that Roche is the first of his profession “to see architecture and nature as one.” Audience members might have expected, then, that the County Cork-raised architect would sit back while she and the two other experts discussed his 65-year career, which has seen him win every important award, including the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel.

Instead, it became “The Kevin Roche Show.” The centerpiece was a slideshow presentation in which he gave an overview of the major architectural styles since antiquity and explained some of the decisions he and his colleagues made when building structures such as the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan, the headquarters of the Santander Central Hispano in Madrid and the head office for Bouygues SA Holding company in the center of Paris.

Although, he was focused mainly on current and recent projects, he displayed powers of instant recall when asked about details of buildings he’d worked on decades ago. And he did all of this in his soft-spoken way.

“Ego is dangerous in architecture,” he told the attendance of about 150. “It’s not the point of what we’re doing.

“We’re trying to create civilization,” he said. “We’re trying to help create community.”


Patriotic father

Roche, who will turn 90 in early summer, has simple explanations for his success. “I sort of lucked into everything. I just had a certain amount of drive,” he said in an interview at his office in Hamden, Conn. “I was here without family, without money, without a name. You’re in the situation where you’ve got to perform.”

He was born on June 22, 1922, just days before the outbreak of the Irish Civil War,  a conflict that landed his father behind bars for a second time. Éamon de Róiste, as he was known during his revolutionary career, had already done a spell in prison during the 1919-21 War of Independence. On Jan. 7, 1922, he was one of the 57 Dáil members who voted against ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that had been signed by Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith in London. The most famous oppositional voice was that of de Róiste’s lifelong friend, and future taoiseach and president, Éamon de Valera, who also grew up Bruree, Co. Limerick.

The architect’s mother, the former Alice Harding, was raised on a tiny farm outside Tipperary Town.  “There were about 10 daughters and two sons. They grew up in a two-room cottage,” he said, “and they became teachers all over the world, in England, Scotland, America and Australia.” Some in the next generation became very successful in business, he added.

After the end of the Civil War, Éamon and Alice Roche left politics behind and settled down with their young children in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, where he’d been appointed manager of a small creamery. It grew into Ireland’s biggest and most famous cooperative.

“He was very smart and had a great imagination,” he said of his father who left school at 12.

Roche pioneered the bulk manufacturing of cheese. He also transformed dairy farming in the region with the introduction of artificial insemination.

By the early 1930s, the Mitchelstown network of creameries had a daily milk intake of 29,000 gallons.

Some years later, Kevin Roche’s father allowed him to oversee the construction of cheese warehouses and when he was a first-year college student, he gave him his first opportunity to design a building: a piggery that accommodated 1,000 pigs.

“They were very satisfied customers,” he said, with a laugh, “probably the most satisfied I ever had.”

Kevin, the youngest of the Roches’ four children (their eldest, and only daughter, died at age 12) was  a “terrible student” at the Christian Brothers school in Mitchelstown and his report cards confirmed it. “I didn’t even qualify to fail,” he said.

But at Rockwell College, the boarding school run by the Holy Ghost Fathers in Cashel, Co. Tipperary, he found his calling  when he read some books on the subject in the school library. When he graduated from Rockwell, he enrolled in a class of 10 architectural students at the Earlsfort Terrace campus of University College Dublin. The course, he said, remembering a city cut off from Europe by war, was dominated by Greek revivalism.


New horizons

After graduation, Roche worked with Dublin’s (Michael Scott, “he was quite a character”) and London’s (Matthew Fry) best-known architects, but he was anxious to broaden his horizons. He applied to and was accepted by both Harvard and Yale in 1948; instead he took up the offer to go to study at the Illinois Institute of Technology under Edwin Ludwig Mies van der Rohl. Mies had left Europe at age 50 because the Nazis declared his architecture “not German.”

Ultimately, Roche found the approach at IIT too rigid. “It was like a religion. There were mortal sins and venial sins,” he recalled. “It made nice architecture for the moment, but it didn’t embrace the whole problem of why we were there, [and] what we were doing.”

He left after a year because he wanted to work on the United Nations building in New York. When that job was finished, he lived a precarious jobless existence for a few months. One UN contact, however, got him an interview in 1950 with Eero Saarinen, a Michigan resident who had been emerging as one of the nation’s top architects. Like Roche, he was foreign-born. He’d arrived in America at age 13 with his father, the prominent architect Eliel Saarinen.

“Eero was wonderful because he had the Finnish humanist approach to things,” Roche remembered. “He was very, very interested in trying to make something that was meaningful.”

Four years on, in 1954, Roche was appointed Saarinen’s chief design associate and worked on all of his projects with him.

The Irishman said his mentor worked constantly because he enjoyed it. He recalled that on one occasion he was so engrossed in projects he was surprised when someone told him it was New Year’s Day.

When news came through in 1961 that Saarinen had died at age 51, Roche was in a meeting. He made the sad announcement and then went on with the meeting because that’s what the boss would have done.

Roche and his fiancée Jane, who is from Toledo, Ohio, were due to marry the following week, but postponed the wedding until the company’s move from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., to Hamden could be completed. A half century on, the couple, who are the parents of five children and grandparents to 12, live just a short drive from the Hamden offices.


Non-stop work

Saarinen’s main protégés Roche and John Dinkeloo, who specialized in the construction side of the operation, made their reputations initially by completing the 10 projects that he’d left unfinished at the time of his death. They included Dulles International Airport, CBS Headquarters and the TWA terminal at JFK.

“We worked every day,” Roche recalled. “We worked 10 hours a day, for years and years.”

Dinkeloo, who Roche once described as having a “forceful personality,” insisted that the partners also enter competitions. The first important one was for the Oakland Museum of California. Shortly after that, they were working on the Knights of Columbus building in nearby New Haven, and the Ford Foundation headquarters in Manhattan.

Their success was made possible by the path that Saarinen had forged: his reputation, his goodwill and his press contacts (he’d wanted to move to Connecticut because he second wife was a New York-based journalist).

“You couldn’t start from scratch yourself,” Roche said.

The founder’s will stipulated that his practice would retain his name for five years after his death. In 1966, the company became Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates or simply Roche-Dinkeloo, or KRJDA.

Dinkeloo died in 1981. The following year, the prominent critic and scholar Paul Goldberger reported in the New York Times: “Kevin Roche, the architect known for such crisp and inventive abstractions in glass and masonry as the Ford Foundation building and the United Nations Plaza Hotel, was named the winner of the $100,000 Pritzker Prize in architecture yesterday. At the presentation ceremonies, in the Whitney Museum, Mr. Roche announced his intention of using the prize money to begin an endowment fund for a chair of architecture at Yale University in honor of Eero Saarinen, the architect with whom Mr. Roche worked closely until Saarinen’s death in 1961.”

Early on, Roche developed a reputation as an innovator and as a communicator. He once saw reflective sunglasses on the cover of Life magazine and it occurred to him that the same principles could be used in buildings. He understood, too, that while members of his profession were obsessively attached to architectural drawings, clients didn’t understand them. So he pioneered slideshows and other presentations that conveyed ideas more easily to lay people.


Fiction and non-fiction

In doing headquarters for corporations, and it has done many, Roche-Dinkeloo has tried to avoid a common pitfall. “You’re designing things for people, but you never think about the people,” Roche said. “You just assume you know it all; that’s the worst possible thing, because you don’t.”

That sort of blindness has led to some ill-conceived planning, such as putting economically disadvantaged people in high-rises.  “Then we walk away,” Roche said.

The ideal model for human living might be the 18 and 19th English village, though he wouldn’t like to live in such a situation himself, no more than he could live on a high floor.

He and his wife spend weekends during certain times of the year at their apartment at Lexington Avenue and 64th Street in Manhattan. It’s on the 2nd floor.

Much as he enjoys weekends off, Roche couldn’t imagine not working. “I don’t go on vacation,” he said. “I don’t have any interests.”

However, he does read. Jane Austen is a favorite,  and while he admires his fellow Michelstown native William Trevor and liked some of the earlier books of Roddy Doyle and Martin Amis, he feels that fiction has lost its way somewhat.

One non-fiction book he read recently described the impact that the Welsh, the Scots, the Irish and others have had on the English language.  He could see the parallels with architecture.

“It’s absolutely fascinating when you walk down the street in New York and you ask ‘how did this happen?’ and ‘how did that happen?’”

When he sees a building, he’s wonders, too, about the “energy, commitment, hope, expectation and human spirit” that went into it and, if it’s a home, he’s curious about the family story.

In a Manhattan street, one can see, the world-renowned architect Roche said, “100 years of expectations.”



You own the language, so show pride in it

POSTED ON March 14th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Elaine Ní Bhraonáin.

Show your Bród (Pride). What is meant by this is that, from now on, I want YOU to use any Irish you have. You don’t have to be fluent and please don’t be worried about your grammar. Just speak it. The world-famous Irish boxer Bernard Dunne is heading a campaign to convince 100,000 people to speak Irish and be proud of it and I’m going to help in any way I can. People are often embarrassed speaking the first official language of Ireland so we have to try and change people’s attitude towards it and to get everybody using a few words or phrases everyday. You have no excuse as almost every Irish and Irish-American person has some Irish so I am asking you all to please use it. We own the language and I feel that it is our responsibility, as Irish people, to promote it. Please join the petition at “ brodclub” and all you need to do is say to yourself that you will use whatever Irish you have more often, that’s it. You can also check out “rtebrodclub” on facebook also.

I am so impressed by this campaign as they are not trying to persuade people to learn grammar rules off by heart; they simply want people to speak it and to have fun with it so the Irish language can be for

everybody not just those who want to sign up for classes. Even if you only know a word or two, promise yourself that you will learn few more and use it. If you are interested in signing up for classes to learn Irish or improve the Irish you already have, log onto to find out about classes all over the Unites States. If we do not make any effort with the Irish language, it will not be available for future generations to come and I feel it is our responsibility as Irish-Americans to respect the language. This is a terrific opportunity to be part of a group dedicated to helping the language thrive around the world and all you have to do is use whatever Irish you have, a few words or a lot. Be proud of Irish Gaelic and enjoy it because as the proverb says ‘A Country without a Language is a County without a Soul. Slán (bye)


Show your Bród. Séard atá i gceist le seo ná an Ghaeilge a bhfuil agat a úsáid. Ní gá duit bheith líofa nó bheith buartha faoi do chuid gramadaí. Tá an dornálaí cáiliúl Bernard Dunne i mbun feachtas chun 100,000 duine a mhealladh chun dul le Gaeilge agus bheith sásta í a labhairt. Bíonn náire ar dhaoine an chéad teanga oifigiúil a labhairt agus caithfaidh muid iarracht a dhéanamh meon daoine a athrú i dtaobh an teanga agus frásaí nó focail Gaeilge a úsáid aon uair is féidir. Tá Gaeilge ag beagnach gach duine in Éirinn agus muintir Gael-Mheiriceá fresin so le bhur dtoil, bain triall as roinnt Gaeilge a úsáid gach aon lá. Is linne an teanga agus is fúinnse í a chur chun cinn. Ní gá ach clarú le brodclub agus geallúint dhuit féin go bhfuil tú chun Gaeilge a labhairt níos minicí. Is féidir teacht ar ar facebook chomh maith: rtebrodclub.

Táim an-tógtha leis an bhfeachtas seo mar níl siad ar rá le daoine luí isteach sa ghramadaí agus dá bhrí sin, tá sé oiriúnach do gach sort duine, ní díreach na daoine a theastaíonn uathu freastal ar ranganna Gaeilge. Muna bhfuil ach focal nó dhó agat, úsáid iad agus dean iarracht cúpla focal nua a fhoghlaim amach anseo. Má theastaíonn uait clarú do ranganna i Nua Eabhrac, tá neart ann. Ní gá ach dul ar suíomh Daltaí na Gaeilge agus tá tuilleadh eolas ar na ranganna Gaeilge a mbíonn ar siúl thar fud na Stáit Aontaithe ann. Muna ndéanann muid iarracht ar bith cabhrú leis an nGaeilge, ní bheidh sí ar fáil do na glúin atá le teacht agus tá sé mar fhreagracht again mar Gael-Mheiriceánaigh meas a thaispeáint di. Is deis iontach é seo bheith mar chuid de ghrúpa a bhfuil mar aidhm acu an Ghaeilge a fhorbairt in Éirinn agus thar fud an domhain. Bí brodúil as do chuid Gaeilge agus bain sult aisti mar, mar a dhéireann an sean-fhocail ‘Tír gan teanga, Tír gan Anam’. Slán.

“The Bass Player” at IAC

POSTED ON March 14th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Emmy-winning filmmaker Niall McKay’s much praised homage to his father, “The Bass Player: A Song for Dad” (62 minutes) gets a screening at the Irish Arts Center on next Wednesday, March 21, at 7 p.m. The documentary, which the Irish Times said was “masterfully told,” takes the viewer on a journey from the depths of depression to the heights of new beginnings, marriage proposals and homecomings. The story explores relationship with his father Jim, a jazz musician, who in the 1970s raised his two young sons on his own in Dublin.


Irish-language parenting book

POSTED ON March 14th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

A book on Irish-languagae parenting is being launched this week in New Orleans (the 15th) and next week in Dublin (22nd). “Thógamar le Gaeilge Iad” Brian O Broin said: offers support to anybody who is considering raising their children in Irish. There may be problems, but there is also huge satisfaction to be found in raising children in Irish, and a profound reward for those who undertake it. The book also shows that many people, from many unexpected places, are accepting the challenge.” For more information contact O Broin at or visit


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