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Dwyer Hickey for IAC, AIHS

POSTED ON September 19th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Christine Dwyer Hickey, the award-winning Irish novelist and short story writer, will discuss her new novel, “The Cold Eye of Heaven” at two upcoming events in New York City. She will read at the Irish Arts Center, 553 West 51st Street in Manhattan, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 25. The reading is free but attendees must register beforehand on the IAC website: www.irisharts center. org. The following evening Dwyer Hickey will read at the American Irish Historical Society at 991 Fifth Avenue at 80st Street. The 7 pm reading is free for AIHC members, but there is a $10 admission fee for non-members. Reservations are required through agavin@aihs.org or by calling 212-288-2263. A reception will follow the reading.

Dwyer Hickey is twice winner of the Listowel Writers Week short story competition  and also has been a prize-winner in the prestigious Observer/Penguin short story competition.  Her novels “Tatty” and “Last Train from Liguria” have been best-sellers and she is known also for the “Dublin Trilogy” – “The Dancer,” “The Gambler” and “The Gatemaker – which spans three generations of a Dublin family from 1913-1956.

 

Ex-cop Monaghan brings music to community

POSTED ON September 19th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

This year I ended my summer with sand between my toes, a starry night, a cool evening breeze and some mighty live music thanks to Irish American performer, Brian Monaghan. Monaghan treated his neighbors in my hometown, the seaside community of East Atlantic Beach, N.Y., to a night of tunes at a beach bonfire to close out the season. Taking in the sounds of Christy Moore, the Saw Doctors and the Pogues with the sights of families and friends gathered together under the stars was a bit of heaven, and with Brian’s magnanimous stage presence, awesome repertoire, and sheer musical talent, I was feeling quite grateful that my hometown has a guy like Monaghan bringing a bit of the Emerald Isle to the City by the Sea.

In his live set Brian mixes Irish music and rock classics with an acoustic/folk/rock/Celtic sound that provides exactly the kind of relaxed ambience that true music fans are thirsty for. He attributes his love for Irish music to his Brooklyn upbringing where he played Gaelic football and his Limerick-born parents filled the house with the music of Ireland.  Just like the urge to play football, the urge to play music took hold of Monaghan, and he began learning guitar at the age of 13. As an adult, Brian was no stranger to the bustling Celtic Rock scene of the 1990s and he attributes a friendship with fellow Brooklynite Chris Byrne (former member of Black 47 who currently fronts Seanchai and The Unity Squad) with some memorable NYC nights with Black 47 when he was invited on stage to play in-between sets. At the same time he was making and hearing music in NYC he was also fighting crime, serving on the New York City police force for 20 years. Though he’s retired from law enforcement he’s full steam ahead with making music, taking his tunes to crowds in Brooklyn, Long Island and the Rockaways a few nights a week.

Though Monaghan had been strumming his guitar as a hobby for years as a kid in love with music and an adult as a distraction from a high stress job, the tragedy of 9/11 took him down a new road with music.  Like many of us, people in Brian’s Brooklyn community turned to music for a bit of healing in the months that followed the attacks. Monaghan brought songs to the those in mourning at dozens of 9/11 benefits and ceremonies including a street re-naming for his childhood friend, police officer Moira Smith, a wife and mother who gave the ultimate sacrifice while bringing victims to safety. For Monaghan, Smith’s street-renaming was the light-bulb moment that he recognized his calling to bring live music to the people in his community. This time of year as we salute the heroes of 9/11 and remember the souls who left us I also think of the music makers – the singers, and songwriters, the pipers and drummers who brought people together through sad songs, happy songs, songs of Ireland and songs of America. Thank you. You gave us light.

You’ll often catch Brian Monaghan singing Irish songs at O’Carroll’s recovery room in Mineola, L.I., and he’ll be adding to the merriment of the 23rd annual Long Beach Irish Heritage Day on Oct. 6 at the Cabana with Shilelagh Law.

My picks for some of the best Irish entertainment around town this week: Mary Courtney at An Beal Bocht in the Bronx on 9/14, Half way to St. Patrick’s Day with Shilelagh Law & Jameson’s Revenge on 9/14 at Connolly’s Klub 45 in NYC, and Half way to St. Patrick’s Day Irish Music Festival featuring Black 47 at The Nutty Irishman in Bay Shore on 9/15.

Harpists are busier than ever across U.S.

POSTED ON September 19th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Today I write from the air, en route to “CelticFest” in Jackson, Miss., for one of the American South’s great celebrations of traditional Irish music.  Each year, festival organizers Don Penzien and Valerie Plested put together an admirable lineup, and stacked with groups like Téada and Bua this year again sets an impressive standard.  Festivals like CelticFest are great, not just because they give folks an opportunity to see and hear top quality jigs and reels, but because they get musicians together for tunes and catching up, which is something so important in this music.  (The 17th annual CCÉ Irish Folk Festival in Fairfax, Sept. 22 – anyone in?  Donegal fiddlers Peter Campbell & Caoimhin MacAoidh will be there!  For more, visit www.ccepotomac.org.)

I’ve had a good bit of harp-related material passing through my inbox as of late, of which I will write about presently; but in the spirit of festive catching up I want to report on what some of the harpists leading the scene here in the U.S. are up to before addressing the published materials.

The great Eileen Gannon is back in St. Louis after a summer of gigging and festivals, playing around town, teaching at St. Louis Irish Arts and preparing for the Harpers Getaway Weekend in Gettysburg, Pa., in early November. (For more info, visit wafhs.org/getaway.)  Marta Cook, another wonderful harpist and teacher who teaches privately, is about to start her “Irish Music Toolbox” class (a class intended for musicians on any instrument, really) at the Irish Arts Center in New York City, and (among many other things) recently transcribed and created harp parts for Deborah Henson-Conant, a Grammy-nominated harpist, for her upcoming tour with guitar legend Steve Vai.  Maeve Gilchrist has been all over the U.S., touring in support of her 2011 album “ Song of Delight,” and with the band the Forge (maevegilchristmusic.com).  And finally, harp maven Kathy DeAngelo is finishing up preparations on the 20th Annual Harpers’ Escape Weekend, which will take place October 5-7 at Rutgers in New Brunswick NJ.   (See www.harpersescape.com for more information.)

Incidentally, DeAngelo tells me that one of the harpists performing at the Escape, Grainne Hambly, once played with Irish harp legend Michael Rooney in the Belfast Harp Orchestra.  A neat coincidence, because Rooney recently sent me two books of his own non-harp compositions, “Aifreann Gaeilge” and the “de Cuéllar Suite.”  “Aifreann Gaeilge,” a Comhaltas-sponsored publication, includes musical arrangements for ten hymns and nine instrumental pieces.  The hymns (in Irish, without translation) are provided both in piano-vocal and small-sized orchestra arrangement, while the instrumental pieces are arranged solely for small orchestra.  The hymns, in particular, are plaintive but deeply expressive.  Alternatively, the music in the “de Cuéllar Suite,” based on the story of Captain Francisco de Cuéllar, a survivor of a Spanish Armada ship that ran aground off Sligo in 1588, is very much varied and adventuresome, moving through many different textures and moods.  Both pieces are appropriate for professional level presentation, but I think that Celtophile directors of college level music programs (and perhaps those of talented high school groups) will want to take notice.  Although both books contain a few passages some will find challenging, most of the material is elegantly straightforward.  Rooney’s music provides a brilliant window into Irish music’s more composerly side and will reward thoughtful performance.  To learn more, visit draiochtmusic.com.

Finally, there’s the majestic album “Suaimhneas” from the amazing Michelle Mulcahy.  I was first acquainted with Mulcahy’s playing on the amazing albums she did with her father Mick, and sister Louise.  But “Suaimhneas” is a completely solo effort, and one that will attract much deserved attention to a familiar musician with so much to say.  Each track here is just beautiful – it’s clear that the young Mulcahy is playing with the ear and touch of someone much older.  Harp fans will revel in how well the harmonies and rhythms in her right hand complement the melodies in her left.  I’m particularly fond of the reels “Morning Star / …,” the hornpipes “Galway Bay / …” and the jigs “O’Sullivan’s March / ….”  In addition, there are several airs and each one – especially “An Bhutais” and “Amhrán Mhaínse” – is a killer.  Intimate and confident, this is a brilliant album from one of the best.  If you like the harp, it’s absolutely one to have.

 

Ní Mhaonaigh’s return

POSTED ON September 10th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

A rising young Irish artist returns for her second solo exhibit in New York beginning today. “Sinéad Ní Mhaonaigh: New Paintings” is showing at the Pink Room/Rose Burlingham, 2 West 123rd St., Manhattan, through Sept. 30.

The gallery is open Sunday 12-5 or by appointment: 646-229-0998. Ní Mhaonaigh’s paintings are, according to art critic Aidan Dunne, “poised between austerity and luxuriance. Structurally spare and concise, featuring simplified geometric motifs, her surfaces are luscious, consisting of thick coats of rich oil pigment, beautifully textured.”

Tyrrell’s voice reaches out beyond genres

POSTED ON September 10th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

For many, Seán Tyrrell needs no introduction.  From his work with Davy Spillane to his one man shows, and his prodigious career as a solo recording artist, Tyrrell is known as one of the great voices in traditional Irish music.  Those unfamiliar with the man and his work, however, will want to better acquaint themselves with him by looking into his new album an excellent introduction to an artist whose ability to convey a song’s emotional depth is largely unmatched.

Taking its name from a poem by 19th century Dublin poet Charles Dawson Shanley, “The Walker of the Snow” is an album diverse in character but unified in direction.  Tyrrell’s voice, of course, takes center stage; its raw “growl” both conveys the album’s thematic cues and complements well its tendency toward sparse, atmospheric arrangements.  Tyrrell’s selections – some original, others taken from the traditional repertory, adapted from poetry or borrowed from songwriters outside the tradition – all revel in story and metaphor, often injected with a bracing (and disarming) directness that impels listeners to understand the messages in them.

The album’s musical arrangements are built on Tyrrell’s mandocello and tenor guitar, but many also include acoustic, electric & slide guitar, Hammond organ, and even synthesizer.  With this palette of instruments, all the tracks are able to retain a sense of bardic familiarity typical of Tyrrell’s style, but it allows in an occasional folk-rock sensibility that moves the album beyond the typical borders of Irish traditional song.

For example, his version of the traditional “She Moves Through The Fair,” echoes Fairport Convention’s 1968 folk-rock recording in tone.  However, Tyrrell’s unmistakable delivery and phrasing make the composition his own.  The same can be said of his take on John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero,” a song that few can adapt effectively, but one on which Tyrrell excels.

Other tracks are more stark, both in sound and in subject matter.  On both Tyrrell’s own “The Black Hole” and the traditional “Working Life Out” (a song sometimes associated with Martin Carthy), the singer accompanies himself on mandocello.  The result is a “lonesome” sound, but one fitting for songs as ponderous and thematically challenging as these.  Similar effect is achieved with a slightly larger arrangement in trio of songs adapted from poetic works, “Ringsend,” “Reading Gaol” and the album’s title track, each of which is a standout.

Instrumental tracks, including “Lark in the Morning” and “Raggad in Paris” add variety and are well executed, while others, like “You Are My Sunshine” and “On Top of Old Smokey” are given something of a north Clare makeover and make for a pleasant surprise.

Led by Tyrrell’s powerful voice, “The Walker of the Snow” is an excellent album that explores the corners of existential meaning.  It will surely appeal to trad fans, especially those interested in ballads and vocal music, but Tyrrell’s style is hard to pin down and can therefore reach out across genres – hopefully, people “out there” will hear him.

It should be noted that that this album was financed through the fundit.ie crowd funding platform.   Several weeks ago, I wrote about crowd funding’s value to independent artists, and I’m very pleased to see Tyrrell’s success with this model.  This album (an idea which laid fallow for five years) is evidence of faith rewarded and should inspire others interested in exploring the new business of music.

Tyrrell is embarking on a fall tour of the United States starting September 7 and will visit Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York City, New Mexico and California.  Visit www.seantyrrell.com for more information.

Tales of survival in City of Light

POSTED ON September 10th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

A standing room only crowd greeted first time presenter Sanem Ozdural at the recent Irish American Writers & Artists’ Salon at the Cell Theater. Sanem, a New Yorker by way of New Orleans, England and Turkey opened the evening with her debut novel LiGa, a story of a bridge tournament in which the players are, literally, gambling with their lives. In the reading we were introduced to the colorful cast of players, which included, among others, a formula one driver, a judge, and a Jesuit priest. It was a great beginning to a great evening.

Three women presenting entirely different works followed. First, Mary Tierney, with actor Ron Ryan, delivered a powerful performance of the first in a series of Haiku Plays, by Chris Force. Novelist Mary Carter, who has written six novels and three novellas for Kensington Books, and is currently working on her seventh novel and fourth novella, both of which will be published in 2013, read beautifully from her sixth novel, “The Things I Do For You.”  And Honor Molloy presented “Backassed,” a brief memoir that tracks the end of a relationship, and the end of an era. Packed with emotion, Honor’s readings are always a tour de force and this performance was no exception.

Marni Rice, Chanteuse-Accordionist & Theatre Artist, presented an excerpt from her solo play “Tales from Paris/Contes de Paris,” an autobiographical story about an American woman who goes to Paris with $100, a handful of songs and an accordion to discover the City of Light. Combining song, story and character she spins the tale of a street musician whose survival is dependent upon the assistance granted by the kindness of strangers. An exciting, passionate performance by a multi-talented artist.

Niamh Hyland, who recently appeared at Lincoln Center’s OurLand Fest and sang Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More,” wowed the audience with a reprise of her performance. Singing a cappella, Niamh’s bravura performance was one of the evening’s many great highlights.

Harpist, songwriter Russell Patrick Brown ended the evening with the performance of a song titled “Little Animals,” which was inspired by a cat he ran over, which now shall live on forever in his angelic song played with harp, accompanied by, as Russell calls it, “his dulcet vocal tones.” Russell is a well-known New York town bard, a few parts American, and shockingly, even a little Irish. Why shockingly? You’ll have to hear him. Great act.

 

Salons are normally held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. The next salon will be at the Thalia Café, located at Broadway and 95th Street, on Sept. 4 at 7 p.m.

Honoring labor

POSTED ON August 31st  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

“This is a delusional time in American history,” said New Jersey poet Daniel P. Quinn, heading into this Labor Day weekend. “We think we are middle class, but the middle class is collapsing.

“People in America tend to look to the future but forget the past,” he said. And that means, argued the prolific actor, director and producer, forgetting the role that the labor movement played in building the middle class. Over the last three decades, he added, the movement has been fighting a rearguard action defending the gains won in previous generations.

Quinn’s “organized labor: Collected Poems” contains pictures of the 1913 strike in Paterson, N.J., and also some going further back of his Irish immigrant great-grandfather Bernard O’Neill at his Landmark Tavern, on West 46th Street, at 11th Avenue, Manhattan.

Quinn, who said that that Paterson will mark the centenary of the long strike next year, will give a talk on Sunday, Sept. 23, at the Paterson Museum about the historic links between the city and Lyons, France. It begins at 2 p.m. The museum is in the Thomas Rogers Building at 2 Market St. Call 973-321-1260 for details.

How McGahern triumphed over grim circumstances

POSTED ON August 31st  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott
In a tribute he wrote about the Presentation Brothers who ran his secondary school in Carrick-on-Shannon, the late writer John McGahern said: “I look back on those five years as an adventure that has not stopped.”

He recalled that without realizing it, “through the pleasures of the mind, I was beginning to know and to love the world.”

“These were the years when he gained intellectual ‘tools’,” writes Denis Sampson, the author of a new study about McGahern, “and performed exceptionally well in examinations, ending with the top results in County Roscommon in his Leaving Certificate so that he won a scholarship to university and was also ‘called to training’ as primary teacher.”

In “Young John McGahern: Becoming a Novelist” (Oxford University Press, hardcover, $45), Samson said he posed the question: “How did a young man living in Dublin in the 1950s enter the mind and heart of a middle aged-woman dying of cancer and write a classic novel, ‘The Barracks’, in such a mature style?

“How did McGahern learn his art so early and so completely? To answer these mysterious questions,” he said, “I tell the story of his personal and cultural circumstances in Dublin and London, draw on letters and apprentice writing, but most of all investigate his reading of Proust, Yeats, Beckett, Tolstoy and others.  He became a supreme writer through being an intensely focused reader.”

Sampson, who has worked as a teacher and writer in Montreal since the 1970s and now divides his time between Canada and Ireland, said: “This is a book about the power of reading and of personal triumph over grim circumstances.”

Denis Sampson

Date of birth: March 28, 1948

Place of birth: Limerick

Spouse: Gabrielle Kelly

Children: Conor, Robert, Anna

Residence: Montreal and Kilkenny

Published works: “Outstaring Nature’s Eye: The Fiction of John McGahern” (1993); “Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist” (1998); “Young John McGahern: Becoming a Novelist” (2012), Etc. (academic articles and editing; memoir/travel essays and book reviewing for newspapers and literary reviews).

 

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

Morning, a rested mind and body, a quiet house; whenever possible, a short nap and have another morning.

 

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.  Appreciate how style and personality are connected.  Develop a voice that is clear, confident and passionate about the subject and the chosen method of approaching it.  Communicate with an audience beyond yourself and your friends.

 

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

V.S. Naipaul’s “Finding the Centre” and “The Enigma of Arrival”; Eamon Grennan’s “‘What Light There Is’ and other poems”;  J.M Coetzee’s “Boyhood: A Memoir.”

 

What book are you currently reading?

Laurent Binet’s “HHhH” and V.S. Naipaul’s “Between Father and Son: Family Letters.”

 

Is there a book you wish you had written?

W.G. Sebald’s “The Emigrants,” “The Rings of Saturn” etc., or, on another day, in another mood, Colm Toibin’s “The Master.”

 

Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

George O’Brien’s “The Village of Longing,” not just for the power of its vivid evocation of an Irish childhood in the ’50s but for its design as a narrative.

 

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

Chekhov

 

What book changed your life?

“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (in secondary school, discovery of the idea of liberation); McGahern’s “The Leavetaking’ (as a young man now settling in Montreal, discovery of the writer whom I will soon meet and write about in appreciation all my life); James Olney, “Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography” (in early middle age, discovery of memoir genre, discovery of Montaigne).  And change goes on.

What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

Dunmore East and thereabouts, that is: Woodstown beach and cliff walk to Portally Cove, although Kilkenny for everyday living.

You’re Irish if . . . You want to be.

Milwaukee to give big nod to bluegrass

POSTED ON August 20th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

This week marks the beginning of the Milwaukee Irish Fest (http://irishfest.com)!  Comprising 100 acts on 16 stages, it is the largest Irish music festival in the United States and features some of the very best trad acts performing today, including Téada, Jackie Daly and Matt Cranitch, Liz Carroll with Cormac McCarthy and Robbie Fulks, the Fuschia Band, and Slide, among many others.

This year, Irish Fest will also feature a special tribute to bluegrass music, which means several first-time acts, including Del McCoury, Aoife O’Donovan, the Ebony Hillbillies, Tim O’Brien with Bryan Sutton, and the Punch Brothers.

Among the new acts are a couple of notable crossover groups.  One is WeBanjo3, who have a new album out called “Roots of the Banjo Tree.”  Featuring Enda Scahill (banjo, mandolin, tenor guitar), Martin Howley (banjo, mandolin, tenor guitar) and David Howley (banjo, vocals, guitar), WeBanjo3 has a unique banjo-based sound that fuses traditional Irish with American roots musics.

Scahill’s name looms large in the world of Irish banjo.  He followed his brilliant solo album “Pick It Up” with a pair of albums with Paul Brock (including “Humdinger” and “Green Grass Blue Grass”) which gilded Scahill’s reputation as one of the world’s finest banjoists.  His teaching credentials are formidable (he’s published three renown banjo tutors), and this album builds on his already solid reputation.  The two Howley brothers, however, are lesser-known, but this album should help change that.  Prodigiously talented, the two make a stunning impact here.  Like Scahill, the brothers Howley are brilliant multi-instrumentalists and contribute impressively to each track.

What makes this album different from others is its approach that blends different musical styles which traditionally feature banjo into a new sound.  For example, “John Brown/The Lost Indian/Sail Away Ladies” dips into the old time music repertory and is one of the album’s standout tracks.  It re-imagines music typically heard on five-string banjo into a fresh tenor-based arrangement.  A similarly creative approach is taken on “Bill Cheatum/…”, except it starts off with a bluegrass standard and moves through a selection from the old time repertory, before changing meter and style in a modern trad composition by Brian Finnegan (Flook/Kan).

The album’s opening track, “Martin Wynne’s #2/…” is perhaps the most stunning.  It opens with a lilting guitar vamp under which the first tune is played rather straightforwardly.  However, when the second tune enters, the arrangement breaks into a tight bluegrass sound, as if played by 5-string banjos.  The track’s final tune bursts in with a intricate neotrad arrangement that features some seriously pyrotechnic playing and gives listeners an indication of what’s the album has in store.

In addition to the instrumental numbers, there are several vocal tracks that feature David Howley, the youngest member of the group.  David’s voice is brilliant (especially on “Lonesome Road” and “Gonna Write Me A Letter”) and is one of the album’s major assets.

“Roots of the Banjo Tree” is filled with absolutely virtuosic banjo playing.  Scahill and the Howleys are technically sophisticated and stylistically adventuresome in a way rarely heard in Irish music.  Although this is an album that the trad police will likely look at with suspicion, it’s one that I think will have great broad appeal in country, bluegrass and old time circles because it blends Irish and American roots music so well.  Audiences at the Milwaukee Irish Fest are in for a treat.

Another notable act performing at Irish Fest is the Brock McGuire Band (Paul Brock, accordion; Manus McGuire, fiddle; Garry O’Meara, banjo and; Denis Carey, piano).  One of the acts that pioneered the bluegrass/Irish traditional crossover sound, the Brock McGuire Band’s outstanding 2011 release “Green Grass Blue Grass” included Scahill on banjo as well as such notable bluegrass luminaries as Ricky Scaggs (mandolin), Aubrey Haynie (fiddle) and Bryon Sutton (guitar).  An impressive collaboration between masters of several genres, their CD rightly received mighty reviews on its release.  Brock and McGuire are two of Irish music’s great masters and will surely be one of Irish Fest’s great highlights.  For more details about their late summer

and fall U.S. tour, visit brockmcguireband.com.

Finally, farewell to the “Ceol Álainn” blog.  The owner – known to most only as “Dragut Reis” – posted some great stuff to it, and I think there will be a fair few who will be sorry to see it gone.

 

Wearing of the Green gets a lot of screen

POSTED ON August 20th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Mark Connelly, author of “The IRA on Film and Television: A History”

Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott

“If Hollywood has failed to capture the nature of the true IRA,” said author Mark Connelly, “it has nevertheless created a cinematic archetype.  Like the American outlaw, the Irish rebel can be cast as hero, victim or villain.

“Many Hollywood films use the Troubles simply as a backdrop for action/adventure plots that have little bearing on the actual struggle in the North,” said Connelly, who is the vice-president of the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center in Milwaukee.

“Notably missing in almost all IRA films are unionists, so that audiences are given a largely nationalist narrative, depicting the conflict as one between ‘occupied’ Irish Catholics and the British government,” said the author of “The IRA on Film and Television: A History.”

In contrast to British films, which usually contain a speech condemning the “sick ideology” of the IRA, Hollywood doesn’t question the legitimacy of the “cause,” while “violence and terrorism in countless films – ‘Ronin,’ ‘Blown Away,’ ‘Patriot Games’ – are ascribed to fringe groups or rogue loners rather than the IRA itself.”

But to broaden a film’s appeal, rebels are often portrayed as gangsters. “The alternative title for ‘Odd Man Out’ [1947] was in fact ‘Gang War,’” Connelly said, referring to one of the most famous IRA-themed movies.

However, perhaps the most striking feature about his topic is the sheer volume of films involved.  “Although historically a small organization dedicated to a sectarian struggle in a small nation, the IRA has commanded an unprecedented worldwide screen presence,” Connelly said.

Not only have there been more than 80 motion pictures, some directed by and starring the biggest names of their time, there have been numerous TV treatments, including in classic American dramas like “Columbo,” “Hawaii Five-O” and “Law & Order.”

Connelly, who teaches at literature and film at Milwaukee Area Technical College, said the book takes a “history vs. Hollywood” approach from the 1916 Easter Rising through to the peace process of the 1990s. “Topics include America’s role in creating both the IRA and its cinematic image,” he said, “the organization’s brief association with the Nazis and critical reception of IRA films in Ireland, Britain and the United States.  Two classic films – ‘The Informer’ [1935] and ‘Odd Man Out’ – are examined in depth.”

The author added: “Two of the strangest IRA-related films were directed by Max Kimmich in Germany in WWII.  Unlike Hollywood depictions of a charming Emerald Isle, Kimmich’s Ireland resembles the Transylvania of a Dracula movie characterized by dark mists, treacherous bogs and grim torch-bearing peasants. ‘Der Fuchs von Glenarvon’ ends with Irish rebels singing about freedom from foreign oppression, an odd propaganda vehicle for the Nazis then occupying half of Europe.

“’Mein Leben fur Irland’ includes scenes of street fighting in Dublin in 1921.  Shot in a German studio, these sequences achieved realism with tragic consequences.  Several extras were killed and others wounded when they accidentally triggered explosive charges,” said Connelly of that film, the plot of which had an Irish-American student falsely accused of treachery. “Unaware of the accident unfolding before him, the assistant director continued filming and reportedly some of footage was used in the final print.”

For more details go to: www.theiraonfilmandtelevision.com.

THE MARK CONNELLY FILE

Date of  birth:       July 8, 1951

Place of birth: Philadelphia, raised in New Jersey, moved to Wisconsin in high school.

Residence: The Blatz, Milwaukee, (the former Blatz Brewery, now condo)

Other published works include: “The Hardy Boys Mysteries 1927-1979:  A Cultural and Literary History” ( McFarland, 2008); “Fifteen Minutes” (Texas Review Press, 2005); “Deadly Closets:  The Fiction of Charles Jackson,” (University Press of America, 2000); “Orwell and Gissing,” (Lang, 1997); “The Diminished Self:  Orwell and the Loss of Freedom” (Duquesne University Press, 1987).

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

I work early in the morning before daylight fueled by hot coffee and cold Diet Coke.

 What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Remember that all stories are told in humble sentences.

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

“The Great Gatsby”; “Long Day’s Journey into Night”; “Humboldt’s Gift.”

What book are you currently reading?

“Paradise Lost” by Odets (this 1935 play about an idealistic small manufacturer losing his business to bankruptcy and home to foreclosure is sadly relevant in 2012).

 Is there a book you wish you had written?

With the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis this year, it would be fascinating to learn how other nations responded.  What did leaders in Ireland, Italy, Japan, and Egypt think of the U.S./Soviet confrontation?  Did they make contingency plans for how their nations would respond to a global nuclear war?   The need to examine classified documents would make this a difficult task, but I think it would produce a remarkable book.

Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

“The Pawnbroker” by Edward Wallant

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

Eugene O’Neill or Saul Bellow.

What book changed your life?

Too many to list.

What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

Monaghan (my great-great grandparents left in 1851).

You’re Irish if…

you know the county your family came from, have read at least one book by James Joyce, and can pronounce “Taoiseach.”

You’re halfway Irish if….

you refuse to wear a funny green hat on St. Patrick’s Day but get drunk anyway.

You’re annoyingly Irish if…

you say “Twenty-Six Counties” and insist on referring to the Second World War as “the Emergency.”

 

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