By Earle Hitchner
Piano accordionist Alan Kelly, born in Roscommon but living in Galway, was in New York City last February as a member of the band for Mabou Mines’s acclaimed production of “Peter and Wendy” at Manhattan’s New Victory Theater. Kelly’s theater experience also includes playing music for Brian Friel’s “Wonderful Tennessee” at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.
But followers of Irish traditional music probably know the piano accordionist best for the two exceptional solo albums he’s released, “Out of the Blue” (Kells, 1996) and “Mosaic” (Tara, 2000), as well as his guest appearances on Se_n Keane’s “Se_nsongs” (Circin Rua Teo, 2002) and Michael McGoldrick’s “Morning Rory” (Aughrim, 1996) and “Fused” (Vertical and Compass, 2000).
Alan comes from a talented family. His father, Frank, was the 1964 All-Ireland senior champion on the piano accordion, and his brother, John, is a gifted flute and tin whistle player featured on both of his solo recordings.
At long last, the two Kelly brothers have recorded a full album together, highlighting the traditional music they learned in Roscommon, and it should come out later this year. The advance copy I have is nine tracks of stunning, straight-ahead traditional playing, and whatever U.S. label is fortunate enough to land this album will be getting one of the best of the year.
New quartet from U.S.
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They haven’t played a note together yet as a band, but the buzz is already building for STad. (Pronounced “shade,” it’s Irish for “journey” and also “jewel.”) This stateside quartet consists of Brian Conway on fiddle; Jerry O’Sullivan on uilleann, Scottish small, and Irish war pipes, low whistle, and tin whistle; Brendan Dolan on keyboards, flute, low whistle, and tin whistle, and Julee Glaub on vocals, guitar, bodhr_n, tin whistle, and flute. Conway, O’Sullivan, and Dolan are all native New Yorkers, while Glaub hails from North Carolina.
The 1986 All-Ireland senior fiddle champion, Brian Conway recorded “The Apple in Winter” (Green Linnet, 1981; reissued on CD in 2000) with fellow fiddler Tony DeMarco, and this July, Conway’s solo debut, “First Through the Gate,” will be issued by Smithsonian Folkways.
Jerry O’Sullivan has two excellent solo recordings to his credit, “The Invasion” (Green Linnet, 1987) and “The Gift” (Shanachie, 1998), and contributed to the soundtracks for the Tom Cruise-starring movie “Far and Away” as well as the PBS-aired documentaries “Out of Ireland,” “Long Journey Home,” and “From Shore to Shore.” He currently performs with the Eileen Ivers Band.
Brendan Dolan, son of legendary Irish American pianist Felix Dolan, has performed with Atlantic Bridge, Cathie Ryan, Patty Furlong, Patrick Ourceau, the Clancy Tradition, and klezmer-bluegrass stalwart Andy Statman. Dolan also co-wrote the score for “Go Fish,” a critically praised 1994 indie movie now out on DVD.
Connecticut resident Julee Glaub studied Irish literature and voice at Wake Forest University and afterward spent six years in and around Dublin, where she collected and researched songs and absorbed various singing styles. Her most recent recording is “Fields Faraway,” on which her three STad bandmates also appear, and she anchors the popular Sunday seisi_n at the Porter House in Montvale, N.J.
Performing mostly Irish traditional music with a smattering of Appalachian and Scottish material, STad will be giving their first concert ever on Friday night, April 19, at The Turning Point, 468 Piermont Ave., Piermont, Rockland County, N.Y. Shows are at 7:30 and 10. Reservations, (845) 359-1089.
The pipe are calling
This Saturday, April 6, three of today’s finest uilleann pipers, Jerry O’Sullivan, Cillian Vallely (of L_nasa), and Ivan Goff (appeared in “Riverdance”), will be conducting classes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Irish Arts Center, 553 W. 51st St., Manhattan. A reed-making workshop by Seth Gallagher will also be held there. From 4-6 p.m., a solo piping recital by O’Sullivan, Vallely, and Goff will take place in the IAC theater. For details, call (212) 757-3318, ext. 204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parsons’s upcoming CD, tour
In May, Dublin-born singer Niamh Parsons will be releasing her fifth album for Green Linnet, “Heart’s Desire.” It was recorded at 200-year-old Clonmannon House, the same Wicklow studio where Altan recorded their latest, “The Blue Idol.” Altan fiddler Ciar_n Tourish, in fact, bought a proprietary share of the studio lease soon after the band finished recording there. One of his partners, Alistair McMillan, engineered Parsons’s new album, which was produced by Dennis Cahill, the Chicago guitarist who tours and records with Seattle-based fiddler Martin Hayes. Among the guest musicians on the singer’s upcoming CD are harmonica player Mick Kinsella, button accordionist Josephine Marsh, and guitarist Graham Dunne.
Dunne will also be accompanying Parsons on a few U.S. concert dates to support her new album next month. They include two shows on May 4, at 9 and 10:30 p.m., at the Blarney Star, 43 Murray St., lower Manhattan ( 732-2873); May 4 at Irish Center/Commodore Barry Club, Philadelphia ( 849-8899); May 6 at the Unitarian Universalist Church, Silver Spring, Md. ( 754-3611); May 8 at The Burren, 247 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. ( 776-6896), and May 9 at the Gaelic-American Club, Fairfield, Conn. ( 259-3433).
Meet ’em in St. Louis
One of the most revered traditional music ensembles in the history of Ireland, the Kilfenora CTilf Band, will be headlining at the 2002 North American Convention of Comhaltas Ceolt=irf +ireann. Other guests and workshop instructors include button accordionist John Whelan, set dancer Patrick O’Dea, and harper Eileen Gannon.
Hosted by St. Louis Irish Arts, a CC+ branch celebrating its 30th anniversary, the convention will take place from April 4-7 at the Marriott Pavilion (228-9290), One Broadway, St. Louis. For further information, call St. Louis Irish Arts at (314) 849-1662 or e-mail email@example.com. The website is www.slia.org.
More new albums
Besides Niamh Parsons’s CD next month and Brian Conway’s eagerly anticipated solo album this July, there are other releases worth keeping an eye out for.
Belfast flutist Harry Bradley, who appears on two tracks of Altan’s “The Blue Idol,” has recently replaced fellow Belfast flutist Desi Wilkinson in the Northern Irish trio Cran, featuring Ronan Browne and Se_n Corcoran. Bradley made an auspicious solo debut, “Bad Turns & Horse-Shoe Bends” (Outlet), chosen as the Irish Echo’s top traditional album for 2000, and he has two new recordings due out this year. One is a solo project entitled “As I Carelessly Did Stray,” and the other is a duet album with former Dan_ fiddler Jesse Smith.
Fiddler M’ve Donnelly, who’s from Loughrea, Co. Galway, but lives in Quin, Co. Clare, is probably best known for her tenure in Moving Cloud (1989-2001). Since the breakup of that instrumental quintet, she has been busy recording her solo debut as well as finishing up a duet album with Peadar O’Loughlin, a flute, uilleann pipes, and fiddle player from Kilmaley. Both albums should surface later this year.
“The Liberty Tapes” is an upcoming Compass Records CD of 10 tracks taken from tapes of a July 21, 1978 concert given by County Tyrone-born singer, songwriter, and guitarist Paul Brady at Liberty Hall in Dublin. These tapes were missing until November 2000 when Brady discovered them by accident in a box underneath a pile of old LPs in his attic. They were mastered onto CD in January 2001, and the music sounds as fresh as ever. Joining Brady on this live CD are Matt Molloy, Liam O’Flynn, Andy Irvine, Noel Hill, D=nal Lunny, and Paddy Glackin.
Fiddler Marie Reilly, now a member of Cherish the Ladies, and her accordion-playing brother Martin have a duet recording coming out shortly.
New albums just released include “Along Blackwater’s Banks” (Ossian), the third CD by Sliabh Notes (Matt Cranitch, D=nal Murphy, and Tommy O’Sullivan); “Nightingale Lane” (Temple) by singer, guitarist, and bouzouki player Pat Kilbride; “Ireland’s Harvest” (Mapleshade) by Joe Derrane, Frankie Gavin, and Brian McGrath; “Celtic Roots” (Narada World), a repackaging of button accordionist John Whelan’s “Celtic Faire” in 1999 on Hallmark Music that also featured Patrick Ourceau, Jerry O’Sullivan, Zan McLeod, and Tom Wetmore; and “From the Heart” (JAR Productions), a reissue of Whelan’s 1990 solo album “From The Heart” on Oenoke that offers improved sound, new graphics, an embedded video, and two brand-new tracks.
Other freshly issued CDs are “Hand-Me-Downs” by Mary Rafferty, a button accordion, flute, concertina, and tin whistle player with Cherish the Ladies; “Belladonna” (Longwalk) by singer and mandocello, mandola, guitar, and tenor-banjo player Se_n Tyrrell; “Se_nsongs” (Circin Rua Teo) by Galway singer and flutist Se_n Keane; and “A Fig for a Kiss” (Appleseed), a stateside reissue of the 2001 album by the band Providence on Rolling River.
For those who inquired about how to obtain “The Windy Day” CD of 16 tunes composed and recorded in 1998 by flute and whistle player Linda Hickman, write to Sounds Great, P.O. Box 606, Tafton, PA 18464, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trad and true firefighter
Irish traditional music attracts players and enthusiasts from all walks of life. One such player and enthusiast often sits in on bodhr_n with other musicians at Paddy Reilly’s, a Second Avenue pub in Manhattan that hosts popular sessions each week. The bodhr_n player’s name is Dennis Smith, a retired New York City firefighter who worked from 1967-73 at one of the city’s most demanding and dangerous firehouses, Engine Company 82 and Ladder 31 in the South Bronx.
Of Irish descent, Smith published a best-selling book in 1972 about his firefighting experiences, “Report From Engine Co. 82.” He’s written 11 other books since then, the latest of which is “Report From Ground Zero,” just published by Viking. A portion of the proceeds of his new book will go to the Foundation for American Firefighters.