Category: Archive

Music in the air

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Little did they know that they had spawned what is today the most popular program on Fordham?s public radio station, WFUV, with an estimated 50,000 listeners.
?Ceol na nGael,? or the Music of the Irish, is marking its 30th anniversary this year. For the occasion, many celebrated musicians in the Irish community have stepped forward to help the program celebrate.
Last Sunday, the Museum of Television and Radio in Manhattan hosted an anniversary concert where Mick Moloney, Celtic Cross, Cherish the Ladies, and Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul lent their talents to the cause. A sold-out crowd of 300 attended the event.
The concert, an intimate affair that was broadcast on WFUV during the usual ?Ceol na nGael? timeslot, Sundays from 1-4 p.m., highlighted the program?s close-knit, family feel, encompassing as it did those who either work on, listen to, and perform on the show.
The show?s wide-ranging format includes everything from traditional to contemporary Irish music, highlighting musicians as diverse as folksinger and balladeer Christy Moore and Ashley MacIssac, the frenetic Canadian fiddler. On any given Sunday, listeners are treated to live performances by musicians who stop by the show.
Ralph Jennings, general manager of WFUV, said Sunday that it is the station?s distinct Irish theme that attracts its dedicated audience.
?Irish music really is the heart of our weekend programming, and we hope a permanent part of the station,? he said.
Past hosts were on hand at the Museum of Television and Radio on Sunday to reminisce and introduce acts, as were the show?s current hosts, Deirdre McGuiness and Liz Noonan, who interviewed the artists and were adept at relating personal stories and anecdotes about artists who had dropped by the studio to perform on air.
Since that first day in 1974, ?Ceol na nGael? has always relied on student hosts. One former student host who worked her way up from intern is now back producing the show. Meaghan O?Rourke graduated in 2001 and has been producing the show for the last year and a half.
?We?ve been planning this since January,? she said, referring to Sunday?s concert. ?It?s the first time we?ve done it, and we?d love to have another show for the next big anniversary.?

Student power
Having been hosted by Fordham students for the last 30 years, there were plenty of former hosts at the anniversary concert to introduce the musicians and share what they remembered from their time on-air.
Current hosts McGuinness and Noonan have been all but adopted into the close-knit group, and that camaraderie was on full display during the encore, when they shared the stage with Cherish the Ladies? Joanie Madden, Ivers, Moloney and all the afternoon?s artists.
Jennings stressed the importance of having students host the program.
?The students are the ones who keep it going,? he said. ?It helps pull the gamut of all the ages that are listening.?
Jennings feels it is the youthful nature that helps bring more people in who may have not thought of listening before.
?The audience is mainly Irish, but not entirely Irish,? Jennings said. ?We?re talking to people who love Irish culture. ?Ceol na nGael? shows how music transcends.?
Onetime hosts of ?Ceol na nGael? were also a part of the concert celebration.
Michelle Gillen, now a producer with CBS Radio, reminded the audience how the show ?completes a circle in New York with musicians and music.?

One of the things that has made ?Ceol na nGael? so successful is the show projects itself as a vital community service. For the three hours it is on the air, the program acts as a sounding board for news, both locally and from Ireland.
Local bulletin board announcements pepper the broadcast, with news of local births, deaths, association dances, and other community events.
To give listeners a broader perspective of Irish doings, Declan O?Byrne from the Irish Independent newspaper in Dublin gives a news broadcast halfway through the program. Following that is a sports update with Brendan Tier, who has his own a sports talk show on LMFM Radio in County Louth.
?It is important for people to hear the news and keep them updated with the community,? Jennings said.
Each musician who stood up to perform Sunday took the time to thank WFUV and ?Ceol na nGael ?for their contributions to promoting Irish music and helping to foster a cohesiveness in Irish culture in the New York City area.
Lead singer Kathleen Fee from Celtic Cross said she could remember hearing the show ?in the background of her Sunday mornings growing up while the Irish fry was going on.?
That sentiment was echoed by many of the artists, who also recalled growing up with ?Ceol na nGael.? For some people, the show marked their introduction to the variety that is Irish music today.
The station, which is member supported and relies on fundraising, has a strong listener base that supports the public radio mission. The ?Ceol na nGael? audience is no different, and it has the distinction of being supported both by students and an outside community of ardent listeners.
?Ceol na nGael? ?s 30th anniversary has also given birth to another project, ?Triocha,? a CD of live tracks exclusive to the station from acts such as the Saw Doctors, James Keane, and Eileen Ivers.
After the concert?s encore of ?Go, Lassie, Go? on Sunday, both audience and musicians caught up, congratulated, and chatted with each other.
?I?m speechless,? McGuiness, who graduates this May, said while looking around at the audience, noticing new connections being forged and old ones strengthened. ?Only in the Irish community can you have this connection.?
(?Ceol na nGael? broadcasrs over WFUV 90.7 FM on Sundays from 1-4 p.m. For more information or to listed on the Web, visit www.wfuv.org.)

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