By Olivia Tracey
A recent weekend brought Irish America out in droves to celebrate yet another fun-filled Irish Fair by L.A.’s picturesque Santa Anita racetrack. Activity was the order of the two-day event from tracing your Irish roots and getting your fortune told to a sheep-herding sideshow and set dancing competitions. Thankfully, the hot temperatures helped me resist a Cadbury’s chocolate flake from Hollywood’s Irish Import Shop display, choosing instead an iced lemonade as I browsed around the many exhibitors from tourism to arts and crafts.
The only sad part of the event was the recent death of the great Irish tenor Frank Patterson, who was due to be the star attraction of the fair.
However, the show still had to go on, with music coming in various forms from Welsh soprano Margaret Williams to a variety of Irish bands, including The Fenians, Celtic Fusion, Robbie O’Connell, Mick Maloney, Jimmy Keane, The Young Dubliners and Ken O’Malley’s Twilight Lords. Incidentally, Ken and his music have just featured in yet another movie, following Harrison Ford’s “Patriot Game.” This time it’s an Irish short based on the Celtic Tiger, co-produced and starring Tony O’Donnell of Emerald Greens fame and yours truly here as the dear O’Donnell’s sassy sister. He has also just had four successful gigs in Las Vegas before heading down to perform at San Diego’s The Field pub.
Young Dubs in form
While doing the Irish Fair rounds, I got hooked at the Young Dubs tremendous concert, where it was almost a case of standing room only. Mind you, the band are really fine-tuned these days, having just spent two weeks touring Texas and Florida with ’70s band Jethro Tull, playing to 4,000 fans a night complete with standing ovations. They have also signed with the prestigious Higher Octave Records, a division of Virgin America, and just released their first album, “Red”. Bernie Taupin, lyricist to Elton John, among others, co-wrote the title track with The Young Dub’s lead singer, Keith Roberts. Last month at the House of Blues, the band put on a special performance for Taupin’s private 50th birthday party, which was quite a Mecca of celebrity, from Rod Stewart to Renee Russo. Meanwhile, they have sponsorship from Murphy’s Heineken, their merchandise of T-shirts and celtic jewelry is selling like hotcakes, their signature Irish rock sounds are being played on over 70 radio stations nationwide, and their album cover is gazing down over Sunset Boulevard from an enormous billboard in the build-up to their album release concert celebration at the House of Blues this Friday.
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Of course, I wouldn’t miss this one for the world and will be sure to give you the lowdown later. And if L.A. is not your place, you can catch the Young Dubs in action from now until September as they tour the U.S. from San Francisco to Vegas, through Colorado to New York, where, at the Beacon Theater on July 19, they will rejoin Jethro Tull.
In the midst of all this, family man Keith has managed to move house with his wife, Mary Jo. The couple are now nicely nested in their Encino home, with swimming pool, Jacuzzi and heaps of garden for the two golden retrievers. For information or tickets log on to youngdubs.com.
Also making serious waves in the music and film world is Ireland’s classical gem, Patrick Cassidy. I’ve been a huge fan ever since his spellbinding Irish Echo-commissioned “Famine Remembrance” concert in St. Patrick’s Cathedral a few years back, and it seems, not surprisingly, that I’m not alone. The Mayo-born musician has been attracting the attention of the loftiest in the entertainment industry, such as Barry Levinson, Ridley Scott, Sir Anthony Hopkins and, of course, Hans Zimmer, president of Music for Steven Speilberg’s Dreamworks studio, who invited Patrick to Hollywood in the first place. He has also just completed a Hall of Fame piece for ESPN, ands spent a few days at Hearst Castle, where, along with his producer brother, Frank, he stayed in the estate mansion as a guest of Ann Hearst. The result will be a “Deirdre of the Sorrows” outdoor concert by the Roman pool at the famed castle next spring. As for Ann Hearst, she is by all accounts, gracious, endearing and pretty good craic.
Meanwhile back in Ireland, Ardmore Studios’ Morgan O’Sullivan is busy with back-to-back movies. “Not Afraid, Not Afraid,” starring Diane Wiest, wraps in about a month, just before “The Count of Monte Cristo” begins shooting in August. The remake of the Alexander Dumas classic is lining up a star-studded cast that includes Guy Pearce (“Priscilla Queen of the Desert”) and Jim Caviezal (“Thin Red Line”) in this tragic story of love and revenge. It is to be directed by “Waterworld’s” Kevin Reynolds, with eight week’s shooting in Ireland and four in Malta.
Back in Southern California, the Irish Fair will alight yet again, this time by the sea at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Enjoying a hugely successful debut last year, the fair has already lined up Andy Cooney and Deirdre O’Reilly, who fly in especially for the event from New York, along with The Fenians, The Mulligans, The Twilight Lords and the spectacular McCartan School of Irish Dance “Fair Dance 2000.” For information, call (714) 284 9558.