By Earle Hitchner
One of the best Irish festivals to be enjoyed anywhere in America last year took place in East Durham, N.Y., just a couple hours’ drive north of Manhattan. It was the seventh annual Irish Traditional Music Festival, and the eighth annual edition, running July 18 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., promises an equally impressive lineup of performers, capped by the appearance of Cherish the Ladies, who recently released their first major-label recording, “Threads of Time” (RCA Victor).
Among the other 60 or so other festival artists will be Patrick Street and Open House fiddler Kevin Burke, uilleann piper Joe McKenna and his wife, harper/singer Antoinette, and her sister, Mary Bergin, still the finest Irish tin whistle player on the planet.
Leading up to the festival will be the Catskill Irish Arts Week, starting July 13, when students can get intensive tutelage from the likes of button accordionists Billy McComiskey and John Redmond, fiddlers Brian Conway, Willie Kelly, and Marie Reilly, flutists Jack Coen, Mike McHale, and Siobhan Kelly, guitarists Ged Foley and Tony Cuffe, concertinists Gear=id + hAllmhur_in and Fr. Charlie Coen, keyboardist Felix Dolan, and set-dance instructor Patrick O’Dea.
For further information about arts week registration and the festival itself, contact the Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Centre, P.O. Box 320, Rte. 145, East Durham, N.Y. 12423, 1 (800) 434-FEST.
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Among the most accomplished traditional bands in Ireland today is Moving Cloud, an all-instrumental quintet based in Ennis, Clare, who just released their second full-length album, “Foxglove” (Green Linnet). The group doesn’t get over to this side of the Atlantic all that frequently, so any tour here, no matter how short, is always of keen interest to Irish traditional music fans.
Moving Cloud will kick off their tour with a performance from 8:15 to 11 p.m. on Thursday, July 23, as part of the popular Midsummer Night Swing series at the Fountain Plaza of Lincoln Center, Columbus Avenue at 63rd Street, NYC, (212) 875-5766. (Last summer, the Kilfenora CTilf Band, also based in Clare, performed at the Fountain Plaza to the delight of Irish set dancers citywide.) Megan Downes will be giving Irish cTilf and set-dancing instruction prior to the Moving Cloud concert, from 6:30 to 7:30.
The quintet will also be at the Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival from July 24 to 26 (216-251-1711), at Night Town Restaurant in Cleveland Heights on July 27 (216-795-0550), at The Ark in Ann Arbor, Mich., on July 28 ( 761-1800), and at Canal Street Club in Dayton, Ohio, on July 29 ( 461-9343).
On Thursday night, July 30, at 8 o’clock, Moving Cloud will be at The Turning Point, 468 Piermont Ave., Piermont, Rockland County, N.Y. ( 359-1089). The next evening, they’ll do two shows, at 9 and 10:30, at the Blarney Star, 43 Murray St., NYC ( 732-2873), and then wrap up the tour at the Champlain Valley Folk Festival from Aug. 1 to 2 in Burlington, Vt. ( 879-4942).
Three years ago, Ballinakill, Galway-born Mike Rafferty made a superb recording with his daughter Mary, who’s a member of Cherish the Ladies. Placing in the Irish Echo’s top 15 trad albums for 1995, “The Dangerous Reel” was first issued by Rapparee Records in the Bronx, then later reissued under the Kells Music imprint in Garden City, N.Y. It was 20 tracks of unadorned, hearty, hard-core Irish traditional playing on flute, uilleann pipes, button accordion, and tin whistle.
The good news is that the Raffertys are now putting the finishing touches on a new album, tentatively titled “Old Fireside Music.” Also involved in the project are keyboardist/producer Gabriel Donahue and Donal Clancy, son of Liam Clancy. No label has been announced yet for this latest effort, which features “the real old-time Irish traditional music I grew up with and love,” says Mike.
D.C. folk fest roster
Most of the performers have now been confirmed for the 22nd annual Washington Irish Folk Festival, a world-class outdoor event that will move from Wolf Trap, Vienna, Va., to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg, Md., and be held over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5-6.
As promised in the last “Trad Beat,” here are some of the acts appearing at the festival: Beginish, the Green Fields of America, the John Whelan Band, Frank Harte, P.J. Hernon and Swallow’s Tail, Altan, Solas, Chulrua (Paddy O’Brien, Tim Britton, and Pat Egan), Craobh Rua, Mary Bergin, and Turas, an exciting young quartet from Doolin, Co. Clare, who will be making their North American debut.
Sponsored by The National Council for the Traditional Arts, the festival runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sept. 5 and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sept. 6., with music beginning at noon on both days. For tickets, call 1 (800) 955-5566 or (703) 218-6500; for other information, call (301) 565-0654.
Tom Shales at the Washington Post may still be the most cited television critic at a major newspaper in the country, but he’d better watch his back, for right here in the Big Apple is “NYTV” columnist Deirdre Dolan, daughter of pianist Felix Dolan and Irish dancing enthusiast Joan Dolan.
For the last year or so, Deirdre Dolan has put her stamp on critiquing television programs at The New York Observer, a weekly newspaper housed on East 64th Street that is as recognized for its forceful opinions as for its salmon-colored pages. Her remarks, ever engaging and often tartly on target, are well worth perusing.
Another Irish writer at the Observer is deputy editor Terry Golway, author of the text for “The Irish in America” and a well-received biography of Irish newspaperman and revolutionary John Devoy.
A long-overdue omnibus reference book on Irish traditional music is being overseen and edited by Armagh-born flute player and music critic Fintan Vallely. To be published by University College Cork Press, the book is provisionally titled “A Companion to Irish Traditional Music.” The scheduled publication date is next year.
Saxophonist Paul Winter will be holding his fifth annual “A Celtic Solstice” concert on June 20 at 4:30 a.m. and on June 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Amsterdam Avenue and West 112th Street, NYC. Joining him will be Cherish the Ladies flute and tin whistle player Joanie Madden, Solas’ lead singer, Karan Casey, and uilleann piper Jerry O’Sullivan. For tickets, call (212) 662-2133 or (212) 581-1212.
Back-to-back honors for Solas
Irish traditional quintet Solas won for best album in the Celtic/British Isles category of the 1998 Association for Independent Music (AFIM) awards held in Denver this past May. Last year, the band took the top prize for their self-titled release on Shanachie, and this year they won for “Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers,” which finished No. 1 in the Irish Echo’s best trad album list for 1997.
Their record label, Shanachie, had a particularly good showing at the AFIM awards, where it additionally swept both folk categories, contemporary and traditional, for Richard Shindell’s “Reunion Hill” and Don Edwards’s “Saddle Songs.”
Solas are now recording their third album at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios, and a videocassette of a concert they gave in New England this past March is slated for release by Shanachie in mid-August.
On June 28 at 8 p.m., Solas will be in concert at the Towne Crier Cafe, 62 Rte. 22, Pawling, southern Dutchess County, N.Y. ( 855-1300).