Category: Archive

Trad Beat: Connolly, Derrane, McGann to play in rare N.Y. gig

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Earle Hitchner Will silly stereotypes and hidebound attitudes about the accordion ever end? In a recent article for The New York Observer, music critic Joe Hooper described it as "that most conspicuously un-macho of axes, usually associated with wheezing old men working Midwest wedding receptions." Setting aside Irish traditional and Cajun/zydeco, for which the accordion is integral and well-known, would Hooper refer to Art Van Damme and Angelo Di Pippo (jazz), Astor Piazzolla (nuevo tango), and Sally Ann Forrester (with Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys during the early ’40s) as wheezing box players belonging strictly to the shot-and-stein reception circuit? "It’s not a matter of whether an instrument is good or bad, only whether the player of the instrument is good or bad," insists Séamus Connolly, a 10-time All-Ireland fiddle champion from Killaloe, Co. Clare, who directs the Irish music and dance program at Boston College and also organizes its Gaelic Roots summer school and festival. "I have a secret desire to be a button accordion player anyway and always did. I love the instrument, and I’ve had the pleasure of performing with some of the best players, like Paddy O’Brien, Joe Burke, Tony Mac Mahon, James Keane, my brother Martin, and Joe Derrane." Two Sundays from now in Rockland County, N.Y., Connolly will get the chance to share the stage again with Derrane, who recently guested with the Chieftains at a Boston Pops Orchestra concert that will air on the A&E cable TV channel in coming months. More than two years have elapsed since the fiddle-accordion pair, along with guitarist-mandolinist John McGann, last performed in New York. "You know, I was listening again to the old 78’s Joe made as — what? — a 17-year-old kid," says Connolly, "and, my God, they just blow my mind. I mean, he set the standard for the D/C# accordion. His rolls are so detailed, so accurate, yet they’re like lightning, much like the rolls Patsy Touhey would have put into his piping." Connolly has similar praise for McGann, who’s recorded with Kevin Burke, John Whelan, Johnny Cunningham, and Matt Glaser. "I met John in the ’80s at the Village Coach House in Boston, and there’s a swing to his guitar playing that I just love," says Connolly. "He’s also one of the finest mandolin players I’ve ever heard." The trio of Séamus Connolly, Joe Derrane, and John McGann will be giving two shows, at 5 and 7:30 p.m., on Sunday, March 11, at The Turning Point, 468 Piermont Ave., Piermont, N.Y. ([845] 359-1089). It is the only date they’ll be doing in New York.CCÉ-sponsored concert, céilí, and CD On Friday, March 16, from 8-11 p.m. at the Polish Center, 92 Waverly St., Yonkers, N.Y., some of Sligo’s finest musicians will perform at a concert and céilí sponsored jointly by New York’s Sligo Association and the Michael Coleman branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. Proceeds will go to the Michael Coleman Heritage Centre in Gurteen, Co. Sligo. At this concert and céilí will be Anne-Marie McGowan (fiddle), Colette Gaffney (whistle, flute), Domhnaill Hernon (fiddle, accordion), Siobhan O’Donnell (bodhrán, singing), Mairead Hurley (concertina, flute, whistle), John McHugh (fiddle), Tommy Finn (tenor banjo, whistle), Michael Hurley (fiddle, flute), Declan Payne (piano accordion), Michelle Brennan and Aidan Kilcoyne (stepdancers), Maria Lynn McHugh (piano), and Colm O’Donnell (flute, whistle, singing), whose 1999 album, "Farewell to Evening Dances," was one of that year’s finest. For further information, call Paul Keating at (201) 722-0059, Pat Casey at (845) 362-4408, Jimmy Normanly at (718) 994-9168, or Padraig Brennan at (845) 735-0246. Also, "Lámh ar Lámh," an outstanding double CD from Ireland that placed in the Irish Echo’s top five albums of 2000, is now available stateside under the auspices of CCÉ’s Mid-Atlantic Region and Ossian USA. Released to raise funds for colon cancer research at Mater Misericordi’ Hospital in North Dublin, the album features Seán Keane, John Carty, Noel Hill, Brian McGrath, Liam O’Flynn, Patsy Hanley, Dermie Diamond, Deirdre Scanlan, Paul O’Shaughnessy, and Anne-Marie McGowan, one of the musicians who will be appearing at the March 16 concert and céilí in Yonkers. Priced at $25, this double CD comprising 35 tracks can be purchased at the Mineola Irish Center through Mike Quinn or at the monthly ceilidhs held by various branches of CCÉ’s Mid-Atlantic Region. With an additional charge of $3 for shipping and handling, it can also be ordered from CCÉ regional chairman Paul Keating at (201) 722-0059 or paulatcce@aol.com, and from Ossian USA at 603-783-4383 or ossianusa@aol.com. All proceeds will go to cancer research at Dublin’s Mater Misericordi’ Hospital.Grammy whammy In 1958, there were 28 categories for Grammy Awards. In 2001, exactly 100, including eight for Hispanic or Latin, one for polka, one for Native American, one for bluegrass, one for regg’, and one for world music. In this last category, "Water from the Well" by the Chieftains lost to "João Voz e Violão" by João Gilberto, a Brazilian bossa nova pioneer. My point? The Grammys should establish a separate category for "Celtic." It’s well-established as a marketing genre, no less viable or valid than any other Grammy grouping, and will skirt the often awkward placings of Irish/Celtic trad releases in other categories.Feet, don’t fail me now They never do when it comes to Footworks, a brilliant dance troupe based in Crownsville, Md., who perform Appalachian clog, Irish step, tap, flat-foot, hambone, hoofin’, free-style, and other percussive dance with one foot in tradition and the other in innovation. Founded in 1979 as the Fiddle Puppet Dancers by artistic director Eileen Carson, Footworks will be collaborating with Tim O’Brien and The Crossing band in a special, once-off performance at 8 p.m. this Satrday, March 3, at the new, 904-seat Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, 194 Hammonds Lane, Brooklyn Park, Md. ([410] 636-6597). Headed by singer, songwriter, fiddler, guitarist, mandolinist, and bouzouki player Tim O’Brien, The Crossing will feature two prominent Irish instrumentalists from Chicago, fiddler Liz Carroll (Irish Echo’s Traditional Musician of 2000) and concertinist/button accordionist John Williams, along with ex-Fiddle Fever guitarist Russ Barenberg, bassist Mark Schatz, clawhammer banjoist Dirk Powell, singer Mollie O’Brien, fiddler Jon Glik, and guitarist Sheridan Minnick. The music they’ll be playing comes from O’Brien’s "The Crossing," a splendid solo album blending American and Irish traditional sounds that cracked the Irish Echo’s top 10 list for 1999. (At various times over the last year, O’Brien has also enlisted fiddler Kevin Burke, uilleann piper Paddy Keenan, and button accordionist Máirtín O’Connor into The Crossing band.) If O’Brien sings "Talkin’ Cavan," a hilarious song about his paternal great-grandfather’s home county, the evening will be complete.Other concerts to catch As March marches in, so do concerts of Irish music. Seven-time All-Ireland button accordion champion John Whelan, who has just released his fifth solo album on Narada World, "Celtic Fire," will be performing with his band on March 14 at 8 p.m. at Drew University, 36 Madison Ave., Madison, N.J. ([973] 408-3285), and on March 16 at 8 p.m. at Jonathan Law H.S., Lansdale Avenue, Milford, Conn. ([203] 301-0142). Singer John Morrison will be a guest at the latter concert. At the Towne Crier Cafe, 130 Rte. 22, Pawling, N.Y., will be Waterford-based septet Danú on March 7 at 8 p.m. and former Bothy Band uilleann piper Paddy Keenan with singer-guitarist Tommy O’Sullivan on March 22 at 8 p.m. Details, (845) 855-1300. Another Bothy Band alumnus, fiddler Tommy Peoples, who’s relocated from Clare to Boston, will be doing a tour with singer Seán Tyrrell that includes concerts at the Blackthorn Tavern in South Easton, Mass., on March 19 ([508] 238-9017); The Burren in Somerville, Mass., on March 21 ([617] 776-6896); K of C Hall in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on March 22 ([518] 583-9452), and Arlene’s Grocery in lower Manhattan on March 25 ([212] 358-1633). On March 2 at 8 p.m., the Shamrock Traditional Irish Music Society will sponsor Patrick Street in concert at Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, Conn. ([203] 256-8453). Waterford-born singer Karan Casey, whose second Shanachie solo album, "The Winds Begin to Sing," is scheduled for release on March 13, will be sharing the bill with Clare-born button accordionist Sharon Shannon on March 18 at 7 p.m. at Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th Street, NYC ([212] 864-5400 or [212] 545-7536), and on March 24 at the Somerville Theater, Somerville, Mass. ([617] 876-4275). Shannon can also be seen and heard in March on the PBS-TV special "Irish Gala: Live From the Kennedy Center." Green Linnet Records marks a quarter century of Irish music with a special seven-date tour featuring Irish singer Niamh Parsons, Scotland’s Old Blind Dogs, and, for five of those stops (asterisked here), fiddler Liz Carroll. The itinerary is March 22, Millard Auditorium, Hartford, Conn. ([800] 274-8587); March 23*, Johnny D’s, Somerville, Mass. ([617] 776-2004); March 24*, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Staten Island, N.Y. ([718] 448-2500); March 25*, the Barns at Wolf Trap, Vienna, Va. ([703] 218-2500); March 26, 7 p.m., Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center, 117 Main St., Nyack, N.Y. ([845]358-6333); March 28*, Villa Montalvo, Saratoga, Calif. ([408] 961-5858), and March 30*, Van Duzer Theater, Arcata, Calif. ([707] 826-3928). On March 4 at 7 p.m., RCA Victor recording artists Cherish the Ladies will also be coming to the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, N.Y. Another RCA Victor band, the Chieftains, will be observing their New York City tradition of a concert on St. Patrick’s Day itself. It will take place at 8 p.m. in Carnegie Hall ([212] 247-7800).

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