Category: Archive

Trad Beat: New York gigs aplently for Derrane and McGann

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Earle Hitchner

It’s been nearly a year since Boston button-accordion legend Joe Derrane visited New York State to perform, but he will be returning on Sunday, Oct. 17, to Rockland County, N.Y.

Derrane has certainly kept busy in that time. This past summer he performed at Gaelic Roots in Newton, Mass., and the Irish Cultural Festival in Easton, Mass. Last month he paired on stage with De Dannan founding fiddler Frankie Gavin at an inaugural Irish festival in Quincy, Mass. The two have performed together before, notably at the 1995 Éigse na Laoi festival in Cork City, and also recorded three tracks on Derrane’s 1998 album, "The Tie That Binds" (Shanachie).

Derrane recently gave a 90-minute lecture on the topic of Irish music in Boston for Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann at the German-American Club in Watertown, Mass., and he did another festival in Antrim, N.H. The button accordionist next heads up to the third annual Celtic Colors International Festival, held Oct. 8-16 on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

On Oct. 17 at The Turning Point, Derrane will perform with frequent partner John McGann, another Massachusetts-based musician. A brilliant guitar and mandolin player (he was the 1985 national champion on the latter), McGann has recorded with Kevin Burke, Johnny Cunningham, and Kips Bay, and is well-known on the acoustic/roots music circuit.

Opening for the duo will be the trio of 13-year-old Rachel Wardell on button accordion, 15-year-old Colin Lindsay on fiddle, and 15-year-old Marybeth Zanko on flute and tin whistle. Winners at the 1999 New York Fleadh Cheoil, Wardell is from Ridgewood, N.J., and a student of Patty Furlong; Lindsay is from Oyster Bay, L.I., and a student of Brian Conway, and Zanko is from Cranford, N.J., and a student of Eileen Goodman.

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The Oct. 17 concert by Derrane and McGann, plus Wardell, Lindsay, and Zanko, starts at 7 p.m. at The Turning Point, 468 Piermont Ave., Piermont, N.Y. Details, (914) 359-1089.

Egan new dance show composer

Founding member of Solas and scorer for the 1995 hit film "The Brothers McMullen," Seamus Egan has signed on as music composer and director for the upcoming new dance extravaganza choreographed by Jean Butler and Colin Dunne, both former lead dancers in "Riverdance." At press time, the title of the show was tentatively "Dancing on Dangerous Grounds."

It’s slated to open in London’s West End at the end of November, is expected to move to a major Dublin venue afterward, and then come to Radio City Music Hall in February or March of next year.

Egan has composed for dance before. Last August at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass., he was commissioned to write the music for "Six Laments," to which the Seán Curran Company danced. Egan played flute and Solas colleague Winifred Horan played fiddle for the premiere of "Six Laments," which received a rave review in the New York Times.

Buzzing bees

The number of all-female bands — Cherish the Ladies, the Poozies, Dordán, the Fallen Angels — has grown in recent years, and, happily, they reflect the best to be found in their respective traditions.

Another band to be added to that distaff list is the Bumblebees. This Irish quartet comprises former Nomos founding member Liz Doherty on fiddle, Laoise Kelly on harp and fiddle, Mary Shannon (Sharon’s sister) on tenor banjo, mandolin, mandola, and fiddle, and Colette O’Leary on piano accordion, whom fellow piano-key box player Karen Tweed describes as one of the best on the instrument.

The Bumblebees have two albums out. Their latest, "Buzzin’," was released on Sept. 7 in Ireland and is being distributed by Gael-Linn. The music is diverse, encompassing Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, French-Canadian, and Scandinavian traditions. A U.S. distributor for the album is expected to be lined up soon.

Cherish at Town Hall

The excellent new recording by Cherish the Ladies, "At Home" (RCA Victor), features such guests as Eileen Ivers, Mike Rafferty, Joe Madden, Bobby Clancy, Dónal Clancy, Finbar Clancy, Jim Coogan, and Donny Golden. All of them will be joining Cherish on Thursday, Oct. 21, at 8 p.m. at Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St., NYC. Details, (800) 714-3272, 212-840-2824 (box office), and 212-307-4100 (TicketMaster).

Wexford winners

U.S. competitors fared extremely well in late August at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford.

A sophomore at Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn’s Patrick Mangan took first place on fiddle in the 12-15 age category, giving him a second All-Ireland title so far. Woodlawn’s Seán Tierney, age 10, won on concert flute in the under-12 age category, Detroit’s Tyler Duncan won on uilleann pipes in the 12-15 age category, and David James won for a newly composed ballad in English.

Other stateside competitors who excelled at the Fleadh are Brendan Callahan, third place, 15-18 age category, fiddle, second place, fiddle slow airs, and third place, duets (with Aran Olwell); Mariah Reilly, third place, 15-18 age category, flute; Seán Ryan, second place, senior category, on both flute and uilleann pipes, and second place, uilleann pipes slow airs; Eileen Gannon, second place, senior category, harp; Tyler Duncan and Jeremy Kittel, third place, 12-15 age category, duets; and members of Detroit’s Crotty-Doran branch of CCÉ, 15-18 age category, instrumental groups.

Country going Celtic?

The opening production number for the 33rd annual Country Music Association awards show that aired recently on CBS-TV had the Dixie Chicks singing their hit song, "Ready to Run," while wearing rough woolen kilts. The Scots-Irish flavor was more than sartorial: three young girls and a group of young women each did circle dances behind the trio, and the pairing of a tin whistle and fiddle could prominently be heard at the beginning and end of the song. Two of the Dixie Chicks play banjo and fiddle, and there was a snippet of a Celtic dance tune used as an instrumental break.

What does this mean? Well, it hardly signals a cross-cultural trend. But it’s also hard to imagine that the popularity of "Riverdance" and "Lord of the Dance" had nothing to do with the arrangement and visual presentation of that song.

In Irish music and dance, those two shows have influenced or shaped such current roadshow productions as "Spirit of the Dance" and "Rhythm of the Dance." And the Trinity Irish Dance Company, based in the Midwest and founded well before "Riverdance," has at least indirectly benefited from the media and box-office buzz that "Riverdance" and "Lord of the Dance" have generated.

CCÉ troupe’s U.S. tour

Each year Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann sends a group of accomplished musicians and dancers on a North American tour. This year’s scheduled concerts include the following: Oct. 6, 7 p.m., West Middle School Auditorium, Binghamton, N.Y. ([607] 771-7599); Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m., Canandaigua Sr. H.S., Canandaigua, N.Y. ([716] 334-3345); Oct. 8, 8 p.m., Rockwell Hall, Buffalo State College, Buffalo ([716] 652-7506); Oct. 9, 8 p.m., Steven Foster Memorial Hall, U. of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh ([412] 421-3982); Oct. 10, 8 p.m., Sidney Lanier Theater, Fairfax, Va. ([703] 978-8265); Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m., Bluett Theater, St. Joseph’s U., Philadelphia, ([609] 795-7637); Oct. 13, 8 p.m., St. Christopher’s School Hall, Red Hook, N.Y. ([914] 758-3732); Oct. 20, 7 p.m., Irish American Heritage Center, Chicago ([312] 372-1646); Oct. 21, 8 p.m., Folly Theater, Kansas City, Mo. ([816] 523-6712); Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m., Sheldon Concert Hall, St. Louis ([314] 849-1662); Oct. 23, 8 p.m., Waltham H.S. Auditorium, Waltham, Mass. ([781] 899-0911), and Oct. 24, 6 p.m., Pearl River H.S., Pearl River, N.Y. ([201] 722-0059).

Album to watch for

Eight years ago, singer Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill released her second solo recording, "Gan Dhá Phingin Spré" ("No Dowry"), on Gael-Linn. It featured some songs on which ex-Bothy Band member Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, her sister, joined on vocals.

Upcoming from Gael-Linn is a full-fledged duet album from these highly talented singing siblings, "Idir An Da Sholas" ("Between the Two Lights"), produced by Dónal Lunny, with whom Maighread recorded and occasionally toured as a guest in his band Coolfin.

Another storm

Gaelic Storm, the steerage band shown playing in the blockbuster film "Titanic," released their second album for Higher Octave Music on Sept. 21. Entitled "Herding Cats," it was produced by John Whelan and features the bash-’em-out style of pub playing the California-based group is known for. Still trading on the mega-success of the movie, the quintet recorded such tracks as "Titanic Set" and "Heart of the Ocean." Their self-titled debut album, by the way, has sold more than 55,000 copies, according to SoundScan.

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