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Trad Beat Top talent slated for Catskills fest

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Earle Hitchner

For those traditional music lovers in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut region who relish weeklong workshops and a concluding festival a little closer to home, look no farther than the Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham, N.Y., from July 15-21. It’s about two hours north by car from New York City.

New artistic director Myron Bretholz, a well-regarded bodhrán player and music writer living in Maryland, has assembled an impressive roster of instructors for the arts week. They include Tommy Peoples, Kevin Burke, Tony DeMarco, Liz Knowles, Willie Kelly, and Patrick Ourceau on fiddles; Paddy O’Brien, Billy McComiskey, Patty Furlong, and John Redmond on button accordions; Jerry O’Sullivan, Joe McKenna, and Benedict Koehler on uilleann pipes; Mary Bergin, John Skelton, Mike McHale, Brendan Dolan, Kathleen Conneely, and Siobhan Moloney Kelly on flutes and whistles; Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin and Fr. Charlie Coen on concertinas; Felix Dolan on keyboards; Ged Foley on guitar; Antoinette McKenna on harp; Aoife Clancy, Robbie O’Connell, and Roisin White on songs and songwriting, and Patrick O’Dea and Frank and Denise Holt on dancing.

For registration and other information, call (800) 434-3378 or (518) 634-2286 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; website:

www.east-durham.org; e-mail: irish@francomm.com; regular mail: Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural & Sports Centre, P.O. Box 320, Rte. 145, East Durham, NY 12423.

CTL, Tweed, De Dannan, Hartford

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The fiddle spot in Cherish the Ladies will switch once again this July 4, as Chicago resident Liz Knowles, who had replaced Siobhan Egan, will yield her place in the group to New York City’s Marie Reilly. Originally from Kentucky, Knowles played in the past with the John Whelan Band and in "Riverdance." Reilly has performed frequently with Mick Moloney and also her brother Martin, a button accordionist.

"May Monday," a new CD I previously praised by piano accordionist Karen Tweed and pianist Timo Alakotila on Tweed’s own Fyasco label in England, has just been released on NorthSide Records, 530 North Third St., Suite 230, Minneapolis, MN 55401; (612) 375-0233. This superb Celtic-Nordic combination is well worth checking out.

It’s been nearly 15 years since De Dannan last performed at the Towne Crier Café (130 Rte. 22, Pawling) in Dutchess County, N.Y., but the band will be returning there for a concert on Friday, July 20, at 9 p.m. De Dannan’s current lineup is Frankie Gavin on fiddle, flute, and tin whistle, Alec Finn on bouzouki and guitar, Colm Murphy on bodhrán, Brian McGrath on piano and tenor banjo, and Galway singer Andrew Murray. For details, call the Towne at (845) 855-1300.

Best known for composing "Gentle on My Mind," American roots musician John Hartford died from cancer at age 63 this past June 4 in Nashville.

He befriended many Irish musicians, including button accordionist John Whelan. Tim O’Brien, whose "Two Voyages" album in September will follow up his splendid 1999 Celtic-bluegrass collaboration "The Crossing," once received this bit of sage career advice from Hartford: "Don’t become successful at something you don’t like to do."

Music under the stars

"Celtic Nights" is the title of a new outdoor concert series being offered free to the public on the Church Street side of Manhattan’s World Trade Center on Tuesdays from 6-8 p.m.

Sponsored by Centerstage at the Twin Towers and the Port Authority, the series will feature the McCabe’s on July 10, Irish balladeer Paddy Reilly on July 17, Newfoundland’s Great Big Sea on July 24, Solas on July 31, Cherish the Ladies (with fiddler Marie Reilly) on Aug. 7, Irish singer Susan McKeown and Scots fiddler Johnny Cunningham on Aug. 14, the Prodigals on Aug. 21, and Lúnasa, the best all-instrumental band in Ireland today, on Aug. 28.

For those who like to mix dancing with their music appreciation, Manhattan’s Josie Robertson Plaza should fulfill both wishes on Tuesday, July 24. That evening, Waterford-based septet Danú, along with Cape Breton fiddler and guitarist J.P. Cormier and NYC button accordionist James Keane, will be performing for Irish set and céilí dancing as part of the "Midsummer Night Swing" series at New York City’s Lincoln Center. Megan Downes will give set and céilí lessons from 6:30-7:30 p.m., and the live music and dancing will commence in earnest at 8.

Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza is at Columbus Ave. and 63rd Street. Details: (212) 875-5766 or (212) 875-5456.

Mid-Atlantic Fleadh Cheoil winners

These are the top two finishers in several selected categories of the recent Mid-Atlantic Fleadh Cheoil, sponsored by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann on June 2 at Manhattan College.

Each performer named here qualifies for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, which will be held this year in Listowel, Co. Kerry, Aug. 24-26.

On fiddle: George Keith and Denis McCarthy, over age 18; Colin Lindsay and Oona DeFlaun, 15-18; Erin Loughran and Sean O’Toole, 12-15; M’ve Flanagan and Eileen McLain, under 12.

On button accordion: John Timoney and John Kennedy, over 18; Daniel Gurney and Rachel Wardell, 12-15; Martin Linnane and Gerard O’Toole, under 12.

On flute: Mike Rafferty and Miriam Vidover, over 18; Arjuna Balaranjan and Emily Wilson, 15-18; Eoghan Conway and Sean Tierney, 12-15; Nathan Hanson and Christina Blum, under 12.

On tin whistle: Denis McCarthy and William Collins, over 18; Arjuna Balaranjan and Mary Beth Zanko, 15-18; Eoghan Conway and Fiona Gillespie, 12-15; Nathan Hanson and M’ve Flanagan, under 12.

On harp: Laura Dishong and Lorna Govier, over 18; Bridget Highet and Lily Smigen-Rothkoft, 15-18; Meaghan McGrath and Corrine Brandt, 12-15; Sharlys Dugan and Alexis Kravitz, under 12.

In duet: Mike Rafferty and John Timoney, over 18; Colin Lindsay and Mary Beth Zanko, 15-18; Eoghan Conway and Oisin Conway, 12-15; M’ve Flanagan and Deirdre Brennan, under 12.

Raffertys at Flannery’s

One of the most impressive father-daughter duos in Irish music today, Galway flutist Mike Rafferty and Cherish the Ladies’ button accordion and tin whistle player Mary Rafferty will lead a seisiún this Monday night, July 2, from 9 o’clock to midnight at Flannery’s, 205 W. 14th St. (near 7th Avenue), NYC. Call (212) 229-2122 for details.

The duo have recorded three superb CD’s together in the last six years: 1995’s "The Dangerous Reel," 1998’s "The Old Fireside Music," and the brand-new "The Road From Ballinakill." For album information, contact Larraga, Inc., 229 Baldwin Ave., Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07604; (201) 288-4267; mraffie@aol.com or traff5788@aol.com.

‘Roses’ and Rusby

When not writing songs, Nashville’s alt-country artist Steve Earle frequently writes stories, and his favorite getaway for doing so is Galway, where he sometimes sits in pub sessions with the likes of Sharon Shannon. Eleven short stories appear in Earle’s fictional debut, "Doghouse Roses," just published by Houghton Mifflin. This summer, Steve Earle and Ireland’s Lúnasa will occasionally split dates as an opener for Mary Chapin Carpenter in concert.

Next month, Barnsley, Yorkshire, singer Kate Rusby will be doing a short summer tour of Canada and the West Coast of the U.S. Accompanying her will be Battlefield Band fiddler John McCusker and button accordionist Andy Cutting, who plays with Karen Tweed, Ian Carr, and Chris Wood in the Two Duos Quartet. Rusby will be promoting her third solo album, "Little Lights" (Compass), featuring ex-Solas guitarist John Doyle, Manchester Irish whistle player Mike McGoldrick, and former De Dannan button accordionist Máirtín O’Connor.

The tour itinerary for Rusby, McCusker, and Cutting is Saturday, July 7, Mariposa Folk Festival, Toronto; Sunday, July 8, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Canada; Wednesday, July 11, Sidetrack Cafe, Edmonton, Canada; Thursday, July 12, Rosa Center, Calgary, Canada; Saturday and Sunday, July 14-15, Vancouver Folk Festival; Tuesday, July 17, Tractor Tavern, Seattle; Wednesday, July 18, Portland Zoo (with Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster), Portland, Ore.; Thursday, July 19, Great American Music Hall, San Francisco; Friday, July 20, Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz, Calif., and Saturday, July 21, McCabe’s, Santa Monica, Calif.

Let us not praise music journalists

I still think David Lee Roth, former lead singer for Van Halen, had the funniest quip about rock critics, claiming they like Elvis Costello because they look like Elvis Costello.

A streak of dweebdom among music journalists, including trad-music scribes, is nothing new. It’s a strange subspecies, I suppose: writers holing up under headphones with the latest CDs and scribbling "insights" onto legal pads for the reviews and profiles they’ll draft.

But there’s a line that should never be crossed, and Tom Junod, writer at large for Esquire magazine, crossed it in the current issue. He interviewed Michael Stipe, lead singer of R.E.M., making "half the story up." That’s right: he fabricated a good chunk of the article, ascribing to Stipe quotes, behavior, and incidents that never happened and characters who never existed.

Junod’s rationale can be glimpsed in his description of Stipe as "notoriously difficult to interview" and in his admission that he "just didn’t want to write a story in which the subject is being an a–hole and not talking."

Now for the kicker: To find out which parts of Junod’s article are fictitious, readers have to go to Esquire’s website, where Junod "annotated" the bogus parts and explained their genesis. Here’s the first "annotation" on the website: "This sentence, as well as most of the rest of this section, is patently untrue."

The pressure to deliver fresh takes on tired treatments of celebrities is increasing in journalism today. But that’s the challenge, and the solution is not to write a story about not getting the story (easy to spot from the author’s own litany of vanities, veiled frustrations, unrevealing minuti’, and paucity of real, fresh quotes) or to write a profile half made up. Mistakes occur, of course, but there’s nothing "mistaken" about premeditated fabrication, and writers who try to be clever at it don’t wiggle off the hook of responsibility by admitting as much upfront.

The Junod article is an abomination of judgment and taste, a black eye for all music journalists, trad, pop, rock, jazz, or otherwise.

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