[caption id="attachment_71654" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Mary Courtney performs in An Beal Bocht every Friday night."][/caption]
In their song Red Rose Café, the Fureys sing of a place where poets, salesmen, singers, and farmers meet to forget about life for a while, a place where “everyone shares in the songs and the laughter, and everyone there is so happy to be there.” I think everyone should have their own little Red Rose Café. If you don’t, you’re welcome to pull up a chair at mine. It’s An Beal Bocht Café in the Riverdale section of the Bronx – home to a potpourri of music, art, theatre, and literature, and a destination for loyal patrons looking to soak in more than just pints. An evening at An Beal Bocht could be an evening of rock, folk, jazz, or traditional Irish tunes from both local musicians and big names from across the pond. In fact, Finbar Furey himself will be there for two nights next month, June 29 and 30. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Furey will sing Red Rose Café at An Beal Bocht Café…now that would be a grand evening in the Bronx!
An Beal Bocht, inspired by the 1941 novel in Irish by Myles na gGopeleen (AKA Brian O’Nolan, who wrote novels in English as Flann O’Brien), is celebrating its 21st birthday this year. The pub is currently owned by Tony Caffrey and managed by Pat Gilheany, but the two are much more than just restaurant businessmen. They are advocates of the arts, working hard to nurture the local music scene and provide opportunities for patrons to explore the arts in a casual and friendly atmosphere. While the size and the menu have expanded over the years, the mission of the proprietors has remained the same since Dermot Burke opened the café on 238th Street in Riverdale in 1991. When I asked Gilheany about the early days of An Beal Bocht he explained that Burke simply “wanted to have a place for all people involved in art, music, and writing.” When other establishments turned unknown bands away because they were playing all original material, Burke embraced them, and An Beal Bocht eventually became a sought-after venue for musicians like Susan McKeown and Pierce Turner at the start of their careers.
While the eclecticism and quality of the music is the pub’s biggest draw, Caffrey and Gilheany are also committed to cultivating theatre and art in the Bronx. Through their work with the Poor Mouth Theatre Company, an organization of Irish playwrights based in the Bronx, they have helped bring a number of plays not only to An Beal Bocht, but to local community centers and church halls. The cafe also houses framed art work from local painters and photographers. All of this in an intimate and colorful pub with the friendliest staff I’ve ever encountered. While the stellar entertainment at An Beal Bocht may be what draws you in, the ambience and hospitality will make you want to stay forever.
Pencil in an evening at An Beal Bocht with lively local band, Jameson’s Revenge on May 19, Dublin songstress Niamh Parsons on June 23, Irish folk singer Sean Tyrrell on Sept. 29, or pop in any Friday evening for Mary Courtney’s ballad night. Gilheany also sprung the good news on me that shows with Andy Irvine and Liam O’Maonlai of Hothouse Flowers are in the works. I’ll keep you posted on those.
For tunes south of the Bronx this week check out McLean Avenue duo at The Pig n’ Whistle on 5/17 or the Mickey Finns at Paddy Reilly’s on 5/18.