This year I ended my summer with sand between my toes, a starry night, a cool evening breeze and some mighty live music thanks to Irish American performer, Brian Monaghan. Monaghan treated his neighbors in my hometown, the seaside community of East Atlantic Beach, N.Y., to a night of tunes at a beach bonfire to close out the season. Taking in the sounds of Christy Moore, the Saw Doctors and the Pogues with the sights of families and friends gathered together under the stars was a bit of heaven, and with Brian's magnanimous stage presence, awesome repertoire, and sheer musical talent, I was feeling quite grateful that my hometown has a guy like Monaghan bringing a bit of the Emerald Isle to the City by the Sea.
In his live set Brian mixes Irish music and rock classics with an acoustic/folk/rock/Celtic sound that provides exactly the kind of relaxed ambience that true music fans are thirsty for. He attributes his love for Irish music to his Brooklyn upbringing where he played Gaelic football and his Limerick-born parents filled the house with the music of Ireland. Just like the urge to play football, the urge to play music took hold of Monaghan, and he began learning guitar at the age of 13. As an adult, Brian was no stranger to the bustling Celtic Rock scene of the 1990s and he attributes a friendship with fellow Brooklynite Chris Byrne (former member of Black 47 who currently fronts Seanchai and The Unity Squad) with some memorable NYC nights with Black 47 when he was invited on stage to play in-between sets. At the same time he was making and hearing music in NYC he was also fighting crime, serving on the New York City police force for 20 years. Though he's retired from law enforcement he's full steam ahead with making music, taking his tunes to crowds in Brooklyn, Long Island and the Rockaways a few nights a week.
Though Monaghan had been strumming his guitar as a hobby for years as a kid in love with music and an adult as a distraction from a high stress job, the tragedy of 9/11 took him down a new road with music. Like many of us, people in Brian’s Brooklyn community turned to music for a bit of healing in the months that followed the attacks. Monaghan brought songs to the those in mourning at dozens of 9/11 benefits and ceremonies including a street re-naming for his childhood friend, police officer Moira Smith, a wife and mother who gave the ultimate sacrifice while bringing victims to safety. For Monaghan, Smith’s street-renaming was the light-bulb moment that he recognized his calling to bring live music to the people in his community. This time of year as we salute the heroes of 9/11 and remember the souls who left us I also think of the music makers – the singers, and songwriters, the pipers and drummers who brought people together through sad songs, happy songs, songs of Ireland and songs of America. Thank you. You gave us light.
You'll often catch Brian Monaghan singing Irish songs at O'Carroll's recovery room in Mineola, L.I., and he'll be adding to the merriment of the 23rd annual Long Beach Irish Heritage Day on Oct. 6 at the Cabana with Shilelagh Law.
My picks for some of the best Irish entertainment around town this week: Mary Courtney at An Beal Bocht in the Bronx on 9/14, Half way to St. Patrick’s Day with Shilelagh Law & Jameson’s Revenge on 9/14 at Connolly's Klub 45 in NYC, and Half way to St. Patrick's Day Irish Music Festival featuring Black 47 at The Nutty Irishman in Bay Shore on 9/15.