Mairead hickey rob lamb

Dr. Jordan drawn to ‘personality,’ ‘spark’

Dr. Julie Jordan is the founder and artistic director of New York Concerti Sinfonietti. PHOTO: PETER MCDERMOTT

By Peter McDermott

It’s been a long time coming, but Dr. Julie Jordan is connecting with her Irish roots.

And not being a person for half measures, her showcasing of the culture has become something of an all-consuming passion of late. Next Wednesday, for example, she will direct “Two Stars: Yeats and Joyce in Words and Music” at the American Irish Historical Society. It is hosted in conjunction with New York Concerti Sinfonietta, of which Jordan is founder and artistic director.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

The event will feature the internationally renowned classical guitarist John Feeley alongside singer Fran O’Rourke, who is a professor of philosophy at University College Dublin.

Then at Carnegie Hall on the following Sunday afternoon, Oct. 11, the New York Concerti Sinfonietta will present “International Shining Stars 2015.” Feeley will again play, but so will his student Liam McManus, a Dublin guitarist who turned 15 this year, as well as 20-year-old County Dublin violinist Abigail McDonagh, currently at the Lübeck Musikhochschule, in Germany, and Peter Regan, also 20, a native of County Roscommon, who studies piano under John O’Conor at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto’s Glenn Gould School.

In May, Jordan brought over to play at Carnegie Hall, 19-year-old violinist Mairead Hickey, a student at both CIT Cork School of Music and Kronberg Academy in Germany, in addition to being the winner of eight All Ireland fiddle titles.

“I said: ‘This girl’s it,’” Jordan recalled about first hearing Hickey.

[caption id="attachment_80509" align="alignnone" width="200"]

Cork's Mairead Hickey, who studies violin in Germany, made her Carnegie Hall debut in May. PHOTO: ROB LAMB[/caption]“There is a wealth of talent in Ireland,” she said, adding, “In New York and the rest of Europe, there’s a whole bunch of technique, but not so much personality and not as much spark.”

In Ireland, she encountered “unique passion, individuality and style.” Of McDonagh, who will debut at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 11, the native Chicagoan said: “She just knocked my socks off.”

Jordan, who in recent times celebrated 30 years teaching piano in the Juilliard School Evening Division, has long been known as a spotter of talent. She used that experience during her first ever visit to Ireland in March. “I did all my own scouting and auditioning,” Jordan said.

In the process, though, she forged ties with the Royal Irish Academy of Music and O’Conor, its former director.

She returned to hold more auditions during the summer and also took time out to visit Jordan cousins in Mayo, her grandfather’s home county.

The New York Concerti Sinfonietta, a 41-piece professional orchestra conducted by Paul Hostetter, allows students of all ages, following competition, to perform solos at venues like Carnegie Hall, but it has a particular focus on likely future professionals. Now, Jordan has committed herself to picking two young soloists annually from the Royal Irish Academy of Music to play at Carnegie Hall.

[caption id="attachment_80510" align="alignnone" width="199"]

Roscommon's Peter Regan, who studies piano in Toronto, will make his Carnegie Hall debut on Oct. 11.[/caption]

All the while, the orchestra will continue with its international and multiethnic dimensions. The latter category will inevitably include some young Irish-American soloists, such as New Jersey’s Ian Maloney and Quinlan Facey of Dallas, who will both play at the Oct. 11 concert. Indeed, Quinlan, 16, is of mixed heritage like Jordan, whose roots on her mother’s side are in Spain and the Philippines.

Also lined up for a solo at Carnegie Hall is singer and actor Ciarán Sheehan. He is to be accompanied by an Irish traditional band and probably Jordan herself at the Steinway.

For the Wednesday event at the AIHS, Peter Rogan will play the part of Yeats. “Two Stars” is a dramatization of scholar Joseph Hassett’s work of that name. The program notes say that it “provides insight into the unique relationship between the older poet and precocious young novelist,” adding that although “he was not himself particularly musical, Yeats was inspired by the rich tradition of Irish song.

“Down by the Salley Gardens” is one poem inspired by an old song.

The program notes continue: “Music was central to the creative work of James Joyce. He was himself an excellent singer and at one point hoped to become a professional singer. There are an estimated 3,500 musical references throughout his writings.”

Meanwhile, we’re told, Feeley and O’Rourke’s collaboration called “JoyceSong” began in 2012 with the restoration, sponsored by O’Rourke, of a guitar once owned by the novelist.

Tickets for the Wednesday show (beginning at 6:30 p.m.) at the AIHS, 991 5th Ave, are $20; or $15 students and seniors and; $10 for members. For more information, go to or or call: (212) 288-2263. For information on the Sunday show, which begins at 2 p.m. at the Weill Recital Hall, go to Oct. 11 at the Calendar & Tickets section at General admission $25.