Mick Moloney and Athena Tergis.
Traditional Music / By Daniel Neely
Catskills Irish Arts Week (July 8-14, www.catskillsirishartsweek.com) is fast approaching – have you made your plans yet? With a first-rate teaching staff and a range of excellent concerts, sessions, and lectures, it’s an amazing week with enough going on to keep everyone busy. But this week instead of focusing on the range of activities the week itself offers (as I’ve done in the past), I wanted to look at CIAW’s grand finale, the East Durham Trad Fest. It’s a one-day concert that brings the week’s many brilliant performers together for a last hurrah that’s open to everyone, CIAW attendees and non-attendees alike. A quick glance at the performers will tell you how great an afternoon it will be, and at just over two hours from New York City, it makes it an ideal day trip for the entire family.
The East Durham Festival will happen on Saturday the 14th and will run from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Pavilion, which is right behind the behind the Michael J. Quill Cultural & Sports Centre (mjqirishcentre.com). The main stage acts include Cherish the Ladies, Green Fields of America, The Yanks (with guests Josh Dukes, Joey Abarta and Jacky O’Riley), the Casey Sisters (Mairead, Nollaig, and Maire), Oliver O’Connell, Mary Bergin, Benedict Kowhler, Hilari Farrington Koehler, Mike McHale, Jimmy Coen, Anthony Coen, Larry Nugent, Pauline Conneely, Laura Byrne, Brian Conway, Rose Flanagan, and Pat Egan. As if that weren’t enough, there will also be the Grand Céilí beginning at 3 p.m., with music by the Pride of Moyvane Céilí Band.
Even a quick glance reveals the Festival’s stunning array of talent. Cherish the Ladies (www.cherishtheladies.com), led by the irrepressible Joanie Madden, is truly one of the finest and hardest working group in trad music. It seems like they’re everywhere all the time, from high-profile gigs in the U.S., Ireland, and beyond, to the high seas on Joanie Madden’s Folk n’ Irish Cruises (www.joaniemaddencruise.com). The Yanks (www.yanksband.com) is perhaps the best young group to come out of Irish America in recent memory. Each of its members can boast of All-Ireland honors and two have Hudson Valley roots. And they’ll be joined onstage by kindred talent in guitarist Josh Dukes, uilleann piper Joey Abarta, and dancer Jacky O’Riley. It’s sure to be a great set that will delight their many fans. Button accordionist Oliver O’Connell (who is coming over from County Clare), a familiar face to many, will be there to tell stories and sing songs of old Ireland, while the Casey sisters will be over from West Cork to entertain as well.
Perhaps the afternoon’s biggest attraction will be Green Fields of America (greenfieldsofamerica.com), there to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Virtually all of Irish America’s great traditional musicians have been a part of the Green Fields over the course of its existence and this iteration will feature the group’s brilliant and steadfast banjo-playing leader Mick Moloney, button accordionist Billy McComiskey (National Heritage fellows, the both), fiddler Athena Tergis, fiddler Liz Hanley, dancer Niall O’Leary, and concertina player Brenda Castles (over from Ireland). They’re said to have a few surprise special guests in store, who are sure to add to their set. It’’ll be a performance to be savored, to be sure.
Green Fields of America will be coming to East Durham on the heels of another high profile 40th Anniversary performance on July 6 at 8:30 p.m., that one for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C.
The Festival, which was established in 1967, is one of our nation’s great cultural celebrations of diversity – it’s featured participants from all 50 states and more than 100 countries – and will take place June 27-July 1 & July 4-8. (Each summer, the Festival happens over the course of two weeks and overlaps the Fourth of July holiday.) This year, the arts and culture of Armenia and Catalonia will be featured, along with textile artisans and designers from Ghana, Niger, and across the African Diaspora. Visitors can not only hear the music of these places, but engage with activities of these regions, like cooking, shadow pupped building, carpet weaving, wine making (& tasting!), cheese making, dancing, and much more. In addition, “Sisterfire,” a 40th anniversary concert by Roadwork (www.roadworkcenter.org), the national and international multi-racial, cross-cultural women’s arts organization, will take place on July 7-8 as part of the Festival.
The Green Fields’s performance will be one of the event’s centerpieces and is a must-see if you plan to be in the Washington D.C. area that weekend. It’s terrific that Irish traditional music continues to be honored by our government in this and in other ways and it is crucial that support for agencies like the Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Arts remain in place, so that practitioners like the Green Fields and their important work can be properly recognized.
Some really incredible music coming up in July. If you’re in DC, get on out to the Folklike Festival, it’ll be great. If you’re in the tristate area, make an effort to make it out to the East Durham Festival – you won’t be disappointed!