Joanie Madden, pictured front left with Cherish the Ladies, will receive the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday, Nov. 12.
Traditional Music / By Daniel Neely
I want to start out the column this week by congratulating Joanie Madden on being the 2018 recipient of the Eugene O'Neill Lifetime Achievement Award, an annual honor given out by the Irish American Writers & Artists. Between the very popular cruises she organizes (www.joaniemaddencruise.com) and her award-winning band Cherish the Ladies (www.cherishtheladies.com), there is nobody in the business who works harder or is more deserving of such an award. Congrats again, Joanie! The ceremony will take place at the Manhattan Club (which is upstairs from Rosie O’Grady’s) on Monday, Nov.12. For more information about the event, visit iamwa.org.
Before Joanie’s big day, though, comes Donie Carroll’s 10th annual fundraiser for the Mercy Center at the New York Irish Center in Long Island City on Nov. 3. The Mercy Center is a haven for abused, abandoned and sick children from the streets and slums of Bangkok, Thailand. Featured performers this year will include Mick Moloney (who spends much of the year in Bangkok working with the Mercy Center), Athena Tergis, Brenda Castles, Liz Hanley, Jerry O’Sullivan, Sheena Ní Mhaoláin, Ben Keenan, the Niall O'Leary Dancers and more! Tickets are $70 each and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Mercy Center. For more information, contact Donie Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The columnist, left, with Donie Carroll, who will host the 10th annual fundraiser for the Mercy Center at the New York Irish Center on this Saturday. PHOTO BY PETER MCDERMOTT
New York Trad Fest happens Nov. 10 & 17. Featured performers will include Dermot Henry, Jenna Nichols, and Oisín Mac Diarmada & Daithi Gormley (who are over from Ireland) as well as a long list of local artists. Visit newyorktradfest.org for more info.
Condolences, also, to the Collins family on the passing of David Collins. A highly regarded button accordion player, he came from an important musical family (his siblings include the great fiddle player Kathleen Collins and Shanachie records co-founder Daniel Collins), he made music around greats like Martin Wynne, Andy McGann and Paddy Reynolds, and he gave great encouragement to young musicians (like Brian Conway, for instance) who have carried on the tradition. A might man all around. He will be missed, go raibh maith agat.
And finally, on last Saturday night, I attended “Dancing the Great Arc” at Irish Arts Center, presented by Darrah Carr Dance (www.darrahcarrdance.com) and featuring fiddle player Dana Lyn and guitarist Kyle Sanna (www.danalynkylesanna.com). It was an engrossing, powerful performance that pushed the boundaries of traditional Irish music and dance in a transformative direction unlike anything I’ve yet seen.
I’ve written about Lyn & Sanna’s work here many times before, from their first collaboration “The Hare Said a Prayer to the Rainbow and Followed the Fox Down the Hole,” through to their most recent work “The Coral Suite.” Their music is always remarkable and not nearly as known as it perhaps should be. Although always rooted in traditional Irish music, it is deconstructionist in nature wherein form and melody are subject to fragmentation, accumulation, and transformation to drive a narrative approach.
Darrah Carr Dance (led by artistic director Darrah Carr Byrne) has been around since 1998. It has performed widely in the U.S. and Ireland, is the recipient of many commissions & grants, and was nominated for a Bessie Award in 2012 (bessies.org). Carr Byrne’s distinctive choreographic approach, which she calls “ModERIN,” blends Irish step with modern dance styles to find new expressive ground.
Lyn & Sanna’s 2015 album “The Great Arc,” which is the basis for this collaboration, is a meditation on the process of extinction and is divided into two halves, “The Constellations,” which considers extinct species (stegosaurus, trilobites, the auroch, etc) and “The Ark,” which reflects on endangered species (Sumatran orangutan, Yangtze finless porpoise, etc). It is a continuous piece of music about an hour in length with no breaks. The album’s structure was followed for the live performance.
A full house watched as Lyn & Sanna executed their vision brilliantly, providing a solid (and quite complex) musical foundation to which the dancers moved. The great rapport between the two musicians built up over years of collaboration was clear throughout the evening. As expected, Carr Byrne’s choreography borrowed creatively from the vocabulary of Irish dance (as well as that of tap and modern, to a lesser degree) in a way that was smartly in tune with what Lyn & Sanna have together. The ensemble dance sequences were very well organized and executed and I thought matched the tenor of the constantly shifting musical mood extremely well. The solo pieces were also excellent, but two stand out, Laura Neese’s “For the Auroch” and Jonathan Matthews “For the Sumatran Orangutan.” Each was starkly evocative in how it utilized and reinterpreted traditional forms in service of the music, with Matthew’s being particularly noteworthy for not only his movement but for the use of shoe taps on different parts of his body to create what Carr Byrne referred to in the post-show discussion as “accidental rhythms.” It was excellent.
Congratulations to the Darrah Car Dancers and to Lyn & Sanna on an excellent show – I hope to see additional collaborations between these artists in the future. Thanks, too, to the Irish Arts Center for supporting such interesting work – it’s great to see traditional music being explored in this way. For more info about Irish Arts Center’s innovative programming, visit irishartscenter.org.