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‘A Taste of Clare’ a great success

A full house for "A Taste of Clare" at the American Irish Historical Society.

By Daniel Neely

In last week’s column I previewed the Wolfhound Trad Fest, which was primarily located at the Wolfhound Bar on 30th Avenue in Astoria, Queens ( The “seven nights of traditional music, song, & dance” were exceptionally well realized and Wolfhound proprietor Rory Murphy is to be commended for organizing such an outstanding event. Here’s to next year!

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The reasons for Murphy’s artistic success begin with the appealing cast of characters he was able to curate. At the center were Siobhan Peoples (fiddle), Murty Ryan (button accordion) and Blackie O'Connell (uilleann pipes), three of the music’s finest, who came over from County Clare, and who each night led a group of their local counterparts well into the wee hours. Their “official” guests included Jake James, Dave Fahy, Dylan Foley, Matt Mancuso, Erin Loughran, Mickey Coleman, Katie Linnane, Tony Demarco, and Matt Stapleton, but several other notables made it out for the sessions. Turnout at the bar was excellent as well and word from all involved was that every night of the week was just great craic.

But as I mentioned in last week’s column, not all of the Wolfhound Trad Fest’s events took place at the bar, which is where this story gets more interesting. On Friday the American Irish Historical Society, in cooperation with the Wolfhound Trad Fest, presented Peoples, Ryan and O’Connell in “A Taste of Clare,” an intimate parlor-style performance in the AIHS’s luxurious upper east side surroundings. It could not have been a more welcoming or civilized event, or, I might say, a more auspicious moment for traditional music in the City.

To start, the setting and atmosphere were brilliant. The AIHS’s space projects a very intimate, homey sensibility which is entirely appropriate for music this good. O’Connell opened the evening with some solo piping. Peoples and Ryan joined him after a few numbers and they played brilliantly together until intermission. The trio of musicians opened the second half and were later joined by sean-nós singer Maureen Mangan (who brought a harmonium) for a couple songs. Bodhrán player Brian Casey also sat in for a few sets. After the “end” they were called back in for a true encore, and at the end of the night the audience left enthused about what the evening provided.

But it seems this isn’t the end of traditional music at the AIHS, which is a great thing for the future of trad music in NYC. In the past, the AIHS has taken small steps into the music. For example, some will remember the Christy McNamara, Patrick Ourceau, and Dennis Cahill’s performance “The Well” back in December 2015. But Sophie Colgan, the AIHS’s events and marketing coordinator, told me that the organization is invested in the idea of presenting trad music more often. Their idea is “to bring it out of the bar scene so it can be appreciated in a different setting.”

This seems to be a real promise, as there is more trad music on their schedule just around the corner: the AIHS will present “Songs and Stories” featuring harpist Niamh O’Brien & concertina player Brenda Castles on March 9. It promises to be another night of brilliant music, to be sure.

Incidentally, last Friday’s event might not have happened at all if Brian Casey, who is an AIHS member and a Wolfhound Trad Fest co-conspirator, hadn’t reached out to his friend Colgan with the idea of a holding on a Wolfhound-sponsored concert at AIHS in the first place. She loved the idea and after getting her executive director Chris Cahill’s approval, she leapt into action, and immediately got to work doing all the things necessary to make the event’s success a certainty. It was a moment of opportunity, properly realized.

Ultimately, “A Taste of Clare” at AIHS was a rousing success in a week of highs for the Wolfhound Trad Week. Peoples, Ryan, and O’Connoll’s performance was excellent, the venue was amazing, and the audience was engaged and receptive. Hopefully, this is the first of many future successes. Congratulations Murphy at the Wolfhound and to Colgan, Cahill, and everyone at the AIHS for making it happen so well! More, more! To keep up with the AIHS and its programming, visit