From McLean Avenue to Irish television screens

The Aisling group members going through their paces in Times Square

By Frank Brady

The Aisling Irish Community Center’s Ceili Band and Ballad Group have become a major tour de force in a relatively short period of time.

Established in March, 2019, the young musicians provide a uniquely Irish musical experience to an ever-evolving Irish-American audience while enjoying unprecedented success.

From the outset, the groups were formed as non-competitive, simply focused on showcasing their talents to celebrate Irish music in New York and to pay tribute to their cherished Irish heritage.

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They are also very proud and honored to represent the Aisling Irish Community Center, a not-for-profit community based organization in Yonkers, that provides a diverse range of educational, social, cultural, counseling and support services for north Bronx and South Westchester residents.

These talented and aspiring musicians are also extremely grateful for the very generous sponsorship provided by Tara Circle and the James Trading Group. They have excelled under the expert guidance of the highly regarded musical directors Dawn Doherty (Winner of 2020 Top Irish Echo 40 u 40), and Frankie McCormick (All-Ireland Scor Winner, Member of Celtic Cross Band).

Since arriving on the musical scene this group has been in big demand, and they have performed at the Irish Consulate, Symphony Space on Broadway, Scor, Westchester Country Club, St. Patrick’s Day parades and numerous sporting, social and fundraising events. Naturally, the Aisling Center’s staff, volunteers, patrons and board members are immensely proud of the musicians’ success.

While their rise to prominence and lists of engagements are impressive, the acme of their accomplishments is without doubt their selection for performance in Ireland’s most watched show on RTE Television last Friday night. That is of course the Late Late Toy Show hosted by Ryan Turbidy.

The long road to the RTE studio in Donnybrook for the Aisling Center ballad group began in JP Clarke’s beer garden on McLean Avenue in Yonkers several weeks ago. Since then a colossal amount of time, effort, and energy was required from children, parents and of course the teachers, Dawn and Frankie.

Initially, recordings of "Silent Night" and "Jingle Bells" (as Gaeilge) were submitted for audition. RTE, the Irish national broadcaster, promoted the Aisling group to the next round, but stipulated the audition would be for the song “Rule the World." The group complied and submitted both a visual and audio recording, and two weeks later they were notified that they were on to the next round.

However, this time, RTE stated that the recording would have to be from an “iconic location."

Times Square, the Crossroads of the World, was duly approved, and the youngsters assembled there on a Sunday morning at 6 a.m. dressed in their Christmas attire for the recording.

A few days later word arrived that the video had been selected for the Late Late Toy Show, the most popular and most watched TV show in Ireland.

Naturally everybody was ecstatic, especially when informed that this was chosen from among thousands across the world. That certainly was an absolutely astonishing accomplishment.

The RTE producers wanted a wardrobe change. Now they wanted the singers dressed in their Aisling hoodies, so it was back to Times Square again.

The mission was duly accomplished and RTE seemed pleased, so much so that they used extensive parts of the video to promote and preview snippets of the much anticipated and widely watched Late Late Toy Show.

However, when the show was aired, most were extremely disappointed that the Aisling ballad group’s performance was accorded a very transitory fleeting image. However, despite RTE's rather dismissive and dismal display of the Aisling ballad group, everybody associated with it should rightly be very proud of their achievement.

Just think about it! Thousands of acts were submitted from all over the globe and Aisling’s was accepted.

The full video of the Aisling performance is circulating on Facebook, check it out, you certainly won’t be disappointed. Talent like cream always rises to the top.

It was great to see these young talented musicians back in JP Clarke’s last Friday afternoon in eager anticipation of seeing themselves on RTE's Late Late Show. Naturally they were disappointed, and so was I. RTE could definitely be accused of shady practices.

Why show extensive footage of the group in promotional events, and then almost airbrush it out of the main program itself?