The McKenna Clann on stage.

'Inflight’ entertainment goes unpredictably viral

“It was so silly,” said a beaming Mary McKenna of how a video of her children playing trad music on an Aer Lingus plane on the tarmac at JFK at the beginning of March, went viral.

More than a million people viewed the impromptu seisiún by a few siblings in the McKenna Clann trad band before the Twitter post of it was removed a few days ago..

Mary, clearly amused by the storm in an Irish-coffee cup, explained how it began.

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“We had just landed at JFK and they [the musicians] were taking their instruments down, when we were told there was going to be a 15-minute delay.

“Some of the passengers, seeing the instruments, started asking, ‘Are you going to play for St. Patrick’s Day?’ and ‘would you not play us a tune?”

“And they did, because they’re kids.”

It started with Sinéad (23), on fiddle, and Daniel (26), on button accordion. They were then joined by Eugene (27), on tin whistle.

He’s the eldest of the seven siblings in the playing and singing Clann, which added has three guest musicians for its recent New York performances: Lauren O'Neill, Micky Fearon and Sorcha Stockman.

The Clann played multiple New York City venues, including the Irish mission to the UN - from which Tánaiste Micheál Martin also tweeted, albeit less controversially.

The person who posted the Aer Lingus video that went viral got some pushback online for his unenthusiastic reception of that impromptu performance. “I understand it's done from a good place, but also feel like you don't play music (or much worse, sing) in an enclosed space there's no escape from,” read the March 12 tweet.

The tweeter, in a triple irony, was named Singer, is a professional in “out of home advertising” and wasn’t even on the flight.

Adam Singer, vice president of LA-based AdQuick, confirmed to the Echo that he found the video on the website Reddit, posted it to Twitter, and was later instructed to take it down due to a complaint.

The source of the complaint is unknown but Singer said, “It looks like… after it went viral the original poster sold it  [the video] to one of those sites that pastes viral content who decided to remove it everywhere else.”

The McKenna’s certainly didn’t complain, Eugene confirmed. “’’didn’t even know the video was taken down! We have no issues at all with the good publicity!”

A great ad for the McKennas, the video garnered 1.3 million views, as it spread from Singer’s 81,000 Twitter followers to others online, then media outlets on both sides of The Pond.

And, in the online way, what occurred got distorted with some commentators suggesting the McKenna’s had played the whole way across the Atlantic.

Eugene said, “Sadly for all the online haters...we only played for three minutes when the passengers were waiting to leave the plane, lol!” 

Even without the profile boost from Singer, the Clann was making waves. NBC featured another video clip of their music-making during its exclusive coverage of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York.

The clip was recorded by TG4/Power Pictures at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Mullingar, August 2022. That segment can (still) be seen on YouTube,

That was viewed by, amongst others, Catherine Flood, proud aunt to the McKenna’s.

At the time of the parade, she said, "We were all in Sean's [restaurant in Midtown Manhattan] when it came on and the place erupted."

Flood, who is a sister of Mary McKenna (nee Flood) and a well-known figure in the Irish community in New York.