First off, a huge congratulations to Leah Rankin, who last week received an Irish American Arts & Culture Awards from the Irish Echo. Rankin is one of the busiest people in the scene. In addition to being a fabulous cello player, she runs Batcello PR (https://www.batcellopr.com/), “a public relations firm dedicated to the advocacy and promotion of Celtic music, arts, and culture in the U.S. and around the world.” It’s great to see her hard work recognized!
And at the awards event, she also led a panel, “Promoting Irish Arts to the Next Generation,” that asked questions about the state of the arts in Irish America. It included fellow awardees Larry Kirwan, James Maynard, Eileen Mize, S. Kirk Walsh, and Joanna Malloy, and they covered some important ground in their talk. Great stuff – congrats, Leah!
Next: if you happen to be in New York City on Thursday, I highly recommend heading on over to Glucksman Ireland House for a 7 p.m. talk hosted by Nicholas Wolf and Deirdre Ní Chonghaile called "From Galway to Brooklyn: Creating a Digital Edition of An Gaodhal, the World's First Irish-Language Newspaper.” It promises to be fascinating.
“An Gaodhal” was a monthly bilingual newspaper published in Brooklyn starting in 1881 that had a significant formative effect on the Irish-language movement in both America and Ireland. Wolf and Ní Chonghaile’s project includes creating a digital edition of the paper that uses artificial intelligence to make the Gaelic script machine-readable and thus fully searchable – a huge step forward toward making this paper accessible again.
Readers will recognize Ní Chonghaile as the author of “Collecting Music in the Aran Islands: A Century of History and Practice.” I wrote about it back in 2021 and was really wild about it — it’s a great book. And it seems I was not alone in my esteem: I just learned that the American Conference for Irish Studies gave her their Durkan Prize for Books on Language and Culture that year. If you’ve not read it, I absolutely recommend doing so, it’s a great look at history. (It’s now available in paperback as well, and available through Amazon.)
Finally: next weekend, May 12-14, the Mid-Atlantic Region of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann will hold its annual Fleadh at the Parsippany Hilton in Parsippany, N.J. It will be three days of music and craic that will determine who qualifies to travel to Mullingar to compete at the 2023 Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann (Aug. 6-14). It’s going to be super exciting.
If you’re going, you’ll notice that this year’s Fleadh will have a bit of a new feel. This is largely due to the fresh and youth-oriented approach Ann Marie Acosta has taken in her first year as the Region’s new chair. The work she’s put toward making this Fleadh a success has been amazing and it should translate to a great experience for this year’s attendees.
There will be a lot about the weekend folks will find pretty familiar. For example, competitions will happen throughout the weekend, with the grúpa cheoil comps on Friday, the solo music competitions on Saturday, and the U18 & O18 slow air solos, the ceílí drum solos, the duet & trio competition, and the ceílí bands competitions taking place on Sunday. And once again, the Hall of Fame banquet will happen on the Saturday with this year’s honorees including Mary Coogan, Bruce Foley and Jimmy Lavin (RIP).
It’s a great group! Coogan, who plays guitar and banjo, is widely known for her work in the legendary band Cherish the Ladies. Foley, her husband, is an acclaimed singer, guitarist and uilleann piper who has toured throughout the USA and Ireland. And Lavin was a renown accordion player who played with dozens of musicians and was a familiar presence in the Long Island Irish community.
And as usual, a céilí will follow the induction event. This year, the music will be provided by the Consequences, the great young band that features Lexie Boatright, Jake James, Cara Wildman and Ryan Ward. Their sound is tight, energetic and perfect for dancing.
But there’ll be some welcome new wrinkles as well. For example, there’ll be a raffle, which is something we haven’t seen in a while. And on Saturday, while the parents are enjoying the banquet, kids can sign up for an “Epic Pajama Party / Session for Kids” that will run from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. There, kids can play some tunes, try out a new instrument, and play some games, with pizza and drinks provided. It’ll be a great time! And for the first time, booster notes are going to be part of the ad journal. Wish your loved ones luck or congratulate them for the hard work they’ve put into their Fleadh competitions! It’s a great way to show your support, especially if you can’t be there to support them in person. (Note, too, that since this year’s ad journal is electronic, the booster notes will be part of the presentation shown on the hotel’s monitors all weekend long.)
This year’s Mid-Atlantic Fleadh is shaping up to be a pretty incredible time. Congratulations to all the young people who have worked so hard in preparation for the weekend and best of luck in the competitions! And congrats to all the parents who support them throughout the year – it’s an important job! For more information about the weekend, to book tickets for the Hall of Fame banquet, and to submit a booster note for your loved one, visit http://nyfleadh.com.