Jean Butler.

Season shifts into high gear

Last Friday I was over at the Irish Arts Center to see dance star Jean Butler’s marvelous new show “What We Hold.”  An extension of an oral history project called “Our Steps, Our Story” (, the show at its core is a meditation on the process of embodying Irish dance.  In putting it together, Butler mobilized elements of its history and its choreography and with an impeccable company that included dancers James Greenan, Colin Dunne, Kaitlyn Sardin and several others, it created something new and exciting that speaks to what it means to dance in the Irish tradition.  The show, which was absolutely brilliant, was sold out over its run.  To keep up with future great IAC performances, stay tuned to

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In related news, Butler will be one of the keynote lecturers at the Ward Irish Music Archive’s upcoming conference “Archiving Irish America: Music, Dance, and Culture” conference, which will take place in Milwaukee, WI, April 11-13.  Butler’s talk, “Our Steps, Our Story: An Irish Dance Legacy Archive,” will discuss the groundbreaking work that led to the aforementioned show – for dance scholars, it’s a moment not to be missed.  

The conference will also include keynote talks from other luminaries, including RTÉ producer and legendary sound engineer Harry Bradshaw, who will talk about Bill Stapleton and the Irish Recording Company and from fiddler/composer and National Heritage Fellow Liz Carroll, who will reflect on the articulation between archives and her own work.  It will be a special couple of keynotes.

Participants at the conference read as a who’s-who of current Irish music and dance scholarship, including Richie Piggott, Patrick Egan, Helen Lawlor, Jimmy Keane, Marta Cook, Brian Ó hAirt, Nick Brown, Kathryn Holt, and many others.  In addition to the scholarly work there’ll be tunes and craic (including a Saturday céilí with musicians who are also presenting), so a good time is guaranteed to all attendees.

All this in the opulent surroundings of largest public collection of Irish music in America.  In-person registration is encouraged, but if you’re interested but can’t make it an online, reduced-cost registration is available for online access over Zoom.  Learn more and register for this remarkable event at

As we settle into March, it means that we’re shifting into high Patrick’s Day season gear, and that means lots of opportunity to catch some live music, in New York City and beyond.  To wit: Don Meade will present Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O’Leary at the New York Irish Center in Long Island City, Queens, this Friday, March 1.  Kennedy and O’Leary are not simply brilliant musicians they’re charmers and the NYIC is a great place to catch them – intimate, comfortable, and easy to get to (just one stop into Queens on the 7 train!). Tickets are available through the New York Irish Center’s website at  

 And of course, there’s “The Reel Housewives of Traditional Irish Music” concerts that will also take place this weekend.  The shows, which will feature over a dozen top musicians from all over the country, will take place in Yonkers (Saturday) and Pearl River (Sunday).  Tickets are available through Eventbrite, click here for the Yonkers show and here for the Pearl River show.

Speaking of women in traditional music, the great Karan Casey has just arrived stateside and will be on a tour of the east coast through Mar 17th, making stops in Old Saybrook CT, Boston MA, Ithaca NY, Blairstown NJ, Florence MA, Cumberland RI, Joe’s Pub N.Y.C., Findlay OH, Peninsula OH, Charleston WV, Virginia Beach VA.  Catch her if she gets out to your neck of the woods!

In addition, folks should know that Casey has just joined the world of Irish tours!  Dr. Casey (PhD, University of Limerick, 2019) is currently taking reservations for the “Karan Casey Irish Song Tour,” a ten day jaunt, October 15-25, “that truly delves into a deep appreciation of the music, the culture, the history of Ireland, and more.”

The tour will introduce unsung heroines and explore a more radical vision of Ireland and explore about its modern and recent history.  All this will happen through a prism of music.  “At the heart of the tour,” she writes, “will be a conversation about song, why we sing, visiting the places that are in the songs and the people connected to them.”  This sounds like a truly exciting opportunity to spend time with someone who is not only a brilliant performer but a strong thinker who I’m sure will enlighten as well as entertain – I hope Casey’s new tour attracts major attention!  For more on both her upcoming U.S. shows and her October tour of Ireland, visit


Karan Casey is undertaking a tour with a difference. [Photo by Alan Doherty]

Lots of other tours happening as well!  For example, traditional supergroup Danú arrives in the US this week and will tour the US March 2-17, visiting Tannersville NY, Barre VT, Charlottesville VA, Glen Ellyn Il, Galloway NJ, Columbia MO, Brookfield WI, Livermore CA, and Davis CA.  Joining them will be Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, who is the group’s original singer and who is also host of legendary television program “Geantraí’s” new run on Irish station TG4!  It’s a brilliant bit of news for Danú fans but also for lovers of traditional song.  Catch them while they’re here!  For more details, visit

 Finally, there’s Dervish, another of the music’s big-name groups, who arrives in the US on March 8 and will be here touring through March 30.  They’ve planned stops in Minneapolis MN, Milwaukee WI, Chicago IL, Kent OH, Buffalo NY, Bethlehem PA, Fairfield CT, New York City, Newburyport MA, Riverhead NY, Old Saybrook CT, Red Bank NJ, Newton NJ, Lewisberg PA, Phoenixville PA, Athens GA, Asheville NC, and Savannah GA.  Dervish puts on an outstanding show and it’s been a while since they’ve been around, so I’ll urge you to check them out while you can.  For specifics, visit