For Lars and Louise and family

God Jul to everyone in Norway, from New Hampshire…

We hope you had a wonderful holiday, and have a very Happy New Year!



Happy Holidays to all


An Nollaig

An Nollaig

I had the great good fortune to have Eileen Ivers and her band Immigrant Soul pass through New Hampshire again this week, this time with her Irish Christmas show, An Nollaig. Shawn and I braved a very cold night and crazy general admission situation (where we lucked out and scored third-row-center seats). It was another great evening of music, from the first strains of “O Holy Night,” to “The Wexford Carol,” to Charlie Brown’s “Christmas Time is Here,” to the frenzied encore/finale of the “Alleluia Chorus,” all done either Irish style, Bronx style, American blues style, or sometimes the three mixed together as a musical potpourri. She also enlisted a local high school choir and step-dancing school to perform.

A few months ago I took the time to email her the essay, knowing she would “get” it, and she replied with this lovely email:

Boy, congratulations on the very touching essay about your grandfather. You have a wonderful way of writing…really fills up the senses! I guess I could also understand the situation being a Bronx kid with Irish parents. Like you, I feel so grateful to have been brought up in that environment – with those wonderful values that were instilled in my sister and me. How very lucky we are! We are certainly part of a very rich and proud Diaspora…it is a joy to be part of the continuing living tradition… I look forward to seeing you guys again in Concord…or was that Conck – ked? I better practice my pronunciation before we get there. Please say Hi that night and thanks again for taking the time to share the essay.

So we did say Hi the other night, and again she went on about the essay (which has really turned into my fifteen minutes of fame). She said she was so moved by it that she read it aloud to her husband. I thought that was very fitting, because at the Londonderry show in September she read aloud a poem written by her father-in-law called “Parting of Friends” that he wrote about his final night in Ireland before emigrating the next morning. The poem seemed similar to my essay, which is why I sent it to her. So the other night we talked about how those values were passed on to us (she and I are the same age), but she was really lamenting how she doesn’t think those values are now being passed on to the next generation and how unfortunate that is.

She was also asking for my mom and wanted to know how she’s doing, she remembered our Mayo conversation from September. She refers to us as “Mayo cousins” because her own mom is from Belmullet, just a bit more west than our Crossmolina.

She also told me and Shawn about the new multimedia show she’s creating called Beyond the Bog Road with slide projections and video, and wanted to know what we thought of the idea. I of course told her it sounded great and hoped it would be ready soon, but she said it’s still a year away. When we were leaving she said “Maggie my friend, give me a hug, and I hope to see you soon.” I guess my very-long-time fiddling heroine is a new buddy.

Thanks to the availability of clips galore on YouTube, there’s a fairly long television piece on her that’s available, though it’s about eight years old. I recognized the pub interior as being the Landmark Tavern on 11th Avenue (take note of the William Murphy-like portrait hanging on the wall near the fireplace):

CBS News Sunday Morning interview

Her Riverdance breakout solo has also been uploaded to the internet, but I’d hurry to view it since I can’t imagine the Riverdance producers are too happy about it being there, since they’re still selling and making a lot of money from the DVD. It’s nice to see the expansive proscenium stage of Radio City Music Hall again — I know a bunch of us went as a group for the NYC opening on that great St. Paddy’s night. It’s a good clip because it spotlights the band only, which I always said was the forgotten cast member:

Slip Into Spring/The Harvest: Riverdance at Radio City Music Hall 1996

You all know how I recommend seeing her perform live, so here’s the link to her touring schedule (she’s playing in Staten Island on March 1, and Spokane on April 12):

Eileen Ivers Tour Schedule

And I posted a few photos from the show’s encore/finale, where we were all on our feet dancing, to a Flickr set.

Fire up yer CD players!

Aunt Jane (Corrigan) McGuinness

Jane (Corrigan) McGuinness, February 1953

If you thought the DVD project was fun, just wait until you approach your mailbox in a few days, wondering why you hear the muffled strains of a button accordion trying to break free… could that be Aunt Jane playing “Mother Machree” and other standards?… and reciting poetry? You betcha! You’ll find in your mailbox a homegrown CD, and you’ll be jigging and hornpiping and reeling your way back to your stereo, where you’ll hear a 1971 Christmas Day céili at the McAleese household that had Aunt Jane providing the music and recitations, Peg providing the traditional Irish dance steps in the background, Grandpa providing his brogue, and Grandma providing her classic laughter, and some singing, while shouting out requests.

Thanks to Peg and Jim unearthing audio cassettes from a basement shoebox — and a tape transfer guy located in Raymond, NH, who converted them to MP3 files for me so that my computer could process CD copies for everyone — and Santa telling us that you’ve all been very good this year — this is our holiday gift to you all.

But wait, there’s more fun (and how could that possibly be)! Have a hankering to hear some down-home holiday caroling? Well, hold tight, because the second half of the CD is a 1971 Christmas Eve caroling session at the Doherty household that included the McAleese clan. You’ll hear festive tunes including “Deck The Halls,” a special Latin version of “Adeste Fideles” led by Uncle Big Jim, and then our special star soloist, our chanteuse of the evening, Maureen, singing the best version of “Little Drummer Boy” that you’ve ever heard come from the mouth of babes. Maureen was kind enough that evening to not only solo for us, but then lead the carolers for a group reprise, all at the tender age of seven years young. Folks, you’ll be wanting to hear rum pum pum pum over and over again for the rest of the holiday season once you’ve tasted it here. Enjoy!

Jul time

Last weekend we put up our Jul tree and I’m just getting around to posting a few festive photos. This semester has finally ended (except for this coming week’s final exams)… which means the holidaze are officially upon us.