Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Every now and then my kids are invited to perform with some of their favorite Irish musician. They have quite a few "favorites" so the opportunities have been varied. Sometimes Haley shares the stage with The Chieftains, joins John Whelan's band, is invited to play with Mick Moloney, or plays with her teacher, Brian Conway, at gigs.

Last night was Dylan's favorite night because he was able to sit next to his #1 favorite guitarist, John Doyle, and perform a set. We went to see the Teetotallers perform in West Chester, PA. If you have never heard them, you must check them out. They are three of Irish music's most amazing musicians who decided a couple years ago at Swannanoa Gathering it might be fun to join forces and perform together.

The "Converse Trio" (Haley, Alex, and Keegan) who, along with Dylan, call themselves the "Coffeetotallers" opened the concert for the Teetotallers and got the crowd warmed up with a couple sets of tunes.

The Teetotallers took the stage with their mix of music, song, and fun. Kevin Crawford, Martin Hayes, and John Doyle are amazing musicians and so funny they had the audience laughing throughout the show with their stories and tune introductions. After a standing ovation, they invited the kids back onto the stage with them for a finale set…which they worked out in a couple minutes while thankyous were being given to the people who made the concert possible.

We got some pictures at the end and thanked them for a lovely evening. It was a nice warm up for Swannanoa in a couple months.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Satisfying Saturday

Saturday, my men spent a day together working on a house then planting the beginnings of our garden at home. Haley and I ran all over and had an amazing day together….and it didn't involve any musical performing!

Our first stop for the day was at a food packing event for Feed My Starving Children. Haley has been making decorated violin mutes (check out her webpage here if you'd like to help her with next year's contribution) and donating the majority of her earnings (all except what she needs to pay for more materials) to Feed My Starving Children. In five weeks, she earned $150 for the program!

Haley's violin teacher organizes this event in our area and Haley's heart was moved to help out in her own way. Feed My Starving Children is a program that sends food to starving children in almost 70 different countries and work with partner organizations who set up schools and programs to teach the people living in these poverty stricken areas how to use their natural resources to become self-sufficient. Feed My Starving Children does not advertise nationally and 92% of donations go directly to the food program. Volunteers pack the food to be sent out and 99% of the food is delivered securely.

Once we registered at the event, we were sent to a room to watch a short film on how to pack the meals. A couple of Haley's friends from the violin studio were there so when we walked over to the school to pack, we teamed up with them and their parents to work one side of a table together. Kassie's mom and I added the food to the bags, Anna and Kassie held the bags and checked them for weight, and Haley and Anna's dad sealed the bags and handed them over to be packed in boxes.

The work went quickly and what might have been seen as repetitive and boring was not. Everyone was so excited to be helping people directly and happy to be spending this time in fellowship with one another. In a little under two hours, our table packed 23 boxes containing 36 bags each. Here are the girls afterward….

Showing our number of boxes packed!
Our total volunteer group of 171 people packed over 200 boxes containing enough meals to feed 121 children for a year! After the packing a large group of volunteers prayed over the boxes and got a taste of the food as we left. (It tasted like Rice-a-Roni.)

From the packing event, we drove back to our area to a local Amish farmer's market because Haley's writing tutor has a shop there and she had a friend giving a mini workshop on Lithuanian egg decorating. Haley loves artsy stuff and was excited to participate.

Decorating her egg.

Finished product.
At the farmer's market, we purchased some items for supper then headed home where Haley practiced for a couple hours while I straightened up and cooked. After supper, we went to see some of our homeschool friends perform in a homeschool stage production of Les Miserables.  It was an amazing show. We were expecting something similar to high school plays we've attended but thought this show rivaled shows we've seen on Broadway! The actors and singers were wonderful, there was a pit orchestra performing the music, and the props and costumes were great. Haley said she liked it better than the movie!

Monday, April 07, 2014


We have been attending a lot of sessions lately. The St. Patrick's Day rush is over and April is a somewhat quiet month musically, except for the Fleadh to qualify for Ireland in a few weeks. 

So, Haley and Dylan have been interested in hitting sessions a couple times a week. Dylan mostly so he can drive to them as he recently got his driver's permit. Last weekend and the weekend prior to that we went to the session at The Plough and the Stars in Center City Philly on Sundays and then a different session at Sligo Pub in Media, PA on Monday evenings.

This weekend, Haley and her competition trio had the last of two rehearsals together on Saturday afternoon at Fergie's Pub in Center City then they all stayed for the session afterward.  Yesterday we drove to NY for fiddle lessons with our friends, Amy and Livia, and stayed for a new session Haley's fiddle teacher is hosting at O'Grady's Public House in Yorktown Heights, NY. 

Sessions are all so different from one another…each has it's own regulars and rhythm. Some sessions we've been to have only had 3-4 musicians while others have over twenty. Some have large crowds of people coming in to listen while others might be in someone's kitchen with only the significant others of the musicians in attendance. Sometimes there are visiting musicians from other states or countries who drop into a session and change things up a bit or new musicians looking to listen and learn more than play. 

Haley has been attending sessions regularly since she was five years old. She has always been welcomed by the regular musicians and made to feel part of the group. Now she is one of the "regulars." Some people might think it crazy that my little girl knows the bartenders and waitstaff by name and feels some of her BFFs are male musicians in their 30's-60's. When they are playing music, age doesn't matter, they have a common bond and purpose for those few hours of the session. 

I love taking her to sessions because she gets to practice tunes she wouldn't normally play during a gig, tunes she's learned over the years but doesn't play regularly. She also gets to learn new tunes especially when visiting musicians join in. She has a whole repertoire of tunes we don't have names for because she picked them up while playing in a session somewhere.

We have attended sessions all over the United States and in Canada and Ireland. When we travel one of our first searches is to find out where there might be a session. When she performs for festivals or attends a camp we find sessions full of professional musicians playing for fun. We've met some really awesome people along the way and heard some of the best music at sessions.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Weekend Ramblings

We actually didn't ramble too much this weekend! We had some nice time at home to get the house cleaning done and relax. In between our time at home, on Saturday Haley and Dylan played a nice, small, cozy gig at an area nursing home for a St. Patrick's Day party in the memory care unit. About ten people, residents and their families, were in attendance. (I didn't take any pictures to protect the privacy of the residents.)

One resident from the assisted living area of the nursing home came to listen because she loves Irish music. She told the kids about all the Irish bands she'd been to see then told them they were just as good as the best she'd seen. So cute! She talked to them between sets and was very excited.

While they were playing an upbeat tune set, an elderly man in a wheel chair started moving around like he was trying to get up. Initially I thought he was trying to leave because one woman had left when they started playing saying she didn't have any interest in Irish music. LOL The elderly woman sitting next to the man turned and tried to help him. I though they were both going to fall but a nurse rushed over and asked him what he needed. Turns out he wanted to dance so she talked him into dancing in his chair and she and the elderly woman held his hands while he moved his feet to the rhythm. It was wonderful to see them touching someone's life and making them a little happier. Haley looked right at him and played for him while he danced.

...And because we get antsy staying home too long, we decided to go to the session at Plough and the Stars…actually it was Dylan's idea! This has never happened before. Dylan will go along with us to a session sometimes grudgingly and sometimes happily but has never been the one to suggest a session unless he's at Swannanoa where he sessions until the wee hours but Dylan got his drivers permit on Saturday and wanted to drive. The boy is so excited to drive anywhere, he will spend 4 hours playing music just to have a chance to drive! Ha!

Some might think it dangerous to allow a brand new driver to drive on the highway and in the city but he is confident and makes very good decisions while driving. The day before he drove us halfway to the nursing home and all the way home in traffic. He has been driving our vehicles around our driveways and on our property for a couple years. If he is going to be my chauffeur for the next six months, he needs to be fearless about highway and city driving!

We had a nice surprise at the Plough when Haley's buddy Keegan showed up with his pipes! His mom took this picture and posted it so I took it off Facebook. Dylan was sitting across the table from them and didn't make it into the pic. Haley and Keegan made plans to meet at another session tonight! These two share an amazing passion for Irish music!…and rarely smile in pictures while playing now that they are older.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Haley's First Day of School…kinda

On Friday, Haley had a wonderful experience spending an entire day at school demonstrating and teaching Irish music to the middle school students at a rather large public school in PA. We met the music teacher at this school at Paraic's Monday night sessions. She plays flute and tin whistle and is learning Irish tunes. She thought it would be a nice program for her students and the rest of the school in honor of St. Patrick's Day so she asked Haley and Paraic to come to the school for the day.

They started the day with the 6th grade orchestra and another music class observing and taking notes. The orchestra students had learned the tune Drowsy Maggie. Haley took the lead in giving them some hints on how to make their reel sound more "Irish" by adding in some ornamentation and downbeats. The orchestra director had written the tune on the white board so Haley wrote her and Paraic's suggestions into the music, demonstrated, played with the students so they could practice then they rehearsed together.

The next two class periods she and Paraic played some tunes and did a question/answer segment with different classes. The kids had some great questions and were extremely well behaved and polite. We then had a nice lunch brought in. Haley was curious to see what it was like to walk the halls of the school on her own so she did. The music teacher also took her around to the lunch room, which she said was "really loud and crazy…with kids throwing oranges," and another classroom so she could see what it was like. As lunch was ending she and Paraic stood outside the auditorium and fiddled for the kids walking the halls because not every student was able to fit in the auditorium for the "show" later in the day.

They did another class with the 7th and 8th grade orchestra who had learned Tripping Up the Stairs. She and Paraic taught them how to slur notes together into the down beat and add a couple ornaments to make their tune sound more "Irish." They asked the cello section, who were playing harmony, to begin playing the tune as a little intro before the rest of the orchestra joined in. They rehearsed it a couple times before class was over.

The final class period the students filled the auditorium. It was a really big school with a large auditorium but still teachers had to sign up because not every student could fit. We even added a couple extra rows of chairs in the front. It was full of students. Haley and Paraic played a set together then they played along with the 6th grade orchestra.

6th grade orchestra

Then they performed with the 7th and 8th grade orchestra.

7th/8th grade orchestra

Haley and Paraic played a tune for a couple dancers who went to the school while they took turns Irish dancing. (I had a really hard time getting a picture to come out not blurry.)

Haley and Paraic finished the program by played two more tune sets together. As the orchestra students packed up their instruments to head to their buses a number of girls took pictures with Haley and made friends.

Haley and I jumped in the car right after school to head about 30 minutes away because Haley's string ensemble, PRYSM, was playing with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra to open their "Harp Play In." They performed Vaughn William's Variations on Dives and Lazzarus.

Haley playing her small solo section.

Here's a picture of all the harps on stage. There were over 20 harps playing at once….some concert pedal harps and others smaller lever harps. It was beautiful music!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March Madness Continued...

I was going to wait until after this weekend before posting about all the fun Haley is having this week but there is too much to wait so I will break this week up into two posts. Sunday evening Haley got a message asking her to come out and play with her buddies, John and Darin, session-style for a fundraiser for Philadelphia Councilman James Kenney at The Plough and the Stars. We met Councilman Kenney at the Plough a little over a year ago and last year he asked Haley, Newt, and Dylan to play some Irish music at a Philadelphia City Council Meeting in honor of Irish heritage and St. Patrick's Day.

The venue was crowded with fundraiser guests almost to bursting. Haley and the guys could barely hear themselves play but Councilman Kenney and some of the other guests come over now and then to listen. They had a lot of fun together and the food was delicious. There were also performances by Irish dancers and a pipe and drum corp (that was really loud!).

Haley and Darin

Haley, Darin, and John

Pipers and drummers from the balcony
Tuesday, Haley played with the South Jersey Irish Society dancers again (the same dancers she performed with last week at the nursing home) for a Senior Luncheon. The dancers did some set and ceili dances and for some of the ceili dances had audience member volunteers come up to try them out. Haley worked the CD player for the dancers and while the dancers rested, performed tune sets throughout the show. She even joined the dancers for The Haymaker's Jig (one of her favorites).

Dancers doing a set dance.

Haley joining the dancers to do the Haymaker's Jig.

Fiddling around.

I had to add this one in because I like it.
Wednesday (today) Haley and her harp playing friend, Emily, were invited to perform for a different church's luncheon. Someone at the church noticed an article written in the newspaper mostly about Emily but mentioning Haley after the girls both took 1st in Ireland last year at the All Ireland competition and they asked them to perform for their group.

I have to include these photos because it is a really neat blast from the past. Here are Haley and Emily performing for the first time together when Haley was six years old and Emily was seven. So cute and little…probably playing "Summer, Summer" together.

Here they are today looking so much more grown up but in almost the same poses. Time sure does fly. We are so blessed for Haley to have such a large group of wonderful kids in our area who love Irish music like Haley does. It is fun watching them grow up together.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

March Madness 2014

As I alluded to in my previous post, the month of March is like Christmas for my Irish musicians…gigs galore, wonderful audiences, performing with friends, and making new friends!

This week was no exception.

On Thursday Daddy took Haley to a nursing home in Cherry Hill where she joined some local set dancers in a program to entertain the residents. This is the 2nd year they've done this program. The set dancers invite some of the more mobile residents to join the dancing and the others watch and clap along. Haley played her jigs and reels then played a requested "Danny Boy" for an elderly woman who said her son's name was Danny.

Set dancers.

Friday was orchestra rehearsal getting ready for PRYSM's amazing performance opportunity next week with The Philadelphia Orchestra for their Harp Play-In where they will open the concert. (It's free for the public.)

Saturday we spent half the day at the NJ State Wrestling Championships watching Newt wrestle. He wrestled well but got knocked out of the running early in the day.

Today was a very busy day. Haley and I got up early to drive into the city where she was to play at a church's Irish Mass with her friend, Keegan, who plays uillean pipes. They played while the church filled up then accompanied a singer for a piece toward the end of the Mass. It was hard to get a picture from where I was sitting but I managed this shot during Keegan's solo.

The Mass ran a little over time so we had to run out and jump in the car to get back to Southern Jersey for the sound check for their afternoon concert, the Down Jersey Celtic Celebration. It was a celebration featuring young Irish music talents from the local area. Haley's friends, Alex and Keegan, opened the show, followed by a wonderful young band called Amarach, then Haley and Dylan played their set before a finale where everyone played together for the "Sold Out" crowd. It was a great show!

Alex, Dylan, Keegan, and Haley after the show
We have another busy week coming up. Something scheduled every day except Thursday (oops, maybe wrestling on Thursday) then a busy weekend in NY!