Monday, November 24, 2014

Adventures in Boston

One of the coolest things about my children's involvement in Irish music is the amount of travel we get to experience!

I love to see and experience new things but I don't know that we would do so much of it were it not for my kids. If they were into something else like soccer we might see soccer fields all over the MidAtlantic region and with wrestling, we saw a lot of high school gyms. Through their Irish music gigs and travel for competitions we have seen so many new places and met so many wonderful people!

Last week our destination was Boston, MA. Many months ago, Brian O'Donovan from WGBH A Celtic Sojourn saw a video of Haley and Dylan performing on youtube and contacted me to see if they could come up and be a part of his Burren Backroom Series. Boston is a long way away for us and I couldn't really think of a time it would be convenient with a full summer schedule but it sounded like fun and I wanted to experience Boston so I agreed they'd do it sometime but didn't set a date.

In September we were beginning to violin shop. There are a lot of shops in Boston so I figured we'd combine a trip to shop for a new violin with a night at The Burren and Brian gave us a date. Haley found a fiddle she loved in the meantime but by then we were looking forward to going so decided to sightsee instead of shop.

Last Wednesday night Haley and Dylan opened the show for Kevin Crawford and Cillian Vallely, two musicians who fall into our favorite Irish musicians category! They were so excited! We arrived in Boston around 2:30pm, checked into our AirBNB rooms and headed over to The Burren around 4:30pm. The guys were doing their sound check first so the kids headed to the backstage room to unload their instruments then we went upstairs to listen.

Kevin, Cillian, and Patrick sound check.

Once they finished, Haley and Dylan did their sound check then we went into the dining area for some supper. The food at The Burren is amazing. The place looks like an old pub where you'd expect burgers, chips, and greasy appetizers but we had grilled salmon and a tuna steak salad with mango salsa. I do not usually like rare tuna but this was really good. Yummy!!!

After supper, we headed back downstairs where Haley and Dylan sat with Kevin, Cillian, and their guitarist Patrick to work out a set together for the end of the show.

When show time came Haley and Dylan played an amazing set. They performed four sets. Since the show was recorded for later broadcast on the radio, Brian asked Haley some questions after their first set then they performed the other three. The show was sold out and the crowd was awesome!

We went back in to listen to Kevin and Cillian. They do a great show and Kevin is so funny he could be a comedian! After their set, they called the kids up for their encore set together. It was a great night!

On Thursday, we went to see Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II. It was a crisp but beautiful day. There were a lot of school children on field trip at Plimoth but we saw everything we wanted to see then headed to the Mayflower which was not as crowded.

Plimoth Plantation

Mayflower II
We finished up our tours around noon then drove to Providence, RI for an appointment. The kids are beginning work on a little project…news about that in a future blog post (maybe in a few months). Haley loved Providence. I think she is a city girl at heart.

We drove back up to Boston and finished the evening with a few tunes at one of the local sessions. We didn't stay long. The kids were tired and we had a busy day planned for Friday.

Friday was our day to see the historic section of Boston. The day was very cold and windy. We parked near the Tea Party Museum but saw a busload of field trip kids heading that way so decided to take a walk first. We walked to see the Old State House and Fanueil Hall.

We went back to the Tea Party Museum. The tour there was very fun! We followed it up with some hot chocolate for the ride to our destination for the weekend. (I am stopping the blog post here because the rest of our weekend was spent working on their "secret for now" project.)

Friday, November 07, 2014


A number of months ago Haley and I were at a house concert where we saw Donie Carroll. We listened intently to his stories about the children at the Mercy Centre in Bangkok. He had recently returned from a visit there and was describing the children and the work done at the Centre to help them. Haley was intrigued so I asked Donie for more information on what he does to help the Centre. He sent pictures and video of the children he met during his visit and asked Haley if she would like to participate in his benefit concert this fall.

That concert was this past weekend. We drove to New York early in the day so Haley could fit in a fiddle lesson then headed into the city for the concert. It was a rainy, windy, cold evening so not the best for driving and walking.

We arrived early for the sound check not knowing exactly what Haley would be doing or who she would be playing with. Mick Moloney greeted us at the door and suggested Haley sit in with his band for the first half of the show. They went backstage after the sound check and worked out their sets and set list. The stage was very small so Haley and Dan had to sit in a back row. They played a number of tune sets sometimes with solo tunes and various combinations of musicians on other tunes. There were some songs as well. Haley was excited to be able to play a duet with Dan Gurney, an amazing young (young compared to me but old compared to Haley) accordion player we've met and seen in concert a number of times but whom Haley has never performed with.

The concert ended late in the evening then we stuck around to talk to the audience members and musicians. We headed home around 11pm but hit an hour delay going through the Lincoln Tunnel so it took longer than expected to get home. Since it was the end of Daylight Savings Time, I decided to call it a draw…hour wasted in the tunnel balanced out with the hour gained.

Sunday we woke a little later than usual since we had arrived home around 2:30am the night before. Haley got up and practiced a bit before we headed into Philly for the second fundraising concert of the weekend. This concert was the 27th Annual St. Malachy's Fundraising Concert to raise money for the school run by St. Malachy's. Again, the band was Mick Moloney and friends.

We arrived early for a delicious lunch and sound check. Mick had driven down from NY with the Irish Consul General who is wonderfully down to earth and friendly. We liked her immediately and enjoyed her stories during lunch. She was very interested in getting to know the musicians and Philadelphia Irish community.

Haley and her buddy Paraic performed with the band through the concert. They played many of the same sets they had done the previous night and then some additional guests provided songs of their own. The concert was wonderful and the fundraiser a huge success! We enjoyed a nice reception afterward where we were able to talk to everyone. We drove home rather than go to the Sunday night session because Haley insisted she had more practicing to do. We got home and she practiced.

Haley is very interested in being able to use her music to help people. When she was really little, around six years old, she saw a commercial for St. Jude's and kept asking to go there and play music for the sick children. I called the local children's hospital but was told she'd have to be sixteen before she'd be allowed. Since then she's been able to play at a number of different fundraisers in the local and broader community and also helped raise money for a fundraiser using her decorated violin and viola mutes. (

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Converse Trio Re-Shoed?

For the past three years, Haley has competed in a trio with her friends, Alex and Keegan. The first year  while playing in a session, they decided at 10pm the night before the trio competition to pick a couple tunes and compete the next morning. It took them until sometime after midnight to come up with tunes they all knew (the Super Mario Bros theme song seemed to be the only thing they could come up with for awhile) and they went with it. The judge told them afterward they all played amazingly well but they weren't "together" in their variations. (The point of a trio being to be in sync with every note and variation in the tunes.)

The following year, they planned ahead. The rehearsed a couple times in the months leading up to the MidAtlantic Fleah so they had their tunes together and their variations worked out for the most part. Keegan's pipes teacher, Patrick, met with them the night before the competition and helped them work out a few kinks. They took 2nd in the under 15 age group. They all wore Converse sneakers and called themselves The Converse Trio. It became a bit of a joke but the name stuck.

This past year, they were a little more serious. Patrick, offered to work with them more regularly. They picked tunes early and rehearsed about once a month in the 4-5 months prior to the competition. Patrick worked with them without us parents in the room. They had a lot of fun working and playing together. They performed a few gigs together with Dylan backing them as well. They placed 1st at the MidAtlantic competition in under 15 and the judge told them she would buy their CD when it came out. We all went to Ireland where they placed 3rd. It was the highlight of Haley's trip!

We came home from Ireland and the following month the Converse Trio plus Dylan were asked to perform at the Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival. They rehearsed and arranged their music. They put on an excellent set! After their set, a man at the bar called them over. He told them he works for Converse and would like to create custom Converse sneakers for them all. We weren't sure what to expect but they gave him shoe sizes and on Friday four boxes with shoes arrived at a friend's home for the kids.

They are awesome!

Haley and I picked them up and yesterday gave them out at our joint rehearsal/Studio2Stage viewing party. Look at all those smiles!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Haley's Blog...

Back in August, I posted my take on Haley's participation in Studio2Stage, a camp where they put together an Irish dance production in nine days featuring 85 dancers and 5 musicians from all over the world. Here is my blog post from August.

Haley just uploaded her post about the experience on her blog Tuneful Journeys. Here is a link to her new post.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

New York Trad Fest 2014

Imagine many of the best of Irish music (and other traditional music styles) in the New York area all in one venue on one night! That's New York Trad Fest and heaven for my young fiddler!

Haley and I arrived in NYC early in the afternoon. We walked to the Cake B*ss Bakery for a delicious snack. Haley loves to watch the TV show for ideas on cake decorating. (I think one of her other dream jobs besides fiddler or make-up artist is baker.)

After we found a quiet place to enjoy our desserts, we walked blocks and blocks stopping into different stores to try out make-up with mini-makeovers or look at knick knacks or clothing. We saw Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and Radio City Music Hall.

Some sites we'd rather not have seen like the naked cowboy at Times Square…okay, he wasn't completely naked but it was disturbing nonetheless.

Haley and three of her young fiddling friends, Jayne, Joanna, and Bram, opened the show as representatives of the next generation. We usually only see these kids once or twice a year so it was nice for her to re-connect and share some tunes with them.

What followed was a wide selection of musicians playing Irish, Scottish, and Bluegrass music for hours! The crowd was lively and the venue, Connolly's Pub adjacent to Times Square, was really neat. We stayed until nearly midnight and there was still music going on.

If they have a 3rd annual New York Trad Fest, I'd highly recommend it!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Weekend Ramblings

Haley has grown a lot this year so we have been seriously shopping for a full size fiddle for the past couple weeks. This has been involved a lot of research, driving, and for Haley, playing fiddle after fiddle after fiddle. Last week, we drove to Long Island and Haley spent the day playing fiddles…a whole lot of fiddles then went to White Plains for a fiddle lesson and session at Dunnes. We spent Tuesday afternoon visiting two other violin shops and playing what they had to offer. At one point we had six different violins in the house…some she preferred for fiddling and others she liked with her classical music. Friday we drove to White Plains to have Brian listen to the fiddles then returned the three we'd taken from the shop on Long Island the week before.

About halfway between NY and home, Haley played a lovely house concert gig with the guys (see photo above). It was a beautiful home and an attentive, enthusiastic audience. The hosts had gone all out. They had the entire home decorated, Irish snacks and foods, Irish books, and a video beautiful Irish scenery played in the background. The "band" played some fun sets of tunes with John singing songs between. (I love his voice.) We had a late night.

Saturday morning we woke early and drove to Fortescue, NJ on the Delaware Bay. When I was young we always took the family boat out of Fortescue to go fishing. Two years ago, Hurricane Sandy damaged much of the town including The Charlesworth Inn, a restaurant whose owners are supporters of Irish music. Unfortunately, the State of NJ forgot about Fortescue when handing out grant money to rebuild. Recently, the owners of the Charlesworth were informed by the state they must be open and running before the new year in order to receive any grant money so work crews of volunteers have been helping clean and repair the Inn. We decided to join the volunteers for the day and help out where we can. Haley and I packed up dishes then helped paint in the basement where the flood waters had damaged the floor and walls while Dylan and Daddy helped break down damaged chairs, scrape floors, and caulk windows.

Haley helping paint.
Putting in a window and caulking.

 We rode back home, got showers, then headed to the kids' gig at Emley's Hill Methodist Church where they were playing at a coffee house to raise money for a food bank. Some local children sang, Haley and Dylan played a set, and a band, including our friend Mike, played Civil War era music to finish off the night. Haley and Dylan joined them for Ashokan Farewell. It was a fun concert.

Today Haley's friend Emily and her mom came to play. Emily is an amazing Irish harper who won an All Ireland under 12 harp slow air title in 2013, the same year Haley took home the All Ireland trophies. The girls played some music together and worked out a couple sets for a gig they have in March but mostly they spent the afternoon decorated, and eating, cupcakes and hanging out together. 

One last photo just because it looks really fall-like and Halloween-y.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bethlehem Celtic Classic 2014

For the past six years, Haley and I (and often Dylan though not this year) have attended the Bethlehem Celtic Classic in Bethlehem, PA. It is one of our favorite Celtic fall festivals and celebrates all aspects of culture and heritage from Ireland and Scotland. There is everything from the "showing of the tartan" parade, pipe band competitions, dance competitions, the US National Highland Athletic Championships in the main field, Haggis eating competition, fiddle competition, workshops, a kids area with crafts, and music on a number of stages from the huge Grand Pavilion to quieter, more intimate stages in venues throughout the festival grounds and the main street of town. Add to that vendors selling all sorts of wares from kilts to swords to hand-made jewelry, food from haggis to corn on the cob on a stick, and about 30,000 people and you have one really cool festival.

For a number of years, our main reason for attending was the fiddle competition and hanging out with Haley's fiddle playing friend, Alex and his family. Last year, Haley was asked to perform during the fiddle competition rather than compete (she had already won the under 14 age division four times and had three more years to go). She liked the idea of being able to perform rather than compete because she still had a reason to go and hang out with her friend, Alex, and Livia (who was going for her 1st time) plus Patch and Alanna.

This past spring, John Whelan invited Haley to perform with his band in the Grand Pavilion at this year's Classic. She jumped at the chance….she loves to perform with John as part of his band. After months of waiting, we rose super-early on Saturday morning to drive to Bethlehem so we'd arrive in time to watch Livia compete and Alex perform during the break in competition (he'd won the under 18 age division a couple years and had a few more years to go so performed rather than competing). Livia did a great job and won the under 14 age group.

After Livia and Alex finished, we walked into town for our yearly lunch at the Brew Works. We had the biggest table in the place...table for sixteen, please! Lunch took a really long time but we all had fun.

From lunch, or maybe "lupper" by the time it was over, Haley and I checked into our hotel, she made herself beautiful for the night's performance, and then it was time for rehearsal. She still thinks rehearsal is as good as the performance itself. The band was minus a fiddler, Kathleen, this gig so they had to divide Kathleen's "parts" between Haley and Genna and they had a new flute player, and awesome dancer, Jonathan. They worked hard for a little over two hours putting together the set.

Haley and I rode back into the festival with Genna, had a bite to eat, then watched the Glengarry Bhoys performance. They packed the huge Grand Pavilion tent with more people, unable to fit inside, lined up around the perimeter and had them waving their arms and screaming. Incredible!

Glengarry Bhoys

Haley with D'Arcy, the fiddler for Glengarry Bhoys
The John Whelan performed the final act of the night (9:30pm).  They were high energy and fun with great music, most of which John has written himself. At the finale, John invited Haley's friend, Alex, on stage to play a slow air then join the band for a few tunes.

Here's a little video I took of their first set…

After the performance, everyone walked back into town for a late night session on the 2nd floor of a pub. It was a huge session with a lot of great musicians/performers and ran until the wee hours of the morning…we left around 2:30am and it was still going strong.

Sunday morning, Haley and I slept in a bit then went to breakfast with John and the Srour family. John left to head back to CT for a day of teaching and the Srours took Jonathan (flute player/dancer) to the train for NYC. Haley and I went into the festival to enjoy the day. Haley wanted to see her friend Rose's band Burning Bridget Cleary so we headed to the Grand Pavilion first. Rose asked her to join them onstage for a set during their show and afterward we watched the rest of the performance. 

Haley and Rose
We walked around the festival for while, looked at all the vendors' displays, watched a bit of Timlin and Kane's performance…

…and caught a little of Mick Moloney and friends before we had to be at the Highland fields for Haley to receive a scholarship from the Bethlehem Celtic Cultural Alliance. Exhausted after the awards presentation and our day in the crowds and sun, we walked back into town and headed home.