Sunday, 14 February 2010

»»Tony DeMarco, Tom English and myself playing a gig at Tommy Makem's Irish Pavillion in the mid-90s

Tommy Makem was a gentleman. He was well known for his support of the Irish ballad tradition, but he often hosted concerts of Irish traditional music at his famous venue, Tommy Makem's Irish Pavilion on 57th St. and Lexington. The Irish Pavilion at the World's Fair was the model for the club, and it's where my son Brendan's Christening party was held in 1976.

I had known Tommy from the mid-60s, having met him at return parties at Peggy Jordan's house in Dublin, the instigator of organized folk concerts around the city in those days. She was known for lavish parties at her home on Kennelworth Square, in Rathgar. Her all-night parties happened after sessions--for any reason at all she'd throw a party. Having known Barney for years, I also met the early Dubliners, Ronnie, John Sheehan, Luke Kelly and Ciarán Burke at Peggy Jordan's.

But I've diverted from the point.

My friendship with Tommy since 1965 meant that he would throw a lot of gigs in my direction to play Irish traditional music there on weekends. Sometimes it was with Tony DeMarco, sometimes with Jerry O'Sullivan, sometimes Brian Conway, John Doyle, Greg Anderson, Pat Kilbride and Mick Moloney that would play with me there in those days. Tommy's presentation was always top-notch with the best lighting and a sound specialist to make the evenings a respectful showcase for Irish traditional music.

Tommy was a consummate professional and presented the music on a level it deserved.

Tony, I had known throughout the years. We did a couple of concerts and more sessions over the many years. We did concerts at the Blarney Star together, and we enjoyed meeting to have a tunes whenever the occasion would come up.

There's no longer the slightest trace of Tommy Makem's Irish Pavilion anymore.

I'm off tomorrow for President's Day, and I know Tony's session starts late, so this is a rare opportunity to have a few tunes with him and whoever else might show up tonight at the 11th Street Bar, where he has kept a performance-level session going over the years.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

»»Past "hall of famers" and Paul Keating

The MidAtlantic Region Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was kind enough to honor John Vesey the great Sligo fiddle player and myself with their hall of fame award at the Mineola Irish Center in 2004. From Ballincurry (Baile an Churraigh), Vesey emigrated to Philadelphia in 1949, and would later record a great album with Paul Brady on the Shanachie label in 1977. I'm pictured there with Paul Keating. I've known Paul for too many years to even recall, but he's always been a great great supporter of the music. Besides his work for Comhaltas as a major organizer, and the heart of Catskills Irish Arts Week, he's a wonderful writer who's been reporting on traditional music From the Hob for many many years. He gets his roots on his father's side from Inagh (Eidhneach) and his mother from Caherderry (Cathair in daire) in County Clare (Co. an Chláir). His parents were great set dancers, and his father is buried at St.Raymond's Cemetery not far from the grave of Andy McGann, also a member of the hall of fame. It was a lovely evening with many friends coming on-board for the event. My long-time friend Mick Moloney was there to present me with the award, which he received himself the year before.