Festival Performers & Presenters
John Byrne (Thursday night - Singers Night)
The John Byrne Band is led by former Patrick's Head front man and Dublin native John Byrne. Their debut album, After the Wake, was released to critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic in 2011.With influences ranging from The Chieftains to Planxty to Bob Dylan, John's songwriting honors and expands upon the musical and lyrical traditions of his native and adopted homes. John and the band followed up After the Wake in early 2013 with an album of Celtic and American traditional tunes. The album, Celtic/Folk, released in March 2013, pushed the band on to the Folk DJ Charts, reaching number 36 in May 2015. Their third release, another collection of John Byrne originals, entitled "The Immigrant and the Orphan", is set for release in September 2015. The album, once again, draws heavily on John's love of Americana and Celtic Folk music and promises to be the band's most accessible album to date.
John and the band have called World Cafe Live in Philadelphia home in recent years, selling it out on 6 separate occasions and bringing 500 people there for nights of music which pulled from their original and folk albums. The band has also spent much of the past four years touring both the US, where they have been covering the MidWest, up and down the East Coast, and Ireland, where they have covered the country and twice sold out the Workman's Club in Dublin on the back of a glowing review from Hot Press Magazine.
The John Byrne Band, however, is as much at home in a traditional session at a corner bar as it is in larger venues/festivals and opening for national acts. John has toured with or opened up for acts as diverse as The Hothouse Flowers, Ian Gillan (of Deep Purple), Patti Smyth, Gaelic Storm, Finbar Furey, Luka Bloom, The Saw Doctors, The Screaming Orphans, Solas and The Greencards. In Fall, 2012, John and the Band performed with The Irish Tenors for the Liberty Medal Presentation at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia before President Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
2014/15 saw the band performing at Festivals such as the Valley Forge Mid-Winter Fest, The Philadelphia Fleadh, MusikFest (Bethlehem), the Philadelphia Folk Fest (twice), Gorgas Park, Pastorius Park, FreedomFest(NJ), Saltwater Celtic Fest (Maine), The Celtic Classic (PA), Pipes in the Valley Fest and many other local festivals. With a new album on the verge of release, 2016 promises to be another massive year for The John Byrne Band
Mary Courtney (Saturday Evening Concert)
Mary Courtney’s voice has a beauty, depth, and clarity of tone that few can equal. Her music is an engaging collaboration of traditional Irish music and a progressive social conscience, presented in a way that makes the largest hall seem intimate and warm. Mary grew up in a musical family in the parish of Castlegregory, near the sea in County Kerry, a likely beginning for this remarkable singer and guitarist. Whether accompanying herself, or holding the rhythm line with her trad band, Morning Star, she is a consummate musician. Her bodhrán (Irish hand-held drum) playing offers another dimension to her exceptional performance. Courtney has used her music to spread Irish culture and to educate her audience about the struggles of the Irish people. From rock ‘n’ roll to the ethereal strains of some ancient Celtic bard, Mary can sing anything, and sing it unforgettably.
Girsa (Saturday Evening Concert)
.Maeve Flanagan was born into a family with a rich Irish music tradition. Her parents, Mike and Rose (nee Conway) were both accomplished fiddlers who were determined to pass on their musical legacy to not only Maeve but her future sister and brothers. Besides taking up the fiddle at age 5, Maeve also started Irish dance lessons. Her accomplishments in both were outstanding. Through her fiddle lessons from her mom and uncle Brian Conway, her greatest feat came at age 11 when she won the All Ireland under 12 fiddle competition at the Fleadh Cheoil held in Listowel, Co. Kerry in August 2001. She is also an accomplished tin whistle player having learned from Eileen Goodman. Maeve has medals from numerous All Ireland Fleadh Cheoils and over 50 from the U.S. Midatlantic Fleadh Cheoil.
Maeve is an avid tune composer and penned several for Girsa's most recent CD, 'A Sweeter Place.' She loves to blend traditional Irish music with a modern twist, which is evident in her compostitions. Besides GIRSA, Maeve has also been an instructor at several Irish music gatherings including the Catskills Irish Arts week in East Durham, New York, the O'Flaherty Youth Camp in Dallas, Texas, and the Augusta Irish Heritage week in Elkins, West Virginia. She currently teaches up-and-coming fiddlers and tin whistler players in her home in Pearl River, NY. Maeve also appreciates the value of a good education, graduating from high school and attending Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts, where she earned a bachelors' degree in History in 2011. She is currently a third year law school student at Pace University Law School in White Plains, New York.
Bernadette Flanagan, Maeve’s sister, comes from the same musically talented family. From a young age her father urged her into beginning the piano, since the fiddle - the 'family instrument' - did not interest her. She learned from Annmarie Acosta for most of her instruction, and has also taken lessons from the great Felix Dolan. She has won a few awards at the Fleadh Cheoil in New York and she has competed in the Fleadh Cheoil na héireann in Ireland in piano accompaniment and ceili bands. Even earlier on, Bernadette started Irish dancing. She competed in her first Oireachtas at the age of 8 and her first nationals at 9. She also competed in and placed at the all-Ireland and world championships in Ireland. At around 15, Bernadette chose to try playing the bodhran and hasn't put it down since! She has had instruction in the drum from Myron Bretholz and Jackie Moran, two extremely accomplished musicians, over the course of a few years at the Catskills Irish Arts Week.
Bernadette was also a four year undergraduate employee of WFUV Radio at Fordham University, where she worked as a production assistant at one of the most popular Irish shows in the US - Ceol na nGael. She graduated in 2013 with a Communications major and German minor and is now working at an educational/publishing company. She loves being able to play with Girsa every chance she can.
Pamela Geraghty grew up listening to Irish Traditional music as her mom's family took lessons from Martin Mulvihill and Maureen Glynn as children and played at family get togethers. Her father grew up on the Mayo/Galway border - a part of the country that thrives in traditional music and dance. At the age of 8 Pamela began taking accordion lessons with the great Patty Furlong and spending summers studying music at various festivals including Catskill's Irish Arts Week, Scoile Eigse, and Fleadh by the Feale in Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick. She was privileged to learn from such greats as Billy McComiskey, John Whelan, Seamus Begley, Jackie Daly and many others. Pamela has been singing since she was very young and developed an interest in the traditional Sean- Nós (old style) singing at the age of 9. This style of singing became Pamela's passion and while attending workshops she was lucky enough to meet some of the people that have influenced her the most, including Seamus Mac Mathúna, Len Graham, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, and more. Starting at age 10 she went on to compete in numerous mid-Atlantic and All Ireland Fleadh Cheoils winning medals in both button accordion as well as group competitions and is a 10 time mid-atlantic champion in ladies singing. Pamela now teaches Sean-Nós singing in the Woodlawn House of Music and Pearl River school of music. She was also fortunate enough to connect with Mary Coogan, of Cherish the Ladies, who got her started playing the guitar.
Pamela began performing at the age of 12 and has been involved in Rockland’s All-County Choir and NY All-State Choir, in Pearl River High School's women's glee club, jazz choir, and founded the school’s a cappella group along with holding lead roles in middle school and high school musicals.
Emily McShane is 21 years old, was born and raised in Pearl River New York, and is currently a student at Manhattan College studying Elementary/ Special Education and in the five year masters program of Special Education. She has been surrounded by music all her life. Along with her mother, who plays the fiddle, and all three of her sisters, Emily has grown up Irish dancing and playing music. Emily started playing the piano when she was about five years old, taking lessons with the fantastic Annmarie Acosta. Since she was very young, she spent many of her summers in Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland visiting her father’s side of the family and mother’s side in Galway. She has competed in the Fleadh Cheoils in both New York and Ireland for many years and has attended many sessions; her favorite being the Welcome In session in Forkhill, Co. Armagh. Placing third in the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil piano competition U15 is one of Emily’s most cherished moments. Singing has also always been a love and passion of Emily’s. More recently, Emily has learned to play the bodhran and guitar with Girsa, taking guitar lessons from the wonderful Mary Coogan of Cherish the Ladies. The Catskills Irish Arts Week is one that Emily has been attending since a young age, and is where she eventually learned to play the bodhran from different Irish artists. She has grown up listening to Irish music as well as country music, which is also a big part of her life. Emily has greatly been inspired by many artists such as Deirdre Connolly, Padraic O’Reilly, Luke Kelly, Deirdre Scanlon, Peter Murphy and country artists like Miranda Lambert and the Dixie Chicks. Girsa is a very big part of Emily’s life and she knows the memories made with Girsa are ones that will be cherished for years to come.
Sean Tierney was born into a family with a deep love for Irish Traditional Music, and Dance. His parents, Eamon and Clare, both of whom do not play any music, wanted Sean to experience his culture. Sean started Irish Dancing at Age 7, and loved it immediately. He became a 6 time Mid-Atlantic Region Champion, won 2nd Place in the United States Nationals, and 3rd Place in the World Championships. Sean started to play the flute in his school band at age 8, and his parents sent him to Jack Coen for lessons in Traditional Irish Music. Sean quit the school band that year, but continued playing Irish Music. At age 10 Sean became the 1st American to win 1st place on the Wooden Flute in the All Ireland competition at the Fleadh Cheoil held in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in August 1999. Sean is also an accomplished Uilleann Pipe player having learned from Jerry O’Sullivan. Sean most recently was asked to play the Uilleann Pipes for the NY Knicks at Madison Square Garden on St. Patricks Day. Over the past year, Sean has joined Girsa at a few select performances. Sean's unique flute style and amazing Irish dancing has gone over exceedingly well with Girsa's audiences, so they definitely plan on keeping him around. Even though Girsa means "young girls" in Northern Irish, they are absolutely willing to make an exception for the talented Sean!
Dennis Gormley (Beginning Tin Whistle Workshop Saturday)
Dennis Gormley has been a fixture on the Philadelphia folk music scene for over forty years. He’s a multi-instrumentalist who has performed and been recorded in almost every folk genre. He was once introduced at the Philadelphia Folk Festival as the “ubiquitous and apparently tireless, Dennis Gormley” because he had been on-stage performing with so many artists that weekend. He has been performing traditional Irish music since 1978 when he began playing with McDermott’s Handy. Knowing his reputation and ability to play anything, Kathy DeAngelo, the band’s founder and his future wife, asked him to fill in on mandolin. Having played bluegrass mandolin, he figured he could learn a bunch of Irish tunes and handle the gig. The one gig turned into many and Dennis’ interest in his Irish roots was sparked. The rest, they say, is history. Dennis, of course, branched out to other instruments within McDermott’s Handy. Mandolin led to the bouzouki. Bouzouki eventually gave way to a renewed interest in guitar in the DADGAD tuning. His tasteful guitar accompaniment highlights McDermott’s Handy performances. He plays flute and tinwhistle with McDermott’s Handy as well. Along with Kathy, Dennis was inducted in the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Mid-Atlantic Region Hall of Fame in 2013, and is scheduled for induction in the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame this November.
Teresa Kane (Host - Thursday Singers Night)
Terry Kane grew up in a musical family with their roots in Co.Clare and Co. Kerry. She was singing before she could walk and began music lessons at a young age. She received many singing awards and continued to study music in college, culminating in a Master of Music degree from Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY. Terry has taught music in public school and privately for 30 years. In 1983 she began performing traditional Irish music with her brother Patrick, singing and playing guitar and mandolin. Terry has been studying the Irish language and sean nós singing with native speakers both in the U.S. and in Ireland from singers like Áine Meenaghan and Seamas MacMathuna. She has won the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh Cheoil 4 times and has appeared on Irish Radio (Radio na Gaeltachta) and Irish Television (TG4). Recordings of traditional Irish songs and dance music include “Treasa Ní Chatháin-Some Sean Nós,” and “Trad Linn-Roads of Clare” and a CD with harpist Ellen Tepper titled “The Jameson Sisters-Neat!” which has a mixture of songs in English and Irish Gaelic Visit her website at www.treasa.net to hear some of her music and to find translations for many Gaelic songs.
Additionally, Terry will be performing on Thursday night with Ellen Tepper as the Jameson Sisters. Ellen Tepper has a performance degree in Harp. She grew up in Vienna, Austria and began taking harp lessons when she was 8 yrs. old. She has performed with many ensembles and now is a solo performer and harp teacher. She loves history and weaves historical information about the harp and songs throughout her performances. These stories are never told without a good laugh thrown in since Ellen is never at a loss for humour. She joins Terry Kane in a dynamic collaboration that has lifted both performers to new heights. Ellen will be presenting a lecture on the History of the Harp in Ireland on Saturday, September 12th at 11:00a.m. Click HERE to reserve your seat for this interesting and engaging lecture.
Marian Makins (Saturday Day Concert)
Born and raised in Washington, DC, Marian Makins has been living in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood of Philadelphia since 2005. She is a regular at local trad sessions and has performed widely as a singer and bodhrán player in the Philadelphia and New York areas, often in the company of singer and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Donohue. Notable venues to date have included the National Arts Club in New York City, the Sail, Power, and Steam Museum in Rockland, Maine, and the Sea Music Festival in Mystic, CT. She and Gabriel have recently contributed a track to the compilation CD Songs of Duffy's Cut (2014) and are working on a full-length album together. Marian teaches in the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania.
The McDade-Cara School of Irish Dance (Saturday Day & Evening Performances)
Our school was founded by the late Maureen McDade McGrory in 1962. Maureen taught Irish Dance in the Philadelphia area for over 30 years. Maureen passed away in 1993 after battling cancer but her legacy lives on through the many Irish Dancing teachers who learned from her. Our school continues to grow and thrive under the direction of Maureen’s former students, Sheila Sweeney, Maureen Heather Lisowski, Annmarie Sheehan, Maureen Hegarty, Margy Grant, Trish Daly, Cassie O'Brien, Mary Schaffer and Kate Wosczyna. Generations of mothers, daughters, fathers and sons from across the Philadelphia area continue to enjoy the fun and friendships made through their relationship with the McDade-Cara School.
Our dancers have won Regional, National and World titles in competition and compete internationally in Ireland, Scotland and England. Some of the dancers who are performing at this year's Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival will be travelling to Killarney, Ireland in October to compete in the prestigious All-Ireland Championships.
Although competition is very important to many of our dancers, the opportunity to perform at hospitals, schools, nursing homes, concerts, festivals and parades all over the area is also an important party of the school’s tradition.
The McGillians & Friends (Friday Night Ceili Dance)
Kevin McGillian is father to Jimmy and John and along with his wife Mary, is responsible for introducing and nurturing the love for and skill in Irish music in his family. Kevin began playing the button accordion at the age of 12 in Legfor Drum, Co. Tyrone. He is self-taught and he credits two accordion players from Co. Tyrone; Edward McNamee and Robert Finley, as early influences. Kevin came to Philadelphia in 1954, was honored in 2001 when he was inducted into the Comhaltas Hall of Fame along with Andy McGann. Jimmy McGillian play banjo and bass (but not at the same time), Like his father, Jimmy knows how to please the dancers at local ceilis and set dances – he is fine dancer as well. Without the McGillians, Philadelphia’s sessuins and ceilis would not have the lift and spirit so often provided by these fine musicians. A key member of the band is Judy Brennan, locally renowned keyboard artist extraordinaire! The rest of the band is made up of special guests and friends who can be counted on to play music that will make you want to dance!
John McGillian (Host - Friday Night Rambling House)
John McGillian was given his first button accordion at age 6 by his father, Kevin McGillian. His first musical influences were his parents, Mary Boyce from Donegal and Kevin from County Tyrone. Eventually he was directed up the street to learn from accordionist John McGroary until, after years of lessons, McGroary left home for college. Over the years, John has played in a series of Irish bands that performed ballads and dance tunes. It was perhaps inevitable that John would find himself in Irish rock bands as well, an experience he believes to be one more step in the process of learning that his first love is Irish Traditional Dance Music.
The Next Generation (Saturday performers)
Every month during the school year on the second Sunday of the month, young musicians in the Delaware Valley get together at the Irish Center in Philadelphia from 1-3pm to learn a new tune and to have an Irish seisiún (or session) with their peers. They also perform at the annual Irish-American Children’s Festival at the Garden State Discovery Museum and have performed at the Comhaltas Ceoltoíiri Éireann convention, the New Jersey Folk Festival and the Philadelphia Ceili Group’s Festival of Traditional Irish Music and Dance. Many of the musicians at the festival today have competed and placed in the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh Cheoil and gone on to represent the United States in the All-Ireland Competition. At the Festival they will be accompanied by their Instructors Chris Brennan Hagy, Dennis Gormley and Kathy DeAngelo.
Dori Panzer (Celebrating republicanism: Rebel Songs as Traditional Music click HERE to register) Note - this workshop time has been changed to 1:15-3:15pm on Saturday
Anthropologist Dori Panzer’s work focuses on expressions of cultural identity and heritage in Irish America and Ireland, an interest that began with the Friday night dances run by the Philadelphia Céilí Group back in the 1970s. Her 2015 dissertation, Tiocfaidh Ár Lá (Our Day Will Come): Negotiating the Cultural Politics of Citizenship, Heritage, and Identity in Northern Ireland, details one republican community’s creation of their own heritage of the Troubles in the twenty-first century. She is currently a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania.
Lecture Description: In this talk Dori Panzer situates republican, or rebel songs, within the ancient, multi-faceted, and on-going musical traditions in Ireland and briefly traces their development through the last several centuries to the present day. Based on extensive fieldwork in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, she examines the multiple layers of significance embedded in a selection of republican songs, including the ways they are integral to notions of Irish identity in the North and particularly important during republican ritual commemorations of dead IRA volunteers. Dori demonstrates that through various forms of performance, in addition to formal commemorations, republican music connects people with their heritage, provides an outlet for expressing opposition to continued British presence in Ireland, as well as creates and maintains notions of community and belonging.
Hollis Payer (Beginning Fiddle workshop - Saturday, click HERE to register)
Since arriving on the Philadelphia Irish music scene in 1989, Hollis Payer has played her fiddle at concerts, ceilis, sessions and festivals throughout the area. An experienced teacher of traditional music, for 18 years she has been passing on what she has learned. Hollis grew up in a musical family in the Midwest, playing piano and singing from an early age. It was at grade school where she learned the basics of violin, but Irish Music took her heart when she heard the Chieftains for the first time in her twenties. After travels in Ireland to learn from the source, she refined her ear and style with lessons from Kevin Burke and James Kelly, and greatly expanded her repertoire of tunes with Eileen Ivers. She’s played with Mick Moloney, John Doyle, Tommy Sands, Jay Ansill and former band mates Roy Rogers and Dennis Herron, among others. She's composed and designed music for theater and appeared in many theatrical productions - with and without her fiddle. For the past eight years she has been teaching adult classes at the Commodore Barry Club and has been blessed to watch her many students go from tentative beginner to fully fledged fiddler. She will be anchoring the Ceili Group's ‘slow session’ at the Irish Center this fall.
Workshop Description: The beginner Irish Fiddle class is for people who have some basic knowledge of the fiddle, or those who have perhaps played a little in the past and are returning to it. We’ll learn a tune or two by ear, and practice at a slower speed.
The Philadelphia Ceili Band (Saturday Day Concert & John Kelly Memorial Session)
The John Kelly Memorial Session is in honor of John P. Kelly who was born in Sligo, Ireland. John loved the Irish music and played it from when he was a child learning from his Uncle. Hewas open and giving to anyone who wanted to learn our tradition. He led the music for the Philadelphia Ceili Group’s Friday night ceilis from the mid 70’s until he died in 1990. John’s gift for passing his music on is truly one of the foundations of today’s Philadelphia’s Irish music tradition. The John Kelly Session performed by The Philadelphia Ceili Band consists of tunes from his repertoire and anecdotes about John by musicians who have learned from him and play in his tradition. Our emphasis is on ceili dance tunes played for the Philadelphia Ceili Group Friday night Ceilis musicians who have learned from him and play in his tradition. Our emphasis is on ceili dance tunes played for the Philadelphia Ceili Group Friday night Ceilis such as The 3 Tunes, Sweets of May, High Caul Cap, Humors of Bandon, Siege of Carrick, Haymakers’ Jig, Walls of Limerick, etc. as well as jigs, hornpipes, waltzes, highlands and reels that John favored. Our goal is to pay proper and deserved homage to one of the seminal figures of Irish music and culture in Philadelphia. Musicians performing include: Tom Kelly (RIP), Tom Cahill, Dan Flynn, Chris Carpenter, Tom Gittlman, Marian Gittleman, Ed Clark, John Donnelly, Kitty Kelly, Mike Albrecht, and Paraic Keane This year's performance is dedicated to Tom Kelly, who played the accordion with us so well for so many years.
Mary Power (Saturday Workshop on Irish Language - Click HERE to register) Note - Workshop times have been changed to: Beginners 3:30-4:30, Conversational 4:30-5:30.
Rug Máire de Paor i gCluain Meala I gcontae Tiobraid Árainn in Éirinn. Chaith sí dó bhliain déag ina gcónaí i Rinn Uí gCuanach I gcontae Phort Láirge. Bhí grá mór aici ar Gaelic I gcónaí. Tá sí ina gcónaí i bhPhiladelphia anois.
Mary Power was born in Clonmel, county Tipperary in Ireland. She spent twelve years living in the Ring Gaeltacht in county Waterford. She has always had a great love for Gaelic. She now lives in Philadelphia.
Haley & Dylan Richardson (Saturday Day Concert)
All Ireland fiddle champion, Haley and her brother, Dylan Richardson, are a sibling duo from southern New Jersey who released their debut solo album, Heart on a String, in March 2015. Thirteen year old Haley began studying classical violin at three years of age, but fell in love with Irish music at four while attending a concert by Irish fiddler, Kevin Burke. Haley learned tunes from Burke’s How to Play Celtic Fiddle DVD the day after the concert. By age six, Haley qualified for the All-Ireland championships by winning the MidAtlantic Fleadh Under 12 solo Irish fiddle competition. She went on to win her age group in the MidAtlantic Fleadh for seven consecutive years. She won the All Ireland in 2013 in both under 12 solo fiddle and under 12 fiddle slow airs. She has won five All Ireland medals in the last six years competing in Ireland. Haley’s style and ornamentation are expertly nurtured as a student of distinguished Irish fiddler, Brian Conway in New York. Seventeen year old Dylan has been studying guitar for ten years and is self taught on Irish bouzouki and banjo. Haley and Dylan have performed with many of the living legends of Irish music, including The Chieftains, Altan, Dervish, The John Whelan Band, Pride of New York, Mick Moloney, and Paddy Keenan. They have been featured performers at festival venues across the United States and in their free time enjoy playing tunes in sessions around the Philadelphia area.
The River Drivers (Saturday Day Concert)
The River Drivers are a band with roots that run deep in a number of musical genres. Anchored by Kevin McCloskey (vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass) and Mindy Murray (vocals, guitar, banjo) with accompaniment by Marian Moran (tin whistle, low whistle, concertina, bodhrán) and Meagan Ratini (fiddle, Irish flute, tin whistle). The River Drivers have cultivated a passion-infused style drawing from Celtic, Americana and Mountain influences.
At a very early age, Kevin was playing guitar and banjo and singing harmonies to Irish standards with his father, Irish tenor, Tommy McCloskey. In his early twenties, he cut his teeth playing weekly at a Trenton pub alongside his father and “Irish Billy” Briggs. Kevin developed a passion for songs portraying the plight of working men and women and all the places they toiled. Kevin’s musical tastes are broad, and he toured North America and Europe extensively with his hardcore punk band Wrong Answer. He brings the intensity of that genre to River Drivers.
Mindy was in her early teens when she started singing and playing guitar and dulcimer in coffee houses, pubs, and campus radio stations. Life took her to medical school in West Virginia where she witnessed firsthand the struggles of day-to-day life in Appalachia. The music of the mountains and the miners infused into her repertoire. Years later, she and her daughter Meagan would play music together long into the night and eventually formed the musical duo Port Murray.
Marian’s family roots lie in the town of Ardara in County Donegal–known throughout the world as an epicenter of Irish traditional music. Whenever she can break away from the office world, she steals back to the rugged coastline village to recharge at its nightly sessions and the many music festivals held there–including the famed Cup of Tae and Johnny Doherty festivals. Having played the organ as a child, Marian jumped at learning a reed instrument that’s more portable and took up concertina.
Meagan grew up in a house that seemed like it had more musical instruments than practically anything else. She learned how to play the flute and dulcimer when she was quite young and then moved on to other instruments, eventually picking up the fiddle and the tin whistle and falling into Irish music. While helping direct the New Jersey Folk Festival in college, Meagan was introduced to the world of the traditional Irish session by some of the best trad musicians in the region.
In what has been unironically called “An Act of God,” Mindy was asked to resurrect some ’70s folk music for an anniversary at a local church along with Kevin, a grade school friend of her daughter Meagan. Marian, Mindy’s best friend from high school and college roommate, was also brought into the fold. All four quickly sensed a deep musical connection. House sessions evolved into the formation of River Drivers–a band that continues to experiment and find ways of making the traditional visceral again. Their music is now heard at many festivals and other venues throughout the region. The River Drivers can also be found anchoring a weekly Irish session at a local pub in Bristol, Pennsylvania.
John Shields & Cass Tinney (Hosts - Friday Nite Ceili Dance)
John and Cass began Irish dancing during the 1980’s with the Timoney Irish Dancers, learning both ceili and step dancing. They performed in shows and competed in feis’. Later, they began learning The Sets with the Shanagolden Set Dancers. A few years later they began their own set dancing class (Circle of Friends) at the Irish Center, concentrating on beginners. Their classes have increased and continued for 6 years. On any given Wednesday night you will find 3 or 4 lively, fun, groups dancing with John’s voice shouting instructions above the music.
Matt Ward (Saturday Day Concert)
Growing up, there was Irish music in the Ward house. Matt’s father was a fine singer who sang the old sentimental ballads. His mother didn’t sing as well but she somehow seemed to know a song about every village in Ireland! Matt considers himself lucky to have seen many of the great Irish singers in concert. He was always that loyal audience member who was willing to sing the chorus or harmony when instructed to do so. Although he has performed a bit over the years, he’d rather be in somebody’s kitchen swapping songs and telling stories about the great characters in traditional Irish music. Matt was a big fan of Frank Malley, the Festival Chairman for many years, and respected the fact that he fought so hard for the inclusion of singers and songs.