(check back often for updates and additions to the Festival line-up!)
Bua - Saturday Night Performers
Brian Miller has been accompanying songs and dance music from the Irish tradition for over 15 years and is one of the most sought-after guitarists in North American’s Irish music scene. Esteemed music critic Earle Hitchner remarks that “…the backing of Miller on guitar flexes not just muscle but a fully complementary style.” The same can be said of Brian’s playing on the Greek bouzouki, an instrument that has been adopted into the Irish tradition in recent decades. He has performed across North America and in Ireland with various groups including Chulrua, The Máirtín de Cógáin Project, and the Two Tap Trio; and in duo with Randy Gosa performing songs from the lumber camps of the North Woods. He has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, CBC Radio’s Canada Live, and on various RTÉ television and radio programs in Ireland. Brian is a two-time recipient of the Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and was recently awarded the Parsons Award from the American Folklife Center for his research into field recordings of traditional singers from Minnesota. He currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota where he teaches flute, whistle and
guitar at the Center for Irish Music.
Devin Shepherd began learning the fiddle at an early age and soon became enamored with Irish music, which was nurtured by his mother who immersed him in the deep-rooted Irish music scene of his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Devin was awarded an Illinois Arts Council Master-Apprentice grant to study with famed Liz Carroll when he was only twelve years of age. During this formative period he won first prize in the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil fiddle competition for nine consecutive years—another testament to his dedication to the tradition. Shepherd learned much about the styles and repertoire of Chicago by playing with many native born musicians including Phil Durkin, Frank Burke, Albert Neary, Pat Cloonin, and Úna McGlew. Most recently he has enriched his style through the recordings of legendary fiddlers Bobby Casey, Michael Coleman, and John Doherty, as well as living legends James Kelly and Paddy Cronin. Since 2000, Devin has been a full-time teacher and performer of Irish music throughout the US and abroad and currently resides in New York City—another highly respected community for Irish traditional music.
Sean Gavin’s playing on the flute, whistle and uilleann pipes reflects his lifelong love for Irish traditional music.Growing up in Detroit, Michigan he was first encouraged to take up Irish music by his father, Clare-born fiddleplayer Mick Gavin. Sean played a variety of instruments before settling on the flute at the age of eleven with the help of flute-player Leo Mac Namara, a native of Scariff, Co. Clare. Not long after, he began work on the uilleann pipes with teacher Al Purcell—himself a student of famed Dublin-born piper Leo Rowsome. He and his family continue to lend much of their energies to the promotion of Irish traditional music in the Detroit area. In more recent years, Sean has been fortunate to cultivate a friendship with Sligo-born flute legend Kevin Henry and others of the older generation of musicians living in Chicago, Illinois where he currently lives. He is a member of another critically acclaimed group NicGaviskey and performs often with the Irish band Téada. He enjoys teaching and performing throughout North America and currently serves as the musical director for the sean-nós dancing performance ensemble Atlantic Steps.
Brian Ó hAirt is the only American to have won the coveted senior title in traditional singing at the AllIreland Fleadh Cheoil in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 2002. In his teens, Brian’s introduction to Chicago’s Irish-speaking community allowed him to cultivate a rich understanding of the sean-nós singing tradition even before his immersion in the language while living in the Connemara region of western Co. Galway. This experience has left him with a vast repertoire of song and rich store of language that continues to inform and inspire his singing. Since 2007, Brian has also recorded and toured extensively with famed Co. Antrim singer Len Graham, cultivating considerable knowledge about the Ulster tradition through this collaboration. He has performed and taught extensively in North America and Ireland and has been featured on various NPR and RTÉ radio programs. Brian is also an awardwinning sean-nós dancer (Cruinniú na mBád, 2003) and accomplished instrumentalist on concertina, accordion, and whistle. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon where he teaches Irish and helps develop language learning games for Language Hunters, a non-profit organization.
Dennis Gormley - Workshop Presenter
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.
Jameson Sisters - Saturday Day performers
This lively duo combines harp, mandolin, and guitar with soaring vocals. Ellen Tepper developed an interest in early harp music when growing up in Vienna, Austria. The only English language record they had in the house was the Clancy Brothers and so started her long love of Irish music. She will be featuring some of the earliest notated Irish harp music including Ó Cathán, Ó Carolan, and Lyons. Terry Kane was immersed in her family's Irish culture, dancing, playing and singing. She undoubtedly learned to harmonize with her mother and 10 older siblings while she was in the womb. Terry started her Gaelic studies with Deirdre McFarland and Daltai na Gaeilge 18 years ago. She continues to study both in Ireland and from native speakers in the US and at www.Daltai.com. This duo plays many styles of Celtic music from ancient tunes on the Irish wire-strung harp and Gaelic sean nós songs to lively jigs and reels on the Celtic harp with contemporary Irish songs.
Both Ellen and Terry hold degrees in music and are full-time musicians available for events during the weekday as well as weekends. The Jameson Sisters are in demand for Celtic weddings, festivals and private parties performing classical, popular, show tunes, and of course Irish. Their performance on Saturday will be all Celtic music featuring their new style of “Irish Mash” (playing two different Irish tunes or songs at the same time). Also featured will be the earliest known Irish harp music plus Irish songs that span 400 years.
Keegan Loesel - Thursday night performer
Keegan Loesel is from Pennsbury Township, Pennsylvania -- a good ride out from Philadelphia. He declared at the tender age of three that he was going to play the uilleann pipes, & has worked with steadfast focus to bring that to fruition. At age 17 he now holds 17 Mid-Atlantic Fleadh titles, & is an All-Ireland medalist. He has performed from Toronto to the Jersey Shore, as well as in Dublin & in County Clare, & has shared the stage with the likes of Altan, the Chieftains, Mick Moloney, & The Teetotallers. In addition to playing the pipes - which he studies with Patrick Hutchinson - Keegan also sings, plays whistles, teaches, & composes... bringing a maturity beyond his years to the tradition.
Kevin McCloskey - Thursday night performer
Kevin is from Bristol, Pennsylvania. 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 is a member of the Bristol based band- The River Drivers. Their songs can be heard on Irish and folk radio shows throughout the world. Kevin can be found playing a number of venues throughout the tri-state area- solo, with friends and family, or with The River Drivers.
Rosaleen McGill - Host of Thursday Singer's night
Rosaleen McGill has been singing for as long as she can remember. Her father, Jim McGill is a lifelong Ceili Group board member who hails from Ardara, County Donegal and instilled a love of Irish music, dance and culture in her from infancy. Rosaleen has been deeply involved with the Ceili Group since childhood, sitting on the board for years as well as a festival and event chairperson. Rosaleen began singing Irish ballads as young as 7, performing for the first time at the request of Frank Malley for the first Singers Night as a teen. Rosaleen went on to sing at weekly session at the Plough, joining forces with Tim and learning the ukulele in recent years to accompany herself. Most recently she was asked to sing the National Anthem with Glengesh for the Phillies! You can catch Rosaleen on Tuesday nights at Fergie's pub or around town with Glengesh performing local gigs.
Mothers' Pride - Saturday night performers
Gabriel Donohue - Gabriel was born in Athenry, a walled medieval town in CountyGalway founded by Meyler De Bermingham in the 12th Century AD. Small wonder his music is filled with a strong sense of history. Add to this his love of storytelling through song which belongs to another time and place. By age fourteen he was a member of the Leitrim Ramblers Ceili Band. Many summers were spent in the Connemara Gaeltacht where he played with such local legends as Tomas Mc Keown and Tony Molloy. He then joined a showband called Magic which had numerous Top-Ten hits in Ireland. Here he got a taste of the entertainment side of music and appeared on Irish Television. America was calling and a kind Uncle and Aunt in Darien, Connecticut, made the young lad welcome. Thus began what was to be a great love affair with New York City. Here he sought out traditional music legends like Andy McGann and Johnny Cronin and saw the sun come up on Second Avenue most Sunday mornings as the reels and jigs, as well as the occasional song, flowed. In New York he studied fingerstyle guitar, musical theater and voice and honed his skills as a music producer, eventually opening his own studio called Cove Island Productions. Construction was completed by accordionist/carpenter John Whelan. He has embraced many of the new developments in non-linear digital recording and editing while also utilizing vintage tube gear. He was for a time a part of the ensemble of Riverdance star Michael Flatley, with whom he shared an love of Flamenco which became part of the stage show. He spent many Summers in Cape May, New Jersey, and performed regularly at the South Street Seaport in NYC and started a group called Jigsaw with musical friends Eileen Ivers and Joanie Madden. More recently Gabe performed on the last week of Letterman with Tom Waits, and performed with Mothers' Pride at the Phila Art Museum on St Patrick's Day 2017. Marian Makins and Gabe are co curators of Barnstar Concerts in center city, which presents top flight folk traditional and original artists in an intimate setting. These days Gabriel is busy performing nationwide as well as producing, engineering and mastering cds at his studio in Hawthorne NJ.
Marian Makins - Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Marian Makins has been living in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood of Philadelphia since 2005. She has performed widely as a singer and bodhrán player, often in the company of singer and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Donohue. Notable venues to date have included the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts; the National Arts Club in New York City; and the Mystic Sea Music Festival. She teaches in the Department of Greek and Roman Classics at Temple University.
Jonathon Srour is a four-time tour member of Michael Flatley’s LORD OF THE DANCE, traveling and performing from Galway to Jerusalem. Ranked #5 in the world in 2005 for Irish dance, Jonathon is also a current performer in the mixed-genre group HAMMERSTEP out of New York City who were recently favorites on America’s Got Talent. He has also graced the stage in other touring dance shows such as MAGIC OF THE DANCE, FEET OF FLAMES, and as a cast member in RIVERDANCE. Jonathon has also qualified two times to compete in the All-Ireland Championships of Irish music, having won the Fleadh Ceol in New Jersey and is a three-time Senior Belt holder of North America, making him America’s premier competitive Irish dancer. He brings power and electricity to the stage with his dance, and adds soaring melodies to the show with his flute.
The Next Generation - Saturday DAY 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.
The Philadelphia Ceili Band - Saturday DAY performers
The John Kelly Memorial Session is in honor of John P. Kelly who was born in Sligo, Ireland. John is a seminal figure of Irish music and culture in Philadelphia. He loved the Irish music and played it from when he was a child learning from his Uncle. Open and giving to anyone who wanted to learn our tradition, Mr. Kelly 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, 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.
This year’s performance is in honor of Eddie Clark, who continued John’s welcome to Irish Musicians, created many Philadelphia Sessions, and was truly dedicated to a United Ireland.
So's Your Mom
Brian Donnelly and Jack Bartley have performed in pubs and at festivals throughout the Philadelphia area and in Ireland over the last 40 years. Brian is responsible for the lead vocals. He also plays tin whistle and harmonica. Jack plays 6 and 12 string guitars, banjo, and adds the harmonies. Known for their renditions of traditional, contemporary, and original Irish folk songs, their repertoire now includes a complementary selection of American folk songs. The subjects of these songs touch on humor, social commentary, the problems of aging and the work place, and of course, drinking. So's Your Mom has appeared numerous times on the Gene Shay Program, at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, with most recently at the Mermaid Inn. Their first CD, From Ireland & Elsewhere, was released in 1999. Their second, Common Ground, was released in March 2002.
Gerry Timlin - Host of Friday night Rambling House
A great favorite in the USA and Canada, the Pennsylvania based singer has enjoyed success all over the world. Gerry was born in Ireland where he developed an early interest in traditional Irish music and, from a young age, he displayed a natural musical talent. Over the years, Gerry’s love of music expanded to include Scottish, American, Canadian, and Australian folk music as well. He moved to the USA in the early seventies, where he has been delighting audiences with his rich baritone vocals, instrumental talent, and his irreverent humor ever since. He has been playing his special brand of folk music before adoring audiences for more than four decades in Ireland and the British Isles, the United States and Canada.
Gerry started singing and playing guitar back in 1965 in his home town of Coalisland, County Tyrone, Ireland. He learned his first songs at home, where songs indigenous to that part of Ireland were sung by his mother who restricted her appearances to the kitchen! He was soon influenced by renowned area traditional Sean Nos (unaccompanied) singers, such as George & Sarah Ann Hanna and Paddy Tunney. He then began to study every aspect of traditional Celtic music, from intricate vocal styles to accompaniment on guitar, penny whistle, and bodhran,. from which he developed his unique approach to his presentation of his music to his audience. For over thirty years, Gerry has appeared at many festivals and has headed the bill at many concerts, clubs,, and dinner shows, as a soloist, as a member of The Jolly Tinkermen (from Northern Ireland) and as a part of a successful duo, Timlin & Kane with Tom Kane of Philadelphia since 1973.
Gerry’s natural talent was recognized by his brother Shane who gave him his first guitar and entered him into his first talent contest in Ballycastle, Co Antrim. After winning this first competition, Gerry went on to compete successfully in several of these contests while still in his teens. By the tender age of 16, Gerry had already won the first of many international song contests and he soon found himself touring on both sides of the Atlantic with The Jolly Tinkermen, an impressive four-member folk group that shared the stage with The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, The Dubliners, Paddy Reilly, The McPeak Family, Davey Hammond, Tony McCauley and the Sands Family.
Since 1972, Gerry has played at nearly every major musical festival in the region, including the annual Musicfest and Celtic Classic, both in Bethlehem, Pa., the Buffalo (NY) Irish Fest, The Philadelphia Midwinter Festival, the Fredricksburg VA Festival, the Bonnie Brae Festival (NJ) among others. He’s shared the stage with The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, Paddy Reilly, Brendan Grace, Ronnie Brown (The Corries), Alistair McDonald, Alisdair Fraser, Mick Maloney, John Cunningham, Eugene O’Donnell, Skip Healy, Siobhan Egan, Kips Bay Ceili Band, DeDanaan, The Battlefield Band, The Alexander Brothers, The Dubliners, Johnny McAvoy, Robbie O’Connell, James Keane (Dublin), and Tommy Sands. He performed for the Gov. Robert Casey Inauguration upon special request, as well as fundraisers for two Primate Cardinals from Ireland. He has also made numerous television appearances, and has taken part in many radio interviews and music programs, including co-hosting The Unicorn Show, WXPN Philadelphia with Michael Dinsmore at the University of Pennsylvania, and The Bleeker Street Radio Show with Chris Poe. Gerry also was Visiting Artist for classes in Folklore with Mick Maloney at the University of Pennsylvania, and for classes in Anglo-Irish Literature with Dr. Lester Connor at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia.
Gerry continues to grow as a performer, his beautiful baritone sounding richer and better every year. He continues to perform at selected festivals and other venues. New songs find their way into his repertoire and old favorites resurface. If you’ve never heard him before or if you’ve heard him a thousand times, he loves to engage his audience and never fails to entertain.
Matt Ward - Thursday night performer
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.