Friday, December 16, 2011

Pioneering ensemble lends Celtic spirit to holidays

Cherish the LadiesWhen the holidays roll around, Joanie Madden has plenty to cherish.

Her Celtic music ensemble, Cherish the Ladies, last year celebrated a quarter-century of performances — far beyond what the flutist and award-winning tin-whistle player anticipated.

“It’s great to be accepted and respected,” said Madden, 46, a New York native who speaks with a slight Irish lilt. “We were here before Riverdance, before Celtic Woman.

“I think we’ll still be here when they’re all gone.”

The quintet — whose ranks include longtime member and fellow New Yorker Mary Coogan (guitar, mandolin, banjo) plus accordion player Mirella Murray, fiddler Grainne Murphy and pianist Kathleen Boyle — will offer a Christmas concert on Friday in the Riffe Center’s Capitol Theatre.

Featuring selections from the Ladies’ two holiday albums, whose Irish-inspired arrangements enhance even standard Christmas carols, the night will also include Irish step dancer and central Ohioan John Timm plus several students.

The annual festivities have become routine for Madden, who recalled the group’s first holiday gig 12 years ago — initiated after a venue manager asked whether Cherish the Ladies offered a yuletide show.

Yes, she replied.

“I hung up the phone and said: ‘Well, we’ve got to put together a Christmas show.’ ”

Such pluck is indicative of Madden’s music-business acumen, developed at an early age.

Her father, Joe, an all-Ireland champion on the accordion, initially forbade his seven children from following the same path.

Music “would be over his dead body,” Madden joked. “He thought it could be a dead end, that I’d be a bum on the street. But it seemed like it was meant to be.”

She ultimately disproved her father’s concerns in 1984, winning the same award as Joe — “25 years later, to the day, at the same age.”

Picked as part of a team conceived by Irish musician Mick Moloney to balance gender dynamics of the genre’s male-dominated scene, Madden and the inaugural Cherish the Ladies lineup made their debut one year later.

“I thought that would be a one-night stand,” she said, “but all the shows sold out.”

Still, an all-female lineup — hardly abnormal for a Celtic unit these days — at the time was considered foreign.

“I’d call to book gigs and they’d say: ‘What church are you with?’ ” Madden recalled. “Everybody thought we were some marketing ploy, like the Spice Girls.”

The members, whose faces have changed often throughout the years, won audiences over with their vocals, instrumentation and 15 albums to date.

Their latest work, Country Crossroads, was the spur-of-the-moment studio session the women assembled after a Nashville show, featuring appearances by Vince Gill and Nanci Griffith.

Madden, too, has rubbed elbows with plenty of big names, adding tin-whistle backup for artists ranging from Sinead O’Connor to Pete Seeger.

Although all current Cherish the Ladies players learned music from their fathers — a tradition once passed on among Irish men — Madden is glad she took a risk and paved a path for others.

“I’ve traveled the world, played with symphonies, the finest performing-arts centers,” she said. “It’s just been wonderful.”

Pioneering ensemble lends Celtic spirit to holidays | The Columbus Dispatch

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Atwater-Donnelly Duo to Play at Stoughton Public Library

Stoughton Public Library, Stoughton, MassachusettsImage via Wikipedia"The Atwater-Donnelly musical duo visits the Stoughton Public Library on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 2 p.m. for a toe-tapping concert of traditional American folk music and Irish music and dance.

Aubrey Atwater and Elwood Donnelly blend gorgeous harmonies and play guitar, Appalachian mountain dulcimer, mandolin, tin whistle, harmonica, banjo, bones, spoons, limberjacks. They will also mix in some Appalachian clog dancing.

Parking is available both behind and next to the library, and at the Jones School on Walnut St.

The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Stoughton Public Library and by the Stoughton Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Atwater-Donnelly Duo to Play at Stoughton Public Library - Stoughton, MA Patch:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dolly Parton At Verizon Wireless Theater

Dolly Parton seems like the kind of person so determined to make sure her audience has a good time, she's not above putting them to the thumbscrews to make sure that happens. Luckily, it didn't come to that Tuesday at a near sold-out Verizon Wireless Theater.

Parton (re)introduced herself to the adoring crowd by saying that she loves playing in Texas because every movie she's been in -- or close enough -- her character has been from the Lone Star State. And her two-hour-plus set was a lot like Texas weather: Don't like it, stick around a few minutes and it'll change.

Photos by Jason Wolter
​So if the uptempo gospel-pop of "He's Everything" might have made some of the less spiritually inclined on hand squirm, the almost a cappella Smoky Mountain harmonies of "Precious Memories" could have made believers out of them. They should have, for sure.
If her latest bid for country chart success, the glossy take-a-hand tune "Together You and I," didn't quite work, there was always past triumphs "Jolene" and "Here You Come Again," which most assuredly did. "Holding Everything," a duet with producer/bandleader Kent Wells, may be the real hit off her latest album, Better Day, anyway.

Even Dolly acknowledged that her version of "Stairway to Heaven" -- presented in abbreviated bluegrass form Tuesday, with several verses lopped off -- may have been better left in the hands of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, et. al. It's her husband's favorite song, she said, but when he heard her version, he wondered if it should have been called "Stairwell to Hell" instead. It wasn't that bad, but her takes on both the Beatles' "Help!" and Collective Soul's "Shine" survived the classic/modern-rock-to-bluegrass transition much, much better.

Dolly never took off that coat of many colors she put on all those many years ago -- neither she nor Aftermath would be foolish enough to reveal how many -- and her chameleonic nature is key to her considerable charm. And although her covers of "River Deep, Mountain High" and "Son of a Preacher Man" were nothing to sneeze at, the best parts of Tuesday's show weren't when she was putting on Tina Turner or Dusty Springfield's heels, but dipping into her own history.

That started with honoring her mother on "Coat of Many Colors." Equally affecting, if not more, was her tribute to her dad on an "Smoky Mountain Memories," presented as a stock-still Celtic ballad with her drummer's solemn taps on a bodhran and Parton's own high-lonesome tin-whistle melody. Likewise, you could have heard a feather drop during "Little Sparrow," her warning to all the "tender young maidens" out there, and a rip-snorting "Muleskinner Blues" had everything but the cruel crack of the driver's lash.

Last Night: Dolly Parton At Verizon Wireless Theater - Houston Music - Rocks Off

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2 polkas on whistle from Boys of the Lough

A polka from Finland, followed by three reels, first one from piper Séamus Ennis, second from fiddle player Gerry O'Connor, and the third is "The Ivy Leaf". From a concert by The Boys of the Lough.

Cathal McConnell, from Ballinaleck, Co. Fermanagh (whistle).
Christy O'Leary, from Kenmare, Co.Kerry (whistle).
John Coakley, from Bantry, Co.Cork (piano).

Irish Tin Whistle Tutorial from Tradschool

Curtain closes on Montana Artists Refuge's 18-year run

BASIN — There are places where creativity blossoms. You can breathe in their heady energy as soon as you step into the space.
For the past 18 years, the Montana Artists Refuge in Basin has been such a place — welcoming some 300 artists to this tiny historic mining town.
Into the refuge’s high-ceiling, airy studios came actors, dancers, composers, musicians, opera singers, painters, sculptors, writers of fiction and nonfiction, poets, screenwriters, filmmakers, multi-media artists, costume designers and more. They journeyed from as far as China and Poland or as near as Missoula and Great Falls.
Many looked shell-shocked when they first drove into the tiny town of 212 — a place so sleepy dogs nap in the middle of Basin Street, the main thoroughfare.
But as sun and mountain air and starry skies poured in their studio windows, a door in the mind swung open — spilling out plays, poems, music.
The last artists came and left in September, with the refuge officially closing its doors Oct. 1.

Curtain closes on Montana Artists Refuge's 18-year run

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Pogues' Spider Stacy Brings Irish Tin Whistle to HBO's Treme

The PoguesCover of The Pogues"HBO's phenomenal show Treme has gained a pretty substantial following of music fans, captivating them with excellent depictions of the huge variety of music that calls Louisiana home: Jazz, funk, Cajun and zydeco, all manner of folk and rock, and even barely-known-except-to-locals genres like sissy bounce. A couple of weeks ago, Treme even tackled the obscure tradition of Cajun Mardi Gras (in the interest of full disclosure, I was an extra in that scene -- fully masked and capuchoned, though, so don't bother looking for me) -- a cultural phenomenon that has largely been ignored in favor of the more familiar New Orleans Mardi Gras parades."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Irish virtuoso flute & whistle player Laurence Nugent in concert : Music : The Martha's Vineyard Times

Thankfully, the world did not end last Saturday as some had predicted. Katharine Cornell Theatre (KCT) Concerts would have had to cancel this Friday's 8 pm concert at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven and we would have been deprived of the opportunity to hear the ethereal music of Irishman Laurence Nugent right here on Earth.

Mr. Nugent will be accompanied by Nancy Conescu, an internationally respected guitarist and vocalist. Ms. Conescu has toured Ireland with the group Aontas and is regarded as one of the great voices in the world of Irish traditional music today.

Mr. Nugent is a virtuoso flute and whistle player. His music has a clear melodic quality that only the most grounded and accomplished musician can convey. He grew up in a musical family. His father Sean Nugent was an All-Ireland fiddle champion and leader of the Pride of Erin Ceili Band, one of the top Irish dance bands of its day.

The younger Nugent grew up listening to many of Ireland's most accomplished musicians. He won numerous musical contests in his native Ireland as a young performer and went on to win the senior All-Ireland Championships in 1994 and 1995. He is an established performer on the Celtic music circuit. Mr. Nugent has performed with many musicians, including The Chieftains, Shane McGowan, Van Morrison, The Drovers, The Green Fields of America, Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill, and Paddy Keenan.

He has toured extensively throughout Ireland, the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan. His CDs (Laurence Nugent, Two For Two, and The Windy Gap, on Shanachie Records) have met with critical acclaim. On them, je was joined by some of the greats of Irish music, including fiddle legends Kevin Burke and Liz Carroll, and guitarist Arty McGlynn. His music is often heard on radio, including A Prairie Home Companion,

He has lived in Chicago since 1992. He teaches at the Old Town School of Folk Music, and in workshops throughout the United States and Ireland.

KCT Concerts continues to bring to the Island the best that there is in Irish music with occasional doses of American folk/roots music. Their production values, while never too shabby, continue to improve and provide us with some of the finest musical presentations on the Vineyard.

The upcoming schedule includes: The Kane Sisters with Edel Fox on Wednesday, July 27; Richie Stearns on Saturday, Sept. 3; The Bee Eaters Thursday, Sept. 22; and Jake Schepps on Sunday, Oct. 9.

KCT Concerts is a nonprofit organization, the result of the hard work and dreams of Gregg Harcourt and Mary Wolverton. It is supported by ticket and CD sales, volunteers, and a grant from the Martha's Vineyard Cultural Council. KCT Concerts also lends its support to other Island musical productions. For more information go to

Laurence Nugent, with Nancy Conescu, 8 pm, Friday, May 27, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $20; $15 in advance (at aboveground records, Island Entertainment, Alley's, the Scottish Bakehouse and the Oak Bluffs General Store, or online at, free for children. Call 508-693-6237 for information and reservations.

Irish virtuoso flute & whistle player Laurence Nugent in concert : Music : The Martha's Vineyard Times

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Celtic-rock act Craic returns from hiatus, working on debut EP

"Craic -- Brett M. Burlison (vocals, bodhran), Tim Clausing (guitar), Nikki Wolfe (tin whistle, flute), James R. McWilliam (drums), Jason Kollar (bass), Andrea D'Amore (fiddle), Mitch Kozub (banjo) and Eric Rom (guitar) -- made a few lineup changes and wrote new material during a recent six-month layoff. Now, the Celtic-rock act is back and ready to pick up the momentum it experienced last year.
'At every show at least one person walks up to us and tells us we're now their new local favorite act,' said Burlison, a 1994 Brunswick High School graduate. 'Many people aren't familiar with the upbeat, fist-pumping, in-your-face Irish music. Even some of my friends who are into metal are now hooked. We pack just about every place we play.'"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Elvin Moynagh on Uilleann Pipes

Irish Music Video - Elvin Moynagh on Irish Uilleann Pipes at Fleadh Nua -

Colleen Shanks playing Slip Jigs

Irish Music Video - Colleen Shanks playing Slip Jigs on Whistle -

Mary Bergin & Paul de Grae

Irish Music Video - Mary Bergin & Paul de Grae Clip1 - Traditional Irish Music from -

Irish tin whistle player brings sound to San Francisco

"Ceri Garfield, a 24-year-old musician from Ireland, is breaking into the San Francisco scene. She started tin whistle lessons at about the age of 5 and started learning the flute at age 17.

What brought you to San Francisco? The music. I had an idea San Francisco was full of music. Many bands, small venues and plenty of Irish music. I thought it would be great to live here for awhile and soak it all up. It’s more open and accepting here. The City is so metropolitan and you’ll always meet somebody who’s never seen a tin whistle before and is really curious to hear you play.

Where do you play? I play at Nickies, Lower Haight, on Sunday nights with some great Bay Area musicians. I also have an upcoming gig at Terry’s Lodge, at 15th and Irving, in May."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Aiming for the Moon: Chieftains founder Paddy Moloney always looking for Celtic converts

"Even after almost 50 years, the Chieftains’ music is still out of this world. Literally.

In December, NASA astronaut Cady Coleman took her place on the space station. Two instruments belonging to members of the acclaimed Irish folk music group went with her — the pennywhistle of Chieftains founder Paddy Moloney and the 100-year-old Irish flute of Chieftains flutist Matt Molloy.

Then, on St. Patrick’s Day, Coleman recorded a video of herself playing them.

Watching that video was incredible enough, says the 73-year-old Moloney, who lives in Naples part time with his wife, Rita. But then, Coleman also called Moloney on his cell phone from the space station to chat more about her performance.

“She was afraid her playing might not be up to scratch,” he says. “And it was lovely.”"

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cherish the Ladies promises to keep it lively

"Joanie Madden is a clever opportunist.

Eight years ago, a promoter called her and asked if her group, Cherish the Ladies, could embark on a Christmas tour.

Its leader answered in the affirmative.

'Then I asked the group, 'How do you play a Christmas show,' ' Madden says while chuckling. 'We didn't know what to do.'

But they still made the most of their opportunity.

Just two months ago, Cherish the Ladies delivered a rousing Christmas show in Central Jersey.

Now, Christmas is over for the quick-studies, but their tour, which stops tonight at the Sellersville Theater, has just begun."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Lessons in the key of traditional tunes

"Is it possible to pick up a tin whistle and be playing tunes in little more than a week? With the right teacher, and the right attitude, it just might be, as ARMINTA WALLACE discovers

IT’S NOT EVERY day you meet a woman with a whistle on Grafton Street.

But there she is, the PR liaison from Tradfest, standing on the corner with a Walton’s bag and a huge smile.

“We got you a cool black one,” she says. It’s featherlight, and it has six unevenly spaced holes on the top. “It’s in the key of D,” she calls after me. Helpfully. Let the lessons begin."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Making beautiful music

"If you enjoy Celtic music, chances are you have a fondness for the tin whistle.

This portable instrument has certainly gained a local following, as a group of students is meeting at the Lintuhtine Music Academy of Oromocto every second week to learn to play.

Many of them began in September, but a few came on board in January after taking a private lesson with the instructor. No matter their level of experience, already this group is making beautiful music together.

Lynn Thomas-Grattan is one of the people who has been taking the tin whistle since September.

'I've always wanted to play an instrument and I like the sound of the tin whistle and the Irish music connection,' she says. 'I'm from Newfoundland, so that helps.'

Learning the tin whistle has been a great experience so far. She says it's not difficult to learn either, once you get the basics down."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Popular bachelor was part of a vanishing Ireland - The Irish Times - Sat, Jan 15, 2011

Popular bachelor was part of a vanishing Ireland - The Irish Times - Sat, Jan 15, 2011: "JOHNNY GOLDEN: JOHNNY “GOULDIE” Golden of Doogarry, Killeshandra, Co Cavan, who died last year aged 73, was part of a traditional Ireland that has largely disappeared. He featured in the book and website Vanishing Ireland.

Gouldie was a typical Irish bachelor of the older generation. He lived by himself in a small, local authority pre-fabricated dwelling in the countryside. A gifted traditional musician, he was able to produce a tune from a fiddle, tin whistle or flute. He was a fine traditional singer and a noted step dancer.

Besides music, his other big passion was vintage tractors. He could find the rusted hulk of an old tractor and fix it up so it was roadworthy. He enjoyed working at anything mechanical and his talents extended to photography."

Sean Reid's Reel

Tune from

Marcello Oboe Concerto played on Tin Whistle (penny whistle)

The Kesh jig and Kid on the Mountain, Irish Trad Seoul December 2010