by Anne McNiff
The Philadelphia Ceili Group (pronounced “Kay-Lee”) – a non-profit, 501-c-3 organization, founded in 1958 to preserve and promote Irish music, dance and culture, will present the 38th Annual Traditional Irish Music and Dance Festival Thursday, Sept. 6, through Saturday, Sept. 8, at Philadelphia’s “Irish Center”, a.k.a. The Commodore Barry Club, Carpenter Lane and Emlen Streets in West Mt. Airy.
On Thursday, Sept. 6, 8 p.m., there will be a night of song with some of the best singers of Irish songs in the region such as Marian Makins, Matt Ward, Rosaleen McGill, and others. Hosted by Gabriel Donohue. This Thursday night concert is dedicated to local singer/musician and long-time festival chairman and Mt. Airy resident, Frank Malley.
Friday night, Sept. 7, starting at 8 p.m., will feature a Ceili dance with live music by the McGillians & Friends, one of the best Ceili bands in the tri-state area. Additionally, Sean Tyrrell’s one-man show, “Who Killed James Joyce,” will take place in the Fireside Room. Sean has taken many works of Ireland’s greatest poets and set them to music.
Saturday, Sept. 8, will kick off at 11 a.m. with the John Kelly Session and instrumental workshops at all levels for all ages offered by world-class musicians. Additionally, there will be workshops in singing both in Irish and English, Irish language, genealogy, St. Brigid’s cross-making and much more. Due to the generosity of funders, free workshops will be offered to PCG members. There will be live music provided by local musicians and singers such as Brendan Callahan, John McGillian, Tom O’Malley and Deb Shebish and demonstrations by local dance groups, activities for the kids including facepainting, and Irish fairy tales.
Irish product vendors and food will be available throughout the day. Saturday’s 7 p.m. concert opens with Paddy Keenan, piper extraordinaire, and features Dé Danann (named after the legendary Irish tribe, Tuatha Dé Danann), originally established in Galway in the mid 1970s, who will be returning for the first time in 25 years. The band has re-formed under the direction of founding members Alec Finn and Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh. Joining Finn and McDonagh will be past members Eleanor Shanley, Mick Conneely, Derek Hickey and Brian McGrath. Dé Danann was once described as “the Rolling Stones of Irish Traditional Music.”
The Ceili Group began in 1958 when a group of young Irish immigrants and Irish-American ceili and step dancers gathered at The Commodore Barry Club to formally promote Irish music, dance and culture.
The annual festival began in 1975, when founders of the Ceili Group decided that our local Irish music and dance talent should be shared with a larger audience and in a larger setting than just the Friday night ceilis. In a short time, the Ceili Group Festival was featuring many of the finest Irish performers from around the world. It became the largest-attended one-day Irish festival in this country and then expanded to a three-day festival in recent years.