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Tuesday July 25, 2017

From Irish Central

Irish American trad music sessions are superior to home
By: Cormac McConnell

I turned on the splendid Irish language station TG4 last night, and who was presenting a show but the mighty Joanie Madden fronting her rollicking band Cherish the Ladies with the equally talented Clare songstress Maura O’Connell and a galaxy of Irish dancers dripping more stardust over the show. I was rapt for the hour it lasted.

The program, incidentally, was recorded recently in some American university and the audience raised the rafters every chance they got. Great stuff altogether.

And at a time when the Irish festival of music, song, and dance is rocking the Catskills around East Durham yet again, the show being presented by Madden and her colleagues reminded me about something I meant to cover here a long time ago.

The point I wish to make is that the style and presentation of our rich heritage of Irish music is not just infinitely different in Irish America. It is also, in my view at least, infinitely superior nowadays to the sessions here at home.

I had the pleasure of attending the Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham festival twice in recent years. That opinion was formed during the weeks I was there and reinforced when I attended similar festivals all through the west and beyond when I returned home.

Some will allege that I am spreading a heresy by saying what I say, so I will attempt to justify the case here and now.

Madden and her band of ladies, like many Irish American performers I enjoyed in the Catskills, did not simply stand up or sit down on the stage during their show. They projected their work powerfully out to the audience.

Madden played the flute and tin whistle and other instruments as well, and she led the action and acted as emcee. Her energy was totally infectious and added spice and sauce to the evening.

And that was not all she did either. She sang the harmonies and choruses along with O’Connell and others. She also danced with the dancers when they were doing their supple stuff and, dammit, she was virtually as light on her feet as the best of them. A tour de force of real show-womanship if you like.

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