Notes from the Artistic Desk
April 16, 2023
As we look forward to the convening of the 29th Annual Catskills Irish Arts Week from July 16-22, 2023 this summer in the hamlet of East Durham we do so with great assurance that we have another great year in the works planned for all our attendees, many of whom we hope will register for our classes either full time or part time to ensure that the foundation of the CIAW the tradition of Irish music, song and dance remains a living tradition for all generations who embrace it. Please note that we are operating a week later than usual this year for several reasons we considered advantageous. We have recruited a marvelous faculty with many familiar names and CIAW veterans who have helped us obtain our sterling international reputation as a significant week-long summer school here in North America and recognized and respected on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. We are especially proud that we receive recognition and much appreciated financial support from the Irish Government through their Emigrant Support Programme and Culture Ireland which allows us to extend invitations to 12 artists from Ireland, half of whom will be experiencing the depth of the CIAW experience for the first time, no doubt to join the growing chorus of praise for what Irish America accomplishes in the Catskills every year where history is not a thing of the past.
Student registration is a great value because along with a selection of over 44 classes twice a day Monday to Friday, you are entitled to access the daily Concerts featuring our distinguished faculty of performing artists in the McGrath Pavilion on the festival grounds of our host the Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Centre, the non-profit organization founded in 1987 to “Keep the Tradition Alive” in East Durham who reached out to the Founding Committee who put together the first CIAW in 1995. Also included would be admission to the nightly ceilithe (M-F) at the Shamrock House or the popular Wednesday night Barn Dance up in the McGrath Pavillion.
Many people come along to the CIAW who accompany students of all ages, or simply to avail of the daily topical lectures, multiple music sessions all over in the local resorts and roadhouses all week which take place without any separate admission fee. We encourage those folks to attend our concerts and ceilithe open to the general public with separate admissions in advance or payable at the gate or through a generous donation to the Catskills Irish Week to help underwrite this multi-faceted but very costly event. They say it takes a village to accomplish something great and we have an historic village that has been a cultural crossroads for the Irish going back generations well into the 20th Century but our mission now is to ensure that it can continue well into the 21st Century. And we are proud to say that we have seen the CIAW place valuable roots among the younger generations in recent years thanks to their devoted grandparents, parents and supportive year-round communities who recognize the fertile grass roots that the CIAW is nurturing into the future.
Lastly for many in our extended worldwide community of CIAW followers and devotees, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the grave losses we have experienced since the time many of us gathered in East Durham last summer, an inconceivable toll of people who left their mark on all that was accomplished there and will be forever thanked for their achievements. Before last July we received the dreadful news of the sudden death of Dr. Mick Moloney originally from Limerick in NYC. The foremost expert on Irish Music in America, the tiller of America’s Green Fields put in another extraordinary week at the CIAW anchoring the week-long Lecture program for the 5th year in a row as well as leading his latest Green Fields of America Ensemble in performance all week. In November we received a second blow when the redoubtable Reidin O’Flynn, who served as the CIAW Artistic Director from 2013-2022 lost her courageous battle with cancer after a long battle. She undertook the challenge of administering and growing the CIAW in so many ways in her tenure with inspiration and determination with a special gra and dedication to encouraging the younger students drawn to it and along the way winning the broad support of the artists she recruited every year and looked after in her inimitable way. In December we lost the soft-spoken owner of the Guaranteed Irish Shop prominently placed on Route 145, Donal Gallagher from Killybegs, Co. Donegal after a long illness. He held many important roles for the Michael J. Quill Irish Centre including President and Treasurer and Executive Director of the CIAW since 2013 but he was especially instrumental in convincing its founding group of NY Artistic consultants to organize and bring the summer school to East Durham extending invitation and support of the Quill Centre behind it. The New Year brought further loses with our very popular Senior Irish Mentor, flute and whistle Master Mike McHale from Tulsk, Co. Roscommon passing away in January after a long illness. The Catskill town resident along with his County Clare wife Kathleen first joined us at our one day festivals over in neighboring Schoharie County for four years renewing connections with many other senior Irish tradition bearing artists like Jack and Charlie Coen, Mike Rafferty, Joe Madden and Andy McGann. He became a mentor and cheerleader as our efforts to move the festival and expand it into a week-long summer school and he and Kathleen served as a welcoming committee every since as happy to see their old and new friends each year as we were to see them. And just Wednesday April 12 we laid to rest another legendary musician and ardent supporter of Irish music in the Albany and Catskills area, drummer par excellence Jimmy Kelly, Sr. who died a peaceful death. Known for his great lift and precision as a ceili drummer who fired up countless ceilithe at the Shamrock House and other East Durham Houses for decades his gentle and at times hilarious sense of humor ingratiated so many of our CIAW events. As we prepare to face our first week without all these legends, we will be thinking very carefully about how we can best reflect all their contributions.
After much behind the scenes work bolstering the 29th Week, look for the registration portal to open up and enable people to sign up for classes as soon and as plentiful as possible and help us spread the word by sharing the link too at www.catskillsirishartsweek.org (or try .com too). Be sure to book your accommodations as soon as possible as we anticipate a large gathering in East Durham again. If you further questions you can forward them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone to 201-965-6598 or visit the Facebook page for the Catskills Irish Arts Week for regular updates and discussions. and a place to make suggestions or recommendations.
2023 Artistic Director
The creative force that was the proud Corkonian wonder woman Reidin O’Flynn performed this important role since 2013 with great personal commitment and literary prowess as evidenced in this collection of past “Notes From The Artistic Desk” as she rallies our wonderful cultural community that comes together every year in the Irish Catskills in the Village of East Durham affectionately known as the “Emerald Isle of the Catskills”. They remain here to remind us of how much she loved the Catskills Irish Arts Week and sought to stimulate the bonds that brought us together to celebrate our Irish heritage.
With fond admiration and respect for the legacy she left—Paul Keating- 2023 Artistic Director
A NOTE FROM THE ARTISTIC DESK
“ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER”
Can you imagine that almost three years will have passed by the time our CATSKILLS IRISH ARTS WEEK family will meet again in July in East Durham. NY. We will gather to celebrate our favorite week of the year in music, song, dance and all things Irish and what a wonderful week with a top- class lineup of master teachers, performers and storytellers is in the planning.
I am delighted to tell you that Online Registration opened on St Patrick’s Day and your registrations are flowing in since. So are your questions and we are here to keep you informed via email, on the phone or through our Facebook.
Much has happened in the last three years, some good some sad. I am sure many of you know of or have lost someone you love to Covid. On the brighter side many of you have written and performed the music old and new. Many songs old and new continue to be sung and the good social media scene has grown and held all in touch through short concerts in some lovely old settings.
Thanks to my good friend Robert Heuston for keeping the home fires burning on the beautifully colored pages full with your stories, great tunes, songs and gigs in his one of a kind Irish Music Magazine. Thanks to Paul Keating whose tireless hours and expertise in fundraising has allowed the M J Quill Irish Cultural & Sports Centre in East Durham, NY to bring to you all, another exceptional week of all things Irish. So many beautiful businesses big and small , are lost and gone from us and from across the globe.
I can assure you we do not take any of this hard work for granted. I am telling you all this because I have a feeling in my bones that it promises to be a really special and awesome week. Much healing will take place and where better for this to happen than here among family and friends old and new in the clean Catskills mountain air and babbling brooks. Thanks to Diane Walmsley from Kathoderay Media for getting everything off to a great start.
Many beautiful new babies were born in this time. Congratulations to all the new parents.
Dr. Mick Moloney will be with us again for some jaw dropping afternoon “Talks” with very special invited guests.
Padraig McEneany will keep you on your feet to the beautiful music of Billy McComiskey, Rose Conway Flanagan, Pauline Conneely and more while Liam O’Brien, Danny O’ Mahony, Seamus Egan and Clare Friel will take your breath away from the stage in one of the special concerts and in the classrooms. Pat Broaders and Mary Courtney will treat you to our sweetest of melodies in song.
This is just a sample of what is on offer to you all.
Much thanks to Dan Gurney for hosting two successful Virtual Arts Weeks in 2020 and 2021. Thanks to all the artists who participated in both of them. Thanks to all of you for supporting them.
It takes a village.
Phone 518 634 2286
CIAW 2022 Press Release January 2022.
The MJ Quill Irish Cultural &Sports Centre in East Durham, NY are delighted to announce that we are in the midst of preparations for a special presentation of our much- loved Catskills Irish Arts Week, July 10th-16th 2022, God willing. As always, the weeklong summer school will take place on the grounds of the MJ Quill Cultural Centre and throughout the businesses and community of the village of East Durham, NY. This year promises to be a wild and beautiful gathering of traditional Irish musicians, songsters, dancers, storytellers, poets, writers and ancient hand crafters especially after the long lockdowns due to the tragic and lonely global pandemic. But as the saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”.
Hailing from the Motherland are set dancer, Pádraig McEneany, Donegal fiddler, the multi-talented family duo of singers and musicians Séamus Ó Flatharta and sister Caoimhe, flutist June McCormack, harpist extraordinaire Michael Rooney, musical poet, Vincent Woods and author/historian of the traditional music Deirdre Cronin.
From the USA are, Billy McComiskey, Button Accordion, songstress Mary Courtney, piper Mike Stribling, whistle and flute, Laura Byrne, bodhrán Myron Bretholz, fiddler Athena Tergis, dancer Niall O’Leary, banjo, Pauline Conneely, flute and whistle, Laurance Nugent and the one and only Dr. Mick Moloney, ethnomusicologist, NYU professor of Irish Studies and founder of the legendary group, The Green Fields of America, who brought traditional music, song, dance and the story of the Irish culture to the stage, more than forty years ago.
These are to name but a few. Much more to come.
Hello From East Durham May 2018
Two weeks ago, we were buying extra wood for the fire and wearing warm clothes. The trees were bare and the birds were quiet enough. This morning they are singing their little heads off, the lilacs are in full bloom and the air is full with their most beautiful of scents. Summer is coming and so is our favorite time, the Catskills Irish Arts Week. The village is ready, in fact I am happy to tell you all that the music did not stop last July in East Durham. There were many terrific gatherings, ceili dances and concerts held throughout the village until old man winter called a halt.
We have another special week of the best of Irelands Traditional music, song, dance and story planned for you again this year with close to sixty master artists from Ireland, Canada and not least, America, on staff. The Green Fields of America with Dr. Mick Moloney celebrates forty glorious years this year and we are thrilled to honor a project of this magnitude here at the Catskills Irish Arts Week this year. Mick will be on hand with his extraordinary team of players to capture our imagination and hold us spellbound with highly charged performances and afternoon talks
We are delighted to have Brian Conway and his sister Rose on the team this year. We also welcome Nodhlaig Casey and her two sisters Mairead and Maire. Nodhlaig as you all know is the fiddle player with Joanie Madden and Cherish the Ladies who have taken time out of their very busy schedule to be with us again this year.
The Yanks are back. Yes all four of them. Dylan Foley, Dan Gurney, Isaac Alderson and Seán Earnest.
Mary Bergin highly regarded whistle player and set dancer Padraig Mc Eneany will be on a plane from Ireland with Anthony Coen. Tony is Father Charlie’s brother and we are indeed honored to have him as our Artist in Residence this year. There is no sweeter music played than that of Father Charlie and Tony playing together with their brother Jack’s son Jimmy accompanying them with his very own special style of guitar playing.
Joey Abarta will join Benedict Koehler in the uilleann pipes program. His lovely and talented fiance, sean nos dancer Jackie O’Riley – Irish Dance will join us this year.
This is just a smattering of the talent we have for you. Much more to come later. Much thanks to Nichola who is doing a masterful job on our Facebook.
Hello from East Durham. March 6th 2017
“We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea breakers and sitting by desolate streams,
World losers and world forsakers on whom the pale moon gleams,
Yet we are the movers and shakers of the world forever it seems.”
Taken from the first verse of a poem, Ode, by Arthur O’Shaughnessy.
Musicians, singers, dancers, artists, poets,storytellers teachers and dreamers will inhabit East Durham this July to celebrate Irish America in the 23rd Annual Catskills Irish Arts Week. The finest ingredients are on hand, as seen from the line up of artists on our website www.catskillsirishartsweek.com, to make sure another memorable experience will be had by our cherished CIAW family. No expense has been spared in bringing more of the best of the best whose knowledge and mastery of instrument, voice, hands and feet surpass even the highest of expectations.
The week will kick off with a “Meet and Greet” the students in the Main Pavilion on the MJ Quill Cultural Centre grounds. The Concert Series will begin on Monday evening, with a grand New York welcome hosted by Monsignor Charlie Coen, together with Willie Kelly and friends. Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, Vermont and the Motherland will all have a presence during the week under the leadership of such notables as, Artist in Residence Seamus Connolly, Larry Nugent, Benedict Koehler and Mary Bergin. Thursday night will commence with a special concert hosted by this year’s Honoree, master musician and teacher Billy McComiskey. Billy will be joined onstage with family and friends- of which there are many! Grab a glass of wine or a cool beer because the night is not over yet. Special Guest Dr Mick Moloney will take you on a trip of The Green Fields of America in a very special concert. We are delighted to say that Joanie Madden and Cherish The Ladies will grace us with their presence and haunting music again this year, on Friday evening. The Listening Room Series will host such players as Kevin Crawford, Kieran Jordan, Michael Rooney, Mairin Ui Cheide, Margie Mulvihill, Patrick Ourceau and Kevin Rowsome to name but a few.
Dr Mick Moloney will host the afternoon Lecture/Presentation Series. I urge you not to miss out on any of these highly regarded and entertaining presentations. New this year in The Tailteann House, Dan Neeley will host the Lunch Hour Thematic Concert Series, brainchild of Mick Moloney when he directed Elkins Week in West Virginia. Paul Keating, Don Meade and Myron Bretholz three former Directors of Arts Week, will take part in the telling of the great Irish American story in all its art forms. This year there will be something special for everybody.
Lar and Emma will host The Pride of Moyvane Ceili Band at the Monday night Ceili Dance at The Shamrock House. The Great Barn Dance on Wednesday night in the Main Pavilion will feature Padraig McEneany who will be joined by fellow dancers in showcasing the many different forms of the Irish dance. There will be no shortage of instruction and helping hands for the beginner and the more experienced dancers will take to the floor in a fun filled evening accompanied by master musicians of the dance. Thursday night will again feature Billy McComiskey’s hugely popular Brookside Ceili Band at The Shamrock House. Not for the weary dancer or the meek of heart!
Dale, Roy and Patty are readying The Blackthorne Resort for a capacity filled crowd all week at Sessions hosted by Joanie Madden, Pauline Conneely, Dylan Foley, Dan Gurney ,Tony DeMarco as well as a brand new CD Launch by Colm Gannon, Jessie Smith and John Blake on Wednesday night. That is just a sample of what is to come.
Gavin’s Country Inn will welcome their guests with the strains of sweet music from the pipers and harpists in nightly Sessions. Bernadette says everybody enjoys the ever popular Singing Sessions in the Tea Room. Bernadette Nic Gabhann, Brenda Castles and Eileen Gannon will launch their New CD on Wednesday night in the pub.
Dermot and Colleen are putting finishing touches to family owned McGraths where Benedict Koehler and friends will delight all in an intimate Listening Room in their newly decorated dining room. Linda Hickman, Iris Nevins and Doug Barr will lead a room full of happy musicians in a traditional Irish Pub Session.
This is just a small smathering of what the going’s on of the week look like. In the meantime I have to get back to the drawing board to get it all down in pen and paper.
Much more to come.
Hello from East Durham and The Catskills Irish Arts Week February 6th 2017
I know you are all wondering by now what’s happening at the Catskills Irish Arts Week this year. Well I promise you the nose has been to the grindstone ,in the planning of what I feel will be the best year yet. I know ye all keep coming back each year proudly saying the last year was the best so far for which we are most grateful. The Catskills Irish Arts Week and the very survival of the Irish culture and all its traditions are indebted to you all, for not only” Keeping the Tradition Alive’ but for making it an integral part of your daily lives and that of the lives of your children. It is indeed an honor to present the 23rd Annual Catskills Irish Arts Week for you, particularly this year. The Catskills Irish Arts Week is excited to honor you and your story this year, in it’s theme, “Irish America in the Arts” …… music, song, dance, art, crafts, poetry and storytelling.
Dr. Mick Moloney folklorist ,musicologist, arts presenter and advocate, professional musician and professor of music and Irish studies, has kindly accepted our invitation to help with this awesome task. Special friend to all of us and to the music, former artistic director of Gaelic Roots in Boston , Seamus Connolly, will join us as” Artist in Residence” while our own Billy McComiskey, truly a master musician, will be” Honored” throughout the week . We are priviledged to have with us such notables as these three very fine recipients of the most prestigious of awards,” The National Heritage Fellowship” , a lifetime honor presented to master folk and traditional artists by The National Endowment for the Arts, in America. They grace us with their presence in East Durham this year. Long time Arts Week director Paul Keating, and the very first artistic director of Arts Week Don Meade together with former artistic director and hugely popular MC, Myron Bretholz will be here to share their memories and vast knowledge of ” Irish America in the Arts”. Dan Neely former artistic director at Elkins in West Virginia which was founded by Mick Moloney will join the powerful faculty of artists in bringing to you, the best of the best in presentations, lectures, concerts, ceilithe, listening rooms, session and gatherings, not to mention the Great Barn Dance and Grand Finale Trad Fest.
With all that said I must catch a few winks and get back to the drawing board and lay this massive schedule down on paper. I hope you are as excited about the week to come as we are here in East Durham. The paint brushes are out and work has begun.
” Irish Music Magazine ” Ireland’s premier magazine for Irish traditional music and song, have kindly invited yours truly to write a monthly feature in their magazine in “Stories from Irish America” by Reidin O’Flynn” This affords us the opportunity to share our part of the story with readers around the globe. Our very own Margie Mulvihill graciously took her time to be my first victim. Her story and that of her family took my breath away, as does her beauty both inside and out. I hope I did it justice Margie. It is published in this month’s edition. Hope you all check it out . We will post a link to the magazine and information on how to subscribe. I have been a subscriber for more than twelve years and recommend it highly for its style and depth of knowledge in bringing the stories of the Irish and Irish American artists to the reader It is worthy of a seat on your coffee table.
Hello from East Durham June 28th 2016
” If you would like to see the height of hospitality,
The cream of kindly welcome, and the core of cordiality:
Joys of all the olden time -you’re wishing to recall again?
Come down to Donovans, and there you’ll meet them all again.”
“Written from lifelong exile in London, this is one of Frank Fahy’s great songs” from Rich and Rare, A Book of Ireland by Sean McMahon.
The same hospitality, welcome and cordiality awaits you in East Durham twelve days from now! Gather up your children, pack your bags and take to the road or sky for another memorable week, filled with the music, songs, dances, arts, crafts and stories of Ireland. The rooms are readied, the kettle is on the boil and hearts are beating with excitement. Bring your music, songs, dancing shoes, paint brushes, hard hats ,hammers, chisels, singing voices and stories. Experience the masters at their work, handing down all that they have been taught in the oral tradition.
Leaving no stone unturned again this year we have worked very hard in putting together another week of our rich and rare culture. Ireland, even through its raw history of oppression has managed not only to keep her tradition alive, but has succeeded very well in spreading it throughout the world. The overwhelming realization of it all struck me this weekend at the Comhaltas Mid Atlantic Fleadh Cheoil in Parsippany New Jersey. I heard a seven year old girl sing. Her father spoke to her in Irish only. She bravely stood tall in front of a room full of people and performed two lovely songs in Irish without faltering. Her smile went from ear to ear when finished. What a gift to give your child. To the parents of all such children thank you. Teachers hustled busily around the great big lobby of the hotel getting all their students into the various competitions on time. What work these teachers do. We are so privilaged to have many of them here at the Catskills Irish Arts Week. It would be remiss of me not to point out the valuable role you the student play in keeping the tradition alive. Without you all this work would be futile. You carry on the tradition and in turn your children will do the same. Thank you and much thanks to friends and fans alike who support all these events.
Our line up of the masters this year is second to none. Fiddlers Willie Kelly, Dave Sheridan, Dylan Foley and Nodhlaig Casey , tin whistle players Joanie Madden, Mary Bergin, Linda Hickman , masters of the accordian Billy McComiskey, Charlie Piggott, Jackie Daly, singers Aoife Clancy, Roisin White, Nell Ni Chroinin, pipers Benedict Koehler, Joey Abarta, and dancers Kieran Jordan and Padraig McEneany are to name but a few of these world acclaimed masters. The complete line up and schedules of workshops, concerts, listening rooms, sessions, lectures and more is available on our website www.catskillsirishartsweek.com.
Our Tir Na nOg Children’s Program and The Stepping Stone Program for youth and beginners are growing from year to year.
The schedule and lineup are on the website www.catskillsirishartsweek.com. Registration is still open online and over the phone anytime day or night by calling 518 634 2286. Advance Non student packages available by phone.
Hello from East Durham May 14th 2016
“and pullets pecking the flies from around the eyes of heifers
Sitting in the farmyard mud
Among hydrangeas and falling ear-rings
Of fuchsias red as blood”
I felt compelled to share these magnificent lines taken from the third verse of the lovely poem County Sligo by the Irish poet Louis Mac Neice. It brought me back to the hot Summer days spent with friends and family among the fields in Ireland. The plush carpets of grass, daisies and buttercups fluttering in the warm breezes filled with the scent of the yellow gorse bushes caressed our bare feet as we ran around without a care in the world. A welcome drink scooped up in cupped hands from a mountain brook while “Water music filled the air” and our hearts and minds with the magic of nature. Unforgettable memories.
You must be asking right about now, what has all this got to do with The Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham New York in July. Everything I tell you. It has all the same ingredients here. Lazy Summer days, mountain brooks, carpeted fields of grasses and wild flowers, scented breezes, farmyard cows, pullets flies and last but not least music, song and dance of Ireland, and much more.
Sheila Friel will join Benedict Koehler and Joey Abarta on Uilleann Pipes this year. Sheila is a member of the multi talented Friel sisters and a great teacher as well . The pipes especially in the hands of these three players will give “water music” a run for it’s money any time. We are honored to have in our midst fiddle player extraordinaire Seamus Connolly as our special guest. Well known harpist Eileen Gannon will be here, as well as Hilari Farrington Koehler and Iris Nevins to delight the students with new airs and haunt the evening on Ireland’s exquisite instrument.
Mary Bergin one of Ireland’s national treasures is doing something new this year. Mary will offer a workshop tailored to the classical musician who seeks to play traditional Irish music. Mary will still be available for part of the day for her students.
Joanie Madden is also here to pass on her unique style on whistle to the lucky students who can avail of her workshop. Joanie will lead her highly renowned band Cherish The Ladies on the final concert on Friday night. Nodhlaig Casey will join Cherish on the fiddle as well. Thank you Joanie, Mary Coogan, Mirella Murray and KT Boyle for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here with us.
I had a long chat with Billy McComiskey the other day one of many I’m lucky to add. Billy left me with this piece of information. Joe Cooley came to America in 1954 bringing with him his unique brand of traditional accordian playing. Joe was one of the earliest members of the Tulla Ceili Band winning the Feile Luimni with them in 1946. He influenced generations of musicians and music lovers including Billy himself. We got to talking about 1916 and the fact that we probably would not be here or that the Irish music might not be so much a part of the Irish in America or indeed at home in Ireland if it were not for the ultimate sacrifice made by the very brave men and women of the 1916 Easter Rising. Their sacrifices led not only to Ireland’s freedom and to the promotion and preservation of her music, song , dance, language and more but her hope for a brighter future for her people both at home and abroad. Joe Cooley played a major role in the music both in Ireland and America. It is fitting that another powerful musician Charlie Piggott is offering a presentation on the life and times of Joe Cooley at the Catskills Irish Arts week in this the 100th Anniversary of 1916. There will be more memories of 1916 shared during the course of the week in song, story and music. Micheal O Maille will present a lecture on the role of the women in 1916 on saturday evening. We invite all students to share stories on their family connections or involvement to 1916.
That’s it for now. More to come soon. Registrations have been coming in for the past two months. I remind you to register early to secure the class of your choice.