Our musical historical program The Irish and the Erie has taken us to many places around Central New York that we may not have seen otherwise. It’s been fun to explore some of the wonderful museums and libraries in our area and in August we found a beautiful garden that you may want to visit next time you’re anywhere near Waterville.
The Waterville Public Library is in a lovely building built in 2006, and if you walk around behind it in the summer you’ll find a garden full of flowers and benches where you can take in the view over the fields and distant forest.
There’s even an observatory near the garden where the library and the Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society host stargazing events.
We hope you get to check it out sometime.
You know Mike Carroll as our singer, flute, and tin whistle player extraordinaire, but he’s also a surveyor for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. He gets to spend many of his work days out in the woods and meadows of Upstate NY measuring and singing.
Well, one day in August he and his assistant Alina, found themselves working along the old Erie Canal near Oriskany. Suddenly, a metal detector Alina was using signaled that an object was under the dirt in a wet area near the boundary. When they investigated, it turned out to be an artifact significant to our new CD and program - The Irish and the Erie.
We all know the song that goes “I had a mule. Her name was Sal. Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal…” Right now you’re probably picturing a mule plodding along the towpath pulling a canal boat, and it’s not surprising that many of them threw a shoe from time to time.
The metal object that Mike and Alina found may have been one of those shoes. Since Alina has a horse, she showed a picture of the rusting shoe to her farrier who said it was the right size and shape to fit a mule’s hoof. There’s no way of carbon dating the shoe. That only works for organic matter. But it was in the right place to fit the story, and we can imagine it was once worn by a mule led by an Irish hoggee along the old Erie Canal.
Many of our newsletter readers and Facebook fans are historians and professors. What do you think of the mule shoe’s history?
The English word "galore" comes from the Irish "go leor" which means "enough". And by all accounts there sure was more than enough to do at this year's Great American Irish Festival, affectionately known as the GAIF.
The 15th annual GAIF brought out thousands to celebrate Irish culture July 27-28 at the Herkimer County Fairgrounds. And many Craobh Dugan members were on hand to contribute to the festivities with music, dance, language, and history.
The Cultural Cottage, part of the Cultural Building this year, acted as a mini museum crafted by Craobh Dugan members with the help of some friends. They put together displays teaching festival goers about the Irish language, history, musical instruments and Gaelic sports. Eight-year-old Mackensie Griffin researched and created a display about the horses of Ireland. And Mike Carroll gave a musical talk about the history of the Irish in song. Representatives from Two Rivers Gaelic League in Albany were also on hand to translate festival visitors’ names into Irish. And Cindy Wood spoke about tracing Irish ancestry through genealogy.
Though Craobh Dugan musicians have performed at all of the GAIFs, this year we played on the Traditional Stage for the first time. Our dancers in full costume demonstrated ceili dances like the Haymaker’s Jig and the Walls of Limerick. Later the dancers gave festival goers a chance to try out the dances themselves over at the Cultural Cottage.
Finally, on Saturday evening, Craobh Dugan members offered an Open Session inviting anyone who plays a traditional Irish instrument to join in. This gave us a chance to meet Anton, a singer and guitar player from Australia, who was traveling through the area and found out about the festival online.
The GAIF hosted 16 excellent bands with some of the best performers in Celtic music today. Though long time favorites The Elders bid farewell to the GAIF as they are disbanding after this year’s tour, new bands like We Banjo 3 and 1916 made their first appearance. Plenty of food trucks were on hand along with beer and wine tents. Special events like whiskey tasting, comedy acts, and an artistic sip ‘n’ paint gave people even more to do along with the annual massed pipe band march and competition, the state championship highland games, and the 5K Ranger Run. Wow! There’s always a lot going on at the GAIF!
On Sunday Craobh Dugan musicians provided music for the Irish Mass held at St. Joseph and St. Patrick Catholic Church in Utica. Deirdre and Jim McCarthy continued the tradition of singing the Our Father in Gaelic and the Mass was offered for our late founder Jim O’Looney and Matt Sullivan, the founder of the GAIF who also passed away recently.
Here’s a gallery of photos featuring Craobh Dugan’s activities at the the GAIF. For more photos and lots of videos of the festival check out the GAIF Facebook Page.
On June 25, 2018, Craobh Dugan bid farewell to our beloved co-founder, Jim O’Looney, at a beautiful funeral Mass at Historic Old St. John’s Catholic Church in Utica. To the sweetly somber notes of the highland pipes played by Michael Roddy on the church steps, Jim’s loving wife, his seven children and their spouses, his 12 grandchildren, and his many friends gathered to celebrate the full and generous life Jim lived.
In 2005 Jim preserved the story of his life in an autobiography called A Time to Reflect. The section that stayed longest in my memory is the story of how he met Diana, an American teacher on vacation in Ireland. Chapter 11 begins, “On the evening of August 26, 1954, my life was about to change in a wonderful way.”
At the time, Jim was playing accordion with the Lough Lein Ceili Band at the International Hotel in Killarney. And that night Di and her friend decided to stop in and check out some local music. After the show, they lingered to chat with the musicians and that’s when Jim noticed something special about Di. The next day by a romantic stroke of serendipity, they happened to meet along the road to Muckross House and Gardens as they were riding bikes in opposite directions. They spent the rest of the day getting to know more about each other as they wandered through the beautiful gardens. Before the end of the day, Jim and Di knew they were in love.
Diana soon canceled her return ticket to the United States and after staying with friends of Jim’s for a few months, getting to know his family, and returning home to Utica for a few months, Di returned to Killarney just three days before the wedding. Jim and Diana were married at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney on June 30, 1955, and celebrated their reception at the hotel where they had met.
Now, 63 years later, we had gathered to celebrate the love story that continued and grew throughout Jim’s life. He loved his wife Diana, and said so daily as his son Michael told us in his eulogy. He loved his seven children, Mary, Katie, Siobhan, Nora, Ellen, Michael, and Roisin, and all of their families. He loved his home country of Ireland and his adopted country of the USA becoming an American citizen in 1986. He loved Utica, his hometown for over 50 years, and made many contributions there to the Observer-Dispatch newspaper as a printer and a process camera operator and as a professor in the Advertising Design and Production program at Mohawk Valley Community College. He loved music, helping to found our local branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Craobh Dugan in 1978. And he loved life.
As his daughter Mary said, “My father was a doer.”
This is evident from the many honors he received, including induction into the MVCC Hall of Fame and the CCE Northeast Region Hall of Fame. He received the Spirit of Ireland award at the Great American Irish Festival in 2008 and served as Grand Marshal for the Utica St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2009.
Jim's musical idol was Scottish accordionist Sir Jimmy Shand, whose influence could be seen in Jim's waltz styling. Jim once had the honor of meeting Sir Jimmy and was paid a very high compliment by the elder Shand saying to Jim, "You have nice touch on that accordion."
A week before Jim died, Diana called Chris and Mike Hoke, the current leaders of Craobh Dugan, and asked them to gather a few musicians to come over.
“He seemed so weak, I thought he would die that night,” Chris said. But as they began to play the ancient and familiar tunes Jim had loved since his childhood in County Kerry, he gathered strength. He asked for his accordion. His fingers moved over the keys and the lovely sad melodies of his favorite waltzes filled the room. Then a few days later at 9:00 am on June 21, the first day of summer, Jim peacefully passed away at the age of 86.
After seeing the obituary on the Craobh Dugan Facebook page, many people commented about Jim’s kindness and generosity to them. At the calling hours and at the funeral reception it was the same. Everyone spoke of the happy times at gatherings in the O’Looney’s house on Springate Street in Utica after the Boilermaker Road Race, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the weekly Irish music practice sessions. Jim always wore a friendly smile and was ever ready to help. He even cared for a neighbor’s dog after the man passed away.
Jim’s life was indeed a love story, and one that will live on through the book he wrote, the CD where his accordion music is recorded, his beautiful family and the Irish cultural organization he founded. He was the kind of soul we don’t encounter often in this world. Kind, gentle, generous and refined. As his son Michael said, “He was the perfect example of a life well lived.”
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
A merry band of pub crawlers dressed in bright green T-shirts could be seen making their way from pub to pub on Varick Street in Utica, NY, on June 16. Joining James Joyce fans around the world that day, we had gathered to retrace (in a metaphorical way) the path of Joyce’s fictional character Leopold Bloom just as he strolled the streets of Dublin in the novel Ulysses.
The Utica Bloomsday Pub Crawl included stops at four pubs and the Irish Cultural Center of the Mohawk Valley, which is under construction.
Our group of about 60 started out at Utica Brews Cafe where we received our shirts and goodie bags containing round wire-frame glasses, much like the ones James Joyce used to wear, as well as candies and our passports which would serve as our program for the day and our door prize tickets.
Then we were off to Saranac Brewery’s 1888 Tavern where Mark Sisti put the pub crawl into context for us with a bit of history about James Joyce, Ulysses, and the tradition of Bloomsday pub crawls. The musicians of our own Craobh Dugan set the mood with traditional Irish tunes, and a group of costumed Craobh Dugan dancers performed traditional steps. The musicians and dancers travelled along with us performing at each of the stops.
After that we stopped at Nail Creek Pub and and enjoyed the sunny day out on the porch while we heard Herkimer College professor Matt Powers give a rousing reading from Ulysses. Powers is director of the Little Falls Theater (LiFT) and founder of a new dramatic podcast called The Brass Lantern.
Next we were off to see the amazing progress that’s been made on the Irish Cultural Center. Last year, we saw steel framing and samples of the stone that would be used to cover its outside walls. This year we were able to walk upstairs where we saw the rooms taking shape and the many windows installed allowing plenty of light into the very generous amount of space that will soon be home to Irish cultural events. The stone now covers most of the outside of the building. The center’s owner and developer Vaughn Lang joined us there in a champagne toast.
Then we gathered at Lukin’s Brick Oven Pizza. Its stylish industrial design served as a pleasant backdrop to poet Tom Townsley’s reading from Ulysses. Tom, who teaches English at Mohawk Valley Community College, has recently published a book of poetry called Night Class for Insomniacs.
Finally we made our way over to the Celtic Harp Irish Pub where we heard the multi-talented actor, writer, musician, and teacher Ann Carey give a spine-tingling performance of the final reading of the day: Molly’s Soliloquy.
Several members of the pub crawl won delightful door prizes, and everyone said they had a wonderful time and are looking forward to the third annual Utica Bloomsday Pub Crawl.
We would like to thank our many generous donors who helped make the day such a grand success!
The pubs who provided the venues, food, and donated door prizes.
Utica Brews Cafe & Pub
Nail Creek Pub & Brewery
Irish Cultural Center of the Mohawk Valley
Lukin's Brick Oven Pizza
The Celtic Harp Irish Pub & Restaurant
Other door prize donors:
The Great American Irish Festival
University of California Press
The Blarney Rebel Band
For filling the day with music and for door prizes:
For the cool James Joyce eye glasses:
For the portable amplifier and mic:
Big Apple Music
For the T-shirt and passport designs and event promotion:
Green Pencil Content
Stockdale's Bar and Grill in Oriskany was filled to capacity with Irish music fans on April 17, 2018. They came out to feast upon Rueben burgers, wet their whistles with ales and ciders and hear Craobh Dugan musicians play a few tunes from our new CD, The Irish and The Erie. It was a great evening with lots of toe tapping and singing along.
We'd like to thank everyone who came out to celebrate with us, buy our CDs, and generally support us! You guys are awesome!
If you weren't able to make it to the party, you can still buy a CD easily on our CD Baby page. Just click the button below.
St. Patrick’s Day is coming up soon. So, what are you planning to eat? If you’re like most Americans corned beef and cabbage is the obvious answer. But if you’ve visited Ireland, you know there are lots of other delicious options when it comes to Irish cuisine.
Take Bangers & Mash for instance. It’s a favorite at pubs in Ireland and goes down very well with a nice pint of cider
In fact when I returned from Ireland in 2014, I came up with this version of Bangers & Mash using some of Central New York’s native cider from Beak & Skiff’s in LaFayette.
Before we get cooking, let’s just clear up what that odd recipe name signifies for those who aren’t familiar with it. The "bangers" are sausages and the "mash" is mashed potatoes. All slathered in a delicious onion gravy, this pub grub favorite is very likely to make you feel all warm and cozy. Be aware, this is not a quick recipe and it generates quite a few dishes to wash, but the result is well worth it.
CNY Bangers and Mash
We’ve recently started a Pinterest board where we’re collecting all kinds of Irish recipes. You may want to check it out for more Irish dishes to try for St. Patrick's Day and throughout the year.
Did you ever hear an Irish tune at a session and wonder what it was called? Well, not surprisingly the internet offers a solution to that quandary.
I recently discovered a website called Midomi.com, and it’s a search engine just for melodies.
You click a button on the screen and sing the tune so that your computer’s microphone can pick it up. You’ll see a yellow sound wave while you’re singing. It works best if you keep the tune going for the full ten seconds until it says it’s analyzing. Then it will search for matches.
It works really well for pop songs, but I tried it out for several Irish tunes just to see what would happen.
Amazingly these songs popped right up in the results when I sang them:
Some others I tried didn’t come up:
That’s because a lot of the database comes from people contributing songs. There’s a “studio” on the site where people can add tunes. It requires you to download Flash Player, which can be a virus hazard if you don’t do it right. I didn’t want to deal with the computer complications at the moment. So I can’t report directly on that.
But I did try some other methods to test tunes. Humming or whistling a tune both work equally well. And playing a tune on my tin whistle also worked.
Now you have an online way to identify many Irish tunes. But if you ever run into one you can’t find anywhere, you can always come out to one of our sessions and ask us. We’re at Nail Creek Pub in Utica on the first Tuesday of each month and at Stockdale’s in Oriskany on the third Tuesdays. Both sessions start at 7:30pm and generally run until about 10:00pm.
You can see our full calendar of events here.
Post by Sue Romero
Sue plays bodhrán and tin whistle with Craobh Dugan and serves as the group's Public Relations Officer.
by Chris Hoke
Sorry this is a few days late -- I lost track of time. I heard it is November already...WOW!! is all I can say. Craobh Dugan had a great October!
On the 13th, we hosted our Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Seton Center in Utica. Of course we had a great pot luck supper followed by our meeting and then music and dancing.
On Sunday the 15th, we welcomed Caitlin and Ciaran from Ireland who performed a lovely "house" concert for about 37 people. What a great show! These are the kinds of things we love to offer to show off the Irish Culture!!
The following weekend, over 85 people enjoyed our presentation of The Irish and the Erie at the Oneida County Historical Society.
Thanks to all who participated and/or attended these events. We TRULY have a great Comhaltas Branch!!!!
Officers Elected for 2017-2018
At the AGM, we elected officers for the '17-'18 year. Those who were voted into office include: Chair, Chris Hoke; Vice-Chair, Skip Mansur; Secretary, Colleen Martin; Treasurer, Mike Hhoke; Public Relations Officer, Sue Romero; Language Officer, Tom Malley; Auditor, Mike Carroll; Youth Officer, Margaret Carroll; Convention Delegates, Gracie Schell and Tom Malley. Thank you to each for volunteering to aid our branch in carrying out our mission. And MANY THANKS to Ryan Troy who stepped down as Vice-Chair and to Bill Fahy who stepped down as PRO. We appreciate your service to our club!!
NOTE: As you will see in the calendar below, this month only, the Stockdale's Session will be the 4th Tuesday, which will be the 28th of November. Mark this on your calendar!!
Craobh Dugan's New Special Program The Irish and the Erie
I am proud to say this production has been very well-received. The group has performed it 6 times, to rave reviews. There are 3 showings in November, including one this weekend at Utica College on November 4th at 4.00pm. They are having a day of events celebrating the Digging of the Erie Canal and asked us to present our show. If you are free on Saturday November 4th, why not check it out? The show is also being performed for the residents at Preswick Glen and Acacia Village this month.
Our branch continues to host two monthly traditional music sessions, on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. The 1st is at Nail Creek Pub on Varick St in Utica and the 3rd is at Stockdale's Pub in Oriskany. Both start at 7.30. Come for a listen if you have not done that in a while. It is always great music!! Also on Friday evenings, we teach Irish Ceili Dancing at the Seton Center at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Utica. Classes start at 7pm. There is no charge, and you do NOT need a partner or special shoes. All you do need is an interest in trying out Ceili Dancing and a willingness to have FUN!! Come on, give it a try!!
Finally, please continue to check our website often. All our events are on the Calendar, and we often post articles and photos about our activities in the News section. Also you can like our Facebook Page where we post about other traditional Irish happenings in the area and other fun Irish facts. You will really see what an active group this is!! We ALL make it what it is!!
Some of Craobh Dugan officers and our convention delegates will travel to Boston the first weekend of November for the Northeast Regional AGM. As always, Craobh Dugan will make an important impression there. We are not the largest branch in the region, but we are at least as busy and productive as the other branches . Kudos to us!!
Goals for the Near Future
Two goals I mentioned at our AGM include for our musicians to (finally) make another CD. Bill Fahy is taking the lead on this, and I am confident that it WILL happen!!
The other goal is for us to continue to host house (or small-venue) concerts. For a glimpse of what that kind of concert is like see our post about Caitlin and Ciaran. We held two house concerts this year and I believe we are gaining momentum. We will keep our ear to the tracks as to who is traveling through the region and we will try again to host a few each year. Watch our Facebook Page for information on these and other events!
I do believe that is all for this month. Please remember to check out the website and please do come to a session or ceili dance class. You will be very glad you came!!
NOVEMBER Events at a Glance
3----Ceili Dance Class @ Seton Center (Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 2222 Genessee St. Utica) 7.00pm
4----Irish & Erie at Utica College 4.00pm
7----Open Session at Nail Creek Pub 7.30pm
10--Ceili Dance Class @ cSeton Center 7.00pm
14---Irish & Erie at Preswick Glen 7.00pm
16---Irish & Erie at Acacia Village 7.00pm
17---Ceili Dance Class @ Seton Center 7.00pm
21---Musicians Practice @ TBD 7.00pm
28---**Stockdale's Session 7.30pm
Craobh Dugan members, together with friends old and new, spent a delightful afternoon at our most recent house concert on Oct. 15 with Caitlín Nic Gabhann and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh. This adorable married duo are not only abundantly talented in music and dance but charming and friendly too.
Caitlín's fingers dance over the concertina as nimbly as her feet tap over the floor. And Ciarán's brilliant fiddle playing completes their amazing traditional Irish sound.
Between tunes, they each took turns telling funny and touching stories. Some stories about Caitlín's great aunt Peg Pierce gave us an up close picture of the experience of an Irish immigrant to the United States.
Peg, who lived to be more than 100, left her little town in Ireland when she was only 16. It was high adventure and lots of dancing on the ocean crossing, followed by a train trip all the way to San Francisco.
She never changed her socks the whole time! When she arrived in California her relatives had to soak them off her feet. This one and lots of other tales gave us a glimpse of what our own ancestors' voyages may have been like.
Many of our members turned out for this show, but it was especially wonderful to see so many new faces. One young couple were passing through Utica on vacation, saw our listing on Eventbrite.com, and decided to check out the house concert. They said they were very glad they did.
During the intermission and after the show everyone nibbled Chris Hoke's legendary blonde brownies, sipped cider, and met new friends.
And that is what an Irish "house concert" is all about. Traveling musicians stop by and play for a small group of people in a cozy setting. This time Turning Point Church in Utica provided the perfect intimate space. But at other times it could be at someone's house.
Live music, a social atmosphere with friendly company, and a chance to chat with the musicians all work together to create an experience much different from a large venue concert or recorded show.
Craobh Dugan tries to arrange house concerts whenever we hear of musicians passing through the area on Northeast tours. So, if you'd like to hear about our next one, like our Facebook page.
Many thanks to Deb Putnam for the photos!
Videos by Sue Romero.