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One hundred thousand welcomes to you to my official blog of all things Irish from me, Diane Byrnes, host of the Echoes of Erin radio show on WEDO Radio 810AM.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Milwaukee Irish Fest 2007 - Friday

Here it is, Friday, August 17th and we are in Milwaukee. It's a bit early to go to the fairgrounds, let's see what is happening in the hotel bar.
Oh my, who have we here; why some more Pittsburghers'. From the left - Michael Smith, Devon, Al Smith and Jimmy Walsh. Al is a long time old friend; actually he tells me we met right here in Milwaukee several years ago.
This past March Al informed me about the Ambassador Hotel; an excellent accommodation. Everyone was so satisfied with it; the rooms were spacious, comfortable beds and delicious food from the kitchen. Plus the staff was so accommodationg.
At the Henry B. Meier Fairgrounds at last. 2002 was the last year I was here, much too long in between festivals.

One of the first groups I watched was The Makem and Spain Brothers. These guys give a great show plus they are one of the last, young, folk groups out there today.

Starting from the left we have - Shane Makem, Liam Spain, Rory Makem, Mickey Spain and Conor Makem.
This year Irish Fest was dedicated to the memory of Tommy Makem; participating in this program were The Makem & Spain Brothers, Tom Sweeney, Evans & Doherty, Eugene Byrne, Mick Moloney and others. It was a very moving segment. One of the treats was hearing Katie Makem, daughter of Tommy, sing; she has a lovely voice. Her daughter Molly Makem performed Irish dancing as well. The memorial touched all of our hearts.
Sitting nearby was my good friend Mary Feeney from New Hampshire and Boston along with her friend Ann who lives in Milwaukee.
While listening at the Miller Stage, I captured these three O'Neill's - Michael (son), Kevin (cousin) and Mickey (dad). They were having a grand time.
Here is Barry Stapleton from Milwaukee and one of the organizers of Irish Fest.

This was all of the pictures I took Friday. There are more on Saturday and Sunday.


Milwaukee Irish Fest 2007 - Saturday

A group of eight of us from Pittsburgh traveled to the Milwaukee Irish Fest. Here are some of us as we wait to purchase tickets.

Eileen Connelley, Clair Keenan, Joanne Fitzgerald and Chuck and Eileen McHugh. Not in the picture are John and Ann Rohall and myself (I'm taking the shot).
Our group flew together; but many from the Pittsburgh Irish Rowing Club drove because they had the curraghs. Here are some of the females. This crew came in first in their race.
The gals are just enjoying the day with a bit of rain; they are flexing their muscles!

The first boat is Pittsburgh, the rear boat is Annapolis.

This shot is of Patrick Clark, Chairman of the Pittsburgh Irish Rowing Club.
The rowing area is next to the Cultural Village. I spent most of Saturday at the Village wandering in and out of the various tents. In this tent was some marvelous sean-nos singing and dancing. This shot is of Meaiti Jo Sheamus O Fatharta, a champion sean-nos singer and an uilleann piper; he also did some lilting. Just lovely! Meaiti Jo is also a presenter with Raidio na Gaeltaght in Connemara, County Galway.
This picture is of Brian O Cuinneagain, Champion sean-nos dancer. He was wonderful to watch.
His feet are really moving on this shot.

I didn't get the best light on this shot. The first person on the left is Meaiti Jo, then Johnny Connolly on button box; it was such a delight to watch and hear these marvelous musicians perform. (I didn't get the other names, sorry.)

In the Cultural Village was a 'Literary Tent' with various authors. Over the past year I had the opportunity to interview Brenna Briggs, Author of the Liffey River series, a 13 year old Irish dancer who is also a bit of a detective. The books are wonderful reading; similar to Nancy Drew books. Brenna is getting ready to publish book # 3. You can check out her website at www.liffeyrivers.com.

This particular photo was taken the week before at Brenna's aunts home in White Oak, PA. At the festival we had a chance to sit and talk for a bit. Brenna and her family currently live in Sligo, which they all love.

Here are friends from Omaha, Nebraska, Mike and Linda McGuire. We usually run into each other at a festival or two throughout the year.

These next two photos are of the Dave Rowe Trio. Dave is the guitarist in the middle. Dave is the son of Tom Rowe, who sadly passed away a few years ago and was a member of Schooner Fare. Dave Rowe looks so much like his father, plays and sings like him that it is almost a reincaration. The Trio had some excellent harmonies and all the guys were excellent musicians.

Here is another good friend, Mary Feeney of New Hampshire and Boston, Mass. I first became aware of Mary back in 1986 as she sat near the front row of the Miller Stage listening to Schooner Fare and Barley Bree. Mary is so recognizable even from the back with her massive head of hair; it hasn't changed in all the years I have know her. It was a few years after that time that we met and have been good friends since. We too run into each other at a variety of festivals.

These three fellows are members of The Barra MacNeils out of Nova Scotia. Another talented group of musicians.

Saturday night was a wicked night with heavy rains; most of the bands scheduled early did perform but the groups scheduled later were cancelled. This picture is of The Elders out of Kansas City. Their show is really exciting and upbeat.

This was a night time view of Milwaukee from the Henry B. Meier Fairgrounds just off the water.

Actually this shot here of Scythian was taken on Sunday afternoon. The rain was still with us and the Leinie Celtic Rock Stage seems to get hit first with the wind and rain. That happened here on Sunday. Scythian were trying to do an acoustic set, however it was so difficult as it is quite a large area. These fellows really did an exceptional job! They were tested on their entertainment skills; I think they superceded all expectations. They had a bit of help from Kirk McLeod of Seven Nations and a couple of other fellows.

Scythian are entertainers, plus I knew I would see them in Pittsburgh on Wednesday after Irish Fest.

Also on Sunday, I stopped off at the Celtic Roots Stage and heard Ladies of Longford. They were quite a pleasant suprise. The Ladies are comprised of Mother and two daughters plus two additional women. Very enjoyable!

This is the end of Saturday and a bit of Sunday.



Milwaukee Irish Fest 2007 - Sunday

Today is the final day of the Milwaukee Irish Fest. Although it rained most of the day, first a soft rain, then at times more blustry. But now, aren't we wash n'wear? What is a bit of rain with so much brilliant talent about the place!

The first group I saw today is Blarney out of Milwaukee, with Chuck Ward, Dennis Murphy and Kevin Stapleton. These fellows do a really fine job with the ballads and other traditional tunes. I have enjoyed them since first attending Irish Fest in 1986.

Enroute to watching some of the shows, I ran into my good friend Kevin Walsh from New York at the Aer Lingus Stage.

Then I came across other old friends from Chicago, Rita Emmett and her husband Bruce Karder. Rita is a character! She is also an Author, "The Procrastinator's Handbook" that has been translated into 32 languages throughout the world. She is a great gal and you can't help but to have a great chuckle with her. Check out her website: www.RitaEmmett.com; you just might want to purchase her book.

Here is Barry Stapleton, whom I have also known for many years. Barry is the Curator of the Ward Music Archives along with many other responsibilities with Irish Fest.

Cherish The Ladies had a brilliant show Sunday night; it was a 'Reunion' with Cathie Ryan, Aoife Clancy, Donna Long, Donny Golden and with Joanie Madden at the helm, they were outstanding. Plus Joe Madden on button box sat in for a couple of tunes. Joanie is 'Cherish'; she is so funny and has such great rapport with her audience. Talk about a character; that's Joanie! She is just adorable and has been very successful in assemblying such great talent.

This shot we see Joanie playing flute and six dancers.

Here is Donny Golden, still dancing after all these years and he is still brilliant; I love watching him dance. Joanie was so funny in her introduction of Donny Golden; it's a good thing they are such good friends!!

Eddi Reader performed all weekend at the festival; here she jumped in with a song and got out just as quickly to set up for her show over at the Celtic Roots Stage. I heard so many wonderful thoughts on her performances. This guest spot with CTL was the only time I heard Eddi live; and it was lovely.

After the show I was fortunate to catch Joanie and Donny!

Here is another good buddy from Cleveland, Ohio - Roger Weist. Roger is very active with the AOH plus he has broadcast his own Irish radio program for many years. A great guy! He just loved seeing Cathie Ryan, so of course, I had to snap them!

Cathie Ryan is a marvelous singer with a good sense of humor as well!

After Cherish The Ladies show I caught Roisin Dillon and Mirella Murray before they ran off to hear Eddi Reader. Again marvelously talented women!!

A real special treat for me was to see Maureen Doherty, in from County Longford, and playing flute with CTL. Maureen was one of the original women in CTL. She fell in love, got married, had babies and they all moved to Ireland. She is happy as a lark and looks wonderful! Here she is with John Murphy from Philadelphia; another long time friend of mine.

Later in the evening I heard Beoga out of County Antrim. I have aired their CD which is so exciting and full of energy; I really wanted to hear them at the festival. I was delighted. This first shot is Niamh Dunne on fiddle and vocals - beautiful! Eamon Murray is a superb Bodhran player - he had the drum singing!
This shot has Liam Bradley at Piano and Sean Og Graham on Button Accordion and Guitar - both excellent.
This last picture is Damian McKee on Button Accordion - another very talented musician and Eamon Murray on Bodhran. Eamon had a good few jokes for the audience.

I thought Beoga was really good and entertaining; they have a ways to go, but I think they have what it takes to succeed in the music business.

Here we are at the end of the evening, the end of the festival for 2007. I went off to the 'Scattering' but did not take pictures due to the rain. Joanie Madden led the troupe in reels and jigs and all the dancers 'reeled the stage' until Brian O'Cuinneagain performed his brilliant sean-nos dancing.

Tom Sweeney led the 'sing-song' with the songs of Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers. Tom informed us that all week end long, no one sang 'Four Green Fields', Tommy Makem's song. He told us that each time Tommy Makem sang the song, he prefaced it with a poem. He then said he would recite the poem and Rory Makem would sing 'Four Green Fields'. Oh my, what a job he did! He made his Father proud! It was a very emotional moment for so many folks, both on stage and in the audience.

I sincerely hope Shane, Conor and Rory Makem incorporate 'Four Green Fields' in to their repertoire of songs; who better to sing the song, then the sons of the maker?

Well it is the very end of the night and time to enjoy the fire works! Here are a few pictures.

Until next time...