Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Music road trip New York City: Irish Musicians


New York City has been home, waystation, birthplace, and seedbed for many sorts of Irish and Irish American musicians over the years. Even when they’re playing the strictest traditional music, there is at times a bit of New York energy and edge in the music of Irish musicians steeped in the Irish communities of the Big Apple, and you'll often find them writing original music, and connecting Irish music with other traditions, too.

Celtic Cross offers a mix of Irish and rock to tell their tales of immigration and modern day. Cherish The Ladies started out in New York, and have taken the spirit of Irish music -- and Irishwomen playing music -- around the world for twenty five years now. Founding member Joanie Madden also teamed up with three New York Irish men to record the lively quartet album Pride of New York. One of her popular compositions, recorded by Cherish, is called Bonkers in Yonkers.

Dublin born singer Susan McKeown came to New York with an acting scholarship and stayed to become a part of the music community, keeping deep Irish roots and seeing their connections with the musics of Africa and with Jewish traditions. Eileen Ivers has taken her fiddle playing into collaborations with jazz musicians and orchestras as well as other Irish musicians, and has taken her New York energy into connections with Appalachia and the blues.

Though they’ve moved on to other places. several other musicians you’ve been getting to know along the Music Road also have spent time in the crossroads that is New York Irish music, among them Heidi Talbot, John Doyle, and Cathie Ryan.

During her time in New York, Ryan wrote a song called The Back Door. She was thinking about undocumented Irish who came to New York, but it is a song which goes to the heart of all who face change and hardship with courage. There’s a video of her singing it here.

Many of the artists mentioned above have played at the Irish Arts Center, a vibrant place for Irish music in New York which also has programs and classes on drama, literature, art, Irish language, and other aspects of Irish culture. It's been around since 1972, on West 51st Street in Manhattan.

This is part of The Great American Road Trip, in which I’m partnering up with A Traveler’s Library to add musical ideas to the book and film suggestions for journeys through the regions of the United States which you’ll find there. Check out what's on tap at A Traveler's Library for this visit to New York City. For more about the road trip (and a look at some great road songs) see Great American Road Trip: Music begins


you may also wish to see


patrick season: far from home
Potato Music
patrick season: thoughts for patrick's eve
more music from the road trip
Irish music

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posted by Kerry Dexter at

4 Comments:

Blogger Alexandra Grabbe said...

I enjoyed listening to Back Door. What an amazing voice Cathie Ryan has! My dad was an immigrant, not Irish, but I'm sure he lived through some of the same emotions when he came here from Russia in the early 1920s.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Susan Johnston said...

Great post, Kerry! I love how you're collaborating with A Traveler's Library.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

I never knew about the Irish Arts Center when we lived just outside the city. Sounds like I missed out. Thanks for the info!

11:34 PM  
Blogger Anjuli said...

I'm always amazed at the new things I find out here. Love it!!

12:27 PM  

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