Irish American Writers & Artists

December 22, 2011

SRO for Salon at The Cell

Filed under: Events,Literature,Music,Theater,Visual Arts — by johnleemedia @ 3:17 pm
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by Charles Hale

Manhattan was the place to be Tuesday night, and many flocked to The Cell theatre where a standing room only crowd added to a festive evening of wonderful presentations. And the song “Manhattan” was the backdrop for my story, a young teen’s reminiscence of his grandfather’s riotous storytelling.

Keeping with the spirit of the season, Mark Butler brought in his musical team to perform songs from his holiday shows. Richard Butler sang “My Baby Likes Christmas” (from Secret Santa’s Juicy Jollies) and Jennifer Harrison followed with “Santa in the Sky,” (from Santa Forever!)  Carl Haan accompanied them on the baby grand. A smashing start to the evening.

Mary Gannon wrote and Martha Pinson directed a comedic one act play “The Grotesgues.”  We found ourselves in a recovery room with a grouchy Quasimodo and Frankenstein, who have just had plastic surgery.  The wonderful actors Derek Roche, Vince Bandille, Laura Summerhill, and John Moss skillfully performed Mary’s witty work.

The Grotesques was followed by Gwen Orel’s fine reading of her essay, “How I Learned to Drink Guinness in Prague,” artist and poet Vivian O’Shaughnessy‘s  reading of her poem “Him” and my story “Grandpa Charlie Tells the True Story of King Kong.”

Honor Molloy revived memories of her childhood when her big sister, Shivaun, would read a passage from Betty Smith’s New York classic “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”  Honor’s performance was dazzling and a perfect choice for the holiday season.

Maura Mulligan followed with a reading from her forthcoming memoir, “Call of the Lark,” which is scheduled for publication in early 2012.  Maura read a passage describing how, as a young girl in Mayo, she worked as a shop assistant in the town of Kilkelly, serving at the bar on Fair & Market days. Maura’s readings are delightful and her book is highly anticipated. Not only can Maura write but she can sing and she was joined by Irish language students, LeeAnn Pemberton and Séamus Keaney (yes, Maura teaches Irish too) for two Christmas carols – “Tá Sé Beirthe” (He is Born) and “Oíche Chiún” (Silent Night).  All were in fine voice for these wonderful holiday tunes.

John Kearns a frequent contributor at the IAW&A Salons read “Transmigration of Soul,” a poem (excerpted from his novel-in-progress, “Worlds”) and recently named a finalist in the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize. The poem examines how African and Irish music blended together to create rock ‘n roll. Actors Gary Gregg and John Skocik followed with a performance of  a scene from John Kearns’s play In a Bucket of Blood about loyalty and betrayal among Hell’s Kitchen gangsters. A rousing performance by Gregg and Skocik.

Sarah Fearon, who is currently appearing at the Gotham Comedy Club, provided the evening’s laughs with her New York tales of the real estate market, restaurants, and yoga. Downward dog will never be the same.  

Seamus Scanlon read his 2011 prize winning  story “My Beautiful Brash Beastly Belfast” after a short introduction about his forthcoming play “Dancing at Lunacy”.  Seamus’s intense and powerful story was spellbinding.  The story is free at Gemini Magazine or $0.99 on Kindle  (which has extra background details).

Mark Butler’s troupe returned and closed out the evening with a beautiful holiday tune, “Christmas Is You” (from A Brooklyn Bargain Christmas). 

The next IAW&A salon will be at the Thalia Café at Symphony Space, at 95th and Broadway on Tuesday, January 3. For more information on IAW&A salons or joining the IAW&A contact Charles Hale at

December 14, 2011

Songs of the Celtic Winter–from Celtic Music Artist Ashley Davis

Filed under: Music,Visual Arts — by johnleemedia @ 5:33 pm
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IAW&A Board member Ashley Davis began writing and collecting for Songs of the Celtic Winter two years ago when she wrapped up her sophomore effort, Down by the Sea in Ireland. She had the idea that she wanted to write and collect music from the Celtic regions for the four seasons of the year starting with winter. The result is Songs of the Celtic Winter, a hauntingly beautiful collection of songs that range from medieval 9th century old Irish poetry set to music, to Robert Burns’ “Auld Lang Syne”. Davis recorded this album in New York, Lawrence, KS, and San Francisco to draw from their various musical communities. The album is laden with harp, mandola and a range of acoustic instruments and vocal layers that creates and sound that is becoming Davis’ signature.
“I took the aspects that I liked from my first album which was more middle eastern leaning at times, and then aspects from my 2nd album which was entirely recorded in Ireland and thus Irish leaning and melded those aspects together to create a sound that I believe will be forever more my signature sound. I truly found myself as an artist and settled down into this album and feel at home within this music,” Davis said
Davis has been profiled on The Today Show, performed original music on film soundtracks and has lectured at U.S. colleges and universities.  Expanding the definition of traditional Irish music, Ashley has attracted fans and admirers among the larger musical community.  Influential American composer Philip Glass said, “Ashley Davis is a young woman with a beautiful voice and as much musicality as anyone could wish for…she writes and sings with a confidence way beyond her years.”
Davis has toured in “Lord of the Dance” as the vocal soloist, has worked with Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains and has toured with Moya Brennan of Clannad, while developing her own solo and recording career, selling out shows internationally and in her adopted hometown of New York City and now Lawrence, KS.
Davis is doing official release concerts in both of her hometowns of New York and Lawrence, KS. There will be dates in between those dates to be announced on her website.
Upcoming Release Shows:The Lied Center of Kansas University (Lawrence, KS), December 21, 2011 7:30 pm Joe’s Pub (New York, NY) February 23, 20127:30 pm  *Check in with Ashley’s website as dates are being added.
Hear Tracks At:

December 8, 2011

Malachy McCourt Opens Thalia Salon, December Edition

by Charles Hale

Singer songwriter Michael Sheahan couldn’t join us at the Irish American Writers and Artists’ Salon this week—he’s touring the country promoting his award winning book and CD about Santa, “Mr. Holiday Presents the Roof Top Hop”– but we did have our own white-haired favorite, Malachy McCourt, who regaled us with his wit and wisdom. Malachy opened the precedings with a wonderful and informative session on the art of reading and storytelling.  And although it was meant to be informative—and it was—it became a rollicking storytelling session packed with tip after tip. Malachy at his best.  

 Kevin McPartland, a Viet Nam veteran who served in the Mekong Delta, read a riveting story of life and death from his  anthology of short stories, “Adventures in Hell.”  Charles Hale, inspired by a recent performance of Dancing at Lughnasa at the Irish Repertory Theatre read an essay Remembrance, Discovery and Connection, a tale of his mother’s visit to her grandfather’s birthplace in Castleblayney, Ireland, and Mary Gannon read an essay Names, a creative nonfiction piece reflecting on family history and her experience as an Irish immigrant.

Sheila Walsh, with the assistance of Honor Molloy and Kathleen Lawrence, read from her play in progress “Mr. Tweedy’s Neighbors,”  the story of  two sisters who help their neighbor find his lost faith.  Sheila was followed by Honor Molloy, who screened a wonderful short video, “Sixpence the Stars,” a holiday story told by a Dublin Market woman.  If you’d like to see what a talented storyteller sounds like check out this youtube video  

Kathleen Rockwell Lawrence read a chapter from her unfolding family saga “Becoming Irish: The Progenitor, The Priests, The Pope and Me, or: How I Lost It on My Honeymoon–My Religion, That Is.”  Kathleen shared why her father, the sire to fifteen children, thought birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, was a bitch. What a surprise! This was Kathleen’s second Salon reading and we all look forward to her wit and wonderful writing. 

 Maura Mulligan read an excerpt from her soon to be released book “Call of the Lark,” a portrait of her childhood in rural Ireland during the 1940s and 50s. In her memoir Maura writes how she found the courage to change her life – three times. First, working as a servant in “a grand house.” Then, sailing to America and working for the phone company, followed by answering a higher call, entering a Franciscan convent in upstate New York.  I anxiously await the publication of this very fine work.

John Kearns a Salon regular continued reading from his novel in progress, “Worlds.” Set in 1910, John told how Father Sarsfield Logan, S.J. finds a worker and strike leader from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory beaten up under the Sixth Avenue Elevated and how he helps her to St. Vincent’s Hospital.  A compelling excerpt from what will be a wonderful novel.  John was followed by Sarah Fearon who has brought her great wit to a number of past Salons. Sarah worked on new material, including a few thoughts on potatoes, hunger, guilt, the Holiday Season, darkness–yes, this is an Irish-centric crowd–and, as per Malachy’s suggestions, tried to “find the light. ”  She always does just that. 

Anyone old enough to remember November 22, 1963 knows exactly where they were when he or she learned of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  Kathy Callahan remembers it very well.  She was sitting on her father’s shoulders in Dealy Plaza that sunny afternoon in Dallas.  Kathy ended the evening with a witty and poignant discussion of a young girl’s special powers and memories of that day in Dallas. 

The next salon will be The Salon at The Cell, located at 338 W 23rd Street in Manhattan, on December 20th, beginning at 7PM. For more information on joining the Irish American Artists and Writers and presenting at a Salon contact me, Charles Hale at

December 4, 2011

Four Tips for Presenting at an IAW&A Salon

Filed under: Events,Literature,Theater,Visual Arts — by johnleemedia @ 10:24 pm
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by Charles Hale

1) Ten-Minute Rule.  Each presenter is allowed ten minutes to present. One of the issues/questions we’ve been confronted with is “What is the best way to keep a presenter from exceeding ten minutes? It’s been suggested we use a timer that buzzes or use hand signals. We’d rather not do either if we can avoid it so we ask that presenters read their work aloud before the Salon. We did a few trial runs and it seems1400 words at a moderate pace will very likely take about ten minutes.  We generally read much faster and can read many more words when we read silently, so when you are rehearsing your work, please read it aloud, as you would in front of the group. Some can do a few more words and some a few less few less but we believe 1400 words is a pretty fair estimate.  Since we can press a button on our computer and come up with a word count, we suggest a presenter do that first, then read it aloud.

2) Projecting One’s Voice.  Some people don’t project their voices as well as others. We’re not voice coaches so we are not able to coach people about voice projection, but if you think you fall into that category we suggest you step closer to microphone, while holding your story higher, rather than lower, so you are speaking directly into the microphone. Further, since we are an informal group we don’t think we’d be ruffling anyone’s feathers if we called out “Can you speak up a little.”

3) Include Links in the Blog If anyone would like to include a link to their website or blog in Charles Hale’s write-up we’re happy to do that. Just let Charles know during the evening what you’d prefer. We’ve done this for a number of people.

4) Q&A and Feedback The whole idea of the Salon is to allow members to present in a warm and supportive atmosphere, including, if a presenter would like, answering questions or receiving feedback. If you’d like comments or questions you should announce that before or after you’ve presented; however, we’d still like to keep the presentations to ten minutes so if you’d like a little discussion you should limit your presentation, perhaps to 7 minutes, which will allow three minutes for critiquing. Two more thoughts on this: Once a presenter expresses that he or she welcomes comments there may be some in the audience who might prefer to share their thoughts.  The ideal time for that would be during the break or at the end of the Salon. And, if you are a frequent presenter, you might want to forego a reading and have a ten-minute Q and A or advice seeking session with the audience.

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