Irish American Writers & Artists

June 21, 2012

Getting Jazzed at Salon at the Cell



Singer, songwriter and swing band leader Tara O’Grady recently joined the IAW&A and presented two entertaining videos. The first video was of the traditional song “Black Velvet Band” (above) from her debut album Black irish, a collection of traditional Irish songs arranged in a swing, jazz and blues style. The second video she made to convince Chevrolet to offer her a free ride across country, which they did, so she could chase her Irish immigrant granny’s spirit and honor Chevy’s 100th anniversary. A very entertaining debut by a very talented lady.

In celebration of Pride Week, Honor Molloy read Immigrant Cases, a piece from her novel, Smarty Girl: Dublin Savage. Sheela and Mahree, two theatrical denizens of Dublin, take Noleen O’Feeney to their flat for a tea party in which they read her tea leaves and cast a spell. Noleen is not a girl, she is a girsha (Irish for little girl) and she will travel all the worlds. Noleen does just that, picking up seven pebbles and taking seven trips round the world.

Stephanie Silber read another delightful passage from her novel, Other People’s Houses, a coming-of-ager set the late sixties, early seventies, which tells the story of a teenage girl growing up Irish Catholic on Long Island, who finds herself pregnant.  Shipped off for the duration of her pregnancy, Queenie is exposed to a far more rarified world than the one she is used to.  Last night’s reading finds her discovering an interest in painting, followed by an unexpected encounter with the privileged but troubled son of her affluent hosts. 

Sarah Fearon presented the second video episode of Snazzy Peabody in her hilarious non-reality based real estate world: Snazzy Sells the Brooklyn Bridge, which was filmed and edited by Elizabeth Donahue, a friend from Performing Arts High School NYC.  Before we rolled the tape Sarah also read from the beginning of a new series titled Doorman, an endless world of New York and cross cultural comedy.

And then came Billy Barrett reading from his book Highway Star. It turns out Billy has a brother who fought in the same backrooms and graced the same sticky, beer drenched stages back in the day. With the younger catapulted into the national spotlight, the brothers split. Like old ward bosses at cross purposes or rival gangsters theirs is a brutal and intimate portrayal of siblings seeking validation and acceptance.

Tom Phelan read a poignant chapter from his acclaimed novel The Canal Bridgethe story of two Irish stretcher-bearers in the Great War–and the lovers and families they leave behind in “Ballyrannel” in Ireland’s midlands. A quarter of a million young Irish men joined the British army and fought in the trenches in the First World War, and over 32,000 died. When Phelan was growing up on a farm in County Laois, he knew many war veterans–five-hundred men in his small town had served and at least fifty had died.  Yet due to the political landscape of the time, their sacrifice went unrecognized. With The Canal Bridge, Tom Phelan hopes to restore them to their honored place in the pantheon of Irish heroes.  
Brendan Conellan’s piece is the start of a dark, comedic novel called Fog, Hope and Other Delusions. The main character tries to move his life to New York from Ireland but can’t cope with the stress and the craziness so flees to San Francisco where nothing is as he had expected and he immediately is thrown into disarray. The piece is permeated by loneliness but also has elements of farce.

There were three short works last night: Mark Donnelly read another scene from his play Mother Jones. In last night’s scene, President Theodore Roosevelt consults with his niece Eleanor concerning the request from Mother Jones to meet with him and discuss child labor.  Tom Mahon presented a short story called When She Was Nine a story about a girls journey from childhood to professionalism. And Guenevere Donohue broke form as playwright-actress, and shared her poetry instead. Folks found, Mo Doire –My Oak,  a poem grounded in the ancient burial practice of her father’s Clann most compelling. 

Charles Hale presented a film called The Gift of Connection detailing a family visit to Castleblayney, Ireland, the town from which his great grandfather emigrated. Not long after Charles and his family arrived they discovered their ancestral home. His mother, however, discovered much more, a link, a connection between her father, her grandfather and Ireland. 

And closing out the evening, new member John Shea read a stirring passage from his novel Cut and Run in the Bronx, which will be released by Seven Towers Books in November.  
The Irish American Writers and Artists salons are normally held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month; however, the next salon will be held on Thursday, July 5th, 7PM, at the Thalia Cafe, Symphony Space at Broadway and 95th. For more information on the salon or joining the IAW&A contact Charles Hale at chashale1@yahoo.com
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