Irish American Writers & Artists

January 13, 2014

Malachy McCourt joins Eamon Loingsigh at Barrow Street Theater

with readings by author EAMON LOINGSIGH
and famed Irish writer MALACHY McCOURT(A Monk Swimming)


with readings by author RICHARD VETERE
and Obie award-winning playwright ISRAEL HOROVITZ

Three Rooms Press will present a sneak peek of forthcoming novels LIGHT OF THE DIDDICOY and THE WRITERS AFTERLIFE with very special guest readers Malachy McCourt and Israel Horovitz as well as authors Eamon Loingsigh and Richard Vetere.

NOVEL IDEAS: A sneak peak @ new books  
Thursday, January 16 at 7 pm at Barrow Street Theater, 27 Barrow St. (at 7th Avenue).
Tickets $10, available at the door.

Eamon Loingsigh


ISBN 978-0-9884008-9-4, Original Trade Paperback, 230 pages, March 2014

LIGHT OF THE DIDDICOY is the brutal saga of Irish-American gangs on the Brooklyn waterfront in the early part of the twentieth century, told through the eyes of Irish immigrant Liam Garrity. Forced at age 14 to travel alone to America on the eve of the 1916 Easter Rising, Garrity stumbles directly into the hard-knock streets of the Brooklyn pier neighborhoods run by Bridge District gang The White Hand. In the industrialized enclaves where Famine Irish settled a generation earlier, Garrity has no choice but to use any means necessary to survive within the clan-like loyalties of the gang.

The book has received widespread pre-publication praise from early readers, including Malachy McCourt, who raves, “LIGHT OF THE DIDDICOY is an amazing series of literary leaps from terra firma into the stratosphere above. The writing embraces you, and his description of the savagery visited on poor people is offset by the humor and love of the traditional Irish community. Don’t leave the store without this book.” T.J. English, author of Paddy Whacked and The Westies, enthusiastically applauds the book, saying “LIGHT OF THE DIDDICOY is written with tremendous flavor and panache. Historical fiction at its best.”

And Alphie McCourt, author of Heartscald, notes, “Eamon Loinsigh is a poet with a pickaxe and a scalpel attached to the working end. Mr. Loingsigh, the meticulous historian, paints a rich picture. Mr. Loingsigh, the novelist, tells it like it was. LIGHT OF THE DIDDICOY is a great read.”

Author Eamon Loingsigh is a journalist with a long-held fascination for the Irish-American New York City experience. His family emigrated from Ireland in the late nineteenth century and his grandfather and great-grandfather ran a longshoreman’s saloon on Hudson Street in Manhattan for much of the twentieth century. LIGHT OF THE DIDDICOY is his first full-length novel.


THE WRITERS AFTERLIFE is a truly original, hilarious and triumphant tale of a writer given one last chance to realize his lifelong dream – after he dies. Tom Chillo, a 44-year-old writer with two novels under his belt, plus countless hack survival jobs, dies suddenly and is faced with one chance to return to earth for one week and set the wheels in motion to achieve eternal fame for his true life’s work. Failure is not an option.

Author Richard Vetere is has written more than 30 plays which have been performed worldwide. His 1997 novel, The Third Miracle, was made into the namesake 2000 film produced by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Ed Harris and Anne Heche.


July 25, 2013

“The McCourts of Limerick,” on stage, back home

Filed under: Essay,Events,Literature — by johnleemedia @ 7:29 pm
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As the curtain came up just after 8pm in the Lime Tree theatre, Malachy McCourt’s eyes were glued to the stage but his thoughts were in another time and place, with his brother Frank.

It would have been 3pm back home in New York.

Frank McCourt died a few minutes after 3pm on July 19 in Manhattan – exactly four years to the day and the minute that a musical of his life took to the stage in Limerick.
Here they were – at the opening night of an extravaganza about the miserable Irish childhood that made him famous. It was lucky that Frank loved irony, he intimated, because it seemed to find him at every hand’s turn.

limerick 6284473626_ec8e9efe3b_b

The McCourt legacy lives on, but here it was tinged with sadness that the creator wasn’t present to see the latest inspiration of his work, which keeps on giving after 17 years. “I do miss him and I missed him a lot last night,” said Malachy the next day.
On stage in conversation with his brother Alphie, Frank’s widow Ellen, and New York based theatre director George C. Heslin, for the first time, larger-than-life Malachy was short for words. He playfully dismissed his tears saying “my bladder is near my eye”.
“It’s not many people that would have the privilege of Frank McCourt as a brother and a friend. I’m immensely grateful for that. He was a great friend and always will be.”
Ellen, Alphie and Malachy were of course here to see Angela’s Ashes: A Musical, as were many fans from London and Florida. After receiving great praise in Derby, where it was staged last year by a local theatre company, this was its first showing in Limerick.
The Minister for Arts & Culture Jimmy Deenihan has hinted that it may return to Limerick next year as part of the City of Culture.
Alphie, who was bowled over by the performances and the standing ovation it received, had just one criticism – and that was with the title. “I think of it as ‘the’ musical, not a musical, because I don’t think there will be another one,” he said on the steps of the Frank McCourt museum on Hartstonge Street.
Mr Heslin urged people to see it on its closing night in Limerick on Saturday, “because the next place you’re going to see it is on Broadway or the West End.”
Nearby, Ellen planted a kiss on the bust of her late husband and wrapped her arms around him. Sitting in row F (ironically) an hour later she dabbed away the tears with the back of her hand, and put on a smile.
“The musical has brought Frank to life on stage. Let’s hope this is the beginning and not the end,” she said at the after party in South’s pub, where Frank famously had his first pint.
Bill Whelan, the Riverdance composer, was there; Denis Allen got out the guitar and sang Limerick You’re a Lady, and the cast of 22 in the musical took the mic and burst into song, much to the surprise of those nestled in corners, having a heretofore quiet pint.
“They say Limerick is a lady, but to me she was a right ‘oul whore for a time. Now she’s a glitzy, glamorous thing,” said Malachy.
Angela’s Ashes: A Musical proved to be what many people thought impossible, and more. It was funny, poignant, sad, with some spine tingling moments, and a sterling young cast who took this story to their hearts and made it their own. It reminded people of the epic story of survival it really is.
“Whether you believe in God or not, this was divinely inspired,” said Malachy of the book, adding that the musical is “outstanding”.
Many people remember Angela’s Ashes for the controversy it brought, but this brought home the real hardship and struggle the McCourts faced, as did many families in the Limerick of the 1930s.
The struggle was just not financial, it was very much emotional – with the death of three young children, Margaret, Oliver and Eugene – and the powerlessness of their mother Angela to stop them being taken from her, or to stop her husband taking to the drink.
“All the years of struggle and strife went into that great masterpiece,” said Labour councillor Tom Shortt, deputising as Mayor of Limerick on the night.
Asked about its enduring appeal, Malachy said: “America is addicted to happy endings”. In Limerick, it was beautifully bittersweet.

February 26, 2013

Your voice will find you…at an IAW&A Salon

Filed under: Essay,Events,Literature,Music — by johnleemedia @ 7:48 pm
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It is difficult to describe to those who have not experienced it how inspiring and impressive an evening at an Irish American Writers and Artists Salon can be.  The following piece, “Your Voice Will Find You” by Chris Bradley helps make it easier.  On February 5th, Chris, a new IAW&A member, attended his first Salon, held at the Bar Thalia.  The evening made such an impression on him that he wrote the following piece and read it to an appreciative standing-room-only crowd at the next Salon on February 19th at the Cell Theatre. 

Your voice will find you

By Chris Bradley

Eight point two miles is the distance from my humble Bronx apartment above the 99 cent store on Morris Park Avenue to Bar Thalia. Walking there from my front door would take two hours and forty-five minutes. You could take the 5 or 2 train. That would take about forty-two minutes. Driving is an option. On February 5, 2013, here in NYC that would not have been the best option for getting there. It was snowing. Thirty-four minutes of drive time, and then you would have to find parking.

It was the 2 train that carried me across most of those eight point two miles on February 5, 2013. I was seeking my voice. When I arrived at 2537 Broadway – Bar Thalia – I realized I had been there before. Memories of playing Jenga there with a curly black haired woman from Brooklyn who won every game, flooded into my mind. That night, I was not; I was not ready to see it. I was not ready to greet it. I was simply unprepared the first time I had been there at Bar Thalia to meet my voice.

It found me there on February 5, 2013 at the IAW&A Salon. It found me when he smiled and told me “Your voice will find you.”

If you look out the window of Bar Thalia, across West 95th Street, if you look with eyes open and your soul ready to see the view, there is a red awning about thirty feet long. In cursive script, white script, are two words: “Symphony Cleaners.”

That evening, when he assured me that my voice would find me, there was a symphony being conducted in Bar Thalia. It was a large scale work. Somehow, Limerick, Ireland, Brooklyn, New York, those streets, those places, his family, those experiences, they created this maestro. Somehow life had carried him there to that moment where he was assuring not just me, a somewhat Irish boy born on the other bank of the Hudson and raised in Penn’s Woods, but all of the writers and artists on his stage that night, that our voices would find us.

John sang hauntingly beautiful songs. Each song filled with grit. Each song also filled with the love that shines from each pore of his skin. His voice resonated and smiles burst across the faces I saw. He sang one song he wrote for his wife Jessica. She fuels him. It is so obvious when you see them stand together that God got this couple right.

Jeanine read from her novel, her third, which is about to be published. There was a harmony developing. Her voice was comfort personified.

Tom came in with fury. He has found his voice. I picture him greeting it, likely saying, “It is nice to meet you.” “We are going to shout from rooftops together.”

Betsy, and Afric, all the other artists there, we were there together all feeling inspired by this maestro who was born on September 20, 1931, in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Limerick. Somehow the days led him to orchestrating this symphony.

Sometimes a song is not enough. Sometimes only a symphony can convey the expression. Eight point two miles from the Bronx, forty-two minutes on the 2 train, forty-one years since my journey started there across the street from Symphony Cleaners, finally, I was standing before a maestro. And I saw him for the person he is. He was the person I needed to make the introduction. He is a writer, a teacher and he is the Maestro from Limerick, he smiled deeply and told me, “Your voice will find you.” You were right. Thank you, Mr. McCourt. Wait… you corrected me on that already, “Thank you Malachy.”


The next IAW&A Salon will be hosted by comedienne Sarah Fearon on March 5th at the Bar Thalia.  For a full schedule and details on how you can become involved in the Salons as a volunteer or presenter, visit  


February 22, 2013

Another SRO Salon at The Cell!

Filed under: Events,Literature,Music,Television,Theater — by johnleemedia @ 11:18 pm
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By Mark William Butler

It was “standing room only” and you could feel the energy in the air as an eclectic and electric lineup of presenters and performers ignited the stage at the IAW&A Salon at The Cell Theatre on Tuesday night.  Spirits were high as the full house was treated to an exciting evening of fiction, memoir, poetry, theater, music and film, hosted by John Kearns.  And away we go…

Michele Cetera opened the night with a compelling monologue on relationships, “She Can Still Hear the Music.”  Michele’s character Macy Grant, whom Salon goers have met before, reveals “It feels bad, simple as that”, on her impending breakup.  Macy knows she needs to let go, but even more, doesn’t want to feel hurt.  She mourns for the love that once was and what could have been.  Michele, a dancer as well as writer and performer, beautifully evokes the summer night, the song, the romance.  In the end, Macy realizes she can still hear the music even without him, and letting go is necessary to heal a broken heart.

Ann McCoy read from MEANING Magazine…a short piece about her childhood growing up in the shadow of the bomb testing in the Nevada desert.  She teaches at Yale in the School of Drama, and is a visual artist and theater designer.  She has two pieces in the current Brooklyn Rail for February and March.

Mark Butler brought a little bit of Christmas to February by presenting one of his seasonal songs, “He’s Real,” which was performed beautifully by the lovely and talented Rachel MacRae Bouton.  The tune is from his musical A Bargain Basement Christmas, which was selected for The Players Theatre Short Play and Musical Festival in 2011 and was expanded into a full length play last year.

TJ English read a piece about the death of George Whitmore Jr., an iconic victim of racial injustice in 1960’s NYC.  The piece originally appeared as on op-ed article in the New York Times.

Maura Kelly spoke about the March 4th IAW&A and Women in Film & TV joint event:  Focus on Ireland and the Women Who Call the Shots at NYU.  With March being Women’s History Month and also Irish American Heritage month, it is a perfect time to shine a spotlight on Ireland and women who create stories for multiple screens worldwide.  Maura explained that is the past 5 years Ireland has played host to a number of very successful international TV dramas – from Games of Thrones, The Tudors, The Borgias to the new Vikings on the History Channel – and women are making it happen.  At the same time, Irish and Irish American talent continue to create compelling projects for screens worldwide.  The esteemed panel of women will discuss how they do it and the role Ireland plays.  To register, go to the EVENT section at  The special member rate is $15.00.

Chris Bradley’s first presentation for the IAW&A was an essay that illustrated his desire to find “his voice.”  Chris’s reading was a celebration of finding his way to the Salon — a room filled with a symphony of voices — and connecting with one of his literary idols, Malachy McCourt, “The Maestro,” who gave the directive “Your voice will find you.”  “Thank you, Malachy.”

Mike Farragher read Off Kilter, a ribald take of his very first experience wearing a kilt. It’s a passage from his brand new book; This is Your Brain on Shamrocks 2: 50 Shades o’ Green, available on  Mike will also be joining fellow IAW&A author Honor Molloy for an evening of rocking and reading with Brendan O’Shea and the Lost Tribes of Donegal on Tuesday, March 5 at the Irish Repertory Theater (131 W. 22nd St. at  He also runs the New Jersey chapter of The Salon, which is held in Morristown.  Anyone who is interested in presenting or performing there can contact him through

Stephanie Silber showed an excerpt from a film, The Story So Far, which combined interviews with Larry Kirwan and band members from Black 47 along with those of devoted fans of the band; performance footage; and clips from the band’s televised appearances.  Many of the interviews were gathered during a riotous and unforgettable Black 47 tour of Ireland accompanied by three busloads of fans.  The film evolved out of a happy and ongoing collaboration between the band and Home Team Productions, helmed by Stephanie and her partner, the filmmaker and editor, Vic Zimet.

Jack O'Connell

Jack O’Connell


John Kearns was thrilled to have two short pieces performed by the accomplished actor, Jack O’Connell.  The first was a monologue called, “The Surf Fisherman/Poet” about an angler’s casting his line into the sea as a poet casts into the unknown for inspiration.  The second was a poem called, “The First Little Fish of the Morning,” about a small fish caught under the roughest, unlikeliest conditions.

Seamus Scanlon read “On Her Birthday,” the last story from his collection, As Close As You’ll Ever Be.  “On Her Birthday” was shortlisted for a Hennessy Award in 2009.  The Library Journal starred review said “This collection is an ode to human truth found in violent desperation.  Highly recommended.”

Seamus Scanlon

Seamus Scanlon

Marni Rice performed 3 of her original songs (voice & accordion). While living in Paris she performed mostly old French songs on the streets and in cabarets. However, when she moved to NYC, she started composing her own songs inspired by poetry and music heard in Irish Bars.

Marni Rice

Marni Rice

Pat Fenton read from his play on Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac, which is called Jack’s Last Call, Say Goodbye to Kerouac.  It was a scene from Kerouac’s last night in Northport Long Island as he gets ready to leave the east forever, and move with his mother to St Petersburg Florida.  On this last night at the end of a small farewell party, his old On the Road days come back to him as he reflects back on his young years driving across America with his buddy Neal Cassady.  The play has been released as a public radio drama available on CD, and has been nominated for an Audio Award.

Tom Mahon read one entry called, “Emmett Garrity” from a larger work, The Wide Valley.  Emmett is the youngest son of Dan Garrity who had to flee Ireland with his wife and two small children.  After a difficult start in the New World, he prospers and stakes his children to farms to set them up.  His youngest has imagination and confidence the others don’t and go on to become a lawyer, then a politician, but when he fail at winning the governorship, he caves and moves to Paris and becomes a dandy in an enclave of exiles all hiding from something.  Emmett becomes the best of the false, pretentious lot and lives a life of illusion.

Singer/songwriter Tara O’Grady and musician Russell Brown treated us to a familiar song performed in a new style.  Tara will be recording her new album A Celt in the Cotton Club in a few short weeks, and performed one of the tracks, “Too Ra Loo Ra – An Irish Lullaby,” as a blues, with Russell on piano.  Initially the piece was supposed to be performed with Russell on harp, but the improv on piano was a delightful surprise, to both the audience and Tara.

Salon regular Guen Donohue then commandeered the spirit of our absent “Maestro” — Malachy McCourt — by regaling the audience with an unscripted wild childhood tale fully loaded with wit and imagery involving her Grandma Bridget, her brother, and a suspicious looking plant that was growing in their new upstate yard.  Having produced waves of bellylaughs from the audience, Guen happily confessed that this was her debut as a “raconteur,” and did a wonderful job in closing the evening’s festivities by leading the crowd in singing a rousing rendition of “Here’s a Health.

And finally, one for the road… “Speak your mind, even though your voice shakes.”

― Maggie Kuhn

larry-stephanie mark-mike-farragher

See you next time!   (Salon at Bar Thalia, Tues., Mar. 5)

mark-rachel marni jack oconnell michelle-tom-mahon


B&W photos by Mark Butler, color by John Kearns

February 3, 2013


Frank and Malachy McCourt’s comedy runs for 3 Performances only 

Fundraising benefit for the Hurricane Sandy victims at Breezy Point, NY

“rougish appeal” (The New York Times) 
 “an unholy amount of charm” (Washington Post)
“mixes the sweetness and kick of an Irish coffee” (Newsday)

(Friday February 1st, 2013) Malachy McCOURT will bring his much-loved autobiographical play “A Couple of Blaguards” that he wrote with brother Frank McCOURT to the Irish Arts Center (553 West 51st Street, New York NY) for three performances only from February 15-17th as one of the first events of the Center’s Spring season. All proceeds from the run of the play will aid victims of Hurricane Sandy in Breezy Point, New York where Frank McCourt used to spend time with his mother Angela before he came to worldwide fame with his 1996 Pultizer Prize-winning book “Angela’s Ashes.”

Booking and information can be found on or by calling  866-811-4111

Last performed at the Irish Arts Center in 1993, A Couple of Blaguards is a comical account of the McCourt brothers’ years growing up in poverty in Ireland. Though times were tough in Limerick, the tales spun by the brothers simmers with bittersweet recollections, ferocious humor and a parade of colorful characters. 

Reviews from previous productions have raved with The New York Times praising the characters’ “rougish appeal”, the Washington Post confirming its “unholy amount of charm” and Newsday writing that the play “mixes the sweetness and kick of an Irish coffee.” The Los Angeles Times wrote “these master raconteurs have laced their combined experiences growing up in Ireland, and their escape to America into a vaudeville of comedy, Irish songs and a gallery of relatives, rogues, fools and petty tyrants — priestly and otherwise.”

The two-character comedy performed by Malachy McCOURT and Mickey KELLY will have three performances in the 99-seat Donaghy Theatre at the Irish Arts Center: Friday February 15, and Saturday February 16 at 8pm and Sunday February 17th at 3pm.

All proceeds from the performances will benefit Breezy Point Hurricane Sandy victims through the Emerald Aisle Immigration Center, whose funds are currently going to aid Breezy Point victims with rent funds, alternative accommodations and building supplies. Any additional donations will aid the entire Rockaway community by restoring basketball courts in partnership with GAA. The Irish Arts Center looks forward to sharing the weekend with new and old friends while raising funds for the community in Queens. 

Work being presented at the Irish Arts Center this spring is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership by the City Council; and Culture Ireland, the agency for the promotion of Irish arts worldwide. 


November 15, 2012

SRO for IAW&A Salon at the Thalia!

Filed under: Events,Film,Music,Television,Theater,Visual Arts — by johnleemedia @ 1:37 pm
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by Charles R. Hale
One of the outgrowths and benefits of  the Irish American Writers & Artists’ salons has been an increasing number of collaborative efforts among its members.  Before a jam-packed, standing-room-only crowd at the Thalia Cafe, four members–two writers and two singers–provided perfect examples of this trend. 
Sarah Fearon
Inspired by a New York Times story about the Brooklyn apartment where she grew up, Karen Daly presented an evocative tribute to her grandmother, which brought tears to the eyes of at least one man in the room.  In “Mama’s Window,” she pictured her grandmother keeping watch on her from a building on Lincoln Place, and showed how the little girl would come to resemble her grandmother in so many ways.
Knowing the barest facts about the O’Connor family of Rector Street, New York, Karen wonders how their daughter became a woman of such dignity and fierce resolve. Like many Irish family stories, theirs had sadness and secrets and great love.
Karen movingly described her grandparents’ marriage and her grandmother’s desolation at her husband’s death. The emotion was perfectly expressed when singer Jack Di Monte surprised the room with a beautiful rendition of Irving Berlin’s “When I Lost You.” This seamless collaboration resulted from a chat at the prior salon. This was Jack’s first performance at a salon, but we learned that he sings at the Thalia on Monday nights.  We look forward to hearing more of Jack’s great voice, and more about Karen’s family.
We’ve heard Maura Mulligan read passages from her engaging memoir, Call of the Lark. Maura showed her true roots as a storyteller when she stood and recounted the night she left her home in County Mayo for America She movingly evoked the Ireland of her childhood in images of the turf fire, the boxty and butter-making. 
Maura Mulligan
When the neighbors come to bid farewell, they take turns churning the butter, a custom said to bring good luck to all in her thatched cottage.  Maura wonders  “Would that include me as well since I was to leave the following morning”?  Through the kitchen window young Maura sees “the rising of the full May moon as it climbs over the hill near the Well Field, where the fairy bush stands alone.”
Member Kathy Callahan said, “While listening to Maura tell her story I became so totally immersed in the rhythm of her voice and visual imagery that I lost track of time and place.”
John Kearns read two poems based on poetic passages in his novel-in-progress, Worlds. The first, “From the Brooklyn Bridge,” is a meditation upon immigration and on similarities between the Brooklyn Bridge and other sites in the New World to sacred sites in the ancient Celtic world.  In the second, “Seamus Logan’s Passage to the New World,” Seamus is in steerage between the Old World and the New World, telling a story of his wanderings through Mayo and Connemara and his other worldly vision of an abandoned village’s coming to life and being destroyed by the Great Hunger. 
Sarah Fearon work-shopped some new comedy material. Some of her ideas included, dealing with the beginning of the end of the world, and getting old.  Sarah also riffed on thinking outside the box before we wind up inside the box, the theory on identifying if you’re economically one of the 99% or 1%, and a new discovery revealed from Jesus’ shroud which seems to be examined far too often, which suggests that God was originally from New York. And my favorite, Sarah wondered why doctors ask us “What are we doing here today?” From the crowd’s response a good percentage of Sarah’s material is worth developing.
Guenevere Donohue
“This is for you all, an artist’s voice, but really a writer’s voice.” Playwright, actress and singer, Guenevere Donohue gave the Writers & Artists a vocal gift, a soulful sweet song, an original composition of melody to Charles Bukowski’s poem, “Bluebird.”  Guen’s open-hearted, tender take on the infamous Charles B was a great way to end the first half of the evening.
Jim Rodgers read an excerpt from his novel, Long Night’s End. His protagonist, Johnny Gunn, stands at his friend Jimmy’s wake at Lynch’s funeral parlor and the reader is brought into Johnny’s private thoughts– thoughts filled with sadness, bitterness, and rage at his friend’s tragic death. At the same time, we witness the characters of the story being weaved into the scene, highlighting the incomprehensible loss to Jimmy’s wife, Sunnyside, and his fellow New York City firemen. A strong and visceral end to Jimmy’s battle with the demons who had haunted him since that sunny day. 
Our thoughts went to the victims of hurricane Sandy when Maureen Hossbacher read a poignant excerpt from her novel-in-progress, The Grand March.  The excerpt, set in Rockaway Beach of the 1950’s, at the end of summer, after a hurricane,   introduced us to Nance Moran,  a young girl wrangling with the dissonance between sexuality and Catholicism. No doubt many in the captivated audience could relate to similar childhood awakenings and dilemmas. 
Malachy McCourt
Popular salon presenter, Tom Mahon, read a section of a children’s short story about a horse and a boy in upstate NY. The boy is out riding and discovers two hunters in his family’s woods, and boldly but cleverly gets them to leave. While raising his son, Tom discovered the shortage of good stories for boys that does not exist for girls. Tom mentioned that he’d like to work on remedying that shortage. 
Malachy McCourt closed the evening with a personal essay that dealt with the damage death does to familial relations and how death arouses sub-conscious anger toward the deceased. “We have no recourse or ability to settle matters when some one buggers off and dies leaving stuff undone,” Malachy said.  Fittingly, Malachy ended the evening with a song ” Isn’t it Grand Boys to be Bloody Well Dead”  After the applause and cheers subsided, Malachy called out “Great night !” And it was. 
For more about the Irish American Artists and Writers contact Charles R. Hale at

October 26, 2012

“Fireworks” at Salon at the Cell

“The whole night was like fireworks,” playwright Janet Noble said of Tuesday night’s IAW&A’s Salon at The Cell.  The perfect blend of presentations and talents made for an electric evening. There were two singers, three one-person acts that included music, two films, a scene from a play and four writers reading their works. It would be hard to pick the evening’s highlight but Janet’s play,  Hello, Mr. Chops, was certainly a candidate.  The one act play was given an hilarious reading by, as Janet calls them, “two gorgeous actors,” Mary Tierney and Jack O’Connell. It was brilliant and as Janet added, “Completely unrehearsed.” Bravo!
Mary Tierney and Jack O’Connell
Singer/songwriter Tara O’Grady opened the evening performing a melancholic tune called, “An Cuileann Sul Glas” (The Green Eyed Girl). Tara was recently introduced to her ninety-five year old cousin, Packie Moore, the author of thousands of tunes and stories, and her lyrics tell the story of his secret…marrying a Protestant girl in England. Eventually Packie was faced with a harsh dilemma: Which funeral does he attend when his wife and his father die on the same day?  “This but begins the woe, a modern Irish Romeo. Deny thy father, oh he could not.” The songwriting skills are obviously in the blood.
Charles R. Hale presented a film created by Lucy Mathews Heegaard and Charles called Judy Collins: A Life in Music and Video, which  which was debuted at the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award event last week. I told of my “creative process,” how I likened my work to a four movement classical symphony and how the “movement” of the images in the last section of the video called “Peace” were inspired by the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Third Symphony., Charles noted that mentioning Beethoven and him in the same breath might be a stretch, so, as he said, “Go ahead, sue me.” 
Guenevere Donohue
Guen Donohue once again combined her acting, singing and writing talents in a performance from her stage piece, Killer is my Name. Beginning with a haunting Irish funeral dirge known as keening, she then stood on a table and improvised her father’s time spent walking the beams while building the WTC.  As she balanced “on the beam” she told of her father’s lost friends who “took the fall” as well as those who inhaled the asbestos, pronouncing that the buildings had taken lives before it had even been built. Her finale was an original song, “Revered,” yet another haunting vocal performance, weaving together the grandness and melancholy of the WTC experience in the Sean Nos tradition. Poignant, beautiful, cathartic.
Brendan Connellan jumped up and told a fast paced tale of unhealthy addiction, frantic flirtation, tottering self regard, Burgerking bags of cash  and sorry and abrupt endings, taken from his Wall Street dark comic novel-in-progress, Trading Ninja
Cathy Maguire
First time presenter, Cathy Maguire, brought her guitar and sang two beautiful tunes. One, “Portrait” is also the title tune of her recently released CD and tells the story of the songwriter looking at a very old and worn wedding photo and wondering how their lives turned out. It was a great treat hearing this talented singer who was warmly received by salon crowd. 
Kevin R.McPartland began the second half of the evening reading a short passage from his soon to be released novel Brownstone Dreams. Kevin describes the protagonist Bobby Dutton’s sad reflections at his grandfather’ s wake. Kevin also announced a slight delay in the release of his book by Boann Books & Media due to a glitch in the book jacket design and a final edit. Kevin is now anticipating a launch in the early spring.
Seamus Scanlon read from his highly regarded new collection As Close As You’ll Ever Be.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house! The book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Mysterious Bookshop, Centre for Fiction, City College Bookstore and direct from Seamus (
Malachy McCourt rounded out this dynamic evening with a few fine words and a stirring rendition of “Go, Lassie Go.” A perfect ending to the perfect event.
For more on the Irish American Writers and Artists or their salons, contact Charles R.  Salons are normally the first and third Tuesday of each month; however, the next salon will be on the second Tuesday of the month, Nov. 13, 7PM at the Thalia Cafe at 95th and Broadway. 
Photos by Cathleen “Cat” Dwyer

October 19, 2012

Judy Collins’s O’Neill Award Celebration Reunites Folk Legends and Inspires Artists

by John Kearns

“I have always believed that, in my heart, I am first and foremost a storyteller descended from a long line of Irish storytellers and balladeers.”   Judy Collins

Eugene O’Neill Award, crafted by Tiffany & Co.

On Monday, October 15, 2012, in the middle of the one of the year’s great celebrations, the The Irish American Writers & Artists Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Awards Celebration, 93-year-old folksinger, songwriter, and fighter for civil rights, peace, and the environment, Pete Seeger, stood strumming his enduring banjo before a hushed audience of over 200.

“If the world is still around in another 100 years,” he declared, “it will be because of the arts.”


And the large crowd in attendance at the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award at the Manhattan Club above Rosie O’Grady’s on a rainy Monday night was testament to the truth of Seeger’s declaration.  The crowd, representing all genres of the arts, had gathered to celebrate Judy Collins’s lifetime of artistic achievement and to show its commitment to further such achievement.  The spirit of inspiration, encouragement, generosity, and cross-pollination was abundant in the friendly atmosphere of the Manhattan Club.  Indeed, Judy Collins’s long-time friend on the folk music scene, Tom Paxton, was on hand to honor her, as was Pete Seeger.  Even the City of New York showed its support for the arts: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn issued a special proclamation in honor of the event.


In keeping with the musical theme of the evening, Black ’47 bandleader, author, and playwright, Larry Kirwan, acted as Master of Ceremonies.  Larry got the ceremony started by introducing IAW&A President, T.J. English.

TJ English


T.J. who has taken over the presidency from Peter Quinn, apologized for not being as eloquent as his speech-writer predecessor.


“While Peter was writing about ‘a shining city on a hill’ for Mario Cuomo, I was saying, ‘Get the fuck out of my cab.’”


Past President Peter Quinn & Current President TJ English

TJ updated the audience on some of the progress made by the IAW&A over the past year, in particular the burgeoning success of the semimonthly Salons at the Café Thalia and the Cell Theatre.  These evenings have become so popular that IAW&A is preparing a third monthly gathering of artists to share their work with one another.


T.J. also talked about the mission of the IAW&A and of the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award.  The Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2009 to honor the accomplishments of a writer, actor, musician, or cultural institution that has sustained a body of work that best exemplifies the level of integrity maintained by O’Neill.  O’Neill Awards have been presented to Pulitzer-prize winning author William Kennedy, actor Brian Dennehy, and Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly of New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre.  Judy Collins is the first musician to receive the award.


However, the IAW&A president added, there is another purpose of the award that might not be found in its official description.  By recognizing an individual such as Judy Collins who, with her 38 albums and five books, has spent a lifetime as an artist, the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award can inspire others to forge a career in the arts, a career for which “there are no entry-level positions and there is no blueprint.”


Larry Kirwan next introduced Tom Moran, Chief Executive Officer and President of Mutual of America Life Insurance.  Tom began by saying, like T.J., he had been a New York City cab driver.  But, unlike T.J., before chasing customers out of the cab, “I always made sure to get the tip.”


Tom Moran

Tom Moran said that he has no talent himself but he does have the ability to listen — not only with his ears but with his heart.  Listening with both ears and heart, Moran explained, was necessary to appreciate the beautiful voice and the soulful emotion in the music of Judy Collins.  He also praised Judy Collins’s work for Concern Worldwide, the Irish charity of which he is chairman.


Introducing IAW&A Co-Director Charles Hale, Larry Kirwan attributed much of the success of the Salons to the welcoming atmosphere created by Charles whom, Larry recognized for being particularly good at encouraging first-time presenters.  Charles introduced and showed the original short film he created with Lucy Matthews Heegaard about the life and music of Judy Collins, “Walls: We Are Not Forgotten.” Watch the video.


The film, featuring the Judy Collins’s voiceover taken from Charles’s interview with the folksinging legend, takes us through Collins’s life from childhood to the present, focusing on her mother and father, her son, her music, and her work for peace.  The soundtrack on the film features the soaring song “Walls: We Are Not Forgotten” composed and sung by Collins with lyrics from a poem by her husband, Korean-War-Memorial designer, Louis Nelson.


“Everyone at their heart is in some ways Irish, I’m convinced,” Collins says in the film, “because there’s a piece of all of us that has this deeply wounded place that needs to be healed by music.  The Irish do that all the time.”


Before bringing Peter Seeger to the stage, Larry Kirwan told the story of how he first met the indomitable folksinger in the ’70s, when Seeger was beginning his campaign to clean up the polluted Hudson River.  Larry recalled playing some concerts near Seeger’s hometown, which did not always have the most receptive audiences.  As a young man newly arrived from Ireland, Larry marveled at Seeger’s determination to change things and his confidence that his effort would succeed.  Seeger’s career, Larry stated, reminds him of the words of Bobby Sands, “Everyone … has their own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small; no one is too old or too young to do something.”


Pete Seeger did not make a speech.

Pete Seeger

Instead, he strummed his banjo and softly sang, “Quite Early Morning,” about the power of song to inspire the next generation to sing and play and to fight for justice.   Seeger’s voice is not as strong as it once was, but his spirit certainly is, and he had a full house willing to join in with him.


“And so keep on while we live

Until we have no, no more to give

And when these fingers can strum no longer

Hand the old banjo to young ones stronger … ”


I don’t know of any “young ones stronger” who can take up Pete Seeger’s banjo when he finally grows too tired to play.  But, perhaps the song did inspire some younger artists listening, as T.J. English suggested the Eugene O’Neill Award has the power to do, and as Peter Seeger has done for decades.


“I know that you who hear my singing

Could make those freedom bells go ringing.”


Seeger exhorted us to keep the song going.  With considerable gusto, the 93-year-old urged us to sing it, “One more time!”


Growing up in Wexford, Ireland, Larry Kirwan said he wanted to play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix.  Then one day, he turned on Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE), the only channel available on his black-and-white TV at the time, and saw a man alone on stage playing a quiet acoustic guitar and singing.  The singer, Tom Paxton, revealed to Larry a new type of communication between artist and audience and Larry realized that music did not have to be “blasted out” to be effective.  After this story, Larry got the crowd to sing a few bars from Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind.”


Tom Paxton took to the stage with his guitar, and he did sing “The Last Thing on My Mind.”  However, he first sang a song about falling in love simultaneously with a woman and with Ireland.

Tom Paxton


Finishing the tune, he quipped, “Never let it be said that I don’t know how to pander to an audience.”


When Paxton did perform “The Last Thing on My Mind,” a song beautifully recorded by Judy Collins, the Manhattan Club crowd sang along with him.


Using a slang term, he picked up in Ireland and the U.K., Paxton paid Judy Collins the tribute of dubbing her a true “muso,” or a “lifer” dedicated to the creation and performing of music.


Next up was the man that Larry described as needing no introduction, IAW&A Co-Director, Malachy McCourt. In presenting Judy Collins with her Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award, created and donated by Tiffany & Co., Malachy thanked Judy Collins for being a true friend and a treasure throughout the many years that he has known her.  He jokingly wished that she would become a Mormon so that she could welcome him as a second husband.

Judy Collins happily accepted the award and thanked and hugged Malachy and Larry.  She spoke of how happy she was to have her name associated with the great Eugene O’Neill and agreed with Pete Seeger’s assertion that whatever future we will have will be because of the arts.  Interspersing bits of a cappella singing, Collins told amusing tales about her career and about how she met her husband.


Emcee Larry Kirwan & Honoree Judy Collins

To wrap up the ceremony, Co-Director Ashley Davis gathered Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, and Judy Collins on stage to sing, “Will You Go Lassie, Go?”  The audience, of course, was very willing to help out.


Then it was back to the socializing at the open bar with generous hors d’œuvre that kept coming and coming.  Novelists, musicians, poets, actors, filmmakers, photographers, illustrators, and artists of all stripes made and renewed connections well past the party’s official closing time.  Here’s hoping that they also renewed their commitment to keep the music going, until their “fingers can strum no longer.”

Congratulations to Judy Collins on her Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award!  Judy Collins believes she is from a long line of storytellers and balladeers.  A line that’s still being drawn …

And a special thanks to all our patrons, advertisers, supporters, volunteers, presenters and to the great crew at Rosie’ O’Grady’s Manhattan Club for making this event such a success!

October 12, 2012


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Guenevere Donohue began Tuesday night’s IAW&A salon at the Thalia Café with a dose of history and a shot of soul…Irish style. Singing the Sean Nos, “An Raibh Tú ag an gCarraig?” (Were you at the rock?) Guen spoke of the love songs use as a “code song” during the days when Ireland’s invaders suppressed the practice of religion.   Guen followed her explanation with a stirring rendition of this powerful song. Great way to open the evening.

Honor Molloy

It’s the playoff season, which means Yankee baseball here in New York City (until tonight at least) and in keeping with the spirit of the season, Jim Rodgers read a baseball memoir about an underdog little league team of forty years ago, a squeeze play seemingly gone wrong, and a teammate trying to get over the loss of his mother. With the townspeople in the stands, the field illuminated by lights acquired from the dismantled Polo Grounds, and the bewitching hour of 1o PM approaching, the crowd and the players awaited the return of the ball as the errant bunt hung in the night sky and then began it’s fall to the diamond and an almost sure out. Only Jim, and those who attended the reading at the Thalia know the outcome of that rogue bunt. As Jim said, “Another reason to join us for our readings at the Salon!” True.

Tom Mahon read the second half of a short story that took place in Bayonne, NJ in the 50′s. The story’s about a kid, a wise guy, who loves imitating the old, Italian shoemaker for his pals—is imitation the greatest form of flattery?—and who soon  finds himself working with the old man, delivering the shoes customers forget to pick up. When Tony is hit by a car and killed, the kid is devastated.  He discovers he loved the old man, and he isn’t consoled knowing his friend is in heaven. A well-read, well-written story on the loss of life and innocence, and the pain of living as an adult.


Shelia Walsh

Four salon “regulars” followed: IAW&A Treasurer John Kearns read a new episode from his novel in progress, Worlds, about four generations of the Logan family. In this episode, set in 1950′s Philadelphia, Janey Dougherty is having an affair with the head of the Logan Construction Company. When James disappears on a business trip without warning, Janey struggles with the loss and with the temptation to board a train to join him.  Playwright/screenwriter Sheila Walsh, with the assistance of Kevin McPartland, read the beginning of Sheila’s screenplay, Gateway.  In the early 1960′s, Nora Quinn drops out of college to live with her boyfriend Louie, a racetrack hustler.  It’ll be enjoyable watching this story of first love, loss of innocence and loss of  soul unfold. And what would be a salon be without the brilliant Honor Molloy, always a salon favorite. Honor read—that word doesn’t do Honor justice—or rather performed Backassed, a memoir of NYC in the early 80s.Bestselling author Jeanine Cummins followed Honor and read from her new novel, The Crooked Branch, which comes out in March.  After she read a particularly vivid excerpt about childbirth, one man in the audience introduced himself to herthis way, “Hello, I was just pregnant with you.”

Sarah Fearon

And then, from the throes of childbirth to the lighter side of life, beginning with Sarah Fearon riffing on a wide range of subjects. Putting a humorous spin on subjects from researching our roots, the economy, yoga, relationships, hoarding, real estate, and introducing the idea of the “Smart Clone,” Sarah had the crowd roaring. And if that weren’t enough, she was followed by “Malachy time.”  Malachy McCourt that is.  And picking up where Sarah left off, Malachy read a hilarious essay from a recently published anthology entitled Exit Laughing.  Malachy sent everyone into the break laughing (no one exited, though) riffing on the funny side of death and plane flights with “Angela’s Ashes,” a reference to his beloved mother and his brother’s book of the same name.  No shortage of material in this family.

Kathleen Vaughan closed out the readings sharing a chapter from her upcoming book The Fatal Call.  Cancer was a transformational experience, Kate says. “I am grateful that I had the wake up call and grateful for all the awakening I have done because I had this illness. Anything is possible when you align with your spirit.”  Bravo, Kate.t

Charles Hale and Malachy McCourt

And the evening ended on a high note, in fact, a number of beautiful high notes. Combining Billie Holiday’s gift for meticulous but effortlessly poetic phrasing with Anita O’Day’s swingin’ sassiness, June Christy’s cocktail coolness, Patsy Cline’s rural romanticism, and Sarah Vaughn’s sophisticated sultriness, New York jazz/blues singer Tara O’Grady is indeed a musical force of nature to reckon with.  Sarah sang her rendition of Billie Holiday’s 1957 recording of “Stars Fell on Alabama,” a song she is currently translating into Irish, along with other jazz standards. Brilliant ending to a grand evening.

And this note from Philomena Forde. “Thanks for a great night of fun and fellowship. I felt good reading my piece as it brought back many happy memories, and contained a few historical bits and pieces also.  The variety of comedy—Sara was great—playwriting, short stories, and of course Malachy’s wonderful presentation was just fantastic.  That’s Limerick for ye!” And that about says it all.

The next salon will be at The Cell Theatre located at 338 W 23rd St, on Thursday, October 23 at 7PM. For more info on the salons contact Charles R. Hale at 

October 3, 2012

Folk Legend Tom Paxton to Honor Folk Icon Judy Collins…

…When She Receives Eugene O’Neill Award

Singer, Author and Irish American, Judy Collins to be Honored in NYC on Mon., Oct. 15 with Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award. Writer/actor Malachy McCourt, musician/author Larry Kirwan and Mutual of America CEO Tom Moran, and  John Patrick Shanley—winner of the artist’s TRIFECTA—an Oscar, Tony and Pulitzer Prize!
Judy Collins to be joined by Tom Paxton at Eugene O'Neill Award Celebration
Judy Collins to be joined by Tom Paxton at Eugene O’Neill Award Celebration

Grammy Lifetime-Achievement-Award winning folk singer Tom Paxton will extol the musical career of singer, activist, author, and Sixties icon Judy Collins at the Irish American Writers and Artists (IAW&A) annual Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award, a convivial evening of food, drink, conversation, and song on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012 at the Manhattan Club, upstairs at Rosie O’Grady’s, 800 7th Avenue (at 52nd Street), New York City, starting at 6 p.m.

With a career spanning five decades, Judy Collins has recorded and performed with the greatest singers of her era, bringing her inimitable style to her own songs as well as to classics by the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan. She has recorded 38 albums, featuring such top-40 singles as “Both Sides Now,” and “Send in the Clowns,” and has won numerous music awards, including two Grammys. She is also an author of five books—three memoirs, a self-help book, and a novel. In 1975, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her co-direction of a feature-length documentary.

Likewise, Tom Paxton has been writing, performing and recording music for fifty years. Paxton is credited as the first to emphasize original songs in the folk music scene of the early 60s. Now known to audiences throughout the world, his songs are emotional, comical, and topical and have been recorded by artists such as Pete Seeger, Willie Nelson, and Joan Baez. In addition to his Grammy, Paxton has received the ASCAP Lifetime Achievement Award in Folk Music, a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting at BBC Radio 2’s Folk Awards, and three Washington, DC Area Music Awards (Wammies).

Thomas Moran, Chief Executive Officer and President of Mutual of America Life Insurance, will speak about Judy Collins’s career as an activist.

Also joining the festivities, John Patrick Shanley—winner of the artist’s TRIFECTA—an Oscar, Tony and Pulitzer Prize.

Black ’47 bandleader, author, and playwright of the hit musical, Hard Times, Larry Kirwan, will act as Master of Ceremonies. Malachy McCourt, actor, author, IAW&A co-director, and Collins’s personal friend, will present the award to Collins.

“Judy sings like an angel but has the strength of an iron worker,” said McCourt. “Her career has been like a beacon of light, even though—as befalls us all over a full life–-she has known tragedy and despair.”

“I am thrilled and honored to be given this wonderful award named after the great Eugene O’Neill,” said Collins. “I have always believed that, in my heart, I am first and foremost a storyteller descended from a long line of Irish storytellers and balladeers.”

In addition to the speakers, IAW&A Co-Director Charles Hale will present an original short film about the life and music of Judy Collins entitled “Walls: We Are Nor Forgotten”  and Co-Director Ashley Davis will conclude the ceremony with a song.

The Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2009 to honor the accomplishments of a writer, actor, musician, or cultural institution that has sustained a body of work that best exemplifies the level of integrity maintained by O’Neill. O’Neill Awards have been presented to Pulitzer-prize winning author William Kennedy, actor Brian Dennehy, and Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly of New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre. Judy Collins is the first musician to win the award.

The award, created by Tiffany & Co., will be presented Mon., Oct.15, 2012 at a generous hors d’œuvre and open bar reception and ceremony at the Manhattan Club above Rosie O’Grady’s in Times Square, just a few blocks from where Eugene O’Neill was born. Ticketing information is available at the IAW&A website.

For more information on the IAW&A, visit the organization’s website at or its Facebook page for updates and information.

photos of Judy Collins available at

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