It’s the rare appearance Sunday of the Irish music foursome called Pride of New York. The group got its name from a reviewer raving about a concert that took place in the city that is home to these four Irish-American musicians.
Pride of New York is comprised of Billy McComiskey, button accordionist; Brian Conway, fiddler; Brendan Dolan, pianist; and the only female, Joanie Madden, who plays the flute and the pennywhistle. She is the most instantly recognizable member of the group, as she’s the leader for 27 years of the extraordinarily popular Irish music ensemble, Cherish the Ladies. That group performed in Carlisle and York in December.
The four members of Pride of New York have Irish music in their blood. They grew up in households of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who came to America as immigrants, bringing with them the music that has been a part of Irish culture for hundreds of years. Relatives played the music of their homeland and taught its rudiments to their offspring at an early age. Pride of New York learned by osmosis.
Pride of New York strives for historical accuracy funneled through the musicians’ experiences as contemporary artists, living in a city replete with great ethnic music.
Jess Hayden, executive director of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society, talked about “the wonderful ears of great musicians” as a way of shaping the sounds of the past.
Hayden is especially pleased that the Susquehanna Folk Music Society is responsible for bringing this vibrant Irish-American group of superstars to the area. She expects people from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., to join area Irish music fans for the concert.
Hayden’s taste is for traditional music that has historical antecedents, providing a connection to the past through sound. That’s a statement that Pride of New York makes by its very existence.
She first encountered Pride of New York at a National Folk Festival in Montana. The group’s only CD was released in 2009. Each musician has won individual awards, recorded numerous albums and toured prodigiously, but as an ensemble they rarely do live concerts, which is why Irish music aficionados and others new to the genre should make an effort to attend Sunday’s concert.
When Pride of New York’s players do get together, Madden said, the sparks fly. Fantastic music is interspersed with laughing, joking and storytelling, she said.
“Everybody’s at the top of his field,” she added, as evidenced by the fact that three out of the four have been recipients of Irish Echo’s Traditional Artist of the Year award, most recently last month, when Billy McComiskey got the award for 2011.
“Our fathers all played together in Galway before coming to this country,” Madden said. “We are the keepers of the flame, the chosen ones. Before the old guys passed away, they guided us, gave us all their secrets. They put the weight on our shoulders.”
What secrets? Madden sidestepped my direct question and said it all had to do with storytelling.
“Telling stories is at the heart and soul of the music.
“The love and sense of pride in the music takes the house down,” she said.
IF YOU GO:
Susquehanna Folk Music Society presents Pride of New York, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 925 S. George St., York. Tickets: $22, $10 students. Info: sfmsfolk.org or 717-763-5744.
Pride of New York plays to heart of Irish music at Unitarian Universalist Congregation in York | PennLive.com