This summer I’ll spend many a late night into early morning playing music in good company.
I kicked off the summer with a lively weekend of music and celebration at the annual Mid-Atlantic Fleadh in Parsippany, New Jersey. Competitors, adjudicators, volunteers, and those who came just for the fun of it, gathered for a hectic weekend of music, dance, and song. The competitions qualify the first, second, and sometimes third (depending on the judge’s choice) place winners to compete in the All-Ireland Fleadh, which will be held in Ennis, County Clare, this August.
Mom and I arrived in Parsippany on Friday, June 24th—my birthday BTW. We spent the evening playing tunes and eating delicious chocolate-coconut cake, courtesy of my friend Keegan. I continued to play music until midnight, but sadly had to retire to bed because of the competition starting at 9:00am.
I awoke bright and early (thanks to coffee) and ready to compete. There were 23 fellow competitors in the under-fifteen solo fiddle competition. I happened to be the not-so-lucky twenty-third competitor. I rushed to the slow-air competition where everyone is prepared with four airs. The judge picks one, and you play an air of your choice. I was asked to play a lovely air which I learned from a recording of the excellent box player, James Keane, titled Paddy’s Rambles Through the Park. My choice air was The Dear Irish Boy, learned from a video of fiddler Eileen O’Brien.
All in all, it was a good day of competition. I took first in two out of two of my competitions for the day. As you might be able to guess, the good day was followed by more tunes and a steak dinner with John Whelan, Jeanne Freeman, a couple of very talented young musicians, and a few more new friends.
Sunday kicked off with a rocky start. I was to play in a duet with Keegan on the uillean pipes. Although he was sick, he managed to pull through. We finished the duet competition in second place. So, guess what? We’re going to Ireland!
The Mid-Atlantic Fleadh was only the beginning of my fun summer. That Thursday, I jetted off to Oregon for a July 4th celebration with the locals. I was excited and honored to perform with the American Band College ensemble. We played a few pieces composed by Bill Whelan, the writer of Riverdance, as well as a lovely collection of songs and tunes written by the conductor, Johan de Meij. The performance finished a four-week-long camp for the American Band College students.
After a fun-filled Independence Day celebration, I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina for my favorite week of the year, aka Celtic Week at The Swannanoa Gathering. I was thrilled to return for my eighth year in a row, assisting my friend Alan Murray, by providing melody for his guitar accompaniment classes.
Now, it’s off to Kean College for my third year of Studio2Stage. I’ll spend nine days in a windowless rehearsal room with five musical maniacs, Anton, Sully, Gerlisa, Adam, and Dylan, where we’ll create the soundtrack for a full-scale dance show including young dancers, and Riverdance performers choreographing the numbers. I’m also the designated video-blogger for all nine days, so I’ll do my best to divulge the details behind the scenes and let you in on a few “Studio2Secrets.”
In August, my successful showing at the Parsippany Fleadh will send me to County Clare for the All-Ireland Fleadh. It will be my seventh year of All-Ireland Fleadh fun, and my eighth time visiting this delightful country. Needless to say, I have a fairly busy summer ahead, but I will try to keep you posted as best I can, even if I can only do so through the occasional Facebook post. Stay tuned.
“Music…This is the favorite passion of my soul.” - Thomas Jefferson