What better way to truly celebrate the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day than to join a céilidh? Since such intimate gatherings are a bit tough to come by here in the DC area, the next best thing would be going to National Geographic and immersing yourself into the music of Moya Brennan. On her last stop of a brief U.S. tour, Moya will be filling the air with her ethereal voice and Irish and Gaelic music tradition.
Known best as the front singer for Clannad, Moya’s solo career has flourished over the last two decades. (My wife – herself of strong Irish heritage – and I have been a fan of her music since Moya’s first solo album Máire, which came out in 1992.) Bono of U2 describes her as “one of the greatest voices the human ear has ever experienced.” Her seemingly otherworldly voice mixed with her mastery of Irish and Gaelic musical traditions have made her into a master of taking traditional, cultural music and making it “new” for the modern age.
I had the extremely blessed opportunity to chat with her about her life, traditions, music, and Saturday’s sold out concert. Continue reading →
Tomorrow is the 6th Annual Irish Book Day! Chances are you’ll run into one of the hundred volunteers Irish arts organization Solas Nua will place at metro stops around the city, giving away free books from the wee hours of the morning commute into the evening rush.
Current Irish literature ranging from The Master by Colm Toibin to children’s author Eoin Coifer will be yours for the asking as DC’s only organization dedicated exclusively to promoting contemporary Irish arts celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. Last year they distributed 10,000 books. This year, they’ve got 20,000 on hand! I’ll be on the lookout for a copy of Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue – which sounds like a completely bawdy, brutal tale of an 18th-century red-light district (slammerkin is slang for “loose woman”).
Volunteers will pass out free books from 6am-7pm or until they run out. To find out what metro stops they’ll be at Thursday morning, follow @solasnuacht.
This Thursday you can meet the man himself after the performance of his riff on the Ulysses myth, Penelope, produced by the Druid, Ireland company. Future performances in April include The Walworth Farce and The New Electric Ballroom, a screening of Hunger, and other conversations on the state of Irish arts, including a panel with DC’s own Linda Murray from Solas Nua. It’s all part of new artistic director David Muse’s desire to bring in international performances to Studio, and I think it’s gearing up to be a great initiative.
Being proud to be an Irish American should mean more than just wearing the green and drinking beer. Challenge yourself to explore more about the New Ireland. And anyway, who better to share St. Patrick’s Day with than the man famously quoted by the Guardian as saying, “I’ve never had to punch anyone, but I know I won’t regret it if I do.”
I come from a line of whiskey drinkers. Well, that’s really only about half true. The other line drinks whisky. But perhaps I should explain. Irish whiskey gets the ‘e’ (as does most American whiskey), while Scotch whisky goes without (and shares that spelling with Canadian whisky). Even the paper of record updated its style on the subject. By surname, my father’s family is more Irish than anything else. On the other hand, my mother’s family can be traced to Scotland. Both family histories, for what it’s worth, pass through Kentucky, itself no slouch when it comes to distilling. To the best of my knowledge there weren’t actually any distillers (or moonshiners) in the family, but I digress.
I do enjoy a wee dram now and again, but I like to do so on the merits of the spirit, not just for the benefit of getting blind. As such I tend to avoid bars on the major drinking holidays. Since I believe that one should respect the spirit, and I also believe that Irish whiskey deserves that respect, here’s a primer on some of the Irish whiskey you can find in the DC area in advance of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. If I’ve left out your favorite, please feel free to set me straight in the comments. It’s been too long since I’ve had Clontarf for me to have an opinion on its merits.
St. Patrick’s Day seems to fall at a good time of year—just after we’ve groggily “sprung forward” and just as we’ve been teased out of our winter hermit holes by the sweet promise of spring. Winter vacation seems a lifetime ago; Memorial Day beach treks couldn’t feel farther out of reach. Truth be told, we’re ready for some good craic.
This holiday always seems an ideal time to check in with Irish mates I haven’t properly caught up with since my last trip to Éire. I write friends based in happenin’ Dublin and off “busy” getting sunburned in fabulous places around the globe to wish them a happy Paddy’s Day. (Note: if you accidentally let slip “St. Patty’s Day,” prepare to be scolded for incorrectly feminizing the legendary saint!) This year I surveyed my friends’ March 17 plans, knowing that the night before would be the big night out thanks to a national holiday on St. Patrick’s Day. Over there March 17 seems a day, at least for my friends, to take it easy—catching up over pints and coffees, cycling into the country and, most importantly, avoiding the chaos of city centre. The downtown Dublin parade, it seems, can be saved for the kids and tourists.
So what then does March 17 (unfortunately not a holiday here) mean for Washingtonians? Perhaps the Obamas will dye the White House fountain green again (touch wood). And while the holiday will no doubt give venues an excuse to charge covers to droves of bar goers on a random Wednesday night, it will also give bar goers an excuse to spend a Wednesday night clinking glasses of green beer, downing Irish car bombs and flaunting real or feigned ancestry (“Kiss Me, I’m Irish” buttons, anyone?). It’s also a day when cultural traditions get a wee bit muddled here in the “melting pot” of America—Scottish and English customs become Irish; anything Celtic goes….
Remember how it snowed in February? I definitely don’t need to remind anyone that the city lost a lot of events in the storms. Well, among the many things that got Snowpocalypsed was the annual Fat Tuesday parade hosted by the Clarendon Alliance. Not to fear, instead of being completely swept away in a snow drift, the parade transformed into a St. Patrick’s Day eve festival – i.e., tonight! If you want to check it out, and it actually is more fun than you’d think, floats will begin rolling up Wilson Blvd. at around 8 p.m., starting from Barton Ave.
In the area or venturing out to Clarendon for the parade? Why not give a little back while you’re out preparing for St. Patrick’s Day? Relay for Life Arlingtonwill be hosting a post-parade gathering at Mister Days at the corner of Washington blvd and N. Highland St. Present this coupon, and Mister Days will generously donate a portion of your check to Relay For Life of Arlington. You can also make a donation at the door, and there will be a small raffle for gift certificates to the bar and other exciting items.
I’m guessing that even if you’re Irish, you probably didn’t realize that tomorrow is the halfway mark to 2010’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
If you’d like to celebrate this VERY special occasion, have a pint or you’re just looking for a good time, check out the St. Patrick’s Day Festival at Kelly’s Irish Times and the Dubliner tomorrow. Festivities begin at 4pm and last until 12pm with drink specials, raffle prizes and live music.
Entry is $5 in advance, $7 if you’re sporting green and $10 if you just want in at the door, and can be bought through Lindy Promotions.
If you happen to be around one of a handful of popular metro spots in town tomorrow beginning at 7 a.m., you may see some of the lovely individuals of Solas Nua, the only organization dedicated to contemporary Irish arts, handing out books. For free! For the 4th year running, Solas Nua will pass out contemporary Irish tomes to passers-by in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
It’s sort of a first-come first-serve, in that, when the books run out, that’s all folks. So keep an eye out if you happen to be around Metro Center, Tenleytown, the U St. Corridor, Dupont (north exit), Chinatown (7th street) or Archives/Navy Memorial. Volunteers will be taking a wee break (see what I did there?) around 10 a.m., if you don’t see anyone out around that time.
Books and St. Paddy’s day – what could be better?? Well… maybe some Irish whisky…
DC is going green, but not in the sustainable way — more like the “you look a little green…how many Guinnesses have you had?” way. Last weekend was the giant St. Patrick’s Day parade in Alexandria, which is often accompanied by an entire day in the multiple Irish pubs in Old Town, and this Saturday is Shamrock Fest at RFK Stadium.
I went to Shamrock Fest last year, and I’ve vowed to never return, but I do enjoy the general festiveness of this time of year, even if in reality it turns into two solid weekends of complete debauchery. Just be careful out there, and please, please don’t throw up on my shoes.