February March 2012 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Sat, 20 Jul 2019 03:40:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Martin Hayes: Rhythm and Strings https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/martin-hayes-rhythm-and-strings/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/martin-hayes-rhythm-and-strings/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:40:11 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=5363 Read more..]]> Whether playing solo or with the newly formed The Gloaming, Martin Hayes, the marvelously gifted fiddler, finds his mesmeric rhythm in the Irish tunes he learned from his father – the leader of the famed Tulla Ceili band – and other master musicians in east County Clare.

The first time I heard Martin Hayes it felt like an earthquake. Not ten seconds into his first tune, the ground started to pulsate, the bottles behind the bar were shaking as everyone in the room felt the urge to stamp their feet to the rhythm of Hayes’ fiddle. While there is undeniable electricity in the way Hayes commands an audience, it is juxtaposed with a very distinct gentleness. He plays as if each note is made of glass; mishandle it slightly and the emotion is shattered. As a man, he exudes that same gentleness. Quite soft-spoken and self-deprecating, the County Clare native is uninterested in fame and has no concern with being best. His concern, it seems, is always to connect with people. He works to be better only than himself, than how he played the day before.

Hayes, who now splits his time between Connecticut and Ireland, has lived in the U.S. for 23 years. As well as playing, he composes scores for film and stage. His newest project, The Gloaming, is a dream team of Irish and Irish American musicians. Hayes is joined by Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh on fiddle, his longtime musical partner Dennis Cahill on guitar, the legendary Iarla Ó Lionáird on vocals, and newcomer Thomas Bartlett on piano.

I spoke with Hayes just before the group’s debut at Webster Hall, in New York City.

When did your life as a musician begin?

I started playing when I was seven. My father was a fiddle player in the Tulla Ceili Band so there was always music in the house, always musicians coming and going and people interested in music. I had been hearing traditional music as the predominant music form since I was a little child so it wasn’t something I had to get to know. I grew up in that environment. I don’t know that I exactly learned. I learned some tunes from my father, but there was a lot of just being around it, kind of absorbing it.

Osmosis?

Right, osmosis. Like the way people learn a language I suppose… As a teenager I became quite curious about lots of other musicians. I became curious about styles of music in my locality. I would tape all these old players, learn their tunes, talk to them, hang out with them. As a teenager, I was kind of friendly with people who were 60 or 70 years of age. I was lucky I did that because they aren’t there now.

There is such a strong tradition of music in Clare. Do you think it’s a function of those family traditions that you are a product of?

The music was carried in certain families for sure. And I suppose, for some reason I can’t really explain, there just were a lot of musicians in the county. There’s a strong tradition there that hasn’t ever really weakened.

Would you describe your style as Clare specific?

I suppose I have some of that accent in my music, but I’m not particularly concerned or obsessed with preserving that now. I think I did start out with a real mission to preserve it, but I don’t think it needs to be preserved anymore. It’s kind of a ranking of priorities. There’s the regionalism, there’s the family, tradition and heritage, but number one there is music. Music is the main thing. In that array of things, one just views it not so much from the cultural or historical or social but purely music perspective.

There’s a long history of the Irish coming to America and bringing this music with them. Now especially, it seems those two lines of music are crossing over again. Do you think the style of traditional music has been influenced by this cross-fertilization?

All through the 20th century for sure what was happening in America was affecting what was happening in Ireland. Probably more so than what was happening in Ireland affecting what was happening in America. I think that’s more balanced now. And over the course of the 20th century [Irish] music on both sides of the Atlantic developed quite differently as well.

Is Irish traditional music still Irish or is it global?

I think global at this stage. I played seisiuns this year in places like Japan. People are playing this music everywhere.

What do you think it is about the music that translates?

Underlying all the techniques and all the different elements that sometimes make it sound like it’s Irish music, the main characteristic is the strength of the melody line. It’s a melodic music. It’s why pop music is successful sometimes, it’s melodic. The Beatles were very melodic. Simon and Garfunkel were very melodic. I think the beauty of the melodies and their accessibility is what makes them successful. The other quality of the music is that it’s non-hierarchical. There isn’t a separation between professional and amateur in any real sense. The playing system in seisiuns is very equal, circular and kind of egalitarian most of the time. It’s a music that is made for participation and not necessarily always be a distant observer of. It’s music people can partake in.

How did your partnership with Dennis Cahill begin?

I met Dennis in Chicago in 1985 so I’ve known him a long, long time. We actually played in a band together for a while in Chicago. Then some years later when I moved to Seattle and I was looking for a guitarist to come on the road with me on a more full time basis, Dennis said, “Hey I’ll do that.” And that was it. We’re just very good friends and we built up a musical rapport over the years. We understand each other musically.

It became second nature?

Yes, we have a way of working on it together. We have a comfortable way of touring and traveling together and those are all important things too.

Tell me about The Gloaming?

I’ve known everyone in The Gloaming for a long time. I’ve known the singer, Iarla Ó Lionáird, since we were little kids. He was always an amazing singer. I’ve known Caoimhin since he was a young teenager. And I’d known Thomas Bartlett since he was a little kid. And Dennis, of course. We all kind of knew each other in various combinations, and I knew enough about them all to know we all had a similar aesthetic feeling around music and a shared sense of what this music is and how we like to look at it.

The idea of doing this project together was that rather than picking the most flamboyant musicians or even picking a band based on instrumentation, because this is a strange combination: vocals, two fiddles, guitar and piano, no one puts a band together of that structure. But we put it together based on the idea that all the people would be very sympathetic to each other and each other’s viewpoints and that we had similar outlooks on music. And at the same time everyone in this band has an absolutely unique voice. It’s safe to say that every musician in this band doesn’t carry a standard set of music tools. Caoimhin absolutely only sounds like Caoimhin. Iarla just sounds like Iarla. There’s only one Thomas Bartlett. There’s only one Dennis Cahill.

What are some of the elements each member brings to it?

There’s a kind of moodiness we’re all attracted to in our styles of music. We definitely seek to evoke and arouse feeling in a very real way. Sometimes musicians are not necessarily oriented that way, but I think every musician in this group is that way. Sometimes musicians are driven toward that high energetic side of music. I knew all these musicians had a longing for other elements of the music. There is a more gentle side of the music that often doesn’t get explored in ensemble playing. It allows us to go in a slightly different direction sometimes by just having other people who think or feel the same way.

Thomas brings in a lot of worlds. It was a bit like when I first started with Dennis, he had backgrounds in different areas outside [Irish] music. So he brought new ideas to the guitar way of dealing with specifically how I was playing. I think that Thomas brings another dimension because he works in a very cutting-edge world of music in a way. He has leanings toward jazz and rock-and-roll and traditional. He works with Anthony and the Johnsons and The National and all these other bands that are very current and doing great things. He has that great ensemble ability to really feel and respond to things as they’re happening. And he knows traditional music very well because he did that as a kid. So I just thought he would be a great compliment to Iarla’s singing.

So when Iarla told me he’d like to do some stuff with me, I said, well, why don’t we get Thomas Bartlett? And he hadn’t heard of Thomas yet but was really thrilled when he got to meet him. Then I knew the band was out of balance instrumentally, that this was a lot of guitar and piano for me to overcome with the fiddle. So I knew that Caoimhin had been working with Iarla and I had also been working with Caoimhin on separate projects. So he had two people in the band he could hook into. And I had my hooks and connections with Dennis. It fitted together surprisingly easy in the end.

I understand you and Thomas have an interesting history.

Back in the early 90s, I did a tour in Ireland. Thomas and his family had come  [from Vermont] on holiday and they hadn’t really a clear plan of where they wanted to go. Thomas, just a small kid at the time, had been interested in traditional music as he had been interested in contra dance music in New England as a kid. At the beginning of their vacation, they came to a concert that I played. They really enjoyed it. They decided that rather than make a plan for their vacation they would allow serendipity to dictate it. Thomas said he wanted to go to all the concerts on the tour so they did.

They went back to America after that and I basically forgot about them. I forgot this kid’s name.  Maybe it was a year or two later we got an e-mail from this guy called Thomas Bartlett. We didn’t know who this was but he was asking if we’d be available to do a concert in Vermont.  We responded by saying, “well if you can let us know of some concert presenter there we’ll certainly do it.” So some time passed and we got another e-mail saying, “We found a venue and will you be able to come at this time?” The correspondence kept going back and forth. Then something slipped in the email. Some little bit of information that made us wonder “What the hell?” [He said something like], “I have to ask my mom.” We found out that we were being booked by an eleven-year-old to play a concert [laughs].

Thomas put on this concert and it was really amazing. The place was full, the hall was booked, the stage was there, the PA was there, the PR was done. We had a great night. After that I never really lost contact with Thomas. We would cross paths occasionally. And just before the Gloaming project we had made contact and done some jamming together in the studio just to see what it’d be like. Then I’d been talking to Iarla so I said this is the opportunity to put it all together.

When did you all start playing together as The Gloaming?

Last winter. We got together in the studio in the midlands of Ireland for a week just to generate music and throw all the ideas in and see what happens. So basically we just sat in a circle and [someone would] say, “Ok, I’ll start out with something. So everybody just throw whatever you got at it.” And so it kind of went around in circles like that for a week and we were generating material every day. Thomas was writing melodies with Iarla. Dennis, Caoimhin and myself were putting together medleys and tunes. So we had loads of material before the week was over, enough for some concerts. So then we did a tour of Ireland. We were really happy with it. That was the real testament. Do some concerts and see what happens. You can’t know what you have until you walk on a stage and try it.

Is there a different atmosphere on stage as opposed to when you’re all just in a circle?

The stage brings an energy to things and forces concentration. I think [The Gloaming] is a band of really good listeners. All the arrangements… it has an inherent looseness built into it. In other words, ‘Let’s see what happens on the night when we play this part here.’ We have a good sketch of things but people are generally free to create and invent right in the whole form as we’ve moving forward. So there is a kind of aliveness and an improvisational quality there all the time.

Is there a story behind the name?

The name came from Caoimhin, he’s a really creative guy. To tell you the truth, naming this project was probably the most difficult part of it.  It’s excruciating trying to come up with a name for a band. I don’t know how many names I sent in and they were all stupid really.

But you all came to a consensus?

We just gave up [laughs]. “Ok, Caoimhin, that’s it.” He had come up with it earlier and we couldn’t come up with anything better.

Is there a different atmosphere you find playing to American audiences?

I personally don’t make any distinction at all. Playing New York feels like playing Dublin to me. I don’t look at it any differently, I don’t see the audience any differently. I treat the audience the same way whether we’re in Tokyo or New York or Dublin.

Do you have plans for the future?

In so far as we can. We’d like to do some touring in the States, Europe and maybe Asia as well. We’d like to record. We think it’s a good band and a good project so we don’t want to mess it up. We want to give it the best chance it has. We’re not particularly obsessed with fame and fortune. You get to a point in life when you’re happy to just do the thing. You can let go. We just want to give it its best opportunity and see what happens. Then we’ll know. Maybe it’ll be successful, maybe it’ll be okay, maybe it won’t. We’re pretty certain that we will enjoy doing this while we’re doing it no matter what. Where it leads we’re not sure.

Almost everybody in the band has an active interest in other genres. Certainly Iarla branches out to other areas [and has] for many years – with Afro-Celt or what he does with Crash ensemble or with composer Gavin Byer. Caoimhin has been exploring obviously traditional Irish music but has also taken a huge interest in Scandinavian music and in improvisational, free-form music that he does as solo work as well. Dennis has lots of background in classical and jazz. Thomas similarly has that background with all these other forms of music. We share a lot of common interests. Both Thomas and I are fascinated by the musicality of Keith Garrett and his improvisational skill and his performance intensity. Even though there’s a lot of varied interest, there’s plenty of junction points as well. Both Caoimhin and I would be very interested in very old forms of fiddle playing in Ireland and obscure ways of dealing with the music. It would be of interest to both of us in very different ways but I think in the end it’s complimentary.

Is there a story behind the instrument you play?

It’s a fiddle I picked up ten years ago in Chicago. It’s not a particularly valuable instrument. It’s a good instrument. It doesn’t have pedigree, but it’s good. It’s like a mutt dog. Fiddles are… people have sounds in their head – what they want to sound like when they play. It isn’t so much that the instruments can be exactly that but they allow you to make that sound easier. The instrument that allows you to make that sound the easiest way possible, that’s the instrument you want. With this instrument I felt that the sound was the way I wished to sound.

You have quite a bit of experience  playing competitively. [Six All-Ireland championships.] How does that competitive playing differ from what you do now?

When I competed I didn’t really focus on the competition. I didn’t focus on competing per se. I focused on playing as deeply and as well as I could. When I played in a competition I played to the people in the hall as opposed to the judges. The only thing I ever knew how to do was access feeling in music, and technically I wouldn’t be so sure I could compete with anything. I knew I could get into music and play what I felt and what I like. In that sense, nothing ever really changed. I got through that competitive arena of music looking at it that way.

Do you ever still do scale work?

I mostly just play. I just play the things I like to play. My practice is really the idea of pushing. When I play, I want to go a little bit further than I’ve gone before. I always try to do that, and I always try to imagine that this performance is going to be the one that I haven’t yet achieved. So I’m always, when I play, pushing myself that way. I could be pushing toward quietness. When I say push it doesn’t mean toward wildness and fire all the time. It’s the idea of being able to play from a deeper place continually. I find that much more important than any number of scales one can play. Almost any of the technical stuff can fall away to nothing if it’s not coming from a deep meaningful place. It excuses my inability in other areas.

Where do you see Irish music finding its home in the world?

I think there was a peak of popularity in the 90s and early 2000s. So it’s not as popular as it was. At the same time it’s a good deal more popular in the world than it was at any time in the 20th century. It’s widespread. I think that if you went back to the 50s the issue was: would it survive at all? Now it’s inconceivable to ask that question. I also think that the new generations of musicians, the teenagers out there, bring a remarkable ability. I also find that a lot of classical musicians are engaging in and interacting with this music. This music is having little effects in other areas of music too, so the barriers of genres are falling. It’s no longer that you would have a classical violinist and a traditional violinist. It’s very often that you would find both combined, especially in the next generation of musicians more so. Less barriers, less boundaries.

So there’s probably an exciting future there. And I think no matter what happens musicians will continually go back to the source. I think there’s a cycle where you push out but find yourself coming back again. There’s a wellspring there. There’s a large body of melody and playing technique that’s sufficiently rich for people to keep coming back to. I think there will be many failed attempts to turn it into something completely \different and it will revert again and again. In the meantime overall it adjusts itself to the world it’s in.

Thank you, Martin.

 

See photos of The Gloaming’s New York debut at globalFEST at Webster Hall below. Photos by Sade Joseph.

 

Click here to listen to The Gloaming’s debut New York performance.

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The First Word: Something to Shout About https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/the-first-word-something-to-shout-about/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/the-first-word-something-to-shout-about/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:38:07 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=5664 Read more..]]> When we first published the magazine back in 1985, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with our slogan “Mórtas Cine,” which translates from the Irish as “Pride in one’s heritage.”

As children we were warned about “pride” and its place at the top of the list of the Seven Deadly Sins.

“Pride goes before a fall,” my mother would caution.

Growing up in Ireland, surrounded by other Irish, one didn’t necessarily think about pride in one’s heritage.

And Irish history, as it was taught in school, didn’t exactly infuse one with pride – it scared the hell out of me. There was always “another martyr for old Ireland, another murder for the crown,” as the song goes. Every small victory was followed by a big defeat, betrayals of treaties negotiated, mass starvation and emigration.

Pride fell in with those other idioms of Irish life: knowing your place, not standing out in a crowd. And history showed that those who stuck their neck out usually had their head lobbed off.  I don’t know if we all suffered from malignant shame, that residue of colonialism that Dr. Garrett O’Connor writes about in this issue, but certainly there was a fear of drawing attention to oneself or  trying anything out of the ordinary.

America, then, was a revelation. Its sheer size a liberation. The anonymity that came with living outside the confines of one’s community was refreshing.  I remember someone asking me what I really wanted to do. It was the first time in my life that anyone had asked that question.“I’d like to be an actress,” I replied, expecting to be shot down. Instead I heard, “I think you’d be a great actress.”

This can-do attitude was something new for me to consider, but even more startling was the pride that the American Irish exhibited in their heritage.  It  was chest thumping, bagpipes at top of the parade, shout it from the rooftops loudly and proudly. And “Kiss me, I’m Irish.”

I didn’t get it at first but as I learned more of the grand story of the Irish in America, from pre-Revolution to modern times,  I became enthralled. It was a much more hopeful story than the history back home – for every knock-down there was an upswing, there were pioneers, and Irish war heroes, and movie stars, politicians, and businessmen, who for all their success were still proud to be of Irish stock.

I began to identify with those immigrants who went before me, and to seek out their stories. When I was lacking in courage, I
channeled Mother Jones, that firebrand labor leader and angel of the mining camps. And  I began to see my Irish heritage through a different lens and appreciate the part that Irish Americans had played in preserving the culture.

At university in California, I read James Joyce’s Dubliners, and as the only Irish-born person in the class, I took questions, but the Irish-American students knew far more than I did about Joyce.  It was an Irish American, John Quinn, who had argued the case for the publication of Ulysses in the United States, I discovered.

In the correspondence of Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and John Millington Synge, Quinn’s name constantly pops up. He was behind the Irish literary renaissance both as an advisor and a financial backer. He also provided  financial support for Douglas Hyde, founder of the Gaelic League.

Quinn is just one of many who helped preserve the language, literature and  culture of Ireland in this country.  The old Irish tunes were preserved  in large part through the efforts of Francis O’Neill, a Chicago police chief. O’Neill, born in Cork in 1849, left home at age 16, bringing his love of Irish music with him. A proficient flute player, he set about collecting tunes with his friend and fellow officer James O’Neill who was able to write music and transcribe the tunes that Francis played for him.

And so, over the years, as I came to a better understanding of the Irish in America,  I began to think of Mórtas Cine not so much as pride in race or heritage but pride in my people.

There are so many Irish Americans I am proud to be associated with in one way or another. There’s Chuck Feeney, who has funded educational programs in Ireland and is now funding medical research on a global level. Donald Keough, who funded the Irish studies program at Notre Dame. John Lahey, who is building an Irish Famine Museum on the campus of Quinnipiac University. Bill Flynn and Tom Moran who helped out in the Peace Process and others.

I am proud of the Irish lineage at the Ford Motor Company, and the participation of William Ford, Jr., as Keynote Speaker at our Business 100 lunch. As I write this, Ford executives are meeting with President Obama to discuss the Way Forward plan the company has initiated that will provide 12,000 new jobs for Americans in the next three years.

Over lunch, Bill Ford talked to me of his love of Irish music. And it seems to me that music is the main link across the generations, and the ocean, between Irish and Irish American. It has a transcendent quality that links us up to our ancient past and our home place. We have a wonderful interview with Martin Hayes by Tara Dougherty in this issue, in which he discusses the cross-pollination of the music, Irish and American, and how the one enriches the other.

I do hope that you get to experience Martin Hayes and The Gloaming, as I did on a recent evening in New York. The  group of Irish-born and American musicians touched my heart and made me very glad to be Irish, glad that this music is part of my culture.  As I listened to the haunting songs of old being sung in Irish, I was sad that the language is lost to many, but I am grateful that so much of the essence of Irish culture has survived.

It was a cold night in New York City but I was full of warmth, and pride in my people and culture.

Mórtas Cine.

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Irish Army Archives to go Public https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/irish-army-archives-to-go-public/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/irish-army-archives-to-go-public/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:37:03 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=5636 Read more..]]> The Irish Armed Forces is about to make a huge volume of historical documents available to the public by putting them online for general access. Lieutenant General Sean McCann, Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff, confirmed that an ambitious project will be carried out with the National Archives of Ireland, placing 36,000 pages of material online relating to military matters for the period 1913-1921. This will cover the 1916 Easter Rising, the War of Independence and will provide a unique insight into events that shaped the creation of the Republic of Ireland. It is planned that the site – militaryarchives.ie – will go online in March.

Meanwhile, a BBC Radio documentary provoked controversy by revealing that Irish Army personnel who joined the British Army during World War II were treated as deserters when they returned to Ireland.  According to “Face The Facts: Deserters Deserted,” an estimated 5,000 Irish soldiers left the Irish Army to fight alongside the Allies against Nazi Germany.

Some of them participated in major military campaigns, including the D-Day landings in 1944. However, it is claimed that on their return home from the front they were dismissed from the Irish Army as deserters, denied all pay and pension rights and banned from state employment for seven years. The program alleges that the names of returned soldiers were circulated on a blacklist in a covert effort to deny them any opportunity at finding work.

A campaign group is now seeking to have a full pardon issued to these ex-soldiers. Labor TD Gerald Nash told the documentary-makers, “what happened to them was vindictive and not only a stain on their honor but on the honor of Ireland.” Minister for Defense Alan Shatter was reportedly baffled by the revelations and has sought the advice of the Attorney-General on the matter.

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Rory McIlroy Named Sports Star of the Year https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/rory-mcilroy-named-sports-star-of-the-year/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/rory-mcilroy-named-sports-star-of-the-year/#respond Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:36:30 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=5632 Read more..]]> Rory McIlroy was named RTE’s Irish Sports Person of the Year at a televised ceremony in Dublin.

The 22-year-old golfer from Holywood, Co. Down capped a memorable year by winning the U.S. Open just two months after he suffered a meltdown when leading the field into the last day of the Masters.

McIlroy held off fellow Ulsterman (and British Open winner) Darren Clarke to take the prestigious RTE award. A week later both players were named on the Queen’s New Year list for Honours. When the list was announced, McIlroy was holidaying in Thailand with Caroline Wozniacki, his girlfriend and number one world tennis star. The Co. Down golfer said he was “delighted” to be named on the MBE honours’ list.

Also shortlisted by RTE for their outstanding contribution to Irish sport last year were European boxing champion Katie Taylor, hurler Michael Fennelly, Gaelic footballer Alan Brogan, rugby player Sean O’Brien, boxer John Joe Nevin, cricket player Kevin O’Brien and footballer Robbie Keane.

At the same ceremony, Republic of Ireland soccer manager Giovanni Trapattoni was named RTE Manager of the Year for 2011. His award was recognition for the 72-year-old Italian’s success in steering Ireland to the European Championships to be staged in Poland/Ukraine this summer. Despite being seeded third in a difficult qualifying group, Ireland made it through to the playoffs and beat Estonia 5-1 on aggregate to qualify for the finals of an international tournament for the first time in ten years. It was a fine achievement even if many Irish soccer fans remain dubious about the dour style of play demanded by the veteran boss.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) endorsed the manager’s successful term by extending his contract for another two years. In a deal reputed to be worth €1.7 million a year, it will take Trapattoni up to the end of the qualifying games for the 2014 World Cup.

“I am very happy to continue my job with the FAI,” said the manager after agreeing to terms. “I have always said that my assistant Marco Tardelli and I believe very strongly in the work that we are doing to grow and develop the Irish team. It is a huge honor and a privilege to represent the Irish team and we look forward to continuing this important task.”

The RTE Team of the Year award went to Heineken Cup-winning Leinster rugby team. Former rugby great Jackie Kyle, who was a key part of Ireland’s 1948 Grand Slam team, was also presented with a Hall of Fame award.

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Chuck Schumer’s Irish Bill https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/chuck-schumers-irish-bill/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/chuck-schumers-irish-bill/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:35:41 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=5646 Read more..]]> New York Senator Charles Schumer has gained a great deal of support from the Irish in America since mid-December, when he introduced an Irish visa bill to the Senate.

The bill, co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin of Vermont and Illinois, respectively, would permit 10,000 Irish citizens to live and work in the United States per year on a newly proposed E-3 non-immigrant visa. One condition of obtaining such a visa is a secure job offer in the United States in a specialty field. Spouses and children are also granted visas not to be counted in the 10,000 quota. Irish nationals currently living illegally in the United States would be eligible to apply. The movement was introduced as an amendment to immigration legislation passed by the House in November.

Senator Schumer called this a “common sense bill” which was built on with the same structure as a current visa program for Australian nationals. The legislation creating the E-3 visa in 2005 followed the same model as this new Irish visa bill, allowing Australians to work and live in the United States. The visa would be renewable indefinitely; the Australian version is up for renewal every two years.

Senator Schumer commented, “[The bill] has already passed the House with overwhelming bi-partisan support and we hope that we will find similar support in the Senate for this common sense bill that improves the fairness and efficiency of our immigration system, while also including a mutual visa exchange with Ireland, one of America’s steadfast allies.”

Ireland, in the face of the world economic crisis, has clocked staggering emigration numbers in the recent years. In 2010, 65,300 left Ireland in search of jobs, the majority leaving for the US, Australia and other English-speaking countries. This is the highest emigration rate since the 1980s. The new bill would aid much of the Irish who pour into America, most often illegally, to establish themselves as legal residents of the United States.

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Chuck Feeney’s Latest Donation https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/chuck-feeneys-latest-donation/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/chuck-feeneys-latest-donation/#respond Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:34:58 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=5642 Read more..]]> Irish America’s most beloved billionaire philanthropist has done it again. Irish America Hall of Famer and founder of Atlantic Philanthropies, Charles F. Feeney is the man behind a massive project to build a new house of graduate learning on New York’s Roosevelt Island.

The new high-tech science learning center will be a branch of Cornell University. Cornell announced in December that a $350 million donation was made by an anonymous donor to fund this extensive project. Atlantic Philanthropies later confirmed that it was Feeney behind the largest donation in Cornell’s history.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long championed the project, which would expand efforts to make New York City a technological center of the world. The hope is that this university and other New York universities will expand to attract the best and brightest students to pave the way for science and technology in the coming decades.

Feeney, a graduate of Cornell, said in his statement concerning the gift, “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create economic and educational opportunity on a transformational scale.”

The building of the center is estimated to create 20,000 construction jobs. Once opened, the school is expected to create a multitude of jobs and to foster opportunities for the technology industry in New York.

Feeney, known for his secretive donations, made his billions with his Duty Free Shoppers Group.  The man owns neither a house nor a car and has made a commitment to disperse his fortune through Atlantic Philanthropies. Feeney was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame last March along with President Bill Clinton, Michael Flatley and others. An intensely private individual, Feeney’s gifts often remain anonymous for years. This newest donation may prove to be one of the longest standing testaments to Feeney’s generosity and dedication to fostering education.

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Irish Eye on Hollywood: Upcoming Film Releases https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/irish-eye-on-hollywood-upcoming-film-releases-5/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/irish-eye-on-hollywood-upcoming-film-releases-5/#respond Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:33:08 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=5627 Read more..]]> 1. Michael Fassbender, who was raised in Kerry by his Irish mother and German father, is Hollywood’s current “it” guy.  After shocking audiences in 2008 in the harrowing film Hunger, in which he portrayed Northern Ireland icon Bobby Sands, Fassbender has been impressing critics and audiences non-stop.

He earned a Golden Globe nomination and is also expected to earn an Oscar nod for his depiction of a sex addict in the critically acclaimed Shame. Not surprisingly, Fassbender is slated to have a busy 2012. First, he appeared alongside Michael Douglas in the January film Haywire, directed by Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Traffic).

Then, in June, Fassbender will team up with another proven Hollywood director – Ridley Scott – in the outer-space thriller Prometheus.
Prometheus, which also features Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson and Guy Pearce, is about a team of scientists who have possibly discovered the origins of the universe, only to also discover they may have stirred up some seriously dark forces.

2. Prometheus also stars Noomi Rapace, who played rebel hacker Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Rooney Mara, of course, snared that part and won over hordes of U.S. moviegoers in the recent version of that flick.

Mara (member of the famous Irish-American Rooney and Mara clans of NFL football fame) earned raves for her performance.  She has now dropped out of what had been slated to be her follow-up role. Mara was set to reunite with Tanner Hall director Francesca Gregorini for a film called Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes. However, Mara – possibly because her Hollywood stock has risen so dramatically – has decided against the project, and is currently on the lookout for her next big role. She may not have to look for very long. Don’t forget: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo book had two blockbuster follow-ups.

3. Speaking of blockbusters, Liam Neeson is slated to appear in the latest Batman movie Dark Knight Rises. The summer flick features a galaxy of stars including Christian Bale as the caped crusader as well as Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. The Dark Knight Rises also features Dublin-born actor Aidan Gillen, who recently appeared in the Jason Statham action flick Blitz and is perhaps best known to U.S. audiences as ambitious Baltimore mayor Tommy Carcetti in the gritty HBO series The Wire.
Neeson, who appeared in the January release The Grey, will also appear in Wrath of the Titans, an action-fantasy follow-up to Clash of the Titans, which Neeson also starred in. Neeson, in both films, portrays the Greek god Zeus.

Wrath of the Titans should hit theaters around St. Patrick’s Day. After that, Neeson will be seen in the board-game-based flick Battleship and a sequel to his sleeper hit thriller Taken.

4. Neeson had been planning for years to portray Abraham Lincoln in a film about the U.S. president and directed by Steven Spielberg. Neeson has since backed out of the project (presumably because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for the oh-so-busy Ballymena native). In a strange twist, one extra-busy Irish actor was replaced by a famously reclusive one – Daniel Day-Lewis. The two-time Oscar winner has started filming Spielberg’s highly anticipated Lincoln.

“I’m so excited to work with one of the greatest actors of our time,” Spielberg recently told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He wouldn’t say yes for years. He even turned me down seven years ago when I asked him to play Lincoln. I think he was intimidated. You think about playing Lincoln, and it’s true that he was too great a man.”

Many of Day-Lewis’ career highlights include playing Irish characters in flicks such as The Boxer and In the Name of the Father. (He also played an anti-Irish bigot in Gangs of New York). It remains to be seen if Spielberg will tackle Lincoln’s complicated relationship with the Irish in America. The Irish were loyal Democrats at the time of the U.S. Civil War, while Lincoln’s new Republican party contained a deeply anti-immigrant faction.

The Civil War only made these rifts deeper. Not for nothing did the famous Irish ballad “Paddy’s Lament” bitterly explain that Irish immigrants were being told, “You must go and fight for Lincoln.”

5. Two young Irish stars are slated to appear in a film based on one of the most famous Russian novels of all time. Saoirse Ronan as well as Dohmnall Gleeson will star in the latest film version of Anna Karenina, the tortured love story featuring Vronsky and the titular heroine.

The new Anna Karenina film will reteam Ronan with director Joe Wright, who directed her to fame in Atonement, which earned Ronan an Academy Award nomination in 2007.

Gleeson, of course, is the son of acclaimed actor Brendan Gleeson. Before Anna Karenina hits screens, look for Dohmnall Gleeson in the September film Dredd, the latest big-screen version of the Judge Dredd comic book.  (Sylvester Stallone starred in an earlier version of Judge Dredd back in 1995.)

Meanwhile, it looks like Irish film fans will have to wait until 2013 for one of the most highly anticipated Irish films in years: At Swim-Two-Birds, to be directed by Brendan Gleeson and starring Dohmnall and a host of other Irish talent, in a film based on the famous Flann O’Brien novel.

6. Indeed, it should surprise no one that Brendan Gleeson is keeping busy. Following his success in the Irish movie The Guard, he appeared alongside Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington in Safe House. The film is about a rookie intelligence agent (Reynolds) who teams up with a renegade when they must take on a crew of killers. (Gleeson had some Irish company on the set of Safe House: Liam Cunningham, whose credits include The Wind that Shakes the Barley as well as, more recently, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse.)
In March, Brendan Gleeson will lend his voice to the animated adventure flick The Pirates! Band of Misfits, which also features the vocal stylings of Salma Hyeck, Jeremy Piven and Hugh Grant.

That same month, Gleeson’s voice as well as the rest of his body will appear in The Raven, alongside Irish American thespian John Cusack. The Raven is a thriller set in the early 19th century and – yes – features none other than the famous writer Edgar Allan Poe. It appears that a serial killer is on the loose and the murders just happen to mirror the crimes committed in some of Poe’s more gruesome stories. Only the writer himself can solve the crimes, in this flick directed by Aussie James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) and also starring Alice Eve and Oliver Jackson Cohen.

7. Finally, Ed Burns and Colin Farrell are both looking back to the past when it comes to making future movies.

Farrell, whose Fright Night remake more or less split critics, will tackle another remake when he steps into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s shoes for the new Total Recall film, also starring Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston. Word is the film – about a lowly factory worker who just may be working as a spy for a superpower nation – will be more dramatic and have fewer comedic stylings than the 1990 original.

Meanwhile, Ed Burns is reportedly going to revisit the family that made him famous. The actor/director is working on a sequel to The Brothers McMullen, which may be completed in 2014.

Burns recently said: “I’ve kind of always stayed in touch with Jack Mulcahy and Mike McGlone from The Brothers McMullen. Your lives get more complicated and you have kids so you don’t get to hang out as much as you used to, but McMullen was such an amazing chapter in all of our lives. To go from a pack of nobodies who had never been in front of a camera before…all of a sudden that film gave all of us a career. So I think we all feel kind of connected to that.”

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Michael Flatley Tries his Feet at Painting https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/michael-flatley-tries-his-feet-at-painting/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/michael-flatley-tries-his-feet-at-painting/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:32:20 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=5620 Read more..]]> Not one to limit himself to a single medium, Irish dancer and flute player Michael Flatley can now add “painter” to his artistic resume.

He sold his very first painting at an auction this past December for €5,600. His method, however, is not of the traditional paintbrush-and-easel variety. Rather, he takes a canvas that has been painted a solid color, places it on the ground, dips his shoes in paint, then tap dances in places on it. Unlike the visual arts, a dance lasts only for as long as it is being created. But in combining the movement of dance with the preservative powers of paint, Michael is able to capture and immortalize his movements on the canvas.

Michael, who is in the Irish America Hall of Fame, has been entered into the Guinness Book of World Records multiple times. His first tap record, set in 1989, was for an unprecedented 28 taps per second, though he has since topped himself, executing 35 taps per second at the age of 39. His legs are insured for $40,000,000, making Bette Grable’s Million Dollar Legs seem conservatively appraised.

Upon finding out how much his painting had sold for, Michael said he was, “very encouraged and a little bit stunned.”  The money will go towards the restoration of Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral. The painting, which he created by dancing the Al Capone solo from his show Celtic Tiger, is titled ‘I’. One woman at the auction said, “It’s magnificent – very Chinese looking,” while another claimed, “I wouldn’t be mad about him; he’s a genius in his own field but I don’t like the painting.” Michael says that he has done other paintings in this style, and that he plans to continue making more.

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Irish Awards for Michelle Williams & Melissa McCarthy https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/michelle-williams-and-melissa-mccarthy-get-honorary-irish-award/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/michelle-williams-and-melissa-mccarthy-get-honorary-irish-award/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:31:08 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=5608 Read more..]]> Michelle Williams, who has already received SAG, Golden Globe and Academy Award best actress nominations for her role as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn will be recognized as the US-Ireland Alliance’s first honorary Irishwoman at this year’s annual “Oscar Wilde: Honoring the Irish in Film” event.

The event, to be held at J.J. Abrams’ production studio Bad Robot three days before the Oscars, will also honor comedienne Melissa McCarthy, who has been nominated for her hilarious supporting role in Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids.

The US-Ireland Alliance is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. It was founded with the purpose of highlighting the dynamic relationship between the Irish and Americans. Hollywood stars such as J.J. Abrams and Paul Rudd have also received “honorary Irishman” titles.

“Honorary” is the key word in Williams’ title. The actress does not claim any direct Irish ancestry. She was born in Montana and was raised in San Diego, California. However, the Alliance explains that Marilyn Monroe, who Williams portrays, may have been of Irish decent.

“Her mother’s last name was Hogan,” notes Trina Vargo, President of the US-Ireland Alliance, in the organization’s press release. The Irish American McCarthy was born in Illinois.

The release also notes that Michelle Williams’ agent, Hylda Queally, is a native of Ireland and a member of the US-Ireland Alliance advisory board.

She represents notable actresses including, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Cate Blanchett. Queally was honored at the Oscar Wilde event in 2009.

Other former recipients include Saoirse Ronan, Brendan Gleeson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Van Morrison. In recent years, the event has garnered more Hollywood buzz. Tom Cruise attended two years ago to present the award to Abrams, and Julia Roberts was in attendance last year to present Rudd’s award.

This years 2012 Oscar Wilde event will be held in Santa Monica, California just three days before the Academy Awards. More honorees are still to be announced.

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The Reality of Irish Dance https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/the-reality-of-irish-dance/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/01/the-reality-of-irish-dance/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:30:47 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=5653 Read more..]]> It is hard to overstate the way Irish step dancing has exploded onto the scene in mainstream media. The once-niche sport will be the topic of a new show to air on TLC called Irish Dancing Tweens.

TLC, formerly The Learning Channel, has begun production on a documentary series which will follow several competitive Irish dance schools chronicling everything from choreography to costume.

With the hit show Toddlers & Tiaras, TLC has certainly been the network frontrunner in the race to capitalize on children in individualized competition. Irish step dancing fits the mold for the perfect backdrop for a show of this nature with the hard hours of training, the parental involvement and, of course, the glitz and glam. Irish dance costumes, wigs, makeup and shoes are known to cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, more than dance lessons and competition fees.

A compelling notion, which will no doubt be a focus for the series, is that while the expenses are astronomical, there are hardly ever cash prizes involved for Irish dancers. In fact, most of these dancers are in it just for the win.

Irish dance became a documentary darling with the hit film Jig! filmed at the World Championships in Glasgow in 2010. TLC has obtained rights to air Jig! on their network as well as recruited the film’s director Sue Borne to work on Irish Dancing Tweens.

TLC has faced its fair share of criticism in the past for its series Toddlers & Tiaras, which documents children competing in beauty pageants. The show has been labeled exploitative with the children’s parents coming under the most fire. It is unclear whether Irish Dancing Tweens will bear a similar tone to the network’s other series, but it is probably a safe bet that by the end of the first season Irish step dancing will come under some amount of skepticism from viewers who often take up arms when children in competition is the subject matter.

One can only hope the focus will remain on the craft rather than the costume but then again this is show business.

Jig! aired Sunday, January 8th. TLC has yet to announce an air date for Irish Dancing Tweens.

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