seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Frank Harte, Traditional Irish Singer

frank-harteFrank Harte, traditional Irish singer, music collector, architect and lecturer, is born in Chapelizod, County Dublin on May 14, 1933. He emigrates to the United States for a short period, but later returns to Ireland where he works as an architect, lecturer at Dublin Institute of Technology in Rathmines, Dublin and in later life fully engages in songs in many ways.

Harte’s introduction to Irish traditional singing comes from a chance listening to an itinerant who is selling ballad sheets at a fair in Boyle, County Roscommon. He begins collecting early in life and by the end of his life has assembled a database of over 15,500 recordings.

Harte becomes a great exponent of the Dublin street ballad, which he prefers to sing unaccompanied. He is widely known for his distinctive singing, his Dublin accent having a rich nasal quality complementing his often high register. His voice mellows considerably by the time of his later recordings, allowing for an expressive interpretation of many love songs such as “My Bonny Light Horseman” on the album My Name is Napoleon Bonaparte. This is contrasted sublimely by his cogent interpretation of the popular “Molly Malone.” He also becomes more accustomed to singing with accompaniment which is not strictly part of the Irish singing tradition and does not come naturally to him.

Though Irish Republican in his politics, Harte believes that the Irish song tradition need not be a sectarian or nationalist preserve. He believes that songs are a key to understanding the past often saying, “those in power write the history, while those who suffer write the songs, and, given our history, we have an awful lot of songs.” Though considered a stalwart of traditional Irish singing and well aware of it, he does not consider himself to be a sean-nós singer.

Harte wins the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil singing competition on a number of occasions and in 2003 receives the Traditional Singer of the Year award from the Irish-language television channel TG4.

Harte records several albums and makes numerous television and radio appearances, most notably the Singing Voices series he writes and presents for RTÉ Radio, which is produced by Peter Browne in 1987. He is a regular at the Sunday morning sessions at The Brazen Head pub, along with Liam Weldon who runs the session. He is also an enthusiastic supporter of An Góilín Traditional Singer’s Club.

Harte appears at many American festivals including The Blarney Star in New York City, Gaelic Roots in Boston College, The Catskills Irish Arts Week, The Greater Washington Ceili Club Festival in Maryland and the Milwaukee Irish Fest and for seventeen years he is a veritable staple at the Irish Week every July in the Augusta Heritage Festival in Elkins, West Virginia where he often performs with Mick Moloney.

Frank Harte dies of a heart attack, aged 72, on June 27, 2005. His influence is still evident in singers such as Karan Casey and he continues to be remembered fondly in sessions and folk clubs on both sides of the Irish Sea.

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Birth of Irish Dancer & Choreographer Michael Ryan Flatley

michael-flatleyMichael Ryan Flatley, Irish American dancer, choreographer, and musician, is born to Irish parents in Chicago, Illinois on July 16, 1958. He becomes internationally known for Irish dance shows Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames, and Celtic Tiger.

Flatley begins dancing lessons at age 11 and, at age 17, is the first American to secure a World Irish Dance title at the World Irish Dance Championships, the Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne. He is also an accomplished flautist, having won twice in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil Concert Flute competitions from 1975-1976.

Flatley is taught dance by Dennis Dennehy at the Dennehy School of Irish Dance in Chicago. After graduating from Brother Rice High School, on Chicago’s Southwest Side, he opens a dance school but later closes it to focus on performing.

In 1978 and 1979 Flatley tours with Green Fields of America and then with The Chieftains in the 1980s. In May 1989, Flatley sets a Guinness Book world record for tapping speed at 28 taps per second, and subsequently breaks his own record in 1998 with 35 taps per second.

Flatley creates and choreographs the original Riverdance and leads the show to great success as the intermission act in the Eurovision Song Contest staged in Ireland on April 30, 1994. Flatley abruptly leaves the show over creative control disputes in October 1995.

Shortly after the Riverdance split, Flatley creates Lord of the Dance, which plays mostly in arenas and stadiums instead of stage theaters. He also puts together a dance production called Feet of Flames in 1998. Flately’s Irish dance show Celtic Tiger opens in July 2005. The show explores the history of the Irish people and Irish emigration to the United States, fusing a wide range of dance styles, including jazz.

Flatley returns to the stage in 2009 for a limited run of the “Hyde Park” version of Feet of Flames in Taiwan. His return is met with multiple standing ovations and the run of shows has to be extended to meet the demand for tickets.

Flatley premiers Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games at the celebrated Palladium Theatre on London’s West End in 2014 and moves to the Dominion Theatre in 2015 where he makes his final appearance on the West End stage before revisiting another sold out Wembley Arena for his final performance in the United Kingdom.

Flatley embarks on his final tour on February 19, 2016 and performs on stage for the last time at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, NV, on March 17, 2016. He continues as the show’s creator, producer, and choreographer.