October 10, 2008, Irish Week: Remembering Banjo, East Durham Banjo Festival, Greene County

Remembering Banjo

October 10, 2008


From the Hob by Paul Keating
WHILE no one would confuse the hamlet of East Durham with Nashville’s Music City, there is no denying that it has become a mecca for traditional music not only in the summer but now in October as it hosts two gatherings for the traditionally inclined.

Coming up this Columbus Day weekend is the second annual Joe “Banjo” Burke Festival from October 10-13 in memory of the great Kilkenny banjo player and ballad singer who succumbed to Parkinson’s disease and other ailments before his time back in 2003.

In an attempt to keep his legacy alive and provide some funding for medical research and the arts in the upstate Catskills area, this festival was launched a year ago by Joe’s widow, Bridget Burke ([email protected] or phone 607-225-9928) to also bring some business to the town as it winds down for the season.

Among the musicians scheduled to teach and/or perform are Brian Conway, Jimmy Noonan, Margie Mulvihill, Willy Kelly, Frank Claudy, Will Collins, Bill Meehan, Tom Dunne, John Reynolds, Cathy Clarke, John Nolan, John Whelan, Jimmy Crowley, Carol Thompson, Don Meade, Ged Foley, Donnie Carroll, Aine Meenaghan, Terry and Pat Kane, Ian and Erica Keane and Monsignor Charles Coen. There are music, singing, Irish language and dancing workshops on Saturday and Sunday (set dancing with Ron Bruschi and Marie Newman and ceili dancing with Pat Kane and West O’Clare).

There will be concerts on Saturday afternoon from 3-8:30 pm at the Shamrock House followed by a ceili from 9 p.m.-midnight. Sessions will take place where space and management and attendance dictate.

Registration and information will be available at Furlong’s Riverside Pub starting on Friday, or check the website www.joebanjoburke.org with a caution that it hasn’t been updated in awhile. Therefore, any details need to be confirmed with Bridget Burke. Donations can be made to Banjo Burke Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 937, Greenwood, New York 14839 to assist this cause.

Later on in the month the East Coast Irish Pipers (www.eastcoastpipers.com) assemble once again on the lovely intimate campus of Gavin’s Golden Hill Resort for the Northeast Piping Tionol for the weekend of October 24-27. Going for two decades now and in its fourth year in East Durham, its attendees are mostly all fanatical — and some fantastic pipers — who come together to support themselves and the Irish instrument that inspires so much great traditional Irish music.

The staff this year includes pipers Mick O’Brien, Cormac Cannon, Patrick D’Arcy, Ivan Goff, Debbie Quigley, Cillian Vallely, and Benedict Koehler plus special guest artist Jimmy O’Brien-Moran.

In recent years they have added fiddle tutelage over the weekend and providing that this year are Patrick Ourceau and Breda Keville visiting from Galway who garnered critical acclaim for an old-fashioned (in a good way) recording of East Galway music called The Hop Down back in 2006. While the workshops require registration, the Saturday night concert from 7:30-10 p.m. and any resultant sessions are open to the general public (admission is only $15 to help support the weekend) there at Gavins.

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