At fest, all things Irish

June 13, 1993|By Audrey Haar | Audrey Haar,Staff Writer

For the true Irish and the honorary Irish, the Ocean City Convention Center will be jampacked with all things Irish during the first Ocean City Irish Festival June 18-20.

In addition to pub music, performers at the festival will also play traditional and modern ballads, and internationally known Irish musician Tommy Makem will appear in concert at 8 p.m. Saturday.

While music is the main event, Irish dancers from the Ceanannas Mor School of Irish Dance in Baltimore will be performing reels, jigs and the hornpipe hard shoe dance. Among the Irish crafts and memorabilia for sale will be hand-knit Irish sweaters, imported jewelry, photos of the old sod and the hand-carved walking sticks called shillelaghs.

It wouldn't be a festival without food, and this one will have corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, Irish soda bread and a hearty ale to wash it down.

The festival is the brainchild of Bill Regan and Larry Ledoyen, who are partners in Custom Screen Print Co. in Ocean City. The two friends of distant Irish heritage also enlisted the help of Greg Shockley, owner of Shenanigans Irish Pub & Grill in Ocean City.

"We were inspired by Ireland," says Larry Ledoyen, who took a trip to the country last fall with Mr. Regan and their families.

"It was a pub crawl kind of thing," says Mr. Regan. "The music in every pub we went to had folk Irish music, and everyone was extremely friendly."

As the two friends and their families toured the southern half of Ireland for two weeks, their plans for the festival solidified.

"Our major emphasis [for the festival] is to have fun and celebrate Irish heritage," Mr. Regan says.

The festival is, of course, for all nationalities.

Even Mr. Shockley of Shenanigans doesn't claim to have Irish roots, but he's working on it, he says. "I'm becoming more Irish every year. I'm sure there is some Irish in my blood somewhere."

One festival performer, though, is Irish through and through. Tommy Makem describes himself as a singer, storyteller, actor and songwriter. For many years, he played with the Irish performers the Clancy Brothers, and together they are credited with helping to introduce Irish music to the rest of the world.

"Without people like them [the Clancy Brothers], there would be less of us working today," says Gerry Timlin of Timlin & Kane, who will be playing at the festival. "And without the Clancy Brothers, you wouldn't have all these festivals," he says.

Mr. Makem says he doesn't just sing Irish songs, but tries to establish a mood and encourage the audience to participate. "I do a concert as a painter paints a painting, with the highlights and the dark," he says.

"I insist on having a good time," Mr. Makem says.

And there is only one goal -- "To forget your troubles for a few hours."

Paul Martin, another Irish music performer at the festival, has noticed an increase in Irish music in the United States. "There is more Irish music in this country than in Ireland," says Mr. Martin, who has been here for 15 years. He has concluded that more people here know Irish songs than they do in Ireland.

Part of the appeal of Irish music originates in the Irish people themselves, says Gerry Malone of Malone and Hutch, who will also be appearing at the festival.

"There's charm to Ireland. The people never had much money and couldn't own land. They didn't have much except for the poetry or the song," Mr. Malone says.

"There's something pleasant about the everyday Irish. The people are fun, gregarious, inquisitive and nice to hang around," he says.

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