A bit o' Baltimore brogue THE GREENING OF AMERICA

March 17, 1994|By Kara Kenna | Kara Kenna,Contributing Writer

Keeping alive centuries' worth of Irish ballads, Baltimore's neighborhood Irish pubs and restaurants are flourishing as the love for the ethnic music continues to grow.

"Baltimore has something special in its hometown atmosphere," says Peter Fitzgerald, an Irish musician and a member of Rigadoo, the house band at J Patrick's, a bar and restaurant in Locust Point. "Irish folk music is increasing in popularity all the time."

"J Patrick's is dedicated to Irish culture," says Mr. Fitzgerald. "It takes you away from the mainstream bars, as the crowd tries to connect to their roots." The bar also features Ellis Island, Irish Edge, Penny Whistle, Relatively Irish, and Wild Geese.

Some of these bands also perform at the Cat's Eye Pub, another hotbed of Irish song, nestled among dozens of bars and dance clubs in Fells Point. Fans flock to this bar every weekend to listen to Dogs Among the Bushes and others. Patrons line the crowded bar, decorated with Irish maps and green trinkets, clapping their hands to the beat.

These ballads and lyrics tell tales about the working man, the TC hardships of immigration and the love for the mother country. "There is also a tremendous cross-fertilization between Irish and English tunes," says Jerry Farrelly, another member of Rigadoo.

"Rebel music is a facet of Irish culture," says Billy McComiskey, a Baltimore button accordionist. This rebellious music, popular among college-age students, is aggressive and upbeat, describing the cause and struggle between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Softer than rebel music, Irish piano music is very popular at McGinn's Irish Pub and Restaurant on the 300 block of North Charles Street. Bar patrons can sing along with Bill Ziemski and Paul Snyder, who play favorite Irish tunes at the piano bar every Thursday and Friday evenings. On Saturday nights, McGinn's features bands, including Atlantic Bridge, Bifolkal, O'Malley's March and Shannon Tide.

Irish folk music can't be truly appreciated until watching or partaking in a ceili dance, an Irish dance similar to an American square dance. "Ceilis can be done at any social event, even in bars, wherever there's room," says Linda Tumminello, a ceili dance teacher recently accredited by the Irish Dancing Commission. "It's hard for the Irish to stay still whenever music is playing."

These dancers foster "a big giant family . . . an extended family," says Ms. Tumminello. The first American ceili dance was organized in Baltimore in the 1950s.

Where to go tonight

Cat's Eye Pub

1730 Thames St.; 276-9866

Performance by Dogs Among the Bushes; no cover

J Patrick's

1371 Andre St.; 727-9482

Corned beef and cabbage

Performance by Rigadoo; no cover

Kavanagh's Pub

311 W. Madison St.; 462-9585

Corned beef and cabbage

Performance by Pat McAllormum; no cover

Kilkenny Irish Ale House

1818 Maryland Ave.; 685-4665

Corned beef and cabbage buffet

$2 pints of green beer

Performance by Sons of Guiness; cover: $3 after 7 p.m.

McGinn's Irish Pub and Restaurant

328 N. Charles St.; 539-7504

Corned beef and cabbage, Irish lamb stew

Scott McNinney at piano; no cover

The Folkal Point

Hobbit's Glen Golf Club

11130 Willow Bottom Drive, Columbia; 740-2096

Liar's Night! "Funny, You Don't Look Irish"; 8 p.m.; cover: $8

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