Despite the calamities, show, Irish-style, goes on

August 26, 1994|By Patrick Hickerson | Patrick Hickerson,Contributing Writer

All Deborah Brower wanted was to bring traditional Irish music to Howard County.

What she received was a practical education in concert promotion with a tuition of more than $1,000.

Her two-month effort will come to fruition tonight when Dordan, a female trio from Connemara, Ireland, will perform at the 110-seat Little Theatre on the Corner in Ellicott City.

Dordan is composed of Kathleen Loughnane, harp, Dearbhaill Standun, fiddle and playing the Irish tin whistle, Mary Bergin, who Ms. Brower said, is "one of the most brilliant Irish whistle players around."

The group, which won the traditional music award at this year's ** Irish National Entertainment Awards, will play both traditional Irish and baroque music.

Ms. Bower, 39, worked for House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park and lives in the Clarys Forest neighborhood of Columbia with her husband Neal and son Robbie. She said Robbie once told her, "The one way to make a small fortune in Irish music is to start with a large one."

Ms. Bower is living up to her son's maxim. Despite producing two earlier concerts, this one is proving to be the most difficult.

She had to deal with the eviction of the proprietors of Lewis & Carroll's Comics & Cards -- who rented the theater at Main Street and Old Columbia Pike -- and had to negotiate with the agent for the landlord.

"On Aug. 10, I went in to hang my great big poster that I was so proud of and they said, 'We need to talk. We've been evicted and have to get out by 10 a.m. tomorrow. Sorry,'" she said.

After that shock, Ms. Brower contacted the agent for the property and reached an agreement to rent the space for a one-night show. But she still had to get insurance for the performance, plus lighting and a sound system and a sound technician.

She also found out that an investor in the performance scaled back his share from around 60 percent to zero. Ms. Brower's investment in the production began to grow from an initial estimate of around $350 to four-digits.

"Part of the reason I'm taking a bath on this is to make a name for myself in Ireland so they know I'm here and can trust me," she said.

Philippe Varlet, a historian of Irish music who is a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, said that there is some difference between Irish-American music and traditional Irish music.

"Probably the major portion of the Irish-American population thinks of Irish music as Bing Crosby's rendition of "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral" and those kind of songs. This is a kind of repertoire that was created here."

Mr. Varlet, who has been playing Irish music on the fiddle since 1976, has compiled two discographies on Irish music that have "several thousand" entries. "Irish traditional music for me is music of an oral tradition, mainly music of the peasant class," he said.

Ms. Brower, who cannot claim Irish ancestry, said she became hooked on the music in 1974, when she visited the Dubliner near Union Station in Washington and heard the Irish Tradition musical group, which used to play at Fells Point.

"These guys were really traditional," she said. "They did sing-alongs and more real traditional music that I hadn't heard before.

"Most of the traditional music is basically music played for dance."

Seven years ago, Ms. Brower started playing a traditional Irish instrument, the bodhran, which she describes as an Irish frame drum that's "circular all the way around. It was played before the Medieval period for military affairs and ceremonies called mumming plays. "There are small pockets in Ireland where they still do it," she said.

"I love drums. I would have done drums at 16 if my mother would have let me," she said.

Despite her experiences in entertainment production, Ms. Bower BTC can still focus on why she does it.

"There's no ethnic music out here. I want to put on true ethnic music, particularly Irish, because Irish is what I know best," she said. "I think there are people who will like that. I'm really hoping there's an audience for this so I can do more."

American Irish Cultural Arts will present Dordan at 8 p.m. today at the Little Theatre on the Corner, 8217 Main Street in Ellicott City. Tickets are $10. Tickets are sold at An Die Musik in Ellicott City and Towson and House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park. Information: 997-7334.

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