It's Code Green for the new mayor

Music: St. Patrick's Day brings out the Irish in Martin O'Malley, and it spills out in hours and hours of rolicking song.

March 18, 2000|By Dan Rodricks | Dan Rodricks,Sun Staff

Mayor Martin O'Malley, with one hand on his guitar and the other on a cell phone, juggled his City Hall duties with his devotion to Irish music yesterday, attending St. Patrick's Day Mass in a historic church, singing with his Celtic rock band at a Baltimore megabar, serenading senior citizens in a nursing home and lobbying the governor of Maryland for more state funds for the city.

It was O'Malley's 102nd day in office, and it did not end until last night, when he and his band, O'Malley's March, were due to perform at Mick O'Shea's, the Irish pub on North Charles Street.

And that was after the mayor, out of his business suit and into black jeans, managed a happy-hour set with his band inside Bohager's huge concert hall-bar on South Eden Street.

O'Malley will stay in Code Green until tomorrow, when he's due to be grand marshal of Baltimore's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, then perform another four-hour show with his band at Bohager's.

In between, he's due to perform a Saturday night set, again at Mick O'Shea's.

It sounds like a schedule that would leave most mortals short of breath, but not O'Malley.

This has always been his high season as an Irish-American singer and songwriter, but it was his first St. Patrick's Day as mayor. He wears his Irish passions on his sleeve -- assuming he's not performing with O'Malley's March in his signature sleeveless T -- but he dismissed rumors that he intended to have St. Patrick's Day declared an official city holiday.

"That's an urban myth," he said.

But he ordered the washing of the Washington Monument in green lights last night, and he pushed his Friday schedule as hard as he could to squeeze his traditional St. Patrick's Day rituals onto the mayoral calendar.

O'Malley's day had started with 10 o'clock Mass in Upper Fells Point, where he found a seat that had been saved for his last-minute arrival in St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, the oldest active Catholic parish in Baltimore.

It was packed with Irish-Americans from the city and well beyond. They filled the pews and the corners of the church, stood with their backs against the doors, and chatted happily about old friends and trips to Ireland as they awaited the start of the Mass in honor of their patron saint.

A pipe-and-drum unit, called Nafaina, played "Minstrel Boy" to lead the priests to the sanctuary. For a brief and lovely moment, wind through the entrance of St. Patrick's caught the green-white-and-orange flag of the Republic of Ireland, unfurled it from a bearer's staff and blew the flag toward the altar of the old church.

Top of the morning

Reflecting the changes that have taken place in Upper Fells Point the past few decades, the pastor, the Rev. James Gilmour, offered greetings in Spanish and in English. Then the Rev. Jeremiah F. Kenney, a monsignor representing the archdiocese, offered his in Gaelic and English. "Top of the morning to you," he said.

This was a day, Kenney said, to recall the struggles of ancestors and to "celebrate our diversity and our unity." It was day for Irish stories and poetry, he said, offering both, amusing worshipers with some, nudging them to silent reflection with others.

"We are people of poetry," said Kenney, the son of Irish immigrants. "We are people of strength. We are people of opinion and we are people of conviction."

All of which might have described Baltimore's new mayor, sitting just 25 feet away, in his first 100 days.

Later during Mass, as Kenney recited prayers over the Eucharist, the solemn air was broken by the sudden whoop of a police siren from South Broadway, a reminder of the troubles of Martin O'Malley's city and the attack on crime that has become the focus of his first three months in office.

Songs at nursing home

After Mass, O'Malley hustled off in a Ford Expedition to do something he's done in years past to political advantage -- singing old Irish songs for residents of a nursing home.

O'Malley had originally been scheduled to perform at Good Samaritan Nursing Center in Northeast Baltimore at 2 p.m., but because of his date with Gov. Parris N. Glendening, the time of his appearancce was moved to 11:15 a.m. He did not start playing until almost noon -- the exact hour his schedule had him as a guest on Marc Steiner's radio show on WJHU-FM.

O'Malley was supposed to perform with two members of his band on the Steiner show, but the prospects of that looked increasingly grim as the mayor stepped briskly, to great applause, into the Lake Unit of Good Samaritan Nursing Center.

It was a bright room with large windows, filled with elderly men and women in wheelchairs. There were shamrock decals on the windows and cardboard leprechauns hanging from the ceiling. In the front row of wheelchairs, an old woman with white hair wore a silly St. Patrick's headband, with two plastic shamrocks bobbing on springs.

"How many Irish people do we have here?" O'Malley asked.

A few hands went up.

"Everybody's Irish today, right?

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