The All Female Irish Band GIRSA comes to York, PA October 7th at 4 P.M.

Girsa, an all-female traditional Irish band that is staking out a “new” form of New York Irish music, comes to York on October 7 for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at the Marketview Arts Center, 37 W. Philadelphia Street. Girsa  is eight young women who grew up together in the Pearl River, NY, area. Opening for the group will be the Srour family band Irish Blessing. The concert will be preceded by an Irish Session and a reception; both at 2:45.

The members of Girsa come from musical families, with their parents having learned Irish traditional music from such greats as Martin Mulvihill, Maureen Glynn Connelly, and Pete Kelly. Members of Girsa are Maeve Flanagan (fiddle/whistle), Deirdre Brennan (fiddle/mandolin/vocals), Kristen McShane (fiddle), Margaret Dudasik (fiddle/vocals/low whistle/dancing feet), Blaithin Loughran (accordion), Bernadette Flanagan (piano/bodhran/dancing feet), Pamela Geraghty (accordion/vocals/guitar), and Emily McShane (piano/vocals/bodhran/guitar).

Recently I caught up with Maeve Flanagan and had a chat with her about the band and her experience growing up in this thriving Irish-American Community.

Folkmama: So how do you pronounce the name of your band and what does it mean:

Maeve: It’s Girsa. It’s pronounced as though it has an “h” in it. The name Girsa comes from Northern Irish slang for “young girls”. One of the girl’s grandparents is from Armagh and she used to call the young girls “Girsa” when she was younger.

Folkmama: How long has the group been together?

Maeve: Around eight years now. We started when we were really young. I was about 14.

Folkmama: So what’s the average age of the group right now?

Maeve: Probably 21. I’m 22 and I’m the oldest.

Folkmama: In the eight years that you’ve been together have you had a lot of different people come through the band?

Maeve There has been a core. There have been two or three that have come and gone, just because they have had other commitments. But we’ve never really added anyone to the band.

Folkmama: I know the band has been to some pretty exciting festivals in the last couple of years. Could you just let me know a few of the places that our readers would probably know about?

Maeve Yeah, we’ve played at the Milwaukie Irish Festival and the Dublin, Ohio Irish Festival, the Kansas City Irish Festival and we have played at a couple of places in Wisconsin where we have a big fan base which is surprising since we are from New York. We played in Savanna last year from St Patrick’s Day. That was one of the best places we’ve ever played. It was so awesome!

Folkmama: What made it so good?

Maeve Just the hospitality in Savanna I guess. Everyone was just so nice to us. Plus it was during March so it was really nice to get away from the cold weather.

Folkmama: So, have you played in Ireland?

Maeve: We’ve played in Ireland separately, but we’ve never played as the group Girsa. We’ve played in ceili bands together, which is a group of ten people who go over. There is a drummer, a piano player and then pretty much any type of instrumentation that you want. So we’ve all played together in Caili bands but along with other people.

Folkmama: So tell me more about Pearl River, NY where you all come from. Where it’s located, and I’m curious if a lot of the Irish Americans that live there came from a particular place in Ireland, and also are you influenced by the Irish Americans in New York City?

Maeve So Pearl River is about ½ hour to 35 minutes outside of New York City. And pretty much everyone here is Irish. There is no particular place in Ireland that everyone is from. A lot of my family is from the North; Armagh and Tyrone. A lot of people when they first immigrated to America moved to the New York City area. My parents are from the Bronx and their parents immigrated to the Bronx. And once they started having families they migrated out to the suburbs and Pearl River is one of the closest suburbs to the city. You still have the closeness to the city but it’s not quite the hustle and bustle of the city.

Folkmama: So it seems like from listening to your band that you really have a lot of respect for the traditions and the traditional style. In your area is that generally true, that there is a lot of interest in the traditions as opposed to Celtic rock or more modern styles.

Maeve I definitely think that, in Pearl River anyway. Actually in New York City as a whole. My mom was taught the fiddle first by Martin Mulvihill, a great fiddler and composer from County Limerick by fiddler Martin Wynne who was from Sligo County. So she was taught by the most traditional players, pretty much, in New York City. So she really passed it down to us.

She would never consider going outside of the traditions so she taught it to us just as she learned it. We have a huge respect for that music while also making our own compositions and learning some of the newer compositions. Because, you know, we’re young and once in a while we like to do some of the funky stuff, although we really do have a lot of respect for the traditional Irish music.

Folkmama: So have you found a lot of people in your age group that you can play with and spend time with that have a similar respect for the traditions?

Maeve:  Oh, absolutely. I’ve been going to Ireland for competitions since I was about ten or eleven, and once you go there every year you make friends; I have tons of friends in Ireland. There are a lot of friends that I have in Pearl River that play Irish music, so then more people begin to play and it wasn’t like I’m embarrassed about it. So I’d say as I was growing up all my best friends either knew about the music or played the music.

Folkmama: That’s very unusual in this day and age I think. Very unusual.

Maeve I feel that there is kinda a revival of it too. For a couple of years, below our age group, you know in their teen years there are not too many people around here interested in it, but my brother is now 12 and all of his little friends just won a Ceili Band composition over in Ireland, they got first place under 12, so once something like that happens there is a huge interest in the music. Everyone wants to play after that.

Folkmama: I know some of your group knows the Srour family; the folks in Irish Blessing. Do you personally know them?

Maeve Yes, I know them very well. We connected with them first through Irish dancing because pretty much everyone in the group did Irish dancing at some point.

One of our girls, Margaret, went to the same Irish dance school as Jonathon Srour. As for the rest of us,  Jonathon played the flute and his brother Joshua played the fiddle so we’d meet up every year at the different competitions, the different Feises (a Gaelic Arts and Culture Festival) and conventions and such. So that’s pretty much how we met and we’ve kept in touch.

Jonathon was actually dancing in a touring show, and my sister, who was studying abroad in Germany, actually caught one of his shows.

Folkmama: So it sounds like you and your friends are really the next generation. The next generation of people who are playing the traditional music and doing the traditional dancing.

Maeve: Yeah, hopefully. That is our goal.

Folkmama: So you are going to have some step dancers there, is that correct?

Maeve: Yes, Margaret Dudasik and Bernadette are both step dancers.

Folkmama: Anything else?

Maeve Some people ask us what we are doing, besides music. A lot of people don’t know that we have other lives. I’m actually in law school, I do that full time. So pretty much we are only able to play on the weekends. Deirdre is a full time nurse, and she just got a new job so she is only working during the week, which is great because she can play music on the weekends. And everyone else is still in school, either in their junior year or their senior year in college.

Folkmama: And you have two CDs out.

Maeve: Yes. Our first CD we recorded while most of us were still in high school and the second one we just came out with last summer. It’s called “A Sweeter Place”.

Folkmama: It sounds like even though you are very young, you are extremely competent with your instruments. So, are there people who look at you and say, “Oh, they are really young, they can’t be any good.” I hear really good things on your CDs, but how can we put aside anyone’s fears that you may not be quite as good as they’d like to hear?”

Maeve : We’ve all been doing this since we were like five years old. For the competitions we had to practice so much, so kind of  our own doing we wanted to get better. So we’ve just been working, and working, and working. We could have played a concert last year and listened to it this year and say, “Oh my God, we have improved so much.” We just keep practicing and keep working together to perfect our sound.”

Folkmama: I don’t want to sound negative, but I just wanted to address that because someone might be thing in those terms. Because there are so many bands out there that are amateurs and aren’t particularly serious with their music and aren’t as interested as you all seem to be at following traditions. You’ve been seeped in it since you were a child. I really wanted that to come out in this story.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at http://www.BrownPaperTickets.com. This concert is supported, in part, through grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Cultural Enrichment Fund. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society Web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

 

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Darrell Scott Playing in Harrisburg September 30, 3012

Darrell Scott is an award winning singer songwriter and one of Nashville’s premier session instrumentalists. He has collaborated with many of country music’s biggest stars and has written songs recorded by Sam Bush, Keb’ Mo’, Brad Paisley and others. The Dixie Chicks’ version of his song “Long Time Gone” was nominated for a Grammy in 2003. He is a powerful singer and instrumentalist of whom Sam Bush says, “His playing is unreal. He’s just limitless in his approach and knowledge of instruments!”

Darrell Scott will be making his way to the midstate on September 30th where he’ll give a live performance as a part of Susquehanna Folk Music Society’s concert series at 7:30 pm at the Fort Hunter Centennial located at 5300 North Front Street in Harrisburg. The popular group Voxology, which featured the honeyed voice of Les Vonderlin and the guitar wizardry of Kevin Neidig, opens. A potluck dinner precedes the concert at 6 pm. Tickets are available at the door and through the organizer’s website at www.sfmsfolk.org.

Darrell Scott was born in London, Kentucky, son of musician Wayne Scott, whom Darrell calls “the real deal.” One of five boys, he grew up hearing country music and playing in a family band with his father and brothers. Much of his current writing is colored by this early immersion into the music of Hank Williams and other early-country stars that captured the voice of working people and the people of the land. “I guess the old country music was simpler,” he says, reflecting on the music of his childhood. “It was all about cheating, drinking, working and longing. It’s the kind of music that really cuts deep.”

Darrell Scott moved to Nashville in 1995 to pursue a career as a professional musician and songwriter. “I knew ever since I was a kid that I would make music my life,” he says. “It’s what we did as a family so it was really natural for me to gravitate towards it” He has become successful as a sessions musicians appearing on albums by Olivia Newton John, Kathy Mattea, Sam Bush, Guy Clark, John Cowan, Suzy Boggus and many others. He has written a number of mainstream country hits including one of his most famous “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” which is about the life of a coalminer. “My family came from Harlan County Kentucky, “he says. “That song was about trying to find out what happened to a great grandfather of mine.” “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” was recorded by Brad Paisley and Patty Loveless, and another song “It’s a Great Day to be Alive” was recorded by Travis Tritt.

Darrell Scott has recorded ten CDs including in 2010 A Crooked Road, a winner in the Country Album category from The 10th Annual Independent Music Awards. This album is unique because on it he plays all of the instruments including guitar, mandolin, lap steel, keyboard, drums, bass, harp and cello. Other honors include a 2005 Independent Music Award for Album of the Year for his album Theatre Of The Unheard, the 2007 Song of the Year Award from the Americana Music Association for his song “Hank Williams’ Ghost, and in 2002 a Songwriter of the Year Award by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. His latest CD; humorously titled We’re Usually a Lot Better Than This is a live recording made with bluegrass icon Tim O’Brien. It is due out next month but will be available at the concert.

Darrell Scott has toured across the United States and internationally. He has performed and recorded with dobro player Jerry Douglas and others for The Transatlantic Sessions; a project that contrasts Americana music with Celtic. He has also performed on NPR’s Mountain Stage and at large scale country/bluegrass festivals such as MerleFest. A fan plans to come see him play on September 30th recently enthused, “I can’t believe that I’m going to be able to see Darrell Scott in such an intimate venue. I’m used to seeing him on a big stage with hundreds of people in the audience.”

 

Darrell Scott with Supporting Act Voxology Opens Susquehanna Folk’s Season

By John Hope

Darrell Scott, who has collaborated with stars such as Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle and has won several awards for his songwriting, brings a concert of his dynamic original songs to Harrisburg on Saturday, September 30 at the Fort Hunter Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. Opening for Scott in this program sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society will be the hit local duo Voxology. The concert will be preceded by a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner.

Born in London, Kentucky, son of musician Wayne Scott, with whom he has also worked, Darrell Scott has developed a loyal fan base for his songs which capture the voice of working people and the people of the land. His songs have been recorded by over 70 artists including Garth Brooks, Sam Bush, Keb Mo, Guy Clark, Kathy Mattea, and Patty Loveless. The Dixie Chicks’ version of his song “Long Time Gone” was nominated for a Grammy in 2003.

Scott has lived in Nashville since about 1995 and has established himself as one of the area’s leading session musicians. He also has written a number of mainstream country hits. Explaining his love for the music, he says he comes from a long line of Scots and Irish immigrants who brought their music with them. “My people came from Kentucky,” he says, “poor tobacco farmers of the first half of the 20th Century and Harlan County coal miners for decades ahead of that. From silver-haired daddy to momma’s hungry eyes, I was baptized in country music.”

In January 2011, his album A Crooked Road won the award for the Country Album category from The 10th Annual Independent Music Awards. In early 2005, his Theatre Of The Unheard won in the 4th Annual Independent Music Awards for Album of the Year. He won the 2007 Song of the Year award from the Americana Music Association for his song “Hank Williams’ Ghost,” which appears on his 2006 album The Invisible Man.

In 2010, Brad Paisley’s cover of Scott’s song “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” was the closing song played on the TV drama Justified during the final scene of the final episode of the first season. It was used again in the final episode of the second season.

Scott says that his latest album, Long Ride Home, is a country music tribute with 16 songs that go back as far as 30 years. “It is country music how I remember it, with some of the players that made the very music that was both lifting and breaking my heart as a kid,” he says. “What I find is the country music industry has changed, but country and working people have not changed so much. They still love country music when they hear it. I hope they get to hear this—a long ride home.”

Opening the concert will be local favorite Voxology, featuring the honeyed singing of Les Vonderlin and the guitar wizardry of Kevin Neidig. Their bluegrass-tinged repertoire bursts with award-winning songwriting and exquisite harmonies.

The 7:30 p.m. concert will be preceded by a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner. Bring a dish to share; place settings and beverages will be provided. Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at http://www.BrownPaperTickets.com. This concert is supported, in part, through grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Cultural Enrichment Fund. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

Susquehanna Folk Music Society Announces New Season

By Jess Hayden

The Susquehanna Folk Music Society, Harrisburg area’s champion of traditional and contemporary folk music, dance, stories and craft, is excited to present its new season of concerts, dances, workshops, jams and coffeehouses. This veteran group doesn’t own a venue, but instead uses a variety of interesting spaces to help create the cozy, informal atmosphere so often appreciated by folk music enthusiasts. Susquehanna Folk events are staffed by volunteers and frequently include opportunities for audience members to get to know one another over refreshments at intermission or during a potluck meal before the event.

Look for the group to return this season to one of their favorite haunts; the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn. Part of Fort Hunter Museum and Park in Harrisburg, this attractive historic barn has housed many Susquehanna Folk concerts, jams, coffeehouses and workshops. Concerts slated to be held at the barn this season are Nashville songwriter Darrell Scott on September 30th, multi-instrumentalist Harvey Reid on October 26th, string band music and quirky humor from Molasses Creek on November 2nd, an eclectic mix ranging “from Celtic to Cowboy” with Small Potatoes on November 17th, local favorites Voxology on March 23rd, and Canadian singer-songwriter Garnet Rogers on April 13th. A jam, open to all, is held on third Sundays 1-3 pm, October through May.

New this season will be a series of Sunday afternoon matinee concerts held in collaboration with Greenbelt Events at the Gallery of the Appalachian Brewery in Harrisburg. This lovely, intimate space has old-world charm but boasts the latest in sound and lighting technology. This series of concerts includes Canadian fiddling and step dancing virtuoso April Verch on January 13th, a spotlight on local talent with Neidig, Koretsky, Gehret and Campbell on February 3rd, Blues Hall of Fame Inductee John Hammond on February 24th, and Americana music favorites Red Molly on May 19th. Concert goers are encouraged to stay for dinner or to try out one of the establishment’s famous brews! Parking is conveniently located and free of charge.

For those wishing to venture to York, Susquehanna Folk will hold three concerts there at another new venue; Marketview Arts. This recently transformed

Historic Fraternal Order of Eagles building has been turned into a downtown arts center complete with a large space which adapts well for concerts. In this venue the group will feature the Irish-American group Girsa on October 7th, beautiful three part harmony from the trio Brother Sun on January 26th, and country blues from the legendary Rory Block on April 21st.

Beyond its concert series Susquehanna Folk also features world class international dance instruction and dancing to live ethnic music. On October the 27th Balkan Dance Day will be held at Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in Harrisburg with dance instruction by Michael Kuharski and on December 1st there will be a dance party with the Balkan music band Sviraj at the St Lawrence Club in Steelton.

The Susquehanna Folk Music Society has a website with information and tickets at www.susquehannafolk.org. All venues are handicapped accessible. The group gratefully acknowledges funding from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Cultural Enrichment Fund.