(from November 09 Celtic Connection)“I”ve been in it all my life,” says Noel Hickey, manager of The Celtic Tavern in Littleton. “I was always very much into hospitality.” He says this while sitting at the Celtic”s long, black stone bar, talking about his days in the restaurant industry. And it”s true–he”s been in the business for a long, long time. “I was managing a bar in the Aran Islands when I was sixteen years old,” he says. An Irishman”s love of drink will take him to many places, and Hickey”s led him to work at Wattey”s, a pub on the craggy, windswept islands off the western coast of Ireland. Since then, he”s spent many hours in bars. “I started drinking when I was four years old,” he says, laughing. Those little islands in Galway Bay where Hickey worked had a population of about 2,000 people. When he got to Denver, he became involved with the The Celtic Tavern downtown, a massive pub that could probably hold all those islanders comfortably. In March of 2008, Hickey helped open a new Celtic Tavern in Littleton, a smaller pub that seats 120 people.“We”re like a family here,” Hickey says of the smaller location. “I think that”s what I like the most about it.” While he talks, colored light filters into the tavern through a wall of stained glass panels above the backbar. “I had them all made,” he says, of the dozen or so large glass panels that give the bar area an intimate feel. Hickey is proud of his new pub, and proud of the food, too. “This is a very special beer batter,” he says, motioning to the fish and chips that arrive fresh from the kitchen. Three pieces of Atlantic cod are dipped in a batter spiked with Murphy”s Amber Ale, fried crisp and served with tavern fries, malt vinegar and tartar sauce ($12.75). The Galway Bay Seafood Casserole ($14.95) offers a few tastes of the ocean: Shrimp, scallops, crab, and white fish are baked in a dish with diced potatoes, topped with a crust of cracker crumbs and cheddar cheese. This entr”e is served with a side of the vegetable of the day, and ours is a medley of zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper. A lighter starter is the Rosettes of Smoked Salmon ($11.50), which could be a tasty dish to share. Slices of baguette are served with bite-sized curls of salmon, and both can be dipped into two large wedges of peppered cream cheese. All the great accompaniments to smoked salmon are included on the plate: hard boiled egg white and yolk, capers, and diced red onions.“We have a lot of regulars,” Hickey says, referring to these three popular dishes. “We”re very proud of our food.” For an upcoming change to his winter menu, Hickey plans to add a few unique items, including breaded bangers. For an interesting entr”e, all the traditional shepherd”s pie ingredients will be wrapped up in a roll of boiled cabbage leaves and topped with a meat gravy.As Hickey shows me around the place, makes a stop at a bundle of fishing gear”poles, tackle, waders. He mentions that it”s possible to borrow his gear, waddle down to the Platte, and spend the afternoon fishing. The river is only a few yards from his outdoor patio, which is a great place to enjoy a pint and a meal in the warm months.The private party room, called The Paddock, has a horse track ambience. This is due not only to Ireland”s love of horses and horse racing, but because the Celtic was built on the site of an old racetrack. The room is elegant and cozy, with a roaring fireplace and antique furniture.The center of the tavern is the monk”s tower. It”s a circular stone fortress, modeled after a similar tower built by monks in County Wicklow in the sixth century. The round room provides a few private areas to drink and dine.For the last three months, The Celtic has been hosting an Irish music session that”s been thriving. Hickey is happy with the turnout. “It”s certainly brought a good crowd in,” he says.Later, we retire to the bar, where Hickey surprises us. “This is the best whiskey I”ve ever had,” he says, pushing two glasses in front of me. He pours two shots of Bushmill”s 21-year-old whiskey. We drink them slowly. The whiskey is aged is Madeira casks, and has a light taste and a sweet finish. It”s a great way to end the day.Ever since those days on the Aran Islands, Hickey has seemed very comfortable in a bar, this time his own, where he truly enjoys making other people feel comfortable, too.The Celtic Tavern at Riverside Downs2620 W Belleview Ave Littleton, CO 80123-7187303- 795-0709 www.celtictavernatriversidedowns.com
(from Cindy’s monthly column “Around the House”in November 09 Celtic Connection) Seamus called into Cindy Reich”s “The Long Acre” radio show to talk about the new Solas album, Seamus” ongoing solo project, baseball and “balloon boy”! CR You”re calling from Scotland and I know you”re supposed to be in studio working on a new recording, so are you recording in Scotland? SE We”ve been working on the new album but also working doing other things, and we”re away at the moment but we”ll be back to work in the studio in a couple of days. CR So what”s going on in Scotland, then? SE We”re just hanging out. We played just outside of Bilbao, in northern Spain, over the weekend, so its been a crazy schedule, since we were in studio right before that. Its been studio”go someplace”studio”go someplace. CR Well, yeah, because you”re kicking off the next leg of your touring on Halloween in the south of France and then your next stop is”. Denver. SE Yeah, we”re playing at a small town in the south of France called Lanel. Actually it is at a mandolin festival. My mandolin playing is.. well” I don”t play it very often, but thankfully it was enough to get us to play in the south of France (laughing). We”re really looking forward to it. Mike Marshall is going to be sitting in with us and we”re really excited about it! After that, we”ll be coming to Denver, and we have a great band from Alaska coming with us, called “Bearfoot”. We did a bunch of shows with them in North Carolina and Maryland and it was great fun. CR What are you putting together for the new album?? Hopefully some more original tunes? SE Yes”all of the tunes on the new album have been written by various members of the band. There is an interesting variety of songs on the album as well. Some traditional, but others as well. We haven”t decided on the final cut for the songs that will be on the album, so I”m a little reluctant to say at the moment. CR Is Mairead (Phelan) still your main vocalist? SE Yes, she is still with us, and I think on this album she really comes into her own. She sang absolutely fabulously on this recording”I think she”s really going to blow people away when they hear her. CR How do you handle the altitude here in Denver? Its got to be hard on the flute.. SE It gets your attention! (Laughing) CR I think one of the things you all do really, really well, and I don”t think you get enough attention for it, is that in addition to sourcing out good traditional tunes, you all compose great tunes that seamlessly sit side by side with the traditional pieces. It seems to be harder and harder to find individuals or bands that can craft really good original tunes. SE It”s something that”s always been important to us and is an important part of the overall sound of the group. And as I said, on this album, every instrumental track is one we”ve written. It”s something that we enjoy doing and we will continue to do it. There”s so much stuff that we”ve written that we didn”t even record, that we”ve got a leg up on the next album! CR I ask you this every time I interview you, which is yearly or every other year, and that is, when are you going to do another solo album? SE And I probably told you the last time we spoke, I”d have one done before we spoke again and I”ll tell you this time”before we speak again, I”ll have one done! (Laughing) CR Well, I”ll tell you now that when we are done, I”ll be going out with a tune off your”let me remind you–1990 release “A Week In January” It has only been 19 years since your debut release” SE Wow”.(laughing) Now THAT got my attention! CR Don”t we all feel really old, now? SE You know, its funny”I did get into the studio for a couple of days back in January of this year with John Doyle and Dirk Powell and we worked for a couple of days. It was at the end of the Celtic Connections Festival here in Glasgow. We were all here and we worked for a couple of days. But trying to get everyone”s schedules back together again”everyone is always running all over the place”every attempt is being made to get a few more days together this year! If we get together every year for a couple of days, maybe in five years we”ll get it finished! CR I hope we”re not having this same conversation in another 19 years! SE No, no, I hope not!! I hope the next time we”re speaking, we are talking about the new album! I really do want to get it finished. CR You guys are making good use of the social networking media I now see” SE (Laughing) It”s a new thing for us.. CR Apparently people can now follow you on Facebook and Twitter and you”re going to post (or have posted) pictures and stuff from the recording of the new album? SE Well, we had all these good intentions of posting video while we were working on the album, but we didn”t get around to posting the stuff we wanted to while making the album. I honestly don”t know how people are able to keep up with doing what it is you”re doing and then telling everyone about it! (Laughing) You almost need”you doing it”then having someone tell everyone about it. But we do have lots of video that we are going to be posting very, very soon. Hopefully it will be of interest to some folks to see what goes on when we”re locked behind the doors and down in the dungeon! CR We”re looking forward to seeing you and the band out here in November, and hopefully without snow, after your trip to the south of France.. SE It”s hard to have sympathy, isn”t it, when you say it like that.. “playing the mandolin in the south of France”.. I saw that you had snow out there when the Phillies played the Rockies in the playoffs.. CR Yeah, we don”t want to talk about that”.we GAVE that game away! We gave it away”that”s all I have to say. We were one out away from the division playoff.. SE You were one STRIKE away! CR That”s true.. SE You were almost like the Phillies” CR Yeah, we were almost like the Phillies in that we blew a big lead”.but we”ll talk baseball when you get back here” however, we have “balloon boy” and you don”t” SE That was very exciting to follow from afar”exciting times out there! (Laughing)
Many of you might have seen the awesome band McPeak at the Colorado Irish Festival last summer and can give witness to some of the great Irish music that comes out of Francis McPeake School of Irish Traditional Music in Belfast.The school is currently in crisis and as a result they are creating fundraising projects such the “Mosaic of Support” (see September 09 Celtic Connection at www.CelticConnection.com).Students are now offering a drawing were you could win a new Hyundai caror cash prizes (If non-Northern Ireland resident wins the 1st prize, the cash equivalent will be awarded). They would appreciate your help.Information and ballot with paypal at: http://www.francismcpeake.com/shop.php?category=tickets&&id=4
(from October 09 Celtic Connection)“I”ve been drinking in this pub a month before it opened,” says Glen Eastwood, of Fado. “I know this pub very well.” He says this while sitting at the long, curvy wooden bar in one of Fado”s snug little drinking and dining spaces. He”s managed this Irish pub and restaurant for the last eighteen months, just one parking lot away from Coors Field in downtown Denver. It”s been twelve years since those opening days in January 1998. Eastwood has gone on to work at other Irish pubs in town like Casey”s and Darcy”s, but now he”s back at Fado, and running the place. Glen Eastwood is a man who”s found his home. “There weren”t many Irish in town,” says Eastwood of the late nineties. That was a time before Casey”s, before Darcy”s, before just about all of Denver”s existing Irish pubs. He would visit Fado”s for the creature comforts of home”snacks and food from Ireland that just weren”t available anywhere else. For the homesick, it was a treat to re-experience a familiar taste. “Word got out pretty quick,” he says, when the new shipments of Irish stuff arrived: candy bars, sausages, bacon, and bread. And beer, too. Too many beers to recall, too many pints of Guinness over the years, right there at the bar in a pub Eastwood calls “one of Denver”s originals.” It certainly feels original, with old-time antiques and handcrafted storefronts, plucked from Ireland”s quaint towns and cities and reassembled”with Irish hands–here in America. There”s lots of warm wood and wistful memories. But Fado is also a chain of fourteen restaurants from Austin to Annapolis, and ours is almost as big as the ball field next door. That proximity to the dugouts sometimes threatens to turn the place into a crowded sports bar on game nights. Through it all, Fado”s new manager strives to maintain the pub”s Irishness, and he does, with his indomitable enthusiasm, and his willingness to adapt a centuries-old cuisine to modern tastes. “We”re not a baseball pub,” he maintains. “We’re an Irish pub that”s next to a baseball field.” “The menu held this place back for so long,” says Eastwood. “The food was not great. We”ve come a long way.” As he says this, three plates arrive at the bar, fresh from the kitchen. Everyone does fish and chips, and shepherd”s pie, he says. But these three inspired fusion appetizers are what will make Fado more accessible, but still Irish. The first is what he calls “Irish sushi.” What looks quite like a plate of sushi rolls is in fact a plate of five corned beef rolls topped with slivers of sliced cabbage. It doesn”t come across as yet another dish where coned beef finds itself unwittingly married to another culture or cuisine. It”s just another way to eat corned beef. In fact, it”s very Irish: the meat is wrapped in a tender skin of boxty, the Irish potato pancake, then cut into segments. The boxty is light and fluffy, prepared with a skilled hand. The whole dish is topped with a little bit of creamy horseradish sauce.The smoked salmon on the second plate sits atop small fried rounds of boxty. The diced fish is mixed with capers, red onion and lemon juice. It doesn”t last very long. Fado”s boxty becomes the foundation of the third appetizer Eastwood presents. In this one, called the flatbread, the boxty sits on a long, thin plate, and is topped with mozzarella, onion, tomatoes and a chiffonade of chopped fresh basil. The whole thing is then drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction and heated so the mozzarella melts and spills over the side of the bread. “It”s a different spin on Irish cuisine,” says Eastwood. “It”s what we do to step away from everyone else and differentiate ourselves.” He”s done a great job at re-envisioning the cuisine in a fresh, modern way that makes it, or elements of it, more accessible to a wider audience. “Previous teams had lost the focus on Irishness,” Eastwood says. “They got too dependent on the baseball crowds.” He says this in a year that saw the greatest turnout for the season”s baseball opener, but also the greatest numbers for Fado”s Saint Patrick”s Day festivities. In the end, how can you not feel Irish at Fado”s? The restaurant”s concept is brilliant, though most likely overlooked. The entire restaurant is one giant wheel of Irish history. When you enter, turn left. In a clockwise motion from the entrance, periods of Irish history unfold. The first of four period rooms is “The Brew,” dressed up like brewery-style Ireland. It”s a tiny little snug enclosed by old Irish pharmacy fa”ade and enough turf-scented atmosphere to make you want to stay all night. Next is “the cottage,” a dining area with a crackling fireplace that evokes the hearthsides of Ireland”s thatched-roof days. It”s where the musicians meet for sessions on Monday nights. Stone walls and wooden tables complete the ambience. The Gaelic area is reminiscent of the era of druids, warriors and the Gaelic language. This was the age of metals, reflected in the metal bar in the room. Last on your journey around the pub is the Victorian room, which brings you up to the modern age. Modeled after a modern Dublin-style pub, this is the room where the bands play. The sleek feel of the room creates the feel of “an Irish pub from a different generation,” as Eastwood says. The room was renovated two years ago. “We spent a lot of money on that room to give people what they were looking for,” he says, “without losing the Irishness.” And the list of bands that have played there is impressive: KT Tunstall, Glen Hansard, Tim Burton, and young Irish rock band Seneca. “We have the ability to be all these things at once,” says Eastwood of Fado”s four different spaces. It”s as easy to think back on those old days in Ireland as it is for Eastwood to remember all those days he spent in this pub, way back when. But he”s here now, and while he”s present, he”ll keep making sure that Fado”s future is still rooted firmly in its past.
Gerry Staunton, Consul General of Ireland spent a couple of days in Denver last month meeting members of the Irish community. He wanted to offer himself as a resource who can be called on to assist with matters concerning the Irish community in Colorado and was open to more frequent visits and contact with this region.Staunton”s visit coincides with a national Irish effort, supported by the Irish Government to reach out to members of Ireland”s Diaspora. September 18-20, The Global Irish Economic Forum was held in Farmleigh House, an estate purchased in 1999 by the Irish Government from the Guinness family, north-west of Dublin’s Phoenix Park.The three-day conference brought together influential members of the global Irish community with records of high achievement in business, culture, as well as a number of individuals with a strong business connection to Ireland. Miche”l Martin, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs said on conference website, www.globalirishforum.ie , “Over the course of the Forum, attendees explored how the Irish, at home and abroad, and those with a strong interest in Ireland, can work together to contribute to our overall efforts at economic renewal and to build new connections between Ireland and our global community.” Although the Forum was closed to general media, many of the attendees have spoken publicly with positive support of the effort and hopes of future benefits. A report on the conference will be given to the Irish Government for its consideration.Gerry Staunton is a native of Westport, Co Mayo, Ireland, he has been a member of the Irish Foreign Service for almost thirty years. He is married to Mary (McDermott) and they have two adult children, Louise and David. He assumed duty as Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, based in San Francisco, in August of 2008. The Consulate provides assistance to Irish citizens in the Rocky Mountain west to Alaska, Hawaii, Guam & The Marianas. It is a point of help with applying for Irish citizenship, Irish passports and visas, and other services but also a good source of information on many cultural and economic links between Ireland and the United States. www.consulateofirelandsanfrancisco.org
(from September 09 Celtic Connection)The McPeake Family started playing music, in Ireland, in 1904. The family were at the forefront of the revival of Irish and folk music throughout the 1950″s and 1960″s. Francis McPeake I penned the folk anthem “Will Ye Go Lassie Go” aka “Wild Mountain Thyme” in the early 1950″s. With such a pedigree, the McPeakes were approached in 1977 to host tin whistle lessons for six weeks, to give the youth of Belfast a cultural alternative to the civil unrest that was a part of everyone”s life in Northern Ireland at that time. An amazing music school grew out of those lessons and thirty-two years later, the McPeakes are still teaching traditional music in Belfast. Throughout these 32 years, the McPeakes have inspired and taught to the highest standard in traditional music and produced the largest number of All-Ireland competitors, champions, and tutors and inspired many, many professional musicians. Currently run by Francis McPeake IV , the school unfortunately is under threat due to lack of funds and as such the “Mosaic of Support” has been created. Dancing legend Michael Flatley has lent his support to the campaign to secure the future of the school. Michael said, “I wish The Francis McPeake School of Music the very best of luck. The music of our heritage is a very important part of our lives; it influences us when we”re young and is invaluable as we get older.”Bill Wolsey, entrepreneur and owner of the most public houses in Ireland”s history, said “The McPeakes have taught all classes and creeds for four generations in Belfast. They have taught through good and bad times, through times of trouble and times of peace. To me The McPeakes represent everything that is good about Ireland.”Along with Michael and Bill other internationally acclaimed celebrities including The Pogues, Moya Brennan, Phil Coulter, Ash, Therapy, Brian Kennedy, and Sir James & Lady Galway, have come together to lead in supporting the future of the world renowned Francis McPeake School of Music by purchasing tiles in the “Mosaic of Support”.“The Mosaic Of Support” campaign calls on local, national and international artists, businesses and music lovers to purchase tiles within an original Mosaic art piece. The Mosaic will contain 3000 individual tiles. Each supporter that purchases a tile (or 2!) will have their logo or name put on the tile. Award Winning, London Designer, Jake Tilson is on board to create the art piece, which when completed will be exhibited to the public and on line on the school”s web site. The cost of one tile is $200 and will help to secure the financial future of the school.Francis McPeake IV is also producing a documentary called “Are ya goin” to McPeakes tonight?” the story of how the Francis McPeake School of Music has changed people, culture and Belfast since 1977 and the resulting social impact of it were to close. It will examine the extraordinary influence the school has had on the lives of the students, how Belfast has been changed through their music and highlight the many professional musicians and friends of the school and the professional traditional musicians the school has produced. The documentary will feature the fundraising journey and the creative development and recording of a musical score called the “Jam Piece”, the concept of which is when a artist, individual or business purchases a tile, they will be asked to record and video tape one note of music, 15 seconds long, which will then be orchestrated into a large piece of music ” “The Jam Piece”.“The Jam Piece” will be mixed by Tom Newman, engineer and producer of “Tubular Bells”, the theme from the Exorcist, forming the signature piece for the documentary. The documentary will have a premier screening in Belfast and we will hopefully get distribution for it here in the US.To become a supporter of the Francis McPeake School of Music simply log onto www.francismcpeake.com or call +44 (0)28 9024 4544 for further details.
Singing “Danny Boy” down a phone line landed Anthony Kearns a place in “Ireland”s Search for a Tenor” contest. The contest was in conjunction with the release of a new ten-pound note (commonly referred to as a “tenner”) and Anthony”s phone audition would change his life dramatically. Kearns had to hitchhike to Dublin for the finals and he was the only untrained singer in the competition. He sang “The Impossible Dream” and “Danny Boy” for an encore and won the contest. From there, he has gone on to become an international star. Anthony”s passion for singing was evident at an early age. He sang at Mass. He sang in contests such as the All Ireland Fleadh. He sang sean nos. He sang contemporary. He sang classics. He just sang. While working at the Grand Hotel in Wicklow, he sang while he worked, and became known as the “singing barman”. Now he travels the world, singing with the wildly popular “Irish Tenors” as well as individual projects. Speaking from his home in Dublin, Kearns explained his passion for singing. “I knew I had some talent, and it was my way of expressing myself. And I had to just do it. I needed a fix and my fix was singing. Other people had sport or whatever, but for me I had to sing to get that buzz, that enjoyment, you know?” I asked him in this YouTube age, where there are competitions like “Britain”s Got Talent”, “X-Factor” or “American Idol” that previously unknown singers now have a world stage in short order. “If you have a natural talent or ability and get that opportunity, its great and anything can happen”. But the pressure is immense, too, I added. Look at Susan Boyle, who was a lovely singer in her local circle, but was catapulted to the world stage where the pressure caused her to have a brief breakdown. It has disadvantages, too.“But I would say to people”, Anthony replied, “You have to want it. You have to want it so bad there”s nothing else. You have to eat, sleep, drink the music and you have to want it. You have to have the steel and the reserve to handle what”s thrown at you. The singing is the easy part.” Two of the songs in is contemporary repertoire are the poignant and powerful “Bring Him Home” and Empty Chairs And Empty Tables” from Les Miserables. I asked him if he had considered a stage career. “I was approached once, in New York, believe it or not. I sang “Bring Him Home” and did a good job of it on the day, and the woman booked me for a concert. Then she asked if I had performed in musical theater and did I have any interest, but it is another discipline and a different style of singing I suppose. “But I”ve always had a fondness for musicals”. In looking through the research on the songs that Anthony sings on his website, it turns out there is a very interesting connection between the song “Danny Boy” and Ouray, Colorado! Very few people know that “Danny Boy” was written by an Englishman, Fredrick Weatherly, in 1910. The tune he had set it to did not sell. Weatherly”s brother moved to San Francisco then followed the gold rush to Ouray, in Colorado. While there, Weatherly and his wife listened to Australian miners playing a tune called “The Air From County Derry”. Weatherly”s wife sent the music to her brother-in-law back in England, and he set the tune to “Danny Boy”. This new version was published in 1913, and it has become the unofficial anthem of Ireland across the world. Anthony has an extensive repertoire that includes Irish songs, songs from musicals, classical and even comedy, such as songs by Percy French. I asked what people might expect from his show. “There is something for everyone. I tend to lean towards Irish songs. There are the Moore melodies, you need to have some comedy, some nostalgic Irish songs”some glorious operatic arias. With my accompanist, Patrick Healy, we tend to have some fun as well with some duets. You have to have a bit of laughter, a bit of tear shedding, a bit of elevation. People need to have that reason to stand up, and applaud and stamp their feet. Music is entertainment, and people need to be entertained. For those wanting to be entertained by Anthony Kearns, he will be performing October 9, at the Northern Hills Christian Church, 5061 E. 160 Avenue. (just north of Thornton) in concert to benefit The Senior Hub. Doors are at 6:30; show starts at 7:30. For information on tickets, check Anthony”s schedule on his website: www.anthonykearns.tripod.com or go to: www.blacktie-colorado.com and search for upcoming events.–Cindy Reich