Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Joy and Wonder of The Milwaukee Irish Fest!

Hello again everyone! It's good to be back with you,
my fantastic readers!

Your favorite Peasant had a wonderful vacation; I went
to Ireland without leaving the country, my state, or my city!
How, you may ask, did I accomplish this feat? Very simple;
I went to Milwaukee's Irish Fest! This is an event which I
attend every year without fail. I go for all four days of this
tremendous celebration of Irish culture, and I stay for each
and every minute! While there, I attended concerts featuring
outstanding singers and musicians, some accompanied by fine
Irish dancers performing Irish "step dancing" (if you've ever
seen a Riverdance show, or have seen Irish-American dancer
Michael Flatley perform then you have seen this very Irish
type of dance). Among the artists I have enjoyed seeing were
The High Kings, Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones,
Altan, Different Drums of Ireland, The Elders, Seamus Kennedy,
Finbar McCarthy, and of course Milwaukee's own Blarney.
Seeing Blarney perform was very emotional for a lot of us, for
this is the first time that they have performed at our Irish Fest
without their leader Chuck Ward, who passed away last
November after a long and courageous battle with cancer.
Chuck, by the way, also co-founded Milwaukee's Irish Fest
with is brother Ed, who also happened to be in Blarney in
years past.Chuck, Ed, and the Ward family are very dear
friends of mine, and I honor Chuck with a singing group that I
have established, The Chuck Ward Celtic Song Circle.
Our circle has been in singing for one year so far, having
begun just before last year's Irish Fest and Chuck's death.
We started with a different name but I got the idea for changing
our circle's name to pay tribute to my late friend. The surviving
members of Blarney, Dennis Murphy and Kevin Stapleton,
also good friends of mine, thanked me warmly for doing this,
as has Chuck's family. As a fellow Irishman, a patron of Irish
art, and one who has attended, volunteered, and performed at
The Milwaukee Irish Fest over the years, how could I not?
God rest you, my dear friend. When the rest of us have lived
out our earthly lives, we shall have the biggest Irish Fest that
anyone has ever seen in the home of Saint Patrick himself!

Oh, by the way, your red, white and blue (along with green
and orange) Peasant is related to one of The High Kings;
Finbarr Clancy, son of the late Bobby Clancy of The Clancy
Brothers & Tommy Makem renown is a cousin! How cool is
that, especially for one who has Irish ancestry and loves Irish
music? Incidentally, my cousin spells his name with not one
"r" but two.

Other activities that I engaged in were having a free lesson in
playing the bhodrain, an Irish drum which has been a part of
Irish music and history for centuries. I am seriously considering
taking up the instrument so I can play it when our Chuck Ward
outfit holds sessions and appears in concert. I enjoyed wonderful
Irish cuisine; have you ever had Irish nachos? They are potato
slices covered with a cheese sauce infused with sauerkraut juice,
accompanied by shredded corned beef, with diced tomato and
green peppers. I visited my friends in my old song group, The
Milwaukee Irish Fest Song Circle, and heard their concert.
They sound as wonderful as ever. I am proud to have been a
member for five years before starting my own song circle.

As this was the first Irish Fest held since Chuck Ward's demise
there was "A Concert for Chuck" which featured the past and
present members of Blarney, along with Chuck's wife and
children (some of whom are in a great up-and-coming band
of their own, Wayworn. They performed in concert too!),
Seamus Kennedy, Tom Sweeney (of internationally popular
band Barley Bree) and Patrick Murphy of the wildly popular
and world renown band Gaelic Storm! They performed some
of the songs that Blarney had long performed, including Chuck's
favorite songs. It was a most touching tribute to a fine musician,
singer, songwriter, and gentleman who touched so many lives
with his music, his civic activities, his love of all things Irish,
and his love of Milwaukee and her people. Although we've some
other good people in our Irish Fest and Irish cultural circles
here in Milwaukee, we'll never have better! There was also
a tent on the grounds featuring many photographs of Chuck
throughout his life, including photos of Chuck in concert with
his fellow Blarney band members and other performers,
including the late Clancy Brothers & the late Tommy Makem.
The heavenly choir now has a distinct Irish tone to their music,
to be sure!

I worked as a volunteer once again, assisting in the music booth
near the Aer Lingus Stage where I helped sell CDs and DVDs
as well as T-shirts of the featured performers. That is where I
got to visit with my cousin and his fellow High Kings and some
other fine musicians and singers, getting many autographs through-
out the fest. For my signing up to help again I was given in advance
of the fest free passes for each day of the event as well as four
tickets each good for one dollar's worth of food or non-alcoholic
beverages. Irish Fest volunteers are much appreciated and well
cared for! Two more fests as a volunteer and I'll get a 5-year pin
for my work as well!

I met up with old friends, made new friends, and met another
Irish relation at our Irish Fest; this is the best of all of the good
times that I enjoy whenever I come to our grand party! It is, and
shall always be, a staple in my life. I shall continue going to,
volunteering, and performing at our Milwaukee Irish Fest until
I go to join Chuck! And you, my grand readers, whether you live
in, near to, or far from Milwaukee, if you plan on being in Beer-
town in mid-August some summer come on down to our wonder-
ful Milwaukee Irish Fest! You'll be so glad you did! It's a great
event for the whole family, and a wonderful opportunity to
immerse yourselves in Irish culture; it's the next best thing to
visiting The Emerald Isle itself!

For now, your faithful Peasant shall say "see you later" in a good
ol' Irish way: Toora-loo!


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