March 4, 2010
Get your Irish up Staten Island!
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Get your Irish up Staten Island!

By Ben Johnson

March 04, 2010, 10:00AM
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Kimberly Modolo, 12; Juliana DeGeorge, 11; Audra Caffrey, 12; and Caitlin Carr, 11; strike a pose at last year's Staten Island St. Patrick's Parade. The Irish-American rock band Black 47. The musical quartet Four Celtic Voices. See the list below for more ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day on Staten Island.
Black 47
Part of the CFA Presents 2010 Season
Where: Center for the Arts, College of Staten Island,
2800 Victory Blvd., Willowbrook; 718-982-ARTS.
How much: Tickets are $30, $35 and $40.
More info:,

When: 8 p.m. March 13.
Where: St. George Theatre, 36 Hyatt St., St. George; 718-442-2900.
How Much: Tickets are $28, $35 & $38.
More info:,

See Jodi Lee Reifer's list below for more ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day on Staten Island.
STATEN ISLAND, NY -- Leave it to a band named after the worst year in Ireland’s potato famine to hit the nail on the head with their most recent album.

Black 47’s “Bankers and Gangsters,” released this week, is in title a timely echo of the populist anger being felt around the country towards big bailouts for everyone but the everyman. But as longtime New Yorker and lead singer Larry Kirwan will tell you, the tune is not meant to be a divider.

“Our audience is split between a very left wing and a very right wing,” says Kirwan, who brings his Irish-American rock band to College of Staten Island March 12. “We’ve been seen as having liberal beliefs, but we’ve also always cherished the fact that we’ve a lot of working class and civil service fans: cops, firemen, teachers. For us, we were never playing for the converted. If you were making statements about Iraq, you had to back them up every night on stage.”

Currently celebrating its 20th birthday, Black 47 is a thoroughly a New York City creation — a group of able musicians from distinctly varied backgrounds unafraid to mix Celtic musical traditions with hard rock, reggae and more. They’ve played NYC’s bars and beyond for years, touring with critically acclaimed records like 1993’s “Fire of Freedom” and those that received attention for bringing up sore subjects, like 2008’s “Iraq.” The new album’s title track, which features a big, bold horn section, is a perfect example of how Kirwan and the band makes their particular musical concoction.

“I wanted to do something on the subject that would be up at the same time,” says Kirwan. “You could get morose about it or preachy about it, but I often go with the Yeats saying that ‘poetry should be as cold and passionate as the dawn.’ What he meant is it should be balanced, so if you’ve got a real serious subject sometimes the best way to deal with it is in a lighter way, and vice versa.”

Black 47 has plenty of lesser Irish rock peers (i.e. imitations), and the music market hasn’t always treated them kindly, but the group’s big-tent creative philosophy keeps their fans coming back, especially around St. Patrick’s Day. The lead man himself has his own Sirius Satellite Radio show, “Celtic Crush,” and he’s just released a novel named for a Black 47 song, “Rockin The Bronx,” which details the culture shock of an Irish immigrant arriving in New York in the 1980s.

So, does Kirwan engage in any regular Irish traditions this time of year, and how does he feel about being considered an Irish rock band despite his own varied compositions?

“We give up drinking,” he chuckles, answering the first question with a joke. “It’s kind of like Irish season gets longer and longer, you know? As much as you can, you hitch your wagon to it. I suppose we get put in the same camp with bands like Flogging Molly and and Dropkick Murphys, but you know, those are great bands. I don’t mind being put in with them at all.”
There are plenty of bragging rights to be gained by musicians, but for some, rocking QVC is near the top.

“That has to be one of the most exciting moments of our career together,” says Celeste Ray, leader of the group Four Celtic Voices. “We were actually on top of the Billboard charts for a whole week.”

Not the pop charts, mind you: Ray and her three bandmates appeared on the home shopping TV station set last St. Patrick’s Day to pitch their new album, “Four Leaf Clover,” to the credit-card-wielding masses, which pushed the album atop Billboard’s World Music chart. They sold plenty of copies, though, and it’s no surprise; three-part harmonies and traditional Celtic instruments is a hot item this time of year.

Four Celtic Voices performs March 13 at the St. George Theatre, as one of several gigs to celebrate Irish and Celtic music during the month of March. With the help of harpist and singer Erin Hill, flautist Maria Johnson, and singer Carol Crittenden, Ray promises a program of music and storytelling that is educational and entertaining.

“The most unique part of our group is we play Celtic instruments and at the same time can sing in harmony,” says Ray, a Queens-based pianist who plays both the harmonium and a double-bowed zither-like instrument called a Bowed Psaltery. “One of the things I love about doing this is preserving a Celtic tradition, carrying some of this music — not only the music but the instrumentation — forward into modern times.”

Ray says the group doesn’t just stick to the old school; they’ll perform on modern instruments as well. They also don’t stick to strictly Irish music. Ray is quick to point out that Celtic culture includes Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and the Northwestern area of France called Brittany. That means the work of Scotland’s Robert Burns will make an appearance, as will some of Ray’s own compositions for ancient blessings.

Like her bandmates, Ray is no stranger to other genres. The classically trained musician has put out new age jazz recordings and jammed with Alex Acuna, percussionist for seminal jazz fusion band Weather Report. But upon discovering traditional Celtic music while traveling abroad, she says she found her connection, and formed Four Celtic Voices several years ago.

The group’s show takes each lead musician in the ensemble, which for this gig includes rhythm section Chris Howard and Shawn Lovato, and highlights their own talents. Crittenden, for instance, has Shakespearean experience, so she’ll deliver some theatrics. But don’t worry, the Emerald Isle’s hits will appear in full bloom.

“We’ll definitely perform ‘Danny Boy,’ ‘Molly Malone,’ ‘Isle of Inisfree,’” says Ray, “and a lot of jigs.” 
STATEN IRELAND: From shamrock-covered kiddies and kilt-swinging bagpipers to green beer pong, it’s time for Irish eyes to smile.

    Some scenes are evergreen. The 46th annual Staten Island St. Patrick’s Parade steps off March 7 at 12:30 p.m. from Hart Boulevard and Forest Avenue in West Brighton and proceeds 2.2 miles along Forest to Decker Avenue.
    All along the Ancient Order of Hibernians route, the neighborliness of the borough goes on display: In between dance steps and skirls of the bagpipes, parade peeps call out hearty greetings to friends, coworkers and old school chums they spot in the crowd. For the 21 + crowd, keep it safe: Police are warning they’ll be out in force.
    R.H. Tugs, 1115 Richmond Terr., Livingston, ( keeps the Emerald glow going with its 10th annual post-parade party, March 7, 2-6 p.m. The restaurant celebrates with Tony DeMarco on fiddle and Fergus Begley on guitar. No cover charge. Food will include Guinness beer-battered fish and chips, bangers and mash, corned beef and cabbage, plus a full Irish breakfast. Jameson and Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey will flow and Guinness Draft cans and Magner’s Irish Cider in bottles will be pentiful. On parade day, Irish Coffee will be specially priced at $5.
    Lacey’s Bridge Tavern, 75 Innis Street ( brings the good times to Port Richmond, March 7, where Joey Damiano jams on acoustic guitarist that afternoon. He plays everything from the Beatles to Kings of Leon and All-American Rejects. The tavern serves up corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, stuffed pie and Reuben-stuffed potatoes.
    Joyce’s Tavern, 3823 Richmond Ave., Great Kills, ( lures in the clover-covered crowds March  for its 44th annual post-parade party with free corned beef and cabbage at 3 p.m. (for a limited time only). Classic rocker Mike Flood entertains with Top 40 covers beginning at 3 p.m.
    The Wild Goose, 530 Forest Ave., cries “Erin Go Bragh” for more than a week. The pub whose name alludes to Irish history — Wild Geese were soldiers of fortune, fierce mercenaries — offers a different Irish beer promo March 7-19. Celtic rockers the Cousins Moran gig 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on March 7 while corned beef and cabbage specials come out of the kitchen. No cover. That band returns March 13 at 10 p.m. with a $5 cover. Celtic Cross plays March 12 at 10 p.m. with a $5 cover. And the Gob Shites, a Boston-based band that takes popular tunes from groups such as the Ramones and AC/DC and gives them an Irish twist, gigs March 19. Plus, the Goose is giving away a Guiness bicycle. Buy a $6 Guiness and Harp or a $6 Guiness and Smithwick's and score a raffle ticket. The winner rides away with the prize March 17.
    QSINY, 632 Midland Ave., Midland Beach ( starts its green party on St. Patrick’s Day proper. DJ Jimmy along with hosts Alex and Josh salute the Irish on March 17 with complimentary corned beef and cabbage and potatoes. Beer pong games — with green-colored suds — go from 7 to 10 p.m. No cover.
    The Donnellys, Mahoneys and O’Learys of today weren’t the first to settle here. Hear biographical accounts of local Irish-American scholars, politicians, athletes and others at “The Irish of Staten Island,” a talk at the College of Staten Island, 2800 Victory Blvd.
    The March 18 event, which begins at 1:30 p.m. in the Center for the Arts’ Recital Hall, includes a bagpipe performance by Charles Dunn followed by an Irish dancing demo. The festivities come courtesy of Staten Island Museum curator of history, Patricia M. Salmon, and the college’s Pluralism and Diversity Department. Plus, she gabs about Irish immigration, the borough’s old quarantine station and the Draft Riots of 1863 among other topics. No admission.
    Staten Island Pride celebrates in traditional fashion with a St. Patricks’ Gay Dinner, March 6, 7-9:30 p.m. in Karl’s Klipper, 40 Bay St. ( On the menu: Corned beef and cabbage, plus Irish soda bread. Admission: $28 in advance; $35 at the door. The Queens All Inclusive Parade and Festival is seeking authentic Irish musicians for the event. The dinner honors Jim McKernan and Ray Carr. Last summer, the couple opened QSINY, S.I.’s first openly gay club in more than a decade. The dinner means a lot to Carr, whose grandparents were all born in the Emerald Isle, he says, noting the gay Irish community has historically been marginalized. “It’ll be a fun night for the gay community,” says Carr. “It’s another way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.” E-mail

-- Jodi Lee Reifer,

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