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Keane Edge Brings Dublin Tribute 

By Paul Keating

Box player James Keane, a brother of Chieftains player Sean, is returning to Ireland after 36 years to be honored with a tribute concert in Dublin.

DUBLIN in the 1950s and 1960s was a magical place and time for the pure drop, as much of it flowed through places like the Pipers and Church Street clubs, evolving into musical success stories like the Castle Ceili Band, Ceoltoiri Chulainn and even the Chieftains. 

A young James Keane was in the thick of it then and he has remained a keen observer of the massive influence those early days have had in the traditional music scene in the past half-century. 

Box player Keane is putting lie to the adage that you can’t go home again for the third time. The native of Drimagh, Co. Dublin returns on Thursday, October 21 to a musical feast that could well be described as a “This Is Your Life” tribute to this box-playing legend who left Ireland for America 36 years ago. This historic night, dubbed the James Keane Homecoming Concert at Liberty Hall in Dublin, will undoubtedly surpass earlier welcome home concerts in 1991 at the Dublin Music Festival, and in 1999 for the release of his Shanachie recording “Sweeter as the Years Roll By” at the Chief O’Neill Pub in Smithfield which later resulted in his “Dublin Live” CD. 

Like Dickens, Keane will display the past, present and future of the traditional music scene as he is uniquely qualified to do, having lived it, breathed it and played it with all the best musicians down through the years.

Joining him will be his brother Sean of Chieftains fame, who was just singled out for the Gradam Ceoil (Traditional Musician of the Year) award by TG 4, the Irish language TV station. 

Sean, along with James and Mick O’Connor, the flute player, were an award winning trio and founding members of the tasty Castle Ceili Band which won All-Ireland gold in 1965.

They are also gathering Joe Ryan, Mick Tubridy and John Kelly Junior (subbing for his old man, John Kelly Senior) to represent that band on stage along with Mick Hand on piano. 

James’s old flatmate Paul Brady, who learned his traditional music from playing with Keane in the early days, will be on hand along with Chieftains Sean Potts, Kevin Conneff and Tubridy. 

The future will be well represented by Darach Keane (Sean’s son), Liam O’Connor, Sean Og Potts and others in the O’Connor family, and the Pipers Club Ceili Band amassed for the night as well. 

Anyone familiar with James Keane’s playing knows that it would impossible not to have dancers up on the floor. His cousin, Mairead Casey, will offer some sean nos steps, and you can expect a Clare set or two frolicking to some lively music also.

The night will benefit the Irish Center in Camden Town, which offers emigrant services to those in need in London. While it is a pity we can’t all be there to enjoy the night, the good news is that RTE’s dynamic Ceili House duo, Peter Browne and Kieran Hanrahan, will be capturing it for a future program on Ceili House. When I know the airdate, I will be sure to pass it on for those who can download it from the Internet (www.rte.ie/ceilihouse) . . .

ANOTHER legendary box player making news is Joe Derrane, the 74-year-old Massachusetts resident who received the U.S.’s highest award for folk artists at the end of September in Washington, D.C. 

Derrane was among 12 artists who were recognized as National Heritage Award Fellows (with a $20,000 prize) by the National Endowment for the Arts for singular contributions to folk art in America. 

Since he emerged from Irish music oblivion in May of 1994 at the Wolf Trap Irish Music Festival, he has kept his promise of never putting the button accordion down again, prolifically recording and performing at a standard that has once again inspired musicians in the Irish scene. 

Derrane started out as the toast of Boston as a teenager who made 16 amazing recordings back in the Dudley Street Glory Days after World War II, and he was in demand until the demise of the Irish dance halls there at the end of the 1950s. 

He fell out of the Irish music scene for over three decades until Wolf Trap beckoned. The rest is new history for one of the most talented and admired performers in Irish music. Congratulations for a well-deserved honor for the Boston native . . .

MAYO native John Hoban is a very popular visitor to these shores. Hailing from Castlebar, Hoban is a singer, songwriter, teacher and multi-instrumentalist (fiddle, whistle, banjo and mandocello) who has worked with Sharon Shannon and Emer Mayock among others. 

This weekend he makes four appearances in the Metropolitan New York area beginning this Friday, October 15 at NYU’s Ireland House at 9 p.m. for the Blarney Star’s second concert of the season (www.blarneystar.com). 

Then in Connecticut, STIMS (www.shamrockirishmusic.org) feature him in concert at Tressler’s Barn in Easton on Saturday, October 16 at 8 p.m.; on Sunday, October 17 from 1-3 p.m. in a workshop at the Gaelic American Club in Fairfield (free event), and finally at the Anna Liffey Pub in New Haven on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. Call 203-256-8453 for Connecticut info.


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