Few events deliver more than they promise, but yesterday's "Sober St. Patrick's Day" was a rich and vibrant celebration of Irish flair, creativity and extraordinary spirit, that did. Talent was literally everywhere and those who shared it did so with a kind of depth and dignity that made dance, song and drama vibrate with meaning and humanity. The event was wonderfully launched by William Spencer Reilly, founder/producer of "Sober St. Patrick's Day", Maura Kelly was in charge of marketing and promotion along with a team of talented professionals and generous sponsors. Irish Consul General, Noel Kilkenny immediately embraced the event and was in attendance.
The moments to remember came one after the other. Karen Fitzgerald, dressed in full habit as "Sister Mary Caron" got the crowd laughing uproariously early on in the program. Next up, sensational cabaret singer, KT Sullivan with her shimmering soprano sound was a delight for the ears and the very lovely Tara Connor, former Miss USA, boldly shared that she got sober during her reign. There was so much spirit in the room that anyone who was not Irish felt for a few hours that they were. No one's feet could remain still while wrapped in the moving music of the John Whelan Band. At times John, an eight time "All Ireland Champion" button accordion player literary took his accordion around the hall, filling the room with centuries old tunes. Brian Conway five time "All Ireland Champion" fiddle player, carried culture in the air with
Brenadan Dolan masterfully accompanying him on the piano. The Mulvihill/Lynch Dance troupe tore the roof off with their thundering hornpipes and soft shoe reels. A real showstopper of the day was The Dolan School of Irish Dance from Oxford, England. 15 dancers ranging in age from 10 -23, they brought the house down.
But Malachy McCourt, for a moment, stopped time and many hearts with his rendition of when "Johnny Comes Marching Home." There is so much artistry in this man that his reading of a list of words that describe the inebriated state was "Shakespearean" ending by saying that for "sober" there was just one word. And we believed him.
Fionnula Flanagan, who appears to have more passion and breadth in her little finger than many have on their whole body, did a dramatic reading and also presented the first annual "Emerald Spirit" award to Sis Gallagher Wenger, CEO of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. She gave the dedication a very personal appreciation by saying about Sis, "no one has shown brighter with the emerald spirit than Sis Gallagher Wenger who has given, often without recognition or adequate funding, to further the mission NACOA, (nacoa.org) an advocacy organization dedicated to giving voice and help, to those children who, locked behind the closed doors of family addiction, are unable to ask for it themselves.
Sober St. Patrick's Day is for the family. There was something for everyone and every age to enjoy and identify with from 8 to 80 years old. One of the day's darling moments was an endearing "wee" Irish dance duo (an eight old girl and nine year old boy) who performed masterfully for their age. Hearts were swollen with cultural pride of place yesterday at the sheer beauty of the Irish Heritage. This is hopefully the first of many such merriments. Alcohol is apparently not the juice behind fun and frolic of the Irish, whose families seem born to tap their feet and celebrate. Boy can they put on a party!
Log onto WPIX, Channel 11 website, to see Magee Hickey's segment on the festivities.