Chasing Granny's Spirit in a Chevy
Some day my prince will come?
What is it with women and the idea of marrying a prince? Are they desperately trying to escape their dreary lives longing to be saved by a man on a horse who will ride them off into the sunset, or is it simply about the dress, tiara and royal palace? I must say, I am envious of Kate Middleton’s expense account for clothing, offered by her royal father-in-law Charles. She gets $54,000 a year to look that good in her custom-made fascinators. http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2012/06/25/kate-middleton-54000-clothing-budget-pretty-pittance-or-royal-pain/
Perhaps it’s because we grew up on fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella depicting poor, mistreated, hard working women who were saved by charming, handsome and wealthy men solving all their problems with a kiss.
But as we have seen recently with the split of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, fairy-tale romances do not always end in happily-ever-after. The magic of Scientology could not work its spell as well as the mirror mirror on the wall.
With the history of happily-ever-after endings depicted in our treasured stories from childhood, Disney was brave enough to come up with a new ending for its heroine. The new animated feature Brave portrays an independent Scottish princess who already owns a horse and has no desire to bide by her mother’s traditional wishes to settle down. Her wish is not for prince charming, but for freedom. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEHWDA_6e3M
Another red-headed role model in my own family’s history longed for freedom, but her horse was a 1957 Chevy Bel Air. My Irish grandmother temporarily rode off into the sunset to escape the confinements of the traditional role of a 1950s housewife. It was the best summer of her life, one that I replicated last autumn when I followed her path from New York to Seattle.
So here we are in 2012 and I’m asking a red-headed royal prince to be my date to my cousin’s wedding in London next month. Why? Why not? I’m not looking to marry a prince. I simply want a dance partner. And Prince Harry looks like he could cut a rug. As Disney’s new Scottish princess warns, “be careful what you wish for.”
Dancing Under the Stars in Brooklyn
There’s something magical about Christmas lights in July. There’s also something magical about dancing on the street at night as ice cream trucks turn off their tinsel bells in order to hear the cool jazz emanating from musicians trying not to pass out from the heat.
How do you capture a New York moment? It’s like trying to capture a firefly in summer. We chase them like children wanting to recapture a time when time was meaningless and endless, when summer was an eternity.
I am in that eternal summer. I am the firefly to catch.
This photograph captures a New York moment, a moment of live jazz on an even livelier street in Park Slope on a sultry night in the city that never sleeps as dancers swing and children stare unaware of the ice cream cones melting over their little fingers.
This photograph captures a daughter of an Irish immigrant singing the sounds of America on the very street in the very neighborhood her mother arrived 55 years ago to the unfamiliar sounds of rhythm and blues, of ice cream trucks that sold more than one flavor, of Christmas lights in July on pavements as hot as a kettle on the boil.
Brooklyn welcomed them all, immigrants like my mother, who learned to discover and appreciate New York moments, dancing under the same stars as those that shone upon their homelands.
(Photograph: Richard Velasco, Trombone: J. Walter Hawkes, Guitar: Justin Poindexter, Bass: Dave Shaich.)
Traditional Music Provided By My Dad
Thursday night the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade committee hosted their annual gala at the New York Athletic Club overlooking Central Park. The parade’s Grand Marshal, NBC’s CEO, Francis Comerford was present, as well as a number of Irish performers - Celtic Women, Celtic Thunder, and of course, my dad, Tom O’Grady (that’s him on the far left). He played his fiddle with his traditional Irish music band Ceoltoiri as attendees feasted on shepards pie and a turkey carvery while enjoying everything the parade offers - pipe and drum bands, Irish step dancers, marines, flags, men in kilts, and the most green neckties and dresses you’ve ever seen in one room. The feet were sore from dancing to songs such as “Las Vegas in the Hills of Donegal.” By the end of the evening, the joint was jumping with the feel of an upscale Irish wedding, minus the tea and sandwiches after the band left the stage. And the cold drizzle that greeted us at the door upon leaving the event made us feel like we had the full Irish experience. But I’m looking forward to that sun shine on 5th Avenue during the parade when the Irish rule New York for the day - the best day of the year!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
March Madness Begins at Irish Arts Center
March is one of the best times of the year in New York if you are Irish, and not just on St. Patrick’s day. The entire month is packed with events from traditional music sessions to parades to readings to dances. I’ll be performing every night for a full week starting next weekend. So I decided to take in some other events before the continuous requests for Danny Boy begin.
Last night I attended the opening of I heart Alice heart I, the U.S. debut of a new play written and directed by Amy Conroy who acts with Clare Barrett in this two woman show at the Irish Arts Center http://irishartscenter.org/. The young actors play two retired women who come out of the closet late in life and find each other in a shopping center in Ireland. Its documentary style theater portrays a love story celebrating the mundane and beautiful moments of every relationship.
A reception was held in the lobby afterwards and Irish Consulate Noel Kilkenny and his wife Hanora were present as the audience gasped when the young actors emerged from back stage in their daily, youthful attire, no longer wearing the wigs and make-up that transformed them into their aged but lovable characters.
I couldn’t help but notice how lovely the writer looked standing before one of the paintings exhibited in the lobby in the Borderlands collection by Irish artist Kate Arslanian from County Armagh. Kate captured the countryside in vibrant abstraction and I was inspired to capture the actors and other friends in front of each painting in dramatic fashion. Above is the result of our efforts.
Tribute Tuesday - Brighter Than the Sun
Here’s my cover of Colbie Caillat’s upbeat song. I recorded it with Darren Wallis on guitar and drums. The photo was taken by Lauren Fedders in Donegal, Ireland on the beach down the lane from my parents’ house. (Yes, that is summertime, wool wrap and all.)
If you have a request of a song you’d like me to cover, email me on my web site http://taraogradymusic.com/ I’m always looking for new songs to sing. As poet and philosopher Mark Nepo writes, “Yet another song the heart must sing to open the gate of all there is.”
My Chevy Family Continues the Tradition
My brother Tom and his wife Nannette just purchased a 2012 Chevy Traverse. They drove down to Florida last week from New York with their three boys Liam, Connor and Declan. They enjoyed their visit ziplining over alligators and going to the Space Center with my Aunt Peg who took that first cross country road trip with my Granny and my teenage dad in their 1957 Chevy Bel Air.
Here’s to tradition! Here’s to Chevrolet!
Happy Birthday to a Local Legend
This weekend my granny’s first cousin, Packie Manus Byrne, turned 95. They threw him a three-day party in Ardara, County Donegal. I just called him to say happy birthday, but he couldn’t talk. His couch was filled with musicians visiting from the Netherlands and France. They sounded young too, like in their twenties.
Packie Manus is a generous musician and composer. If an artist from Canada or Australia is making an album, he or she, usually a she as he has a way with the ladies, takes residence in his home in Ireland and he writes original songs for them at no cost. He doesn’t even copyright them. He doesn’t believe anyone should own music. Music is for sharing with the world, he says.
He has shared his music with the world since he left home to join the circus in the 1930s. He was a major part of the folk music scene in the 1960s touring all of Europe. People still can’t get enough of him today. I’m lucky to be related to him. He even wrote a song for me once called “If Tara Were Here.” You can learn more about my charming cousin at http://www.rogermillington.com/
Happy birthday Packie!