A blog sponsored by the Michigan State University Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Sharing news and information about the Great Lakes Folk Festival, Quilt Index, the MSU Museum's traditional arts activities, Great Lakes traditional artists and arts resources, and much more. Development of content for this blog supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

#FolkloreThursday: Irish Music in Southeast Michigan

#FolkloreThursday is a growing community on Twitter where people post all sorts of folklore tidbits every Thursday.  We here at the Michigan Traditional Arts Program are joining this community today with an inaugural St. Patrick’s Day #FolkloreThursday post!

Below is a short video of Irish social dancing taken at an Irish Ceili at the Gaelic League in Detroit, Michigan, January 23, 2016. The music is provided by Mick, Michael, and Sean Gavin and the calling by Anne McCallum.

In 2014 James Madison Professor Steve Rohs undertook MTAP fieldwork on Irish music sessions in Detroit and Ann Arbor. He interviewed Mick Gavin who is a fiddler and melodeon player and has been a key tradition bearer of Irish culture, particularly music, in Southeast Michigan since settling in Detroit in the 1970s (Gavin is the melodeon player in the video above).

Mick Gavin and Siobhan McKinney at an Irish music session at the Gaelic League in Detroit, 7/30/2014. Photo from Steve Rohs. 

From Dr. Rohs’ fieldwork report:
Mick Gavin was born in Meelick, Ireland in 1945. He learned to play melodeon and fiddle from family members and from local fiddlers from Limerick, and in 1960, at age 15, his group The Delcassian Ceili Band won the Kerry Fleadh ceili competition. In 1974, Mick traveled to the United States as part of a touring Irish band. He played as a professional musician in Chicago, but soon settled in Detroit and began a flooring business which survives to this day. In the 1980s and 1990s, Mick, a seasoned session player, began to mentor and formally teach young fiddlers in the Detroit area. Like Terence McKinney [a Detroit-area uilleann piper who studied under Al Purcell], he became involved in the Detroit branch of Comhaltas Ceotiori Eireann, and many of his students won regional and All-Ireland awards on their instruments. He also promotes Irish music in Southeast Michigan, bringing international artists to local venues, participating in an annual “Crossroads Ceili” at the Ark in Ann Arbor with current and former students, and hosts the St. Patrick’s Day events at the Hellenic Cultural Center in Detroit. He was inducted into the Midwest Region Comhaltas Ceotiori Eireann Irish Music Hall of Fame in 2003. Mick currently resides in Redford Township, Michigan. 

Dr. Rohs also compiled a list of Irish music sessions in Michigan, posted below. Sessions are a great opportunity to listen to, enjoy, play and learn traditional Irish music.

Conor O’Neill’s in Ann Arbor
Sundays 7 p.m.

Ancient Order of Hibernians in Redford
Second and fourth Fridays at 8 p.m.

Detroit Irish Music Association in Ann Arbor
Thursday nights, 7:30

Gaelic League in Detroit
Wednesdays from 7:30-10:30

Cleary’s Pub in Chelsea
Second and fourth Sundays 2-4 p.m.

Chelsea Ale House in Chelsea
First and third Sundays from 2-4 p.m.

McFadden’s Pub in Grand Rapids
Sunday nights from 7-9 p.m.

London Grill Gastropub in Kalamazoo
Sunday afternoons from 4-6 p.m.

Fenian’s Irish Pub in Conklin
Wednesday nights from 7 p.m. to close

Hennessy’s Irish Pub in Muskegon
First Tuesday night of the month, 7 p.m.

Boyne District Library in Boyne
Sundays 1-3 p.m.

Bravo Zulu Brewing Company in Acme
Monday nights, 7-9 p.m.

Lil’ Bo’s Pub in Traverse City
Tuesday nights 7-9 p.m.

Stein Haus in Bay City
Tuesday nights 7-10 p.m.

Loutit District Library in Grand Haven
Third Saturday 1-3 p.m.

Midland Brewing Company in Midland
Second and fourth Wednesday nights

Stucchi’s Ice Cream in Alma

Thursday nights

Dr. Rohs' fieldwork on Irish music sessions is in the Michigan Traditional Arts Program Research Collections, MSU Museum, Accession no. 2014:58.