Irish Family Fest at Bellarmine College

By Ronnie Dee

Sunday, September 15, was probably a lot hotter than it gets in Ireland, and the music made it even hotter. With temperatures in the 90s, a goodly crowd turned up at the rolling Bellarmine campus to see Waterford crystal, Limerick lace, real live Celtic gladiators, and folk music legend Tommy Makem.

There was food and beer outside and displays of Irish history and culture both inside and outside on the quadrangle.

Music was the order of the day, however, and there was plenty of it. At either of two stages something was going on all day long; and, unfortunately, often at the same time. The Louisville Dulcimer Society, the Louisville Pipe Band, Ten Penny Bit, Drowsy Maggie, Tight Squeeze, Robert Tincher, and the Sweet Lick Band performed on the stage by the Guinness wagon. At the far end of the quadrangle the Kerry Irish Dancers from Dayton, Ohio, did Irish dances and Fannigan's Isle, likewise from Dayton, played a variety of instruments as they romped through a set of Celtic-flavored tunes. The first of two sets by Tommy and Fannigan's Isle were recorded for a Homefront Performances radio show to be broadcast later.

After the proverbial "technical difficulties," Tommy Makem took the stage and entertained the crowd with a variety of songs from "Gentle Annie" to "William Bloat" to "A Place in the Choir" to "Rolling Home." He joked with the audience and led us in a number of sing-alongs, enchanting everyone with his Irish brogue and good humor.

Tommy has been a folk music favorite in the states for over thirty years, often playing with the famous Clancy Brothers. He was a crowd pleaser on his first trip to Kentucky and was awarded the honor of "Kentucky Colonel." To reciprocate, he seriously invited everyone to sign up to accompany him for a trip to Ireland next April.

Tommy played the long-neck banjo and was assisted by Dublin native Eugene Burns on guitar and vocals. Usually after a concert of this sort one would rush home and look up their old Clancy Brothers records and tapes to reminisce. But I didn't have to do that because I always have my Clancy Brothers tapes handy. I'm just an old-fashioned guy, I guess, especially when it comes to music.