By Brendan Costello
Photos by Dan Brown
The Irish American Writers and Artists Salon on July 20th featured new voices and faces and some familiar presenters as well. The range of styles and genres, including music, theatre, personal essay and dance, made for a well-rounded and entertaining evening.
The Salon opened with music from Swedish/American Flutist, composer and activist Elsa Nilsson. She has been making music in New York City since 2010, and is the winner of the National Flute Association 2018 Jazz flute competition. Her most recent album “Hindsight” is based on rhythms found at protest marches, capturing the urgency of the time we live in. She is on faculty teaching rhythm at The New School and is the program coordinator for the women in Jazz organizations mentorship program. Elsa’s performance employed electronic effects on a bass flute, creating haunting and ethereal soundscapes, all improvised in the moment.
Sheila Walsh presented two monologues dealing with the power of the arts in helping the world get through the difficult days of Covid19. She wants to thank IAW&A President Maria Deasy for being willing to give her time and talent to making the piece work and to thank the IAW&A for creating the Zoom Salons to present her work.
For more about Sheila’s work please visit her website.
Eileen Markey read her essay The Whale and the Sea, about her son growing up and going away. Markey is an assistant professor of journalism at Lehman College, CUNY and the author of A Radical Faith: The Assassination of Sr. Maura (Bold Type Books/Hachette), a biography of a Rockaway woman and daughter of an IRB man, murdered in El Salvador in 1980. She’s the editor of Without Compromise: The Brave Journalism that First Exposed Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and the American Epidemic of Corruption (Bold Type Books/Hachette), an anthology of the work of legendary Village Voice muckraker Wayne Barrett, which will be published in September.
Karen Bella performed an enchanting cover of The Cure’s “Love Song” and an original song, both full of the passion and melodic sensibility she is known for. This was her first performance at a public Salon, but Karen has played at two events for The Dwelling Place, organized by IAW&A member Dan Brown. (Dan has also been the technical director for the online Salons, ensuring smooth transitions between presentations and the host.) Karen’s recent EP release, titled Karen Bella, produced by Josh Dion (from Paris Monster), was released on March 13th 2020. It’s available on all internet platforms, and a physical copy is available on Bandcamp.
Please visit her website for more info. Facebook and Instagram: @karenbellamusic
New IAW&A member and first-time presenter Liz O’Toole Papazian read a story about the year she left New York to live in Boston. She described her love of the city, and her reaction to a massive art installation created in 1971 by Sr. Corita Kent, a Catholic nun. The fact that Corita was an artist, like Liz’s mother, and activist, like her father, made Liz feel less homesick and more comfortable in a new city.
Maura Mulligan is a native of Mayo, Ireland. She is author of the memoir, Call of the Lark. A teacher of Céilí dancing and Irish language in NY, she read a piece recently published in the Irish Echo called DANCING AT A DISTANCE. She spoke about how people are learning and enjoying dance in this socially-distanced age of pandemic, and her presentation ended with a short video of dancers around the world (from Ireland to Australia, and between and beyond) keeping the traditional dance styles alive.
Singer, songwriter and violinist Deni Bonet demonstrated the range of her talents with three songs, showcasing her wonderful voice, her wry wit, and her violin expertise that have made her a sought-after performer. Her first song, “The Girlfriends of Dorian Gray,” was a sly take on the women who interacted with the famous literary character; her second song was an instrumental, potentially titled “Love is a Circular Thing” and showing her musicianship on the violin; and her third, “One In a Million” managed to combine a sense of romantic longing with a wry take on relationships in a catchy and upbeat tune. It’s no surprise she’s performed at Carnegie Hall, the Great Wall of China, and the White House (for President Obama), as well as recording and performing with the likes of Cyndi Lauper, R.E.M., Mundy and Larry Kirwan. Hopefully she’ll be back again soon!
Please visit Deni’s website.
Malachy McCourt brought the Salon to a close with a retelling of an exploit covered in his first book, A Monk Swimming, when he found himself smuggling gold to India. He managed to avoid a deadly plane crash and incarceration, either of which would have prevented him from being with us today. Even more, though, we are all lucky that Malachy left the smuggling business — now he traffics in storytelling, philosophy and humor that are better than gold (and a lot easier to get through customs). He ended the Salon with the song “I Don’t Work for a Living” — the lines “I don’t toil all day/ I suppose it’s because I’m not built that way” a great reminder for us all to be glad we are “built” the way we are.