It is difficult to describe to those who have not experienced it how inspiring and impressive an evening at an Irish American Writers and Artists Salon can be. The following piece, “Your Voice Will Find You” by Chris Bradley helps make it easier. On February 5th, Chris, a new IAW&A member, attended his first Salon, held at the Bar Thalia. The evening made such an impression on him that he wrote the following piece and read it to an appreciative standing-room-only crowd at the next Salon on February 19th at the Cell Theatre.
Your voice will find you
By Chris Bradley
Eight point two miles is the distance from my humble Bronx apartment above the 99 cent store on Morris Park Avenue to Bar Thalia. Walking there from my front door would take two hours and forty-five minutes. You could take the 5 or 2 train. That would take about forty-two minutes. Driving is an option. On February 5, 2013, here in NYC that would not have been the best option for getting there. It was snowing. Thirty-four minutes of drive time, and then you would have to find parking.
It was the 2 train that carried me across most of those eight point two miles on February 5, 2013. I was seeking my voice. When I arrived at 2537 Broadway – Bar Thalia – I realized I had been there before. Memories of playing Jenga there with a curly black haired woman from Brooklyn who won every game, flooded into my mind. That night, I was not; I was not ready to see it. I was not ready to greet it. I was simply unprepared the first time I had been there at Bar Thalia to meet my voice.
It found me there on February 5, 2013 at the IAW&A Salon. It found me when he smiled and told me “Your voice will find you.”
If you look out the window of Bar Thalia, across West 95th Street, if you look with eyes open and your soul ready to see the view, there is a red awning about thirty feet long. In cursive script, white script, are two words: “Symphony Cleaners.”
That evening, when he assured me that my voice would find me, there was a symphony being conducted in Bar Thalia. It was a large scale work. Somehow, Limerick, Ireland, Brooklyn, New York, those streets, those places, his family, those experiences, they created this maestro. Somehow life had carried him there to that moment where he was assuring not just me, a somewhat Irish boy born on the other bank of the Hudson and raised in Penn’s Woods, but all of the writers and artists on his stage that night, that our voices would find us.
John sang hauntingly beautiful songs. Each song filled with grit. Each song also filled with the love that shines from each pore of his skin. His voice resonated and smiles burst across the faces I saw. He sang one song he wrote for his wife Jessica. She fuels him. It is so obvious when you see them stand together that God got this couple right.
Jeanine read from her novel, her third, which is about to be published. There was a harmony developing. Her voice was comfort personified.
Tom came in with fury. He has found his voice. I picture him greeting it, likely saying, “It is nice to meet you.” “We are going to shout from rooftops together.”
Betsy, and Afric, all the other artists there, we were there together all feeling inspired by this maestro who was born on September 20, 1931, in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Limerick. Somehow the days led him to orchestrating this symphony.
Sometimes a song is not enough. Sometimes only a symphony can convey the expression. Eight point two miles from the Bronx, forty-two minutes on the 2 train, forty-one years since my journey started there across the street from Symphony Cleaners, finally, I was standing before a maestro. And I saw him for the person he is. He was the person I needed to make the introduction. He is a writer, a teacher and he is the Maestro from Limerick, he smiled deeply and told me, “Your voice will find you.” You were right. Thank you, Mr. McCourt. Wait… you corrected me on that already, “Thank you Malachy.”