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ON STAGE: A musical celebration of St. Patrick's Day
Broadcast Wednesday, March 17, 2004 at 9 pm on all MPR news and information stations.

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From the Archives
Sounds Irish 2003
Classical meets Celtic this year, as Tom remembers musician Derek Bell of the Chieftains, who died unexpectedly in October 2002 while the group was on a US tour.

Sounds Irish 2002
Flutist James Galway, perhaps Ireland's most acclaimed musical ambassador, and an engaging storyteller, reviews his long and distinguished career.

Sounds Irish 2001
Hear a quick lesson on the Irish language, listen to last year's two-hour program, and read an article from Tom Crann about Irish classical music concerts.

Sounds Irish 2000
Hear the original two-hour program and read an article from Tom Crann about his experiences in Ireland and how Sounds Irish began.

In the past four years, public radio listeners nationwide have come to love Sounds Irish—an award-winning celebration of Ireland's cultural heritage. March 13, classical music host Tom Crann brought a similar celebration to the Fitzgerald stage.
by Eve Daniels, Minnesota Public Radio

If you can't escape to Ireland this St. Patrick's Day, Minnesota Public Radio has the next best thing, but make sure to leave the green beer and plastic hats at home.

For Sounds Irish: On Stage, host Tom Crann keeps the best parts of the Irish-American experience, with a dose of more authentic flavor.

In the spirit of the Sounds Irish radio specials, Crann welcomed a range of performers and readers to the Fitz for a transatlantic party that was off the beaten path.

Imagine an evening of Celtic sentiment, without being sentimental. Or Irish tradition without the clichés.

"A lot of times, what you get is just a suggestion of the Irish-American experience; a more stylized depiction of Irish life that doesn't always ring true,"says Crann, who spent a year as at classical music host at Lyric FM in Limerick.

"Much of the 'traditional Ireland' that we see in the movies is gone,"he adds. "Yet there's still a fondness for it—even if it never existed."

So, the Fitzgerald event not only includes time-honored music and verse, but hopefully introduces people to new ideas about the culture, too.

While "the land of saints and scholars" is a tad clichéd, the show wouldn't sound Irish without literary selections that evoke a sacred sense of place.

Author Erin Hart, a Rochester, Minn. native and wife of Irish musician Paddy O'Brien, read from her debut novel Haunted Ground—the first in a planned series of crime novels set mostly in Ireland.

Writer and historian Bill Watkins, author of Celtic Childhood, shared stories and excerpts as well. And Irish natives Patrick O'Donnell, Fintan Moore and Kieran Folliard read Irish prose and poetry in English as spoken in Ireland, in addition to the Irish language (a.k.a. Gaelic).

According to Crann, "The chosen texts are truly representative of the culture, and we've invited readers and storytellers who really get what's going on in Ireland today."

Given that Ireland's national symbol is the harp, it's clearly a nation that prizes its music culture. While a number of the Sounds Irish musicians are American, they've definitely captured a genuine Irish style.

Versatile musician Tom Dahill performed a set that featured songs with uilleann pipes, accordion, fiddle and guitar. Alongside an Irish dancer, he also played the fiddle to W. B. Yeats' beloved poem The Fiddler of Dooney.

St. Paul-based duo 5 Mile Chase—featuring Django Amerson on fiddle and bouzouki and Brian Miller on guitar, vocals, Irish flute and whistles—took a creative approach to Irish musical tradition.

"The two visit Ireland often,"says Crann. "And right before the Fitz show they're going back to play for a few weeks, so we'll talk about that trip and what it's like for American musicians to tour there."

Sounds Irish: On Stage also featured performances by Gaelic harpist Ann Heymann, a resident of Winthrop, Minn. and a world-renowned expert on the ancient harp tradition. Tenor John Patrick Fitzgibbons sang a few of Thomas Moore's Irish melodies.

Though we often associate Ireland with traditional folk music, the country has a rich classical music scene as well. This, too, was a big part of the show.

William Eddins is resident conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a frequent guest conductor of major orchestras throughout the world. He's also the principal guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland.

Eddins played selections by John Field—an Irish-trained musician who made his way abroad—just as Eddins, a New York native, is now making a name for himself internationally as a conductor.

He also performed solo pieces and underscored a few of the musical readings by Irish-born dramatist George Bernard Shaw, one of the most brilliant music critics in history.

"He's had great experiences with the Irish culture when he's been there,"Crann says of Eddins. "And he's an entertaining talker. A show like this has to have good talkers, because it's not just a concert—we want people to share their stories."


Host Tom Crann Tom Crann is a weekday host on Minnesota Public Radio's national Classical 24 service. He has worked in public radio since 1987, with stops at stations in St. Louis; Evansville, Indiana; Buffalo; and Los Angeles. He was a founding voice of Classical 24 when it first went on the air in December 1995. In May 1999, he became the first American "presenter" with a daily program on national radio in Ireland. He was one of the original voices of Lyric FM when RTÉ (Ireland's national broadcaster) put that country's first full-time classical music and arts station on the air. C24 welcomed Crann back on the air in 2002. He hosted the broadcast of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland's New York debut at Lincoln Center for RTÉ last Spring. He is also the host of the US Broadcasts of concerts by the BBC Proms festival.

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