We’re still celebrating…April 11th Ceili and House Concert the 13th

In Two Minds rev flyerMarch may be over…but we’re still celebrating!

Join us for a ceili at the Buffalo Irish Center on Saturday, April 11, from 8-11pm.  Lively traditional Irish music provided by talented local musicians. 

Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for Comhaltas members, $5 for students with ID, and accompanied children under the age of 16 are admitted free. Complimentary refreshments will be served at intermission and the BIC kitchen and pub will be open

Ongoing set and Céilí dance classes are held by the Innisfree Ceili Dance Group Tuesday evenings from 7:45 to 10:00pm. The first class is free, a donation of $1.00 is requested for following classes.

“In Two Minds”  house concert Monday, April 13th 7pm

On Monday, April 13th, join us for a special concert with sean-nós singers and dancers Len Graham and Brian Ó hAirt.  Cost is $20 per person, $45 for families.  Seating is limited, please email MartinWynne@Comhaltas.net to reserve your seat for this wonderful duo. Buffalo address will be given upon reservation.

“To speak of Ireland’s singing traditions is to draw from a patchwork of songs and singers, poets and tongues, histories and stories that reach as far back as fadó ó shin to as near as yesterday. Its richness is matched only by Ireland’s famous shades of green or the subtle accents of her people scattered among provinces and counties, islands and parishes. To bring such disparate traditions together as Ulster’s ballads and Connemara’s lyrical sean-nós would seem contrary. However, the balance of Len Graham’s brassy, rich baritone and Brian Ó hAirt’s silver, clear tenor strikes a chord that touches the heart—that conveys volumes in each note they sing. Further balanced by stories, tunes, lilting and dancing, Len and Brían create a magical backdrop for an enriching evening not often experienced even in Ireland. Join them for their visit to Western New York and its surrounding communities in April 2015 as they perform selections from their newest album to be formally launched on this upcoming tour.”

Sean-nós dance workshops offered Tuesday, April 14th. $20/person, Free for Martin Wynne Branch members

The Ulster Ballad Tradition with Len Graham:
The Ulster ballad tradition is one that illustrates the cultural diversity of Ireland’s northern province. Len’s style in particular is indicative of the northeastern Ulster tradition—a blending of songs from the Irish and Scottish tradition describing the breadth of life’s experiences from children songs to songs of love, emigration, murder and humor.  Students will learn a wide range of songs in the English language from Len’s repertoire.  Lyric sheets will be provided.  Please bring a recording device.

Sean-nós dancing: beginner/intermediate/advanced with Brian Ó hAirt: 
Come learn the Connemara style of sean-nós dancing–a dance form akin to American flat footing or clogging.  Learn the basic Connemara step for both jigs and reels.  Those with more advanced skills will be challenged with free-formed dancing focusing on the unique rhythm of various dance tunes.  Please bring a pair of flat-soled shoes with hard leather or plastic soles.  NO IRISH DANCING HARD SHOES PLEASE.

County Antrim born, Len Graham has been a full-time professional singer for three decades. From the early 1960s Len sought out and recorded older singers such as Eddie Butcher and Joe Holmes; and after winning the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann traditional singing competition in 1971 his reputation began to grow along with his own passion for the songs of his native Ulster. He has since recorded both solo and collaborative albums with John Campbell, Cathal McConnell, Garry Ó Briain and Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin and with the famed band Skylark. He his list of honors include the Seán O’Boyle Cultural Traditions Award, the TG4 “Traditional Singer Of the Year” award,  the “Keeper of the Tradition” award from the Tommy Makem Festival of Traditional Song, the US Irish Music Award in the “Sean-Nós Singing” category, and the Gradam na mBard CCÉ (CCÉ Bardic Award). Len’s book – Here I Am Amongst You on the songs, dance music and traditions of Joe Holmes (1906-1978) was published by Four Courts Press in 2010.
Brian Ó hAirt is the only American to have won the coveted senior title in traditional singing at the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 2002. In his teens, Brian’s introduction to Chicago’s Irish-speaking community allowed him to cultivate a rich understanding of the sean-nós singing tradition even before his eventual immersion in the language while living in the Connemara region of western Co. Galway. This experience has left him with a vast repertoire of song and rich store of language that continues to inform and inspire his singing. He has performed and taught extensively in North America and Ireland and has been featured on various NPR and RTÉ radio programs. Like Len, he also received the US Irish Music Award in the “Sean-Nós Singing” category and is an award-winning sean-nós dancer (Cruinniú na mBád, 2003) and accomplished instrumentalist on concertina, accordion, and whistle performing regularly with his Chicago-based ensemble Bua.

Video playlist of past performances:

Samples tracks of album:

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An Irish Celebration at the Castellani Art Museum

CAM_Irish_FlyerThe Martin Wynne branch is participating in A Celebration of Irish Dance, Music, and Merriment on Sunday, March 8th at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University. Bridget English, our branch chair, will give a presentation on the history of traditional Irish music and dance.  There will be demonstrations of ceili, set, step, and sean nos dance styles, and a chance to learn a few steps! Ted McGraw of the Tom Finucane branch in Rochester will give a button accordion performance. Top-notch local musicians will also give performances on fiddle and uilleann pipes.  Members of the Irish language class led by Margaret McGrath will present Gaelic poetry and song.  Click on the flyer for more information.  

Kick off the St. Patrick’s Day Season with an Irish extravaganza of music, language, dance, and history!

The event takes place from 2:00-4:00pm. Open to the public, admission is free to all students with ID and Museum members/$10 for non-members. 

Below is an example of the poetry being shared:

Irish Gaelic poems 03-08-15 -Conroy


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Patrick O’Dea Set Dance Workshop Feb. 24th

ODea 2 24 15Please welcome internationally-renowned instructor Patrick O’Dea as he returns to the Buffalo Irish Center, 245 Abbott Road on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 7:30pm.

Patrick O’Dea is one of the world’s leading teachers of Irish set dancing and step dancing. As the protégé of the late Cork Dance Master, Joe O’Donovan, Patrick preserves the close-to-the-floor “old style” of traditional step dancing from Munster.

As a part of our mission to promote Traditional Irish Culture, Buffalo Comhaltas will offer this dance experience free to the public!

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Ceili February 28th

Nietzsche's session photo
…And we’re back!  Dust the snow off your boots and discover the best kept secret to staying warm!

Buffalo Comhaltas is sponsoring a Céilí on Saturday, February 28, 2015.  Held at the Buffalo Irish Center, 245 Abbott Rd. Buffalo, NY 14220, from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm.  There will be live traditional Irish music provided by local musicians “Resistance is Futile”.  Come and dance, or just enjoy the show!

Price of admission is $10 for adults, $8 for Comhaltas members, $5 for students with ID, and accompanied children under the age of 16 are admitted free. Complimentary refreshments will be served at intermission and the Irish Center pub is open.

Come and join us for a great Saturday evening, time well spent in great company!

Check out this great article in the Buffalo News about set dancing and the Innisfree Ceili Dance classes along with other dance groups in WNY.  Maybe you’re in one of the slideshow pictures!

Ongoing Set and Céilí dance classes are held Tuesday evenings by the Innisfree Ceili Dance Group from 7:45 to 10:00 PM at the Buffalo Irish Center. First lesson is free of charge, then $1.00/lesson. 

 Ceili 02-28-15

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Ceili November 22nd – CANCELLED

Ceili Flyer112214

Due to the snowstorm, the ceili is cancelled. Please stay tune-d for the next ceili!  

Keep warm and safe Buffalo and have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Please join the Martin Wynne Branch as we celebrate the Samhain season with a fantastic fall ceili!  A ceili (KAY-lee) is when dancing, music, and friends come together to have a good time!  Local Irish band Resistance is Futile will perform lively Irish tunes for non-stop set dancing throughout the night. Musicians include Anne Maroney and Natalie Bennett on fiddles, Werner Ceusters on banjo, and Jeff Dosch on uilleann pipes.

All dances will be called, so try something new!  A family-friendly event, it’s great exercise too! Refreshments are provided at intermission and the Irish Center will be open.

Set dance classes hosted by the Innisfree Dance Group are held every Tuesday from 7:45-10pm in the Claddagh Room at the Buffalo Irish Center.  First class is free, then a $1.00 donation is requested for each lesson thereafter.

Join us November 22nd at the Buffalo Irish Center Emerald Room from 8-11pm. Please wear comfortable clothing and bring a change of shoes for the indoors (to keep the floor dry).   Admission is $10.00 general, $8.00 for Comhaltas members, $5.00 students and free for ages 16 and under.


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Celtic Origins of Halloween

turnip1The witching season is upon us!  Our modern day Halloween traditions have foundations in the Celtic festival of Samhain (SOW-in), one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals.  Below are some fascinating facts about the origin of Halloween! Have a happy Samhain!

Following is from  http://www.newgrange.com/samhain.htm:

As millions of children and adults participate in the fun of Halloween on the night of October 31st, few will be aware of its ancient Celtic roots in the Samhain (Samain) festival. In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). At Samhain the division between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through.

The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits and thus avoid harm. Bonfires and food played a large part in the festivities. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into a communal fire, household fires were extinguished and started again from the bonfire. Food was prepared for the living and the dead, food for the ancestors who were in no position it eat it, was ritually shared with the less well off.

Christianity incorporated the honouring of the dead into the Christian calendar with All Saints (All Hallows) on November 1st, followed by All Souls on November 2nd. The wearing of costumes and masks to ward off harmful spirits survived as Halloween customs. The Irish emigrated to America in great numbers during the 19th century especially around the time of famine in Ireland during the 1840’s. The Irish carried their Halloween traditions to America, where today it is one of the major holidays of the year. Through time other traditions have blended into Halloween, for example the American harvest time tradition of carving pumpkins.

Two hills in the Boyne Valley were associated with Samhain in Celtic Ireland, Tlachtga and Tara. Tlachtga was the location of the Great Fire Festival which begun on the eve of Samhain (Halloween). Tara was also associated with Samhain, however it was secondary to Tlachtga in this respect.

The entrance passage to the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara is aligned with the rising sun around Samhain. The Mound of the Hostages is 4,500 to 5000 years old, suggesting that Samhain was celebrated long before the first Celts arrived in Ireland about 2,500 years ago.

Samhain / Halloween

An excerpt from Tlachtga: Celtic Fire Festival by John Gilroy.

The Festival of Samhain marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the new one and as such can be seen to the equivalent of New Year’s Eve. We have seen how the Celts believed that night preceded day and so the festivities took place on the Eve of Samhain. There is no doubt that that this festival was the most important of the four Celtic Festivals. Samhain was a crucial time of year, loaded with symbolic significance for the pre-Christian Irish. The celebrations at Tlachtga may have had their origins in a fertility rite on the hill but it gathered to itself a corpus of other beliefs which crystallised at the great Fire Festival.

The perceptible, and apparent, decline in the strength of the sun at this time of year was a source of anxiety for early man and the lighting of the Winter Fires here symbolised mans attempt to assist the sun on its journey across the skies. Fire is the earthly counterpart of the sun and is a powerful and appropriate symbol to express mans helplessness in the face of the overwhelming sense of the decay of nature as the winter sets in.

 Now the sun has descended into the realm of the underworld, the forces of the underworld were in the ascendency. The lord of the underworld, unfettered from the control of the sun, now walked the earth and with him travelled all those other creatures from the abode of the dead. Ghosts, fairies and a host of other non-descript creatures went with him. The Lord of the Dead in Celtic mythology can be identified as Donn.

Mythology tells us that when the invaders of Ireland known as the Miliseans landed at the Boyne, they made their way to Tara. Once there, they were advised by the Druids that they should return to their ships and sail off the shore to the length of nine waves. When they were on the sea a great storm arose which scattered their fleet. The commander of one of the ships was Donn. His ship was broken to pieces in the storm and he himself drowned along with twenty four of his comrades. He was buried on the Skellig Islands off the coast of Kerry.

He is the first of the new wave of invaders to meet his death in Ireland and, as such, he became elevated to the status of god of the dead. The place of his burial became known as Tech Donn – The house of Donn, and soon became identified with with the otherworld. The Celts were fascinated with tracing their ancestry back as far as they could and often they identified their earliest ancestors with the gods of their peoples. Hence, a belief arose that when they died they went to the house of their ancestor, the god of the otherworld.

 It is interesting to note that the abode of Donn, on the Skellig Islands, is just a few miles from the traditional home of Mog Ruith at Valentia Island. As well as being geographical neighbours, both are closely associated with Samhain, when it can be said that Mog Ruith as sungod sojourns at the realm of the underworld, the abode of Donn.

Donn is seen as a retiring god who prefers the isolation of the bleak Skelligs and remains aloof from the other gods. His name means “brown” and he is associated with the shadowy realm of the dead. O’hOgain tells us that a ninth century text attributes a highly significant quotation to him “To me, to my house, you shall come after your death”

Many other sources say that the dead assemble at his house and describe deceased people travelling to and from here. Fishermen in the area were wont to hear strange boats passing to the island at night and the names of those who disembarked were called out. Later Christian writers claimed that the souls of the damned lingered at his house before departing for hell. Not surprisingly, aspects of his personage have been adapted by Christian writers in their portrayal of the devil.

 Samhain being the feast of the dead can now be clearly seen as incorporating the cult of Donn into its celebrations but how they did so remains uncertain. The Fires were in all likelihood lit in honour of the sungod – here manifesting as Mog Ruith, but certain other of the trappings are clearly associated with the Lord of the Dead. The idea that Samhain is a juncture between the two halves of the year saw it acquiring the unique status of being suspended in time – it did not belong to the old year not the new. It could be said that time stood still on this night and the implications of this were immense. During this night the natural order of life was thrown into chaos and the earthly world of the living became hopelessly entangled with the world of the dead. But the world of the dead was itself a complicated place, peopled not only by the spirits of the departed, but also with a host of gods, fairies and other creatures of uncertain nature.

The unwary traveller, caught away from home on this night, could expect to encounter any one or many of these creatures and it was always advisable to stay indoors. Ghosts were everywhere and may or may not have been harmful to the living. It is interesting to note that the manuscripts tells us that all fires in the country must be extinguished on this night and could only be relit from the great flames from Tlachtga. This, of course, is not to taken literally but symbolised the brief and temporary ascendency of the powers of darkness at this time of year.

During this period all the world was in darkness and the dead were abroad. When the fire at Tlachtga was lit, it gave the signal that all was well and all other fires could now be relit. The fires at Talchtga were the public celebration of the victory of light, while the relighting of the household fire marked the domestic celebration of the feast. Now the spirits of dead ancestors could be welcomed back into the home with safety and posed no threat to the household. This theme is repeated constantly in Irish literature. MacCollugh tells us that the cult of the dead culminated at the family health. Very often the spirits of ancestors sought warmth around the fireside on this night. Fires were left lighting in the grate to warm the spirits and food was left out for them. Even though the ancestral ghosts were benign, it was still a good idea to avoid them by going to bed early.

However, the ghosts may not have been entirely benign. They needed some sort of appeasement in the form of ritual offerings on this night. So long as the offering was forthcoming the ghosts were happy and benevolent, but if the offering was withheld another side of the ghosts features were presented. Bad luck would descend on the household and all would not be well the coming year. Some vestiges of this tradition may survived in the modern Halloween custom of “trick or treat”. Children, dressed as ghosts and witches, invite the household to make a donation or face the consequences. The ‘treat’ may represent the ritual offering while the ‘trick’, nowadays a harmless prank, may have in antiquity, represented the malevolent consequences of inadequately appeasing the ancestral ghost on this night.

But it was not just time that was dislocated at Samhain. Just as the festival stands on the boundary between Summer and Winter, all other boundaries were in danger at this time. The boundaries between a mans land and his neighbours were a dangerous place to be on this night. Ghosts were to be found along these points and a style between adjacent land was a place of particular dread and best avoided. Bridges and crossroads were also likely places to encounter ghosts. Naturally enough, burial places were avoided on all nights but particularly on this night. Every sort of a ghost was to be seen here and the dead mingled freely with the living.

The practice of divination – telling the future, was an important part of everyday life for the Celts and it is certain that this art formed a central part of the festivities occurred at Tlachtga at Samhain. Vestiges of this can be seen today at Halloween are familiar with the practice of going to the church at midnight on Halloween and standing in the porch. The courageous observer will see the spirits of those who will die in the coming year if he watches closely, but runs the risk of meeting himself. Similarity, girls watching in a mirror on this night will see the image of the man they will marry but also run the risk of seeing the devil.

Those brave enough to go to a grave yard at midnight and walk three times around the graves will be offered a glimpse the future but again run the risk of meeting the devil. This latter example is interesting as it preserves the three time sunwise turn so important to the Celts in the ritual. The possibility of meeting the devil may represent the well known Christian attempt to associate the pagan god of the dead with the devil of Christian belief. This being the case, Donn the Lord of the Dead, left his island home on this night and travelled freely throughout the country. Whether he carried off souls is unclear, but it is likely that he did. The ritual offerings on the Winter Fires may have been an attempt to appease him until, such time in history, he was replaced on the arrival of Christianity by the devil.

 The early Irish manuscripts are littered with references to the magical significance of Samhain. It marked the end of the fighting and hunting season for the warrior troop known as the Fianna. At Samhain they retreated into winter camp, quartering themselves on the general population until the return of Summer at Beltainne. Fionn MacCumhail chose Samhain as the time to present himself before the court at Tara for the first time, while it was also at Samhain that the god Lugh made his dramatic entrance to the same court. The Connaught queen, Meave, waited until Samhain before setting out on the great Cattle Raid of Cooley.

Fionn MacCumhail, Lugh and Cuchulainn – Meave’s opponent, are the three great figures of Irish mythology and it is interesting to note how Samhain is the time chosen by the writers to introduce their arrival on the scene. The Battle of Mag Tuired (supposedly in County Mayo) was fought at Samhain. It seems that when the early writers wish to impart a magical quality to the events they are depicting, they choose the Festival of Samhain for the occasion. There remains little doubt that Samhain held a central place in the imagination of the Celts, where the festivities associated with several local gods became entangled, over the course of perhaps a thousand years, with the feast of the god of the dead. Remnants of these celebrations have come down to us in our own celebrations of Halloween.

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Céilí July 12th

Green Grass photoPlease join us for a Céilí on Saturday, July 12th from 8-11pm at the Buffalo Irish Center (245 Abbot Rd, Buffalo 14220).  Live music provided by local band Green Grass.

Admission is $10 general, $8 CCE members, $5 students (with ID), age 16 and under free.  Enter to win great gifts in the raffle at intermission to benefit the Irish Cultural Scholarship Fund.  Refreshments provided!

Come join us for a fun Saturday evening, time well spent in great company!

Ongoing set/ceili dance instruction provided by the Inishfree Dancers every Tuesday night at the Buffalo Irish Center form 7:45-10pm.  Cost is free for the first class, and only $1 per night thereafter.


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Don’t Resist…the Urge to Dance!

Ceili Flyer 112313-1Join us on Saturday, November 23rd at the Buffalo Irish Center from 8:00-11:00pm for a Céilí (KAY-lee), an Irish social gathering.  The Irish Center is located at 45 Abbott Rd. Buffalo, NY 14220.  Lively dance music provided by local band Resistance is Futile.  There will be poetry, singing, storytelling, and dancing for a wonderful evening.  Come and share your talents, or just enjoy the show!

Admission is $10 for adults ($8 for Comhaltas members), $5 for students with ID, and accompanied children under the age of 16 are admitted free. Complimentary refreshments will be served at intermission.

Come and join us for a great Saturday evening, time well spent in great company!

Ongoing set and Céilí dance classes are held Tuesday evenings from 7:45pm-10:00pm at the Buffalo Irish Center and in Colden (Sarah 716-946-5755) on Thursdays from 7:00pm-9:00pm.

Buffalo Comhaltas is dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and proliferation of traditional Irish music, song, dance and language, keeping it alive and lively in Western New York!

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Buffalo Irish Festival August 23rd-25th

Buffalo Irish Festival 2013Join us at the Buffalo Irish Festival this weekend!  The Martin Wynne branch will be in the Cultural Tent along with the Buffalo Genealogical Society (BIGS), Margaret McGrath’s Irish Language class, and Waterfront Memories (Buffalo waterfront history).  Immerse yourself in Irish heritage with tin whistle and bodhran workshops, Gaelic language readings, instructor-led dancing, and music sessions all weekend long!  Beginners welcome! A Grand Ceili on Saturday night at 7 will include performers from the festival.  Check out the schedule below!

Held this Friday the 23rd through Sunday the 25th at beautiful downtown Canalside, the Buffalo Irish Festival promises to be another exciting weekend of national touring acts and local favorites and as always, amazing food and drink.  See you there!

Full Festival schedule: http://www.buffaloirish.com

Cultural Tent Schedule

6:30 Session
7:30 BIGS
8:30 Storytelling with Tim Daly

1:00 BIGS
2:00 Irish Language
3:00 BIGS
4:00 Dance
5:00 Bodhran workshop with Tim Daly
6:00 Storytelling with Tim Daly
7:00 Grand Ceili

1:00 Tin whistle workshop – whistles available for sale – with James Donoghue
2:00 BIGS
3:00 Irish language
4:00 Storytelling with Tim Daly
5:00 BIGS
6:00 Dance
7:00 Session

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Ceili July 13th

Ceili Flyer 7.13.13It’s Céilí time again! 

Buffalo Comhaltas is sponsoring a Céilí (KAY-lee), an Irish social dance, on Saturday, July 13th 2013.  It will be held at the Buffalo Irish Center, 245 Abbott Rd. Buffalo, NY 14220, from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm.  Price of admission is $8 for adults ($6 for Comhaltas members), $5 for students with ID, and accompanied children under the age of 16 are admitted for free. Complimentary refreshments will be served at intermission.  

Get ready to dance your cares away with us as we kick up our heels to the spirited and lively dance music of our very talented local Irish musicians. 

Come and join us for a great Saturday evening, time well spent in great company! 

Ongoing set and Céilí dance classes are held Tuesday evenings from 7:45 to 10:00pm at the Buffalo Irish Center, located at 245 Abbott Road, Buffalo, NY, and in Colden (Sarah 716-946-5755) on Thursdays 7-9pm. 

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