Check out O’Rourke’s Feast on Baby Blue Arts Minnesota Musicians and Performers program, including an interview with Paddy and Sherry by Baby Blue’s Laurie Patton.
A sumptuous banquet of Irish traditional music…
O’Rourke’s Feast is a lively seven-piece Irish traditional music ensemble: three fiddles, two flutes, button accordion, and piano. Our repertoire includes dance melodies like jigs and reels, but we also play older melodies from the Irish tradition, including hornpipes, clan marches, and some beautiful old slow airs and songs. We also play some music of our own, composed in the traditional style.
The group is led by button accordion master Paddy O’Brien, a native of County Offaly in Ireland, and renowned all over the world as a walking encyclopedia of Irish traditional music. Paddy has been working with O’Rourke’s Feast since 2008, cultivating the ensemble’s unique and authentic traditional sound. O’Rourke’s Feast has performed at the Minnesota History Center, Saint Paul Central Library, Olivet Congregational Church, and Celtic Junction in Saint Paul, and Hopkins Center for the Arts, and in July 2014 released a self-titled recording, featuring both the current band, and former players.
O’ROURKE’S FEAST takes its name from a song composed by Turlough O’Carolan, a blind harper from Ireland, who was born in 1670 and died in 1738. The song, with lyrics written originally in the Irish language by poet Hugh MacGauran, commemorated a remarkable banquet given by O’Rourke, a powerful chieftain of Ulster during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The song (from the 1720 English translation by Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels)begins:
O’Rourke’s noble fare will ne’er be forgot / By those who were there — or those who were not!
The current members of O’Rourke’s Feast include:
Paddy O’Brien is internationally renowned both as a master of the button accordion, and for the depth and breadth of his knowledge about Irish traditional music. He gained that knowledge by spending time playing and talking with master musicians from an older generation in Ireland, and for years has been passing down what he learned to a younger generation of musicians in Minnesota. Paddy does not read music, but carries in his head nearly 4,000 distinct melodies, sometimes multiple versions of the same tune, from regional variations to particular interpretations by individual musicians. He is frequently called upon as a source for musicians around the globe who consult him for historical and cultural background information on Irish music. Paddy has won numerous awards, including multiple first-place awards in the Oireachtas competitions sponsored by the Gaelic League in Ireland, as well as multiple awards in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil sponsored by the traditional music organization Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. He has served as a master artist in Minnesota State Arts Board Folk Arts Apprenticeship program, and received a prestigious Bush Artist Fellowship in Folk and Traditional Arts. He has also received grants to support his previous work from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Irish Fair of Minnesota Legacy Fund, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. In 2012, Paddy received international recognition as Cumadóir, or Composer of the Year at the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Irish Music Awards. He is also a member of the internationally-renowned Irish music trio Chulrua.
Suzanne Rhees is an accomplished flute player with a broad and deep repertoire of traditional tunes and more than twenty-five years experience playing in formal and informal settings in the Twin Cities and elsewhere. She and husband David Rhees (fiddle, banjo, guitar) moved to Minneapolis from Philadelphia in 1992; they have played for ceilis, contradances, the occasional party or festival, and are regulars at many sessions around town. Suzanne is an urban planner, currently working on park and trail planning for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and is happiest when her work takes her to a city with a good session, or a bike trail.
Amy Shaw plays the wooden flute in Barra, a St. Paul band that performs traditional Irish music. She can frequently be heard playing for Irish dances, sessions, and other events around the Twin Cities. A librarian at St. Catherine University since 1994, she holds master’s degrees in music librarianship from Indiana University and music literature from the University of South Dakota. She became interested in the wooden flute after researching 19th-century English flutes for her thesis at USD. She was surprised to discover that these early classical flutes are much sought after today by players of traditional (folk) music, especially Irish music. Eventually, Amy bought her own wooden flute from contemporary Canadian flute maker Peter Noy. It’s been her ticket to exploring the musical traditions of Ireland, Scotland, French Canada, and Nova Scotia, and is her constant traveling companion.
Kathleen Green grew up in Saint Paul immersed in music where she and many of her sisters trained in classical violin studies. Like most of those sisters, she discovered the joys of traditional fiddle in adulthood. After a weekend workshop with renowned Irish fiddler James Kelly, she developed a passion for traditional Irish music, particularly providing live dance music for the thriving Twin Cities Irish social dance scene. Kathleen performs around town as a member of Heritage (which she helped found 12 years ago), the Twin Cities Ceili Band, and most recently with the traditional trio Dunquin, and is a regular at sessions around town. When she is not fiddling, Kathleen is the Inpatient Pharmacy Clinical Manager at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina.
Sherry Ladig has been writing and making music all of her life as a pianist, arranger, composer and music historian. Sherry earned a degree in music composition from the University of Minnesota with an unofficial minor in music history. She writes arrangements for and plays piano in several Celtic traditional bands for concerts and dances; she also researches music of many eras, and writes instrumental and choral music for small and large ensembles (including, occasionally, a new piece in traditional Irish or Scottish styles). Sherry is a composer-in-residence for the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra and writes a new piece for them annually. She currently performs with Dunquin (traditional Irish), Dalwhinnie (Scottish), The New Pearl Button Players (mid-to-late-19th century American), and Thistledown (Scottish dance). She has also made appearances with other bands including The Doon Céilí Band.
Ingrid Jans is a fiddle player from Wenatchee, Washington. After graduating from Macalester College in 2012, she stuck around the Twin Cities to immerse herself in the Irish music scene. Though she has played classical, mariachi and klezmer music, Irish music is her passion. In addition to her work with O’Rourke’s Feast, she plays traditional Irish and Scottish music with fellow Macalester graduates in a trio known as The Herringbone Badgers. Ingrid also helped form The Muskatova Ceili Band with other young local musicians. She is a regular at sessions, and you can also find her at her day job at Irish on Grand.
Rosa Wells has been playing violin since she was very small and developed a love of Irish music early in her learning. She has extensive classical training but has been focusing on fiddle music for the past six years. As the fiddler for local Irish band Trout in the Milk, she has played at pubs, weddings, and other events. A common face in the community, she can be found at local sessions, community open mic nights, and teaching fiddle at the Center for Irish Music in SaintPaul.
Former members of O’Rourke’s Feast include:
Danielle Enblom, fiddle
Nathan Gourley, fiddle
Ann Mossey Sandberg, fiddle