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  • Writer's pictureDr Clodagh Ryan

Music is the Best Medicine!

Sunday 6-26-22:

Tonight, Dr Ryan and her family are involved in a fundraiser concert of Irish Music at Gaelic Park, Oak Forest, IL. This is a culmination of effort and dedication, and will be a very special night! Check out the Concert Booklet below! We would like to thank our performers who are volunteering their time, and our sponsors - please consider supporting these small businesses who have donated to this worthy cause.

Tickets will be available at the door: $25 per person.

Doors open 6.30pm, Concert 7.00pm.

Come to support the future of Irish music in Chicago!


Concert.Program.Fundraiser.Frank Burke.Ceili Band.All Ireland.6.26.22
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The Back Story......

Many of you know that medicine and Irish music have intertwined through my adult life. My husband and I met at an Irish music summer school in Ireland when I was 11 and he was 14. Our friendship remained sporadic and platonically musical, until in our twenties, we met again through Irish music. We have continued to share our passion for Irish traditional music and have taught and mentored several generations of young Chicago musicians, including our own 4 children, leading them in competitive solo, duet, trio and group competitions throughout the years. It's been a juggle, but one that provided a lot of joy in our lives. The role of a physician can sometimes be a rigorous heavy burden, and music has always filled the soul.

Every year we would prepare the young musicians for the ceili band competition. This is based on the band that plays for the traditional Irish ceili dances, social events in Ireland where neighbors and friends join traditional group dances. In the competition, the ceili band comprises of 10 musicians, including 8 melody instruments, piano and drums. This is a fun competition to prepare for, and the band with the best overall sound, musical rhythm and that plays together wins out.

Every year we would pack our bags, head to a Midwest city hotel for the weekend, and the kids would play in the ceili band competition. It is no easy feat at 10 years old to play music and keep the beat with 9 other people. Over the years, the kids grew more confident, polished and comfortable playing together. They traveled to Ireland in 2019 to compete in the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil final Under 15 Ceili Band competition. While they did not place in the top 3, they played their hearts out and showed Ireland that Irish music in America was thriving!

The pandemic brought all of our musical pursuits outside the home to a screeching halt. We were blessed with video lessons from music teachers for our children, but group sessions on Zoom do NOT fill the cup. We supported our professional music friends in their Facebook live events where we could but the sound and the atmosphere was never the same as live music.

With Omicron sweeping through and restrictions lifting, we began to venture out again. Our Midwest Fleadh Cheoil competition resumed after two years of cancellations, and we began to prepare our children and the other local young musicians to get together to practice for group competitions. The arts lost a lot during Covid. Professionals struggled to make ends meet, teachers struggled to keep young students interested over video, and many young people decided that they had enough Zoom for school and put down their instruments. The competition numbers were significantly decreased from usual this year. Despite the sadness of those who had called it quits, and the years of musical advancement that our young musicians had lost during Covid, we forged ahead, and scrubbed the rust off our playing.

Our Under 18 ceili band, comprised of ten musicians age 15-18 years, had to be coaxed to make the trip to St Lous for the competition this year. This group, with a few minor changes, started learning music around 8 years old. I even learned how to play the button accordeon to get the two boys started, and passed them onto a real accordeon teacher two years later. My husband Sean is very persuasive. Despite some resistance, the reluctant members picked up their instruments again and began to play.

On the night, the atmosphere was electric. Everyone was glad to be there again, together, listening to our youth play Irish music. Albeit some of them 7 inches taller than last time! Their music muscles worked easily together - despite little rehearsal time together and almost 3 years apart, the Under 18 Frank Burke Ceili band placed first at the Midwest Fleadh and qualified to compete again at the world final, the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in August 2022. We, the parents and teachers, had mixed emotions: joy and excitement tinged with sadness for the years we and our children lost in honing their musical skills.We put that aside, reveled in the reunion and went home with our cups filled!

The Frank Burke Ceili Band was named after a stalwart of the Chicago Irish music scene. A native of Connemara, Galway, Ireland, Frank made his way like so many others before him and made a new life in the land of opportunity. He was a founding member of the long running Irish Music Association, and enthusiastic supporter of our young musicians. Frank always had his fiddle and a big smile for you. Check out the concert program above for Frank’s story. We are proud to keep his memory alive.

We hope you can make it, but if not, here is a sneak peek - to view, click on the link!

Dr Ryan

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