Since coming to the U.S. in the fall of November 2007, I have always sought to be present to both my music and social work with a listening ear and attentive mind… sometimes it worked, sometimes…. Well, that’s another story!
The vastness of this beautiful country, however, is not unmatched by the beauty of its diverse cultures and the legacy of its peoples, be it those Native Americans who sent money back to Ireland during the Irish famine of 1845 or those who have made the same journey to America
as I have, wishing to make a new life in this land of opportunity.
What led to a chance encounter one day in Chicago to sing at a local funeral of an Irishman, and not long after my arrival in November 2006, evolved into a 15-year vocation of supporting families seeking to give their family members a good send-off. In most of these instances, this has been an Irish send-off! The majority of the time this has been in the form of a traditional Irish mass or service.
The Social Worker in me has always sought to understand the person who was before me; in this case, hear the story of the deceased person through the eyes of their spouse or family member; appreciate from them the deceased person’s favorite song, in an effort to craft a meaningful tribute to them, in representing their family – a musical sculpting you might say for their final farewell.
The majority of the time these songs have been of Irish origin. Behind each family’s loss is also an immense pride for their deceased relative and an desire to connect to a deep Irish spirituality that reflects their Irish culture and identity.
To be present to families at this most sacred time, is akin to being part of that ‘Srutháin’ (river) of Irish life and the community of the Irish diaspora. We musicians are but faithful servants to a rich traditional Irish music culture that facilitates families in telling their story through the gift of song, while honoring their loved ones in celebrating their proud Irish heritage.
These musical acts of service keep me connected to my own native land which is never far from my mind, and which causes me to reflect on my own legacy and journey from Ireland to America.
I am grateful to Jimmy Moore, guitarist, and co-producer of this CD who has partnered with me on these musical acts of service throughout this time.
This album is dedicated to all those families who gave us the honor of celebrating their story with them at their most vulnerable time.
This musical offering is in memory of my friend and former Ireland Tonight host, Maryann McTeague-Keifer, taken from us all too soon, but whose kindness and encouragement inspired so many other musicians in their craft, and also Dr. Nona Lyons, of Kennebunkport, Maine who guided me in my learning as I sought to integrate my musical and social work profession into my other career as a professional gift planner.
This album is in honor of my mother, Lizzie, who by her everyday example, instilled in me a great faith and calling to be there for others, as I sought to overcome the stutterings of my youth.
Finally, thanks to my wife, Kathleen O’Connor, for supporting me in this endeavor and appreciating my never-ending singing!