April may signal the start of baseball season nationwide but pride of place this month in the community goes to the local Cooley Keegan branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (C.C.E) based here in the San Francisco area. 

Last month, the local Comhaltas branch hosted over 300 national and international visitors for a wonderful Irish culture immersive weekend over four days (April 21-24) as part of the 2022 North American Comhaltas Convention. 

Although C.C.E. is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, there are more than 400 branches worldwide, in the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, throughout the United States of America, Canada, Mexico, France, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Russia, Australia and New Zealand. It is the largest non-profit organization involved in the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music, song, dance and storytelling worldwide. 

2022 Convention — Postponed in 2020, and delayed in 2021 due to the global pandemic, the host committee were able to finally execute on plans developed well over three years ago by hosting this year’s event. Co-chaired by Josephine Brennan and Joannie O’Leary, the event was a huge success held across the spacious surroundings at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City. 

Having had plenty of personal experience in running and hosting one day events at the UICC (concerts, shows, classes), I can only imagine the amount of human energy that went into making this “continuous and always on” four day event a success. I enquired to Comhaltas volunteer and attendee Dan McAuliffe about the source of the wooden dance floor for the Céilí dances. He answered, “all the way from Florida, shipped especially for the event”. Wow, I thought, enough said. These organizers left no stone unturned for the dancers. 

As I wandered around the hotel during my visit to the convention over the weekend – the sounds of Irish music was emanating from all corners of the hotel- hallways, foyer, hospitality suites, workshop and Céilí rooms. My mind wandered off to thinking that down the road when the new Irish Center is built that such a convention could easily be held in the new facility. We certainly will have the space and rooms to make that accommodate a Comhaltas convention. 

The Irish Center made information available about our 2025 Project building to the convention attendees during the weekend and many expressed excitement at the possibility of such a facility on the west coast. 

Comhaltas in Ireland — I spoke at length with National PRO for Comhaltas in Ireland, Pat Flanagan, about all the various efforts undertaken by Comhaltas (celebrating 70 years in 2022) in the promotion of Irish culture all across the Emerald Isle. He said “It is an ongoing effort by an army of people who help organize an incredible array of events during the year for example: 1500 music classes in every county in Ireland each week for adults and kids, maintains a music competition framework leading to the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil finals and also helps produce and promote 44 Fleadhanna Ceoil (cultural festivals) throughout the year”. Flanagan continued “All this helps maintain the success of the wonderful rich musical heritage and traditions in Ireland. That heritage is a proud resource that belongs to Irish people everywhere, young and old alike.”

Close to Home, Small World — Presently, Pat is domiciled in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary with his wife and family, but he has strong Limerick connections-he was born and raised only a couple of miles from my own home in west Limerick. Although we went to the same National School in the village of Broadford, Pat lived in the neighboring parish of Feohanagh, and so he did not play Gaelic games with the blood and bandage (red and white) colors of Broadford as a youngster. Pat’s brother Johnny Flanagan was a dominant figure in the Limerick hurling teams of the 1980s. There are strict rules around parish boundaries in rural Ireland when it comes to Gaelic games, and players that once may have played on school teams together could be arch enemies in the west Limerick championships when they played opposite each other for their parish clubs. Sometimes a recipe for skin and hair flying during a game along with teak tough defending! It was great to connect with Pat over the weekend and catch up about all the characters we knew from our (áit dúchais) native place.

Boxing Nite Success — The Center and Fire in the Ring boxing Gym in Brisbane teamed up for a wonderful evening to showcase amateur boxing on April 16th. Thanks to Jimmy Ford and his team for a great night for the community.

Leo Walsh Scholarship Awards — We are looking forward to disbursing the Leo Walsh educational scholarships to sucessful graduating eight graders and college bound high school seniors this month. We host the donors and awardees in person on Sunday afternoon May 15th. 

Save the Planet Feis — The Michael Dillon school of Irish dancing hosts a two day Feis on May 20th and 21st at the UICC. All are welcome.

Kids Irish Camp Sign Up — We have about 36 kids signed up for the second Annual Irish camp which takes place at the Center from June 13 through July 1. The camp culminates in a variety concert at the Center starring all the campers.

Irish Veterans Global On Sunday May 29th the Irish Veterans Global will Commission the Admiral Daniel Callaghan San Francisco Chapter at the Center between 3-6pm. From Memorial Day (May 30th) weekend through Flag Day (June 14th), the Dowling Library will host an exhibit honoring Irish-Americans who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

Steps ofFreedom Movie — The Center is partnering with the Brava theatre in the Mission in presenting the Documentary “Steps of Freedom -The Story of Irish Dance” on May 13th as part of the 2022 San Francisco Dance Film Festival. UICC members can avail of discounted tickets at the IrishCenterSF.org website. The screening of the movie will conclude with a live performance by dancers from the Boyle Irish Dance Academy of San Francisco.

MusicClasses — Music, drama, and singing classes for kids are back in action after the Easter break. It’s never too late to sign up.

Mothers Day Blessings — A happy Mothers Day (May 8th) to all the Moms in the community from all of us here at the Irish Center.

Liam Reidy