Festival Announced: Lúnasa at the Irish Cultural Center

The Irish Cultural Center of Western New England, along with Black Rose Academy of Irish Dance and Cassin Academy of Irish Dance, is excited to announce a new Irish cultural festival hosted on the grounds of the ICC at 429 Morgan Road in West Springfield on Saturday, August 25.

Lúnasa at the ICC will take place from 12:00 – 7:00 pm, and will be a day of Irish dance, music, and culture. This family friendly event will have something for everyone. Irish dance exhibitions by the Cassin Academy of Irish Dance and Black Rose Academy of Irish Dance will be featured throughout the day. Visitors will be able to take part in dance instruction, learn about the Irish language, visit vendors of Irish crafts and products, and participate in workshops featuring Irish arts and culture. Bakers can enter an Irish soda bread competition. A more detailed program of the day’s events will be forthcoming.

In the evening, the Celtic roots group Searson will headline the festival. Known for their original music from Canada’s Ottawa Valley, mixed with traditional Celtic, East Coast, and Scottish, Searson is acclaimed for “Giving Canada’s old time sounds a renewal into modern roots…seamlessly blending spirited fiddling, energetic dancing and gorgeous harmonies.”

The festival will take place rain or shine in the outdoor pavilion area on the ICC grounds. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6–12, and free for children 5 and under. Advance tickets will be available shortly for purchase.

The Irish word “Lúnasa” is traditionally used to describe an ancient Irish festival to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season and end of the summer months.

Businesses and individuals interested in providing sponsorship for the festival are encouraged to call the ICC at 413-333-4951.

The Irish Cultural Center of Western New England is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization that emphasizes cultural and educational programming. The ICC focuses on providing access to Irish-oriented lectures, concerts, exhibitions of art, artifacts and memorabilia, political discussions, international relations, GAA sports, Irish language classes, summer youth camps, student international exchange and genealogical research. The ICC also serves as a bridge between the Irish government and the Western New England region.

Cassin Academy of Irish Dance and Black Rose Academy of Irish Dance are both run by fully certified TCRGs through An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha in Dublin, Ireland. Both schools aim to pass on the tradition of Irish dance to the next generation of dancers.

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Wine Pairing Dinner

Wine Pairing Dinner

Please join us at the Irish House Restaurant and Trinity Pub for a special Wine Pairing Dinner on May 31 at 6:00 pm; dinner begins at 6:30 pm. The evening includes four courses paired with four red wines. Tickets are $35 for ICC Patrons, $40 for general public. There is a special ICC Patron presale for the first 7 days, after which tickets will be open to the public. General public may call for reservations during this time, and will be placed on a wait list until the presale is over. Seating is limited for this special event – for tickets, please call Sheri at 413-342-4358. Download information flyer and menu.

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Remembering Danny Sheehy — And Máire

by Tom Moriarty

When Danny Sheehy died several months ago in an accident off the coast of Spain, the Irish Cultural Center of Western New England experienced a profound loss. Danny’s life and works reflected a deep appreciation of Irish culture, especially that of his west Kerry homeland, the very homeland he shared with the thousands of Irish who settled in the greater Springfield area.

Danny hailed from Corca Dhuibhne, the Irish speaking area of the Dingle Peninsula. From there he drew inspiration for his writings. He loved the people, their history, and their music. He traveled and explored the area’s mountains and hills as well as the islands off the coast. And he loved the Irish language which he had spoken since childhood and in which he wrote all his works. His subject as well often reflected the material culture of his west Kerry homeland. The naomhóg, the distinctly built vessels used by Kerry fishermen, is key to understanding the message of his first book, entitled in Irish Fan Inti. A long, rambling wall in his area is the inspiration for his work, Allagar na gCloch, a reflection on the generations who were its architects. One of his last works, recently translated as In the Wake of Saint Brendan From Dingle to Iceland, seems inspired by monks from western Ireland who centuries earlier had journeyed abroad on behalf of the Christianity that had taken root in Ireland.

Danny was a close friend and admirer of Father Pádraig Ó Fiannachta, the great Irish Language scholar who is widely recognized for his translation of the Old and New Testaments into Irish. Not surprisingly Sheehy was a regular and welcomed participant in the writing work-shops that Ó Fiannachta conducted at the Díseart in Dingle Town; several of Danny’s poems were products of those workshops. How ironic that these two great  Gaeilgeoiri should die within months of one another.

Since the founding of the Irish Cultural Center, Danny Sheehy had a keen interest in the organization’s work. During his visits to the Center he met and chatted with area residents from Ireland. He enthusiastically joined the Center’s participation in the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade. He represented the Center in a talk he gave at the annual communion breakfast of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Members of the Irish Center who took advantage of trips to Ireland were welcomed by Danny and benefited from his knowledge as their guide during mountain treks in the Dingle Peninsula.

I was among the members of the ICC who developed a warm friendship with Danny that I shall always treasure. A friend and I were fortunate to have had him as our guide during an extensive Irish tour. Clearly the man from Corca Dhuibhne was in no sense parochial in his knowledge of Ireland’s history and heritage. In our visit to Clonmacnoise, the great medieval monastic site on the banks of the Shannon River, for example, he helped us appreciate the magnificent medieval Irish crosses which are housed there. During our visit to Dublin, Danny, ever the advocate for the Irish Language, arranged a visit to a Gaelscoil in which Irish was the medium of instruction. We soon learned that Danny’s sister was the director of this particular school. Proponents of the Irish language see these schools as a hopeful sign of the continued vibrancy of the language. Another of our Dublin experiences was an excellent tour of Kilmainham Gaol where leaders of the 1916 Uprising were imprisoned and executed.

During our trip Danny didn’t fail to introduce us to Irish pub life. One of Danny’s favorite Dublin  establishments proved both crowded and cosmopolitan. We chatted with a Finnish mathematician returning quite satisfied to the continent after his experiences at an Irish university. At the same table was a well-dressed Irish businessman deploring over his third or fourth Guinness the economic downturn that Ireland was then undergoing: “We’re f__ked,” he lamented! We had a totally different pub experience on our return trip to Kerry. It was in County Offaly in the town of Moneygall. The town was the homeland of a great, great (or was it great, great, great?) grandfather of President Obama. Danny described the pub owner, one Ollie Hayes, with whom he chatted, as “the greatest.” The pub was filled with pictures and memorabilia of President Obama’s stop there during his visit to Ireland. And didn’t Ollie proudly say, “Sure isn’t my wife’s nephew Obama’s seventh cousin!” We nursed fond memories of that pub and other places we had visited all the way back to Kerry! With Danny as our guide we had clearly enhanced our appreciation of Irish culture and society.

We arrived back in Kerry late of a Saturday evening, but Danny, the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeilgeor, was in great form the following evening. He was the star actor in a short Irish language play performed in the west Cork Gaeltacht. We didn’t understand all the Irish, but the audience loved Danny’s performance. He was clearly in his element.

No tribute to Danny Sheehy can fail to say a word about the role of his wife Máire in his life and work. She was his conscientious and invaluable partner in the raising of their three children in an Irish-speaking home in rural Ireland. In her role as Director of Oidhreacht Choirca Dhuibhne her mission was to preserve and strengthen the rich heritage of the area.

Her work therefore both encouraged and complemented that of her husband. Máire no doubt had her uneasy moments in their relationship such as when her husband traveled in a naomhóg exploring the waters off the Irish coast! Yet, for her, he was an embodiment and spokesman for the culture and heritage she too loved. Through her own leadership of Oidhreacht Choirca Dhuibhne, she provided opportunities for individuals to study the Irish language. The language courses included guided tours of important historical and archeological sites in the peninsula and, sometimes, hill climbing expeditions conducted by Danny.

At a time when Máire was near her retirement from a leadership position in Oidhreacht Choirca Dhuibhne and shortly before Danny’s death, an important step had been taken to recognize and nurture the heritage and language for which they had both so lovingly labored. At a cost of 3.5 million euros a center for the development of the Irish language and the Kerry Gaeltacht generally was established. The project involved a partnership between the Irish state, the Kerry County Council, and relevant local organizations in Corca Dhuibhne. The new center, located in Ballyferriter, will provide services and facilities for the study of the Irish Language.

Perhaps one of the seeds of this new center in Ballyferriter was sown some twenty years earlier on the campus of Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts. With the support of the Irish government, the audience in Veritas Auditorium was introduced to director Breandàn Feiritèar’s film “Blasket Roots, American Dreams” which traces the lives of Blasket islanders who settled in Corca Dhuibhne. Who were they, and what were their families like? Some nine hundred individuals, many with Kerry roots, attended the event that miserable winter evening. Sr. Kathleen Keating, Elms College President, herself with Kerry roots, warmly welcomed the visitors to the campus and introduced the film’s director who explained his goals in making the film.

Sr. Kathleen clearly recognized the enthusiastic response and appeal that the evening’s events had generated. Thus, under her leadership, with strong support of myself, Sean Cahillane, and other advocates of an Irish center at the college, the Irish Cultural Center was born. The establishment of this center signaled to the people of Kerry that a new center in the Dingle peninsula would be an asset for the area that would encourage interaction between Kerry and Western Massachusetts and beyond.

From its outset the Center was very broad in its understanding of the term Irish culture as reflected by the programs offered. Yet the circumstances of the Center’s birth served to keep alive a special interest in the history, language and culture of County Kerry. The writings and works of Danny and Máire Sheehy have helped to satisfy that interest. The Irish Cultural Center is off to a good start but faces many challenges: increasing membership, building its endowment, and strengthening its resources in Irish culture. Members of our organization warmly welcome the establishment of the new Irish language and cultural center in Ballyferrter. Let us hope that a warm relationship will flourish in the years to come. Fortunately the dedication of the new Irish center in Kerry had occurred before Máire’s retirement and Danny’s tragic death.

Some question the long-range viability of the culture and language of Corca Dhuibhne. Will they survive in twenty-first century Ireland? However, the lives and work of Danny and Máire Sheehy bolster our confidence in the future. Undoubtedly the Irish Cultural Center of Western New England will continue to recognize its connection to that culture. No, we won’t all learn to speak Irish, or even have an inclination to do so! We will, however, maintain and strengthen the admittedly fragile culture of which the Irish Ianguage is an important ingredient. In so doing we will be recognizing and honoring Danny and Máire’s lives and work. May they be confident that their labor has born fruit.

And of Danny we say: Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé: May he be at God’s right hand.

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Celtic Adventures for Kids Summer Camp

Pass on the Heritage | July 23 –27, 2018 | Download a registration form.

Celtic Adventures for Kids is a week-long program designed to give children in Grades 1 through 9 an introduction to the richness of Irish culture, through the auspices of the Irish Cultural Center of Western New England and Elms College. Space is limited. Sign up early!

Daily Activities Include:
– Irish language
– Irish dance
– Irish music
– Arts & crafts
– Storytelling/literature
– Games

What to bring: Sneakers with non-marking soles; soft dance shoes if your child has them; swimsuit and towel; lunch (optional: money to purchase snacks.) The Maguire Center swimming pool will be available for the children to use during the week; lifeguard is on duty.

Schedule: The program is in session from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Participants should be dropped off between 8:45 and 9:00 am at the Maguire Center at Elms College. Pick up is promptly at 3:00 pm at the Maguire Center.

WHEN: Monday, July 23 to Friday, July 27, 2018
WHERE: The Maguire Center at Elms College, Chicopee, MA
COST: $220 per child / $200 for Irish Cultural Center Patrons / $20 discount for each additional child from the same family
NON-REFUNDABLE DEPOSIT: $50 with registration due by June 8, 2018

Download a registration form.

This program is supported by the Chicopee Cultural Council.
This camp must comply with regulations of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and be licensed by the local board of health.

Celtic Adventures for Kids

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House of Hamill Perform at the Pub on May 20

House of Hamill

The Irish Cultural Center invites you to an afternoon of eclectic fiddle and original music with House of Hamill Brian Buchanan (of Enter the Haggis), and Rose Baldino (of Burning Bridget Cleary). Their intimate, relaxed performances have been extremely popular in their many years of playing for the ICC, and will include new fiddle tunes and unique original compositions, plus new life breathed into traditional and contemporary songs.

House of Hamill will perform on Sunday, May 20 at 3:00 pm at the ICC’s Irish House Restaurant and Trinity Pub at 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield, MA. Doors open at 1:30 pm.

Tickets are limited for this intimate event. Advance purchase is highly recommended. Cost is $18 for ICC Patrons, $23 for general, $25 at the door. Tickets are available online or by calling the ICC at 413-333-4951.

Seating is general admission. Table seating is first come, first served; seating is also available in attached function room, where some views may be restricted (tv screen also will broadcast show in this room). Please let us know if special seating is required. The Irish House Restaurant’s menu and bar will be available before and during the show.

About House of Hamill

In 2014, Brian joined Rose onstage at the Folk Alliance conference in Kansas City. The two performed with virtually no rehearsal for over an hour, and their connection was powerful and immediate. A few months later Brian moved from Canada to Philadelphia, and as a tribute to the first tune Rose ever taught to Brian, House of Hamill was born.

Brian and Rose are both accomplished traditional fiddle players and classical violinists, and have over 25 years of writing and performance experience between them. Together, they write unusual new fiddle tunes while also breathing new life into traditional and contemporary songs. Both are confident and unique lead vocalists, and the blend of their two voices in harmony is hypnotic and irresistible.

Whether House of Hamill is covering one of their favorite songs in a new way or stomping through a set of original jigs and reels, their chemistry onstage is always engaging and often hilarious. You’ll leave with tired feet, a huge smile, and a new appreciation for the versatility of folk instruments in a modern context. House of Hamill’s debut album, Wide Awake, is a collection of original songs and instrumentals spanning a diverse range of styles.


Presenting Sponsor
Westfield Bank
Gold Sponsor
Freedom Credit Union




Green Sponsors
The Big EAllen St Package StoreColdwell Banker





All sales are final. Refunds are given ONLY in the event of cancellation by performers.

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Valley Gives Day is May 1

Valley Gives Day
Valley Gives Day 2018 is Tuesday, May 1. This is the day when those who love Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley come together for 24 hours of giving, to support the nonprofits who contribute to our region. Please consider donating to the ICC – any amount will help us continue our mission of promoting the Irish arts and culture in our community. Every donation also helps the ICC to win additional prizes throughout the day.

This is a time of great opportunity, progress and growth for the ICC. Your donation will add to our fundraising efforts for the continued work on our new location West Springfield. Our Irish House Restaurant and Trinity Pub is now open, but there is still much to be done. Renovations include our future museum and library, performance hall, landscaped grounds and patio, athletic playing fields and nature trail.

You are also supporting the Irish arts in our community. The ICC produces cultural events throughout the year, including concerts, art exhibits, Irish language classes and workshops, a week-long camp for kids, lectures with historians and scholars, and multiple travel opportunities to Ireland.

Please donate on May 1! Donations starting on April 26 will also count towards the Valley Gives Day total. We value your contribution and thank you for your support! Please like our Facebook page for updates and share the event with your friends.

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Lecture on the Poetry of the Gaelic Revival

Paul SneePlease join us at the ICC on April 29 at 2:00 pm for a lecture by Pól Ó Sniadhaigh – Nation and Language: A Bottom Up Perspective in the Poetry of the Gaelic Revival. Looking from the point of view of the displaced in an Ireland of two identities, this lecture examines the Irish speaking community during the identity formation phase of modern Ireland – a consideration of the people through poetry and in their own words. Pól is the current Irish Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at Elms College.

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WSHS Students Visit Dingle

The week of April 9, twenty six students and eight adult guides from West Springfield High School left for a ten day exchange program to our sister city of Dingle, Ireland. This is the second consecutive year for this educational trip abroad. We wish them all a wonderful time in learning about the culture and heritage of this beautiful area of Ireland, that has such a strong connection to this region of western Massachusetts.

WSHS Students

West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt was on hand to wish the students well on their journey.

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Irish Language Day is May 5

The Irish Cultural Center of Western New England will hold its seventeenth Lá na Gaeilge (Irish Language Day) on Saturday, May 5, 2018 at Elms College in Chicopee, MA. It is an opportunity for those with an interest in this ancient language, which is now enjoying a resurgence, to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of this vital component of Irish culture. The program consists of two classes available at four levels: a beginner’s class, a class for those who have an introductory knowledge of Irish, an intermediate-level class and a class for advanced learners. Download a registration form.

As well as formal classes, Lá na Gaeilge consists of workshops (céilí dancing, film), and cómhrás (opportunities for conversation and dialog at the learner’s appropriate level).  A lecture, Beyond the Wild Atlantic Way: West Kerry Oral Tradition will be given by Seaghan Mac an tSionnaigh, Notre Dame FLTA. Lá na Gaeilge concludes in a seisiún with an opportunity for participants to display their musical talents, and all are encouraged to bring their instruments and voices.

Lá na Gaeilge begins with registration at 8:30 am and concludes at about 5:00 pm. The cost is $50 per person, and $45 for ICC Patrons. The cost for college-age and under students is $15. The price includes lunch and refreshments throughout the day. Lá na Gaeilge is a unique opportunity to encourage and promote Irish language learning at all levels. Registrations are due by May 1 – please download a registration form. For further information contact the ICC office at 413-333-4951 or email at irishcenterwne@gmail.com.

Irish Language Day

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2018 Patron Support Campaign

This has been quite a year of opportunity, accomplishment, growth and success for the Irish Cultural Center of Western New England. Without the support and loyalty of our Patrons, the successes would not have been realized. This effort is  successful because of the support of many who make a decision to act! We sincerely appreciate your past and future support, and thank you for your continued allegiance to the Irish Cultural Center. We want to be one of your special charities.

Our 2018 Annual Patron Support Campaign has begun, and we are asking Patrons to renew their commitment to the ICC this year by St. Patrick’s Day, an appropriate date and one easy to remember. As a non-profit charitable organization, your Patron support is vital! Your financial commitment allows the ICC to manage operating expenses, develop new programs, exhibit our cultural artifacts and continue to provide high quality events and opportunities for the Irish community.

We have worked steadfastly on our new home in West Springfield to renovate and restore the facility, rebuilding it to suit our unique purposes of promoting and preserving our Irish heritage. In March, we mark the one-year anniversary of the opening of our gathering place, the Irish House Restaurant and Trinity Pub, the first phase of our four-phase development. Weekly events in the pub include a traditional Irish music seisiún and live music with area artists, which generate an attractive atmosphere in which we can gather, meet friends, enjoy family, have dinner and share.

When the 10-acre facility is completed, our new home will include the handsomely handcrafted Irish House Restaurant and Trinity Pub, a library and museum, a performance center, athletic playing fields, a patio and a nature trail. Construction of these spaces is continuing over the next year. The ICC also serves as a bridge between the Irish government, the citizens of Ireland and the residents of the Western New England region.

Your support as a donor makes you a Patron, a person who has made a commitment to preserve, promote and cherish our Irish culture and heritage. Current Patrons have received their renewal letters in the mail – and as always, we welcome new Patrons! You may also submit your donation online. Learn more >

If you’ve already sent in your donation for 2018, thank you!

Sean Cahillane and Bo Sullivan

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