Thanks to our major sponsors:

Sheraton Springfield
Log Cabin - Delaney House
UMass Fine Arts Center

The Irish Cultural Center at Elms College invites you to take a distinctively Irish journey this season with the enchanting holiday show, “Irish Christmas in America.” Featuring some of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians with the vocal duo Lumiere leading the all-star line up, the joyful performance highlights Irish holiday traditions through music, story, song, and dance. Irish Music Magazine calls it “captivating!”

The show is on Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. in the Veritas Auditorium in Berchmans Hall at Elms College, 291 Springfield Street, Chicopee, MA. Doors open at 1:00 p.m.

General Admission tickets are $25 (advance), $30 (day of performance), and $10 (youth 18 and under).

Now in its ninth season, the 2013 tour brings back acclaimed vocal duo Lumiere, featuring the angelic voices of Pauline Scanlon and Éilís Kennedy, accompanied by renowned guitarist Donogh Hennessy. The Irish Times calls Lumiere’s harmonies “spellbinding,” and the BBC says “absolutely superb.” Lumiere will be performing at Elms three days after their Carnegie Hall engagement.

Séamus Begley, named Ireland’s 2013 Traditional Singer of the Year (TG4), joins in with his stunning vocal prowess and charming wit. Award-winning Irish step dancer Samantha Harvey dazzles with her fancy footwork. The all-star band also includes Gráinne Hambly on harp, Sean Gavin on flute and uilleann pipes, and Oisín Mac Diarmada, the show’s producer and the brilliant young fiddler with the Irish group Téada.

Mac Diarmada created the show to bring some of Ireland’s lovely yet lesser-known holiday traditions to American audiences. Music, singing, and dancing were intrinsic to the season in Ireland, and also for the many Irish that found themselves in America.

“One of the most heartfelt themes of Irish Christmas is emigration,” says Mac Diarmada. “Music was a way that people stayed close to home.” 

Since the first holiday tour in 2005, Irish Christmas in America has featured such stellar guest vocalists as Karan Casey (Solas), Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (Danu), and Cathie Ryan (Cherish the Ladies). Performance appearances have included the National Geographic Society in Washington DC, the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia, and the Cerritos Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles.

A sparkling seasonal tradition, “Irish Christmas in America” is a memorable glimpse into the spirit of Christmas across the Atlantic, and a fun-filled show for audiences of all ages. Visit the show website:

The Show Includes Eight Outstanding Performers

Séamus Begley comes from the Irish-speaking region of West Kerry and is a member of one of Ireland’s most musically-acclaimed families. Famous for his heartfelt singing, Séamus is equally brilliant on the accordion, which he plays with astonishing energy and spontaneity. In 2013, Séamus was honoured with the hugely prestigious TG4 Traditional Singer of the Year Award.

Lumiere is two distinct voices cut from the same geographic cloth. One is Éilís Kennedy, whose natural and genuine interpretations of songs, both old and new, sung in her native Irish and in English, were previously heard in her multiple collaborations and solo offerings as a recording artist. The other half of the musical whole is Pauline Scanlon, an award-winning singer from the same Kerry town of Dingle. Pauline has two critically received albums to her credit as well as extensive touring experience all over the globe. Together, they offer a distinctly feminine sound and feel, where voice is the primary instrument and Ireland as motherland is re-imagined.

Lumiere also has the honor of performing in Carnegie Hall this December as part of American composer Tim Janis’ American Christmas Carol evening, along with Sir James Galway, Jackie Evancho and Cindy Cruse Ratcliff.

Gráinne Hambly from County Mayo is an internationally recognised exponent of the Irish harp, with a Masters Degree in Musicology for which her main research topic was music collections and the harp in 18th-century Ireland. Gráinne has toured extensively throughout Europe and the United States, giving concerts, workshops and master classes, and has performed with Irish Christmas in America since 2005.

Samantha Harvey is an award-winning step dancer, pianist and accordionist. Beginning Irish dance at age seven, she reached Open champion level and competed regionally, nationally and internationally. She brings energy to the stage with her rhythm, impeccable timing and driving percussive steps. Samantha performs, teaches and choreographs various step dance styles.

Donogh Hennessy is a Dublin born guitarist, producer and composer now settled in the beautiful town of Dingle. He has performed and recorded over the years with many leading Irish bands and artists, including an eight-year stint with the Irish super-group Lunasa and a five-year stint with Sharon Shannon. Donogh has also recorded music for films and plays and has written two music books.  

Sean Gavin’s playing on the flute, whistle and uilleann pipes reflects his lifelong immersion in traditional Irish music. Sean learned from his father Mick as well has having studied the uilleann pipes with teacher Al Purcell. Currently residing in Chicago, he’s been strongly influenced by flute legend Kevin Henry. He tours regularly with the acclaimed groups Bua and NicGaviskey as well as performing often with his family.

Oisín Mac Diarmada is the producer of Irish Christmas in America. A graduate in Music Education from Trinity College Dublin/RIAM, Oisín has been described by The Irish Echo’s Earle Hitchner as “one of the most gifted and creative traditional fiddlers playing today.” Founder of noted group Téada, Oisín is also a regular solo performer, having appeared as guest soloist with the Southern Georgia Symphony Orchestra in the U.S. along with an extensive recording history.

From ICC President Sean F. Cahillane
Annual Report
Delivered on Sunday Oct. 13, 2013 at the ICC Annual Breakfast at the Yankee Pedlar Inn

Sean CahillaneI’d like to update the membership and the general public about the status of current events and the operations of the Irish Cultural Center. This President’s Report conveys the most recent happenings, the “comings and goings” of the ICC, a state-of-the-organization message, if you will.

The ICC Board of Directors has spent much of 2013 retooling, restructuring and reinvigorating the organization. We at the ICC are setting the foundation for 2014 as a time of growth; we are setting the stage for expansion. We are pressing forward and moving along!

Continue reading full report.

A record crowd of nearly 125 people turned out to the ICC’s Oct. 13 annual brunch at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, giving a standing ovation to keynote speaker Sister Mary Johnson of the Sisters of Notre Dame.

The ICC hosts a brunch each year at the Holyoke landmark restaurant, inviting prestigious guests to offer their thoughts on Irish history, culture, politics and other topics of interest.

Sr. Mary JohnsonSister Johnson spoke of her own Irish roots in Counties Mayo and Kerry, of the small towns where her parents were born and later left for economic opportunity in the United States.

A native of Springfield, Sister Johnson broadened the discussion to her thoughts on how and why Irish immigrants held on to their culture and values, at the same time moving to or visiting locales as far-flung as Africa, Australia, South America and North America.

“What is it about this small island of people to have had such a great impact around the world,” she said. “You can visit struggling countries around the world and find people from Ireland who go to help. They’re the first ones to come and the last to leave.”

Even the millions who left Ireland permanently made their mark, she said.

Ireland’s population peaked at more than 8 million in the 1840s, before the Great Hunger that killed more than 1 million and drove so many more away. Today there are 6.3 million Irish citizens, and another estimated 70 million with Irish roots who found other homes over the past 160 years.

Sister Johnson grew up in the Sacred Heart parish in Springfield. Her father James grew up in Ballydavid, Co. Kerry, fishing off the coast of Smerwick Harbor and moving to Springfield as a young man. Her mother grew up on the northeastern Belmullet Peninsula in Co. Mayo, moving to Holyoke as a young woman.

Her parents met at the old Tara Hall, married and settled in Springfield, raising herself and a sister, Margaret.

Sister Johnson is an accomplished author and scholar, with a PhD from Emmanuel College. She is a professor of sociology and religious studies at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C. She researches issues around Catholicism, particularly focusing on young adults and religious life. She has co-authored two books, ‘Young Adult Catholics: Religion in the Culture of Choice,’ and ‘New Generations of Catholic Sisters: The Challenge of Diversity,’ due out next year.

She told those gathered for the ICC brunch that in her years researching people in general, and young Catholics more specifically, she has long been struck by the spirit and determination of the Irish, wherever they have landed.

“The Irish kept their culture and values alive, by not letting them get swept away by the currents of the cultures where they went,” she said. “They nurtured the Irish language, music, dance, poetry, food and sport. It’s all about the bonds of family and friendship, bonds that are essential to the life of a community.”

The breakfast featured an opening prayer by Fulbright Scholar Síobhra Aiken, and a welcome from ICC Board of Director Sean Cahillane.

– Mary Ellen Lowney

Dear friend,

We at the Irish Cultural Center at Elms College have been in existence for almost fifteen years and have followed our mission of “keeping the Irish arts alive” with the various events we offer throughout the year – from speakers to films, from concerts to our annual Christmas with an Irish Touch celebration, from Celtic Adventures for Kids to Irish Language classes and to group cultural visits to Ireland. In everything we do, we strive to provide our members and the general public with many offerings, almost all of which are free.

On December 8, 2013 we will be hosting the very popular Irish Christmas in America show—a family-friendly show now in its 9th season of performing across the country. The show features an amazing list of award-winning performers direct from Ireland that is filled with wit, song, dance, storytelling and lively music to ring in the season! This fun-filled show will be this year’s only performance in Massachusetts and we would like to invite you to be part of it by helping us bring the show to the Springfield/Chicopee area.

We are printing a program ad book for the show that will be distributed to all attendees and sponsors. We hope you will be interested in purchasing an ad to support us. Kindly complete the information on the enclosed form and return it along with your payment to the Irish Cultural Center by November 10, 2013. The Irish Cultural Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Download Sponsorship Form
* Please note that the inside front cover and two center pages have already been reserved.

We thank you in advance for supporting us.

Sean Cahillane
Board of Directors


Hello everyone, I hope you had a wonderful summer! The months have flown by and as many of you know the center was moved to a temporary location in the Elms Library at the end of May due to construction on the campus. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused members wanting to browse the center for books or to view our artwork. It was fortunate to have had our art on display at the Wood Museum of Springfield History over the summer and I hope that many of you had the opportunity to visit the exhibit. I am also grateful to Stas Radosh from the Polish Cultural Center for safekeeping many of our pieces during the transition. The good news is that the Center is soon moving to another area of the library where members will once again have access to materials. As soon as the move occurs I will notify you.

Our Annual Brunch will be on Sunday, October 13 at the Yankee Pedlar. I hope you can make it to hear our keynote speaker Sr. Mary Johnson SND. You will also hear in more detail what has been happening at the Center. Under the leadership of Sean Cahillane, ICC President, the Directors have been developing long range growth plans. From a day to day perspective, a new membership application has been designed and there will be a new website very soon. All this work is intended to offer improved programs and events and attract more members. The new website will allow us to readily provide information.

We are actively planning the events for the winter and into 2014. Note that the Christmas with an Irish Touch program will be held over the first weekend of December beginning with an Irish Liturgy in the Elms Chapel at 4pm on Saturday December 7; Msgr. Connelly will preside. On Sunday December 8 at 2pm, we will host the Irish Christmas In America Show, in Veritas Auditorium. It is show you do not want to miss!


Forty friends – old and new – from Utica, NY to Bennington, VT to New Haven, CT attended a day of Irish language immersion at the Irish Cultural Center in May. Each year the Center provides a resource that enables students to taste, improve, or strengthen their Irish language skills. The focus for the day was to enable the students to use what they had learned. You may have noticed the proverb that we use in our newsletters, Labhair í agus mairfidh sí, which means Speak it and it will live (or last). All the participants used that as their direction during the day.

Irish language group

In order to make the day interesting, and recognizing that people learn differently, we used a variety of ways to highlight the language through conversation circles, grammar classes, Irish language films, dance, and music. The highlight of the day was the lecture delivered by Ciara Nic Oscair, the Fulbright FLTA, on “The Irish Language in the Thirty Two Counties.” The participants learned about the different dialects and the enthusiasm for the language throughout the island of Ireland.

The enthusiasm and skill of our instructors and presenters: Kathleen Gilhooly, Mary McShane, Rath de Houst, Erin Mulvaugh, and Ciara helped make the program successful. As we look forward to lucky thirteenth Immersion Day next May, you shouldn’t wait. Take advantage of the classes offered at Elms College this Fall and Spring. We are grateful to Chicopee Savings Bank, for being a proud sponsor of Irish Language Day.

by Chip Costello

Siobhán Armstrong harpistFriday, June 7 was a stormy evening but quite an entertaining one in Our Lady’s Chapel at the Elms. While on tour in New England, Siobhán Armstrong took time to visit the Irish Cultural Center and to perform for over 125 members and guests. Siobhán’s music and storytelling mesmerized the listeners; it was as if the Chapel had been transformed to a medieval castle.

Siobhán founded and chairs the Historical Harp Society of Ireland, an organization which is spearheading a revival of the playing of Ireland’s historical harp. She plays Irish and European single-row harps from the 15th-18th centuries and performs and records internationally with the main period-instrument ensembles thee paland conductors, mainly in Europe.

ICC Board of Directors Chip Costello and Will Dziura hosted the event. Many thanks to volunteers: Ann Lowe, Winifred Hopkins, Kathy Gallivan, Meghan Sullivan and Beth Costello, for helping to make the evening a success!

Firefighters at Armory StreetThe story of the Irish in the Connecticut Valley is a rich and distinct tale of trial and triumph for one of the many immigrant groups of the area. A new exhibit at the Springfield Museums titled The Irish Legacy: Immigration and Assimilation in the Connecticut Valley during the Industrial Revolution explores the experience of the Irish community in the Connecticut Valley through various artifacts and images including books, musical instruments, religious objects, and photographs. The exhibit will be on view in the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History from June 11 to August 25, 2013.

Visitors will get a glimpse of many traditional Irish objects of cultural and historical significance on loan from the Irish Cultural Center in Chicopee, including instruments like the bodhrán, religious objects like the St. Brigid Cross, and even a traditional Irish dance costume and shoes.

Presented in partnership with The Republican, WGBY, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Five Colleges, Inc., and Irish Cultural Center at Elms College.  As part of this exhibit, the Irish Cultural Center is sponsoring a Celtic Cart for children every Tuesday through August 13th  from 11:30 to 1:30 pm.

Sean CahillaneMike Carney






Blasket Islander Mike Carney was the local hero at the May 25 launch of his book, ‘From the Great Blasket to America – the Last Memoir by an Islander.’

The event, held at the Great Blasket Center in Dunquin, Co. Kerry – with a view to the island where he spent his first 16 years – drew an overflow crowd of about 500 people, including national dignitaries and three Irish Cultural Center members.

Carney was joined by his family, including children Maureen Carney Hayes, Kathleen, Eileen and Michael Carney, his son-in-law Jerry Hayes who helped write the book, and grandchildren. He was surrounded by many friends from both Ireland and Greater Springfield.

One guest was ICC President Sean F. Cahillane, who brought official greetings from the Chicopee-based organization.

“We’re so happy and proud to be a part of this event and to be connected with this book,” said Cahillane, whose mother Eileen Kearney Cahillane, was also born on the island and was a cousin to the author. Mike Carney is now 92.

Host of the event was Blasket Center Director Michael DeMordha.

Other ICC members present were Mary Ellen Lowney and Mary Ellen O’Brien.

The 200-page book, published this year, tells the story of Carney, who was born in 1920 and eventually moved to the Hungry Hill section of Springfield, where he married Maureen Ward Carney.

Jerry Hayes told a packed audience the story of how Carney decided to write the book, and how together they wove the words to put the life story on the record. It joins an impressive list of books written by Blasket Island authors as well as by others about the island that was evacuated in 1953. The Great Blasket was home to about 200 people at the turn of the last century, but fell victim to isolation and immigration.

Carney was moved to tears by the outpouring of support and affection, standing up and greeting the crowd at the end. A few days later, he rode the ferry across the Blasket Sound, climbed up the steep hill to the old village and had a look. That moment was recorded by RTE, national Irish television, and aired for all to see.

The North American launch took place on Saturday June 15 in the Elms Library. Over 100 people, including Irish Consul General Michael Lonergan, came to honor Mike, and hear Jerry Hayes tell the story. ICC President Sean Cahillane hosted the event which was co-sponsored by the Irish Cultural Center and John Boyle O’Reilly Club. If anyone is interested in purchasing Mike’s book, please call the Center.

By Mary Ellen Lowney