Thursday, March 17, 2016

St. Patrick's Day 2016


Croagh Patrick, in County Mayo
Today is a day for celebrating one's Irish heritage (if, like me, you actually have one), or at least pretending to be Irish if you're one of the less fortunate. It is also my Irish mother's birthday!

As the years go by, it becomes progressively less likely that I will ever visit the land of my ancestors, but I can still enjoy its beauty in photographs, videos, etc.

Feast Day

Statue of St. Patrick at Lough Derg

Although most people are aware that St. Patrick was a real person, not many know that he was not, in fact, Irish. He was born in Roman Britain in 387 A.D.

Patrick was taken as a slave by Irish raiders when he was 14, and spent six years in captivity in Ireland. After being reunited with his family back in Britain, Patrick had a vision which led him to study for the priesthood.

In 433 he was ordained a bishop and sent to Ireland to carry the gospel there. He famously used the shamrock to illustrate the concept of the Holy Trinity.

After nearly three decades of holy work, Patrick died on March 17, 461, at Saul (where he had built the first Irish church). He is buried on the grounds of the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, also known as Down Cathedral, in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland.

"He didn't drive the ants out of Ireland too, did he?"

Not that I know of, no...perhaps if we ever get to visit we can check on that...


Guinness Draught pint

Although the mythology of Ireland includes the notion that we Irish are all heavy drinkers, there is scant evidence for this stereotype. There is some research which suggests that certain segments of the population of Ireland itself engage in such behavior, but in my experience it is mostly the sort of thing that TV and movie portrayals of the Irish like to exaggerate.

Having said that, I will certainly treat myself to a Guinness Draught when I'm finished writing today's blog...

Redbreast Single Pot Still 12 year old

Later this evening, I'll also enjoy a bit of Irish whiskey. I actually prefer Scotch and bourbon
to Irish, but it is St. Patrick's Day.

Redbreast is by far my favorite of the Irish whiskey brands available here in the United States.


Irish soda bread with currants and caraway seeds

I've never been a big fan of Irish cuisine. I do enjoy corned beef, but that is not actually an Irish dish. Corned beef and cabbage is an American variant of a more traditional Irish dish. I prefer my corned beef in a Reuben sandwich.

Unfortunately, I gave up beef for Lent, so my Irish food for the day will just be some Irish soda bread (which they're making at my local Hy-Vee bakery just for the holiday).


Irish contributions to the arts include famous writers, poets, musicians, and filmmakers, of course. To represent those artistic contributions I have elected to share a bit of the famous Riverdance theatrical phenomenon. This is the finale of the original full-length production, with Michael Flatley and Jean Butler as the lead dancers. It was filmed at the Point Theatre in Dublin in early 1995...


While there is scant evidence for the oft-repeated claim that Sigmund Freud believed
the Irish to be "impervious" to psychoanalysis, it does seem to be true that the Irish are rather more prone to melancholy than many other cultures.

That might explain my fondness for traditional Irish music, which does gloomy better than just about anything else you'll ever hear. Even its most beautiful melodies always seem to have an air of wistful sadness in them.

The classic Irish song "Skibbereen" is a fine example of this sort of thing. Its story centers on the Great Famine and its aftermath, and at the very end it has a reminder of another aspect of the Irish personality...

The Law of Unintended Consequences

From the pen of John Wagner, whose Maxine has become a best-selling character for Hallmark.

Until Next Time...

Today being a special occasion, I'll be indulging myself by including two musical send-offs...

In the fall of 2003 I directed a production of the Cynthia Mercati play To See The Stars. Among other things, that production called for the use of a variety of ethnic musics, mostly klezmer. Because one of the main characters was Irish, I included some Irish folk music as well.

"Come All Ye Young and Tender Maidens" is a traditional Irish song, meaning its exact provenance is unknown. It has been recorded by countless Irish artists over the years, under numerous variant titles. I used this version, by the Irish folk group Waxies Dargle, as part of the intermission music for the play. Enjoy...

At one point during the play, the Irish character has a monologue in which she talks about her life as an immigrant, and about her aspirations for the future. It is a moving speech, performed at center stage in a solo spotlight. As the actor moved to her mark, the lights dimmed and the audience heard a short bit of harpist Claire Hamilton's beautiful rendition of "Roving Galway Boy," another traditional Irish folk song. You'll see what I meant about "wistful sadness" with this one. Enjoy...

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