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a taste of Ireland right here in Columbia

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Belinda McKeon read from Solace and Tender at the 39th Irish Evening in Columbia, Maryland

A guest blog submitted by Cara Caccamisi, a student in Professor Ryna May’s literature class at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland

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Howard County Poetry and Literature Society’s 39th Annual Irish Evening, which took place at Howard Community College’s Smith Theater on Friday, February 10th at 7:30 pm, was an event of Irish pride and culture. Hosted by Columbia’s own Catherine McLoughlin-Hayes, the HoCoPoLitSo Irish Evening Chair, the evening was a great way to experience Ireland without leaving the state of Maryland.

The auditorium was filled with fascination, excitement, and anticipation from the many spectators, while musician Jared Denhard performed the Celtic Harp. Then, Ms. McLoughlin-Hayes came on stage to introduce the main event for the night. Her enthusiasm set the tone for the evening.

Ms. McKeon chose to read first from Solace which was awarded the Faber Prize and Irish Book of the Year. The passage she read described a conflicting relationship between father and son on a farm in Ireland. Ms. McKeon’s second reading was from her latest book, Tender, about two college friends who meet in Dublin and become close; it shows the transformation of friendship from being teenagers to becoming adults. In her unique and exhilarating story, Ms. McKeon depicts the friend’s difficult relationship as Catherine grows strong feelings for James, who is a homosexual. The book grows extra complicated as it is set in the 1990’s when being homosexual was not widely accepted.

Following the author were the Narrowbacks. The Narrowbacks name is a tribute to the term immigrant, as many of the band members have roots in Ireland and they are inspired by the band, Celtic Thunder. The group members consisted of brothers, Jesse and Terence Winch, Dominick Murray, and Linda Hickman, all of whom were apart of Celtic Thunder. Other members were Terence’s son, Michael Winch and Eileen Estes, daughter of Celtic Thunder’s lead singer.

Many of the songs performed consisted of main themes of nature, growing up as an immigrant, and love. One of the most memorable songs, “Childhood Ground”, was written by Terence Winch and sung by Eileen Estes. It remembers the time when the Bronx Expressway was built and shattered the homes of many Irish families, including Winch’s family home. Traditional Irish music is so distinctive as it combines poetry of hardships, life, and love with rare instruments, known in Ireland. The Irish step dancers from the Culkin School performed during some of the songs played by the Narrowbacks.

With the outstanding performance by the Narrowbacks and the talented step dancers, the audience was very well-entertained. The auditorium was filled with the sound of Ireland, and the spectators joined in on clapping hands and nodding their heads to the music. And Belinda McKeon, a truly brilliant writer, left the listeners craving more of the stories.

HoCoPoLitSo created an enjoyable evening and allowed the viewers a chance to spend an evening immersed in Irish culture.

 

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