December 19 Update
Pauline Turley and Aidan Connolly are sending out email thank-you notes to Gala attendees and they have included the three-minute Construction time-lapse video for us to watch again! They said:

[We] just wanted to take a moment to personally thank you so much for your support of our Spirit of Ireland Gala last week.  As Declan O’Rourke noted in the opening song – “You can never have enough friends, this much is true” – which was the soundtrack to the  time-lapse of our new building rising up over Manhattan over the past 24 months.  It most definitely gave me goosebumps, and I’ve included the link below in case you want to re-watch!  Would love to hear any thoughts you may want to share.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and turns out it takes a city, and maybe a couple of countries, to raise a new building in New York City, but we did it! Together.  We could not be more proud, or grateful for friends like you, as we close out 2020. . .

I cannot embed the Vimeo video here, so check out this link and watch that building being built FAST!

December 18 Update
Updated with the video of the complete performance of Tobi Omoteso (see below) in “Departure,” as well as helpful background information about the work. heart


December 13 – Original Posting

Bono starts things off as only Bono can: Right in your face! He says: “I was planning to be up there, standing next to Liam and Gabriel and Pauline and all of you–I’m good at parties–but I guess 2020 had something very different in mind for all of us… The spotlight has turned its attention to real heroes: front-line workers, doctors, nurses, teachers…we’re all forever in their debt.”

He went on to celebrate art and artists, noting that they are not recognized as essential workers, and yet they are. Artists have been hard hit by this pandemic. How they survive and thrive afterwards is a big issue for him and he sees the Irish Arts Center as “at the center” of this problem–and how to address it.

A wonderful video compilation of the building process, with celebratory milestones along the way, begins as background for the list of artists and special appearances at this event.

Pauline Turley and Aidan Connolly welcome everyone to this year’s Gala. They are sitting in the theater seats at the “old” building for this welcome, and thinking of the new building just a short way away that will be open in a few weeks. “We honor the artists…they are at the core of the new Irish Arts Center.”

Loah did a residency at the Irish Arts Center and made lots of friends there. The Center obviously had a big impact on her. She noted how her music and her sound were influenced by her time there. She performed the traditional Irish tune “Rambling Boys of Pleasure,” accompanying herself on the guitar. Her voice is light and thrilling and the song was quite moving.

Roma Downey quotes Seamus Heaney–“If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere”–and welcomes everyone to the Gala, noting that the Center played a big part in her life when she first moved to New York City. Somehow, I failed to get a screencap of her and now it is too late, but here is a panoramic wallpaper I made in November when Twitter began quoting this Heaney poem. It’s interesting how the poetry zeitgeist moves through our culture, isn’t it? Another example is below. And “Good Bones,” by writer Maggie Smith, (“Life is short, though I keep this from my children . . .”) is part of my Poems for the Apocalypse collection, too.

Colum McCann stands on the rooftop of the new Center and “sounds our song across the rooftops of the world”. He reads the bit from Joyce’s Ulysses in which Bloom talks about nations and Ireland. It’s an effective reading, with the city as a backdrop and McCann’s Irish accent carrying us along. “Ireland,” says Bloom, as Colum McCann waves his arm at the skyscrapers of New York City. “I was born here. Ireland.”

Liam Neeson visited the new Center’s building site recently and he is very excited to see the progress and very thankful to everyone who has pitched in to make this new building a reality. Liam has been a staunch supporter of the Irish Arts Center, working with Gabriel at the Galas and in other ways to help get this building project off the ground. And now their work is almost done!

Joanie Madden, born in the Bronx, New York, is a renowned Irish trad whistle and flute musician. The Irish Arts Center has meant a lot to her over the years and she is happy to help celebrate the new building. For the Gala, she plays the flute, and she is joined by Cherish The Ladies on keyboard, fiddle, accordion, and guitar. It’s a lovely performance. PS. Joanie is really, really good.

The special honoree for the evening and winner of the Spirit of Ireland Gala Award is Joe Moglia, a big success on Wall Street and on the football field as a coach. Liam Neeson tells his story–the inspiring American story of a man of both Irish and Italian heritage who excelled at everything he did–but whose primary goal was serving others. There was nothing boring about the video Liam narrated–it was full of images and videos that really told Joe Moglia’s story. And, as Joe says in his acceptance speech, it was an honor to have Liam do this tribute. Joe also called out Gabriel for his support for the Center, saying he was very grateful for it. He gave a very personal thank-you speech, talking about his family, especially his mother, and hoping that we will all one day meet at the new Irish Arts Center.

Sting shared a song he wrote in Connemara in the 1980’s, that we all probably know: “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.” He has a beautiful house and a gorgeous guitar and it was a very fun version of this song. You can see the smile in his eyes and he is almost laughing in some spots as he sings it. It was a lovely interlude.

And now I can’t find the screencap of him! So here is a recent video of Sting in the recording room singing this song. This is very close to what we saw at the Gala, minus the beautiful room and the gorgeous guitar. But his face is pretty much the same, though. smile

Update: Thanks to Terri, here is a screenshot of Sting from the Gala. Love that house and covet that guitar! wink

Loretta Brennan Glucksman welcomed us into her home on the mountaintop on a bright sunny day, but it was cold, so we went inside!

“I’m so glad we are at this fabulous juncture in our wonderful odyssey of a real Irish Arts Center for New York, for North America, and for the world. It’s been a marvelous dream shared by terrific dreamers–Gabriel and Liam–so many from the beginning–Terry George. But none of it would have culminated in this point if it weren’t for Aidan Connolly, Pauline Turley, that phenomenal staff, the wonderful Board who has kept them vital and active all these years. We have reached a plateau. And what a good year to reach a plateau. Then, to cap it, we have the most amazing Dinner Committee tonight to honor someone who literally needs no introduction: Joe Moglia. Thanks for doing this, Joe. It’ll reach so many people that you would care about if you had the chance. So, let’s sit back, enjoy, enjoy one another, hold close to one another. Stay with us on this wonderful journey of an Irish Arts Center. And have a wonderful time tonight. . .”

Camille O’Sullivan, with Feargal Murray on keyboard, sang “If We Only Have Love,” the Jacques Brel classic, from her home in Ireland. She made me cry. A good cry. I love that song and she sang it beautifully.

Paul Muldoon, famous for Muldoon’s Picnic at the Irish Arts Center, joined in from the stage of the “old” Irish Arts Center and read a poem he had recently translated. He offered a sincere hope that we could all be together again soon.

Tobi Omoteso‘s commissioned dance, “Departure,” took us from his living room to an unknown seaside, the dance a series of athletic and graceful movements, with electronic, blues, and industrial music as the backdrop. It was riveting and strange and just what I want to see from new artists being supported by the Irish Arts Center.

Update: according to the Irish Arts Center, Mr. Omoteso is not a “new” artist and this commission is:

A hip-hop art video, “Departure,” from b-boy and hip-hop freestyle dancer, choreographer, and educator Tobi Omoteso and filmmaker Steve Hall.

Here is the trailer for it!

And now here is the Full Performance of “Departure”:

From the Irish Arts Center’s YouTube Channel:

“We cannot physically escape this reality. The only solace is … finding your own rhythm within the storms of life.”

We present Limerick-based hip-hop artist/choreographer Tobi Omoteso’s film for our Grásta commissions series, “Departure.”

A mix of break, krump and contemporary dance forms, “Departure” was created in response to the prompt of finding grace in the uncertainty and chaos of our times, and shot by filmmaker Stephen Hall in Limerick City and the Regeneration Campus by Southhill and Killaloe, County Clare.

“Departure”
A film by Stephen Hall and Tobi Omoteso
Videography: Stephen Hall
Movement Artist: Tobi Omoteso
Music: Wes Harris and Mogli the Iceburg

Commissioned by Irish Arts Center as part of Grásta: Grace in Uncertainty, 2020-2021

This background has helped inform my response to Tobi’s dance–even though I was fascinated by the work and I loved the music, I did wonder why he was included–what was the connection to Ireland? And now we know! I also learned about “krump” (What can I say? I lead a sheltered life, I guess, and I can’t keep up with EVERYTHING!) and that was very cool!

Elvis Costello was in Vancouver, remembering the gala from the previous year and thanking everyone for making this year’s virtual gala possible. He sang us a song about Ireland and looked cool in his beret.

Gabriel peered into the web camera as only he can do and it was like being in his living room. Well, we probably were in his living room:

“Hi! It’s Gabriel Byrne here. I just wanted to say a heartfelt thanks to everybody who contributed in any way, great or small, to the realization of what once seemed like an impossible dream. It’s now coming to fruition and it’s just really thrilling that we’re celebrating, despite all the setbacks and the appalling time that we’re going through, that we’re celebrating together virtually and looking forward next year to the real thing.” And then he closed by saying something in Gaelic that I could not catch (after 10 tries, too!), but it probably meant “until next time” or “until we meet again.”

Declan O’Rourke noted that we had welcomed him in our country on many occasions, so he wanted to show us where he lived in Ireland. He sang a lovely song about life as an artist, accompanying himself on the guitar. The song was wistful and the views from where he was playing were breath-taking.

The Arturo O’Farrill Quartet (piano, bass guitar, drums, and bagpipe), with the reading by Aedin Moloney, performed “Everything is Going to be All Right,” a poem by Derek Mahon. They were great and you’ve never heard a bagpipe played like this! They were all socially distanced in the venue, too. This poem has also been making the rounds of Twitter lately, and you can see why. And, of course, I’ve made a panoramic wallpaper of it for my two-screen desktop computer set-up . . .

And that was the finale. Everything is going to be all right and the new Irish Arts Center is almost ready for us! Congratulations to all for a thrilling and inspiring Virtual Gala! We were TOGETHER indeed!

7 Comments

  1. It was really lovely to see. I feel I might need to hear a little more poetry in my life after this. The sounds and the visions are making me want to see Ireland and this center in Hell’s Kitchen. Bono says for him, the artists are essential. I think they are for me as well.

    • I’ve been collecting “Poems for the Apocalypse” all year. These are NOT about the Apocalypse, but rather how we will survive this one. Book Riot is a great place to visit to learn about new and old books and this is a recent posting on poetry: https://bookriot.com/free-poetry-online/ Bono is right and I loved his “in your face” face while he talked to us about artists and the real world. <3

  2. Well said Bono and Terri. Artists are helping us all get through these awful times. Thank you for sharing Stella. Congrats to all involved in the Irish Arts Centre renewal project, including Gabriel who has supported it over many years.

    • I don’t know exactly why it seemed so important to capture this event somehow, but it did, so I did. I was really touched by everyone who participated. Pauline, Aidan, Loretta, Gabriel, Liam, and all those staff members must be heaving a sigh of relief now and I do not blame them! What an accomplishment! I am contemplating a visit to NYC just to see this shining new building! <3

  3. KARI M ELSENPETER

    Loved the song by Sting. I loved the pictures of the coast line too!! Thanks Stella!

  4. DORA BARALIA

    Thanks, Stella, for this special possibility to enjoy this special moment. With me so far away. Sting was as wonderful as ever, beautiful landscapes–I can feel the spirit of Ireland very near me. Best wishes to Gabriel and Liam for this enterprise. They are an example of love for their country. All the best for them . . .

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