In the excerpts from our oral history project below, John McCormick and Nick Lethert talk about Irishness, growing up in St. Paul and the Irish vs. German basketball games at St. Mark’s.
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The Dayhills and Friends Perform at “Paddy Hill Day,” an Irish Northern Aid Benefit
(Mendota, MN, Dec. 1977)
Musicians from left: unknown bodhran player, Terence “Cuz” Teahan, Ann Heymann (hidden behind harp), Barbara (Dahill) McDonald, Tom Dahill, Charlie Heymann, Martin McHugh, Mary McDonagh. Dancers: Lucy Fallon facing the camera, Jeannie (Merrill) Rogers in the red shirt, Jim Rogers, Virginia McBride.
Photos contributed by Sheila Jordan.
In the ’70s, Irish Northern Aid (NorAid) held fundraiser céilís that introduced a new generation of musicians and dancers to céilí dancing while also bringing them into contact with older Irish community members. Frequently held at the Snelling Avenue Commercial Club, these photos show a unique NorAid dance held in Mendota in honor of musician and poet Patrick Hill. Terence “Cuz” Teahan was visiting from Chicago and even wrote a tune commemorating the event!
Plough and the Stars
In this excerpt, Ann Heymann recounts the early lineup of the Plough and the Stars and Sam Dillon explains the group’s name change to The Northern Star Céilí Band.
Pete O’Brien’s Broom Dance
(Heymann Wedding Party, Odd Fellows Hall, Oct. 30, 1976)
Dancer: Pete O’Brien; Musicians from left: Sam Dillon, Dick Parker (standing), Jamie Gans, Martin McHugh, Tom Dahill, Laura MacKenzie, Barbara (Dahill) McDonald, Melissa Trier
Photo contributed by Ann and Charlie Heymann
Many in the community remember the brush dances sometimes performed locally by Connemara native Pete O’Brien.
In this excerpt, Laura MacKenzie and Ann Heymann talk about special solo dances that would happen at local céilís and some of the characters at Ann and Charlie’s wedding.
In these excerpts from their oral history interviews, Laura MacKenzie and Jenny Bach talk about musicians, dancers and callers learning together and supporting one another.
Late Night Sessions
“we literally could not
leave if they were
In these excerpts from their oral history interviews, Sheila Jordan and Nick Lethert talk about the magical late night sessions in the apartment above MacCafferty’s where visiting musicians would stay.
House Party with Green Fields of America Touring Group
(Jenny Bach’s house, May 1979)
Front, L-R: Mary (Hedlund) McNeive, Jack Coen, Roger Cuthbertson, unknown, Mary (MacEachron) O’Driscoll, Pete Tritz, unknown, unknown. Center, L-R: Sean McGlynn, Cindy Tritz, John Moriarty, Jenny Bach, Msgr. Charlie Coen, Virginia McBride, Liz Carroll; Back, L-R: Katy Long, Tim White, John Anderson, Laura MacKenzie, Beth Vance, Bill Ochs, Nick Lethert, Mick Moloney, Sue Golvish, unknown, Jamie Gans, Myron Bretholz, Tom Dahill, Dáithí Sproule, Patty Bronson, Sam Dillon, Ann Heymann, Charlie Heymann
Photographer: David Aronow, contributed by David Aronow
“The house parties were massive!”
“that St. Patrick’s Day there was a céilí
. . . above the Green Grass Grocer . . .
it was packed!“
In these excerpts, Mike Whalen and Jenny Bach describe the first public céilís at the Odd Fellows Hall.
The Mooncoin Céilí Dancers
(Prior Ave., St. Paul, c. 1979)
Back Row from left: Pat Vance, Jennie Bach, Sheila Jordan, Nick Lethert, Mary Coy, Roberta Williams, Virginia McBride. Front Row from left: Mary (Hedlund) McNeive, Greg Gross, Carol Gross, Kevin Kline, Jane Michaels
Photographer: David Aronow, contributed by David Aronow
Mooncoin Céilí Dancers
The Mooncoin Céilí Dancers were founded in November 1976 by Mary (Hedlund) McNeive and Marie Ladwig. From its beginning, the group was closely tied to the local music scene–dancing at MacCafferty’s, performing (and learning) alongside the Plough and the Stars and helping to bring Irish musicians and dancers to the Twin Cities from out of town.
Mooncoin Céilí Dancers in the St. Paul St. Patrick’s Day Parade, 1978: Virginia Mcbride, Mary Coy, Jenny Bach, Mary (Hedlund) McNeive, unknown (Contributed by Carol Gross)
Session at Palmer’s Bar on the West Bank
(Minneapolis, c. 1979)
From left wrapping around table: Jamie Gans, Dáithí Sproule, Barbara (Dahill) McDonald, Tom Dahill, Bill Hinckley (standing), Patty Bronson (standing), Mary (MacEachron) O’Driscoll, Ann Heymann, Charlie Heymann, unknown
Photographer: David Aronow, Photo contributed by David Aronow
Late 70's Session Scene
“…it only works when you’re
squished together and
there’s no room to move.
That’s the best.”
In the excerpts below, Nick Lethert, Laura MacKenzie and Jenny Bach recall the thriving session scene of the late 1970s.
Travels to Ireland
In these excerpts from our oral history interviews, Ann Heymann, Laura MacKenzie, Pete Tritz and John McCormick talk about the importance of visiting Ireland and their experiences there.
In the excerpt below, Pete Tritz recalls the group of friends that set out to learn to play Irish music and became the Blackthorn Band.
Northern Star Céilí Band
In this excerpt from her oral history interview, Laura MacKenzie talks about the Northern Star Céilí Band’s choice of tunes.
In the excerpt below, oral history interviewer Dáithí talks about the authority that comes from staying true to yourself and Charlie and Ann Heymann laugh about their attempts to influence one another over the years.
In this excerpt from his oral history interview, Jamie Gans remembers the scarcity of Irish traditional music albums and tells a story about recording Liz Carroll and Jimmy Keane in Chicago.
In the excerpt below, Charlie Heymann talks about his admiration for Paddy O’Brien’s unique approach to accordion playing.
In the excerpts below, Martin McHugh and Sam Dillon recall the roles of David Aronow and other “unsung heroes” of the scene.