There are a lot of Irish people in the world, but you are very into your Irish heritage. Was that a part of you that you always took pride in? And do you have family from Ireland?My mother told me when I was younger that both sides had Irish descendants, but my father was mostly Irish-Scotish. I have a family tree on my father’s side that goes back to Glasgow, Scotland in the 1800’s. The question now: was that Taylor (John Taylor) a Scotsman or an Irishman in Scotland.
What ways do you celebrate your Irish heritage?
I celebrate my Irish heritage in the form of my musical tastes and now in Irish Dancing. I also have a large interest in Irish history, culture & politics. A good portion of my home library is books on Irish/Celtic themes (History, politics, music, dance, Irish authors, Biographies…). My only tattoo is a Celtic circle with Celtic interlace. While in college (late in life), I took a few courses on Irish Anthropology, Literature & History, which furthered my knowledge on my Irishness.
Why do you like Celtic music so much? What sets it apart from other forms of music for you?
My love of Celtic music came about in the 90’s. I wrote a story called “My Celtic Awakening” which covers much of my interest/obsession in Celtic music and all things Celtic. My I-Pod contains only Celtic music and has over 3,000 songs, hardly any duplications by the same artist. I own over 200 CD’s of Celtic music, where a large portion is Irish music. The artists range from The Chieftains to Dropkick Murphy’s to Ashley MacIssac to Celtic Woman to Brother. While I love almost all genres of music (rock, blues, jazz…), I find that I favor the Celtic music more because it talks to my soul.
It makes me happy, makes me want to dance, almost always.
In 1993, I walked into a store named “Einstein’s” in center city Philadelphia. The store sold science oriented, creative and educational products and toys. I remember that I was shopping for a gift for one of my sons. While I was in the store, a song came over the store’s sound system. Although it was many years ago, I can still feel the melody going through me. It was one of those tunes that you feel, body and soul.
I asked the store clerk, “Wow, what is that song?” He responded, “Trip To Skye” by Eileen Ivers and John Whelan. It was on a new album called Celtic Odyssey, a compilation of Celtic artists. Eileen Ivers and John Whelan were, and still are, major artists in the Celtic music arena. I bought it on the spot. This would be my first Irish/Celtic album (actually a cassette at that time), the beginning of my personal Celtic Odyssey and my Celtic Awakening. I went from this one CD to Blackthorn (a local Philly & New Jersey Celtic Rock band) to traditional Irish bands to my current favorite bands; Scythian (a Washington DC band), Enter The Haggis, Glenngary Bhoys and Brother, an Australian Celtic Tribal band. Since 1993, I have seen Ivers and Whelan in concert a few times and have many of their CD’s.
One of the reasons I love Celtic music so much, is the sheer diversity in the genre. I get my fix of new and old Celtic artists by reading the Irish Edition, listening to Pandora, going to Celtic festivals, and buying Celtic CD’s with compilations of artists. There are Irish songs, Scottish songs, Cape Breton melodies, Afro-Celtic music, and Australian Tribal music. The songs contain ballads, love songs, rebel songs, funny ditties, touching stories of a lost homeland and the tragedy that is Ireland.
You recently started classes to learn Irish dancing. What made you decide to learn that at this point in your life as was it intimidating? Are there other people your age taking this class?
I have always loved dancing. I used to dance with my Aunt Margaret & mother when I was a child to the Big Band music & 50’s & 60’s music. As a teen & adult, I would dance at any opportunity. While I don’t dance well, I love to dance. I wanted to go to dance classes & learn Swing Dance or Latin dances, but never did.
When I got into Irish & Celtic music, I was fascinated with the various Step Dancing I watched. I signed up twice in the past & the classes were cancelled due to lack of participation.
I signed up and started my Adult Irish Dance class in October 2014, one month short of turning 60. I am the only male in the class. The other three classmates are a mother and two daughter group. I am the oldest in the class. As a group, adult male Irish dancers are in the minority. From the books that I’ve read, it’s extremely rare for anyone to start Irish Dance classes at my age, male or female. They generally started as kids and continue to dance over the years.
I never felt intimidated. Occasionally I feel embarrassed by my mistakes, but feel so overjoyed that I am learning to Irish dance, especially at my age, being male & considering how disabled I have been over the years with back problems.
At the end of my first dance class, I said to my instructor, Lauren, “If I am to do this, and do it well, I guess I need the proper footwear.” Lauren gave me the names of two local dance stores, one in Harleysville and the other in Lansdale. That Friday, I went “male Irish dance shoe shopping,” I stopped at the Harleysville store, they were closed. I stopped at the Lansdale store the following Monday and had success.
I didn’t know what to expect, but they were not the most “manly” shoes. When the store employee showed me the shoes, I just rolled my eyes. She said, “What?”
I responded, “Nothing!” and proceeded with another eye roll. She laughed. As I took off my sneakers, she saw I had on sweat socks and asked if I brought dress socks with me, I said, “No.” She then handed me a box of those stocking booties and said, “You’ll need to use these.” One more eye roll from me with a “Kill me now!” had her laughing again. The first stocking I “tried” to put on, I put my foot right through it. There I am in this store filled with dance clothes, tutu’s and dance paraphernalia, in my jeans with bootie stockings and male dance shoes, pardon, male jazz shoes. God, kill me now, I thought. What a picture! I did a few dance moves I learned. The shoes felt comfortable. I was now a proud owner of these things called male jazz shoes.
Do you ever plan on taking a trip to Ireland?
We planned to go to Ireland twice in the past twenty years. Both times my employer laid me off before we actually put any money down. I PRAY I can get to Ireland before I die.
What did you do on St. Patricks Day as a kid and how do you celebrate now?
My mother would cook either Corned Beef or make Irish Stew, with Lamb. If I remember, it was my grandmothers recipe from their Irish roots. Mom would also decorate the windows with Irish decorations.
As I got older, I would celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, dressing in green, eating Corned Beef or Irish Stew & drinking Irish beer & whiskey.
Now, I celebrate in a similar manner. If I’m at work I decorate my cubicle, dress in green, continue listening to my Celtic music, but limit it to only Irish musicians. My wife makes Corned Beef or Irish Stew and I ALWAYS have a shot of Irish Whiskey (usually Tullamore Dew) and a bottle of Guinness.