St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated in all of its tradition on Friday, March 9, in the Lee Theater of the Blanche Touhill Performing Arts Center. The event offered its crowd a taste of traditional Irish music a week before the highly commercialized holiday, as well as a chance to view some Irish competitive dancing, also known as step dancing. The show was made up of various performances from St. Louis Irish Arts Incorporated with special guest Eileen Gannon on the Irish harp.
The event was spearheaded by James Mounsey, lecturer in Irish studies, international studies and programs, who upon completion of graduate school at the University of Limerick applied to the University of Missouri — St. Louis to see if he could bring in some Irish music course offerings.
“I was delighted that both the music department and the center for programs and international programs invited me back to actually start up a module in Irish traditional music,” Mounsey said.
He was formerly introduced onstage by Robert W. Nordman, chair of the Department of Music at UMSL.
“Joel Glassman, the director of international studies, came to me a year and a half ago and asked if we would be interested in having an Irish studies program and of course we were,” Nordman said. “Joel Glassman and Eammon Wall, who is also in Irish studies, funded James Mounsey and brought him to the campus.”
Decked out from head to toe in spring green, Helen Gannon, president of St. Louis Irish Arts Incorporated, acted as guest speaker for the ambitious event. She appeared onstage in support of her organization and to introduce the adorable Hoijarvi Boys, who hail from Finland.
As the Hoijarvi Boys made their way out to the stage, the crowd could not help but react to their innocence. The three boys could barely set themselves up in the oversized chairs that were laid out for them on center stage. They then proceeded to play “Dawning of the Day.” Upon completion of the brief tune, they attempted to scurry off of the stage without crowd recognition until their single-file line was stopped by a pleased Helen Gannon. The three boys accepted their applause willingly and then ran off stage.
The Hoijarvi Boys were followed by a polka, the use of the Irish drum the Concertina and a couple of lively jigs performed by a female troupe sporting their traditional step uniforms and crowns.
The crowd seemed to most appreciate the playful dance between Mounsey and his partner Shannon Flecke as they commanded the stage with their talent. Together, they gave the crowd a taste of the possibility that could come along with years of practice.
“I was delighted about the turnout. The publications department did a great job in publicizing the event,” Mounsey said. “I had my classes here from this semester and I was delighted to see some of my students from last semester turn up today also. It is nice to see them back again, showing their support.”
The St. Patrick’s Day celebration ended with a collaboration of company steppers that gave the crowd a chance to see the Hoijarvi Boys and their attempt at step.
Before the crowd met up with their loved ones an announcement was made concerning the Academic Conference that will take place April 26 – April 29. Together the Comhaltas North American Convention, Washington University, UMSL, ICTM and DRFI plan to offer students a chance to be part of a new academic interdisciplinary conference where Irish music, song and dance will be the primary theme.
“Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann has 44 branches throughout North America. I think that there are nine of them in Canada. On the April 26 all of them will be coming here to St. Louis, where we have a convention every year and share and collaborate with each other,” Gannon said.
A representative for the conference was at the St. Patrick’s Day performance and asked that any individual interested meet him in the lobby of the Touhill.
by Ashley Atkins, features editor for The Current.