In post World War II America, Irish people living in Boston, New York, Providence, Philly, and Chicago danced their cares away on the weekends. Dance halls shaped the lives of immigrants, and American kids who danced and played beside them.

So, if we could go back to the colorful dance hall days, would we?


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I talked to Sue Lindsay, Joanie Madden, Kevin Doyle, Helen Kisiel, and Brian O’Donovan, to understand the rise and fall of the Irish dance halls. Sue wrote the great book “See You at the Hall,” and had this to say during our chat:

By all accounts and by everyone you will still meet who went to those dance halls, every Friday, every Saturday night in Dudley Square, the Square was mobbed. There were people everywhere. It was a community. You would go there and see someone from home you didn’t even know they had come out. It was really the central place to be, to feel connected. -Sue Lindsay

Dancer Kevin Doyle told me about wild nights with rival football teams that he witnessed as a rugrat at those dances.

Kevin Doyle and his sister started kicking at the Providence Dance Halls. (He was 8 years old, she was 6.)

And flute player Joanie Madden remembered playing with her dad at the dance halls throughout her high school years.

All through my high school years I’d be out with my dad playing dances—and playing for waltzing, and foxtrotting and jiving. But my father, always a big part of him, was to make sure the trad was very well represented.. even if they didn’t want to hear it, it was shoved down their throat! Ha! -Joanie Madden

Here’s Joanie’s tune “Cat’s Meow,” which closes this month’s episode. It doesn’t matter if she and Cherish the Ladies are in a gorgeous performing arts theater, or on a sweaty summer stage in the Catskills, Joanie and her band offer a consistent welcome and warmth to one another, to their guest musicians and dancers, and to their audiences:

Join me as I consider immigration in an Irish key, and take in unforgettable tales of love, livelihood, and (occasional) left hooks.

Thanks for listening and reading! Next month’s show about the HEARTBEAT of IRISH MUSIC will air on Tuesday April 10th. And if you haven’t heard every episode, I hope you’ll listen to the gems you missed:
Episode 01-Trip to Sligo
Episode 00-Introducing Irish Music Stories
Episode 02-Cuppa Tea with Karan Casey
Episode 03-Every Tuesday at Nine
– Episode 04 – Cuppa Tea with McKinneys and McCarthy
– Episode 05 – Handed Down
Episode 06 – The Backer
Episode 07 – The Piper
Episode 08 – Miss McCleod’s Reel at 113
– Episode 09 – Want of Wit
– Episode 10 – Cuppa Tea with Daithi Sproule
– Episode 11 – Return to Sligo
– Episode 12 – Season Two Preview
-Episode 13 – The C-Word


Music Heard on IMS Episode 14
all music traditional, unless otherwise indicated

Tune: “Free the Heel” (reel), from Rehearsal, circa 2013
Artist: Shannon Heaton (flute), Matt Heaton (guitar)

Tune: “John’s Theme,” from Production Music made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton

Tune: “Hometown Lullaby,” from Production Music made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton

Song: “I’m Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover,” from B-side of The Big Brass Band from Brazil (1948)
Artist: Art Mooney, vocals, with Mike Pignatore, banjo
Composer: Mort Dixon and Harry M. Woods.

Tune: “Celtic Reprise” from Production Music made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt & Shannon Heaton

Song: “Thousands Are Sailing to America,” from Parallel Lines
Artist: Andy Irvine
Composer: Traditional words, music by Andy

Tune: “Abbey Reel” (reel) from Kitchen Session 2017
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)

Tune: “Buttons and Bows”
Artist: Gene Autry
Composer: Music by Jay Livingston, lyrics by Ray Evans.

Tune: “Inisheer,” from Ireland’s Harvest
Artist: Joe Derrane

Tune: “Siege of Ennis”
Artist: Johnny Powell Band

Tune: Ennis Encounter (Jig)
Artist: Matt & Shannon Heaton
Composer: Brendan Tonra

Tune: “Rambling Man” (reel)  from Production Music made for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)

Tune: “After Hours Theme,” from Production Music made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton

Tune: “Kevin Keegan’s,” from Galway Afternoon
Artists: Joe and Joanie Madden

Song: “‘Neath Her Shawl of Galway Grey,”
Artist: Connie Foley, with Mickey Carton’s Orchestra

Tune: “Tom Ashe’s March, Black Haired Lass, Spike Island Lasses ” from Kitchen session
Artist: Dan Gurney (accordion), Shannon Heaton (flute), Matt Heaton (guitar)

Tune: “Cape Breton Breakdown”
Artist: Jerry’s Hayshakers

Tune: “Quinn of Armagh” from Banks of the Shannon
Artists: Seamus Connolly (fiddle), Charlie Lennon (piano)

Tune: “Cat’s Meow,” from An Irish Homecoming
Artist: Cherish the Ladies
Composer: Joanie Madden

Tune: “Shoe the Donkey,” from Kitchen session
Artist: Matt Heaton (banjo)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thank you for listening. Thank you to Michele Sims, John Mullen, Kerstin Otten, Brian Benscoter, William Dodd, Jack McCreless, and Mark Johnson for underwriting this episode. Donations help me share this show with everybody.

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