Change starts at home. In the kitchen, the front porch, the voting booth. With Benjamin Moore paints—and with a careful look at performance practices and standards of modern Irish and music and dance—here’s an investigation of the different shades of gender inclusivity in the trad world:

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Tues Nov 6 is U.S. election day!

#MeToo is inciting society to re-think and re-norm standards of sexual misconduct, abuse of power, and systemic bias. Looming November 6th elections in the U.S. are deepening passions. And now the group FairPlé is calling for gender equality and fair treatment in traditional and folk music.

I happen to be repainting my home while revolution marches around me. So I’m taking the plunge this month and dipping my brush into the inclusivity pool. I talk to Karan Casey, Brian Ó hAirt, Laura Cortese, Nic Gareiss, Ellery Klein, and Dr. Lisa Coyne to explore whether there are gendered behaviors and expectations built in to Irish music and dance.

Karan Casey insists that, “if you HAVE more women at your festival and genders and diversity, your festival will be interesting and colorful, creative. Of course it will be good musically. And it will actually reflect the society we live in today.”

But Brian Ó hAirt suggests that commercial festivals and pub sessions might make gender equality impossible:

“As long as our goals remain fixed on making money, then we are tied to the economic model that engenders our music: it comes down to people who can play loud. People who can stay up late and play music. People who are boisterous and get responses from the audience. It’s an economic model that’s disenfranchising women. But as well, disenfranchising the tradition.”

This cabinet used to be bright white!

These are beautiful, brave, and wildly creative conversations. And it’s all set against the backdrop of my own serious home improvement, with the inspiration and guidance of artist Vincent Crotty, who taught me how to make an ugly white laminate cabinet look more harmonious.

Spoiler alert: This investigation took much longer than five days. And in the process, I uncovered big and small ideas about gendered behaviors and expectations, while ALSO making home improvements (including sage kitchen cabinets).

Here’s Laura Cortese and her band singing “Women of the Ages,” a John Beaton poem with historical examples of female experiences in a male world. Laura set the words to music and recorded it here for Folk Fights Back and Rosie’s Place:

In addition to all the insightful, challenging thoughts Brian shared for this episode, here’s his engaging performance of Eleanór Rún—a song about magic, love, and the complexity of familial relationships, which also offers a window into Irish culture:

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
– Episode 14 – Dance Hall Days
– Episode 15 – Heartbeat of Irish Music
– Episode 16 – Pushing all the Right Buttons
– Episode 17 – Why Willie and Mary Matter
– Episode 18 – Wax Cylinders to the World Wide Web
Episode 19 – Fiddle in the Windy City
– Episode 20 – Trad Music Summer Camp


Music Heard on IMS Episode 21
all music traditional, unless otherwise indicated

Tune: “Leaving the Station,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)
Composer: Shannon Heaton

Tune: “Following the North Star.” from Freedom Highway
Artist: Rhiannon Giddens

Tune: “Silver,” from Silver
Artist & Composer: Hanneke Cassel

Tune: “Hometown Lullaby,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)

Song: “Rambling Irishman,” from Best of DeDanaan
Artist: DeDanaan

Tune: “Pound the Floor,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)

Tune: “Triumph Theme,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)

Tune: “Petronella,” from Dance
Artist: Lissa Schneckenburger

Tune: “John’s Theme,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)

Song: “Dobbin’s Flowery Vale,” from An Spealadóir
Artist: Bua

Tune: “First Date,” from Lovers’ Well
Artist & Composer: Matt & Shannon Heaton

Tune: “The Sister’s Cat,” from Music in the Glen
Artist: Music in the Glen (Conor Lamb, Brendan Mulholland & Deirdre Galway)

Song: “The Song of the Seal,” from Seal Maiden-Celtic Musical
Artist: Karan Casey

Tune: “Shady Spot,” from Blue Skies Above
Artist & Composer: Matt & Shannon Heaton

Dance: “Thunderstorm,” from Riverdance 
Artist & Choreographer: Michael Flatley and company

Song: “Injured Shoulder,” from Emma Beaton & Nic Gareiss
Artist: Emma Beaton & Nic Gareiss

Tune: “Sabai Sabai,”  from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)

Tune: “Meaning of Life,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)

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

Song: “Never Gonna Be Alone,” from Dark Horse
Artist: Nickelback

Tune: “Mr Oconnor-The Broken Pledge,” from A Sweetish Tune
Artist: Noctambule

Song/Tune: “Mouth Music,” from Factory Girl – EP
Artist: Rhiannon Giddens

Tune: “The Chair Dance,” from An Irish Homecoming
Artist: Cherish the Ladies

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thank you for listening. Thank you, Matt and Nigel for helping me make the show. Thank you Ellery Klein for the pre-gig insights. Thank you, Colin Lindsay, Marla Fibish, and John Doyle for the production music ideas. And thank you to Mark Johnson, Scott Maurer, Davy McDonald, Robbie Zukauskas, Billie Neal, and Brian Benscoter for underwriting this episode. Donations help me share this show with everybody.

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