Ceol na nGael 50th Anniversary Concert

Celtic Cross at the Ceol na nGael 50th Anniversary Concert (photo by Gus Philippas for FUV)
by Maura Monahan Grunner | 03/21/2024 | 12:01am

Celtic Cross at the Ceol na nGael 50th Anniversary Concert (photo by Gus Philippas for FUV)

Listen to the "Ceol na nGael" 50th anniversary concert on demand.

On January 20, "Ceol na nGael" hosts and listeners came together to mark 50 years of the beloved Irish music radio show for a special anniversary concert — and what a celebration it turned out to be. (You can find photos of this exuberant craic, taken by Gus Philippas, at FUV's Flickr).

Over 800 guests filled a sold-out Peter Norton Symphony Space in Manhattan and spent over three hours singing along to lively foot-tapping Irish tunes, courtesy of artists that included The Rogue Diplomats, Celtic Cross, Solas's Seamus Egan, Lunasa's Cillian Vallely and Kevin Crawford, Pat Mangan, Alan Murray, and Jenna Moynihan.

The Ceol na nGael audience responded warmly to memories shared by some of the hosts who have graced the airwaves since the show first debuted on January 20th, 1974. Of the 40 former hosts, 29 were present and, at the start of the second half of the show, they all came on stage one by one, creating a vivid, visual timeline of all the students who have kept the Irish music tradition alive for half a century on WFUV.

The concert started strong with an upbeat set by local New York band, The Rogue Diplomats. They sang songs such as “Step It Out Mary” and “Whiskey in the Jar,” which set the tone for an energetic and jubilant evening. 

Celtic Cross, a local band much loved by the "Ceol na nGael" community, followed. They had the whole audience singing along to “Those Were the Days,” a song in which they mention the radio show with the lyric: “Ceol na nGael on FUV/taught the words to you and me,” which references how generations of Irish-American children have learned Irish songs by listening to this program with their families every Sunday afternoon.

While the first half of the show featured sing-along songs and a modern rock take on Irish music, the second half focused on traditional Irish music, leaning heavily into Irish tunes and highlighting some of the traditional instruments of Irish music.

After intermission, Cillian Vallely and Kevin Crawford, of the Irish supergroup Lunasa, were joined on stage by fiddler Pat Mangan who has played onstage with Riverdance and Come From Away, and singer, guitarist and bouzouki player Alan Murray of FourWinds. In honor of the evening, their first set of tunes finished with the aptly titled, “50th Anniversary Reel," written by Cillian’s brother, Niall Vallely.

Between delightful sets of tunes, they had the audience laughing at their on-stage banter, and during the music they had the audience dancing and clapping along to the beat.

The final act of the night brought Seamus Egan of the supergroup Solas, joined by Jenna Moynihan and Alan Murray. Egan shared beautiful melodies, some of his own compositions, all tied together with touching words about the importance of "Ceol na nGael" in supporting Irish musicians.

Moynihan and Murray added their brilliant voices to the mix as both sang across the last two acts, and the night ended with all four acts coming together for a finale, singing Ewan MacColl's “Dirty Old Town,” made famous by the Pogues and their late frontman, Shane MacGowan.

The evening was a fitting way to honor "Ceol na nGael" and its five decades on the air on FUV, honoring the show's continued significance in the Irish-American community in New York and beyond.

"Ceol na nGael" is grateful to everyone who came to the concert to celebrate with the show and its hosts; we will continue to be a space for the appreciation and celebration of Irish culture for years and generations to come.

[Recorded by David Schnirman and Jim O'Hara; mixed by Jeremy Rainer; produced by Maura Monahan and Kim McCarthy]

Set List:

Act I - The Rogue Diplomats

  • South Australia / Little Beggarman
  • Step It Out, Mary
  • Here I Am Amongst You / Star of the County Down
  • Galway Hooker
  • Whiskey In The Jar

Act II - Celtic Cross

  • 22
  • Who I Am
  • Shores of America
  • Those Were The Days
  • Mason’s Apron / Jackson 5 Mashup

Act III - Cillian Vallely, Kevin Crawford, Patrick Mangan, and Alan Murray

  • The Bull’s March: Bó Mhin Na Toitean / 40 March / 50th Anniversary Reel
  • Sinead Maire's: Sinead Máire’s / Nina’s Jig / Eimear’s Shuffle
  • Morning Nightcap
  • Smuggler
  • Martin Wynne’s Reel / The Moher Reel

Act IV - Seamus Egan, Alan Murray and Jenna Moynihan

  • Tournesol
  • Welcome to Orwell
  • Girls On The Line
  • Across The Western Ocean
  • The Charleston / The Contradiction

Finale with all:

  • Dirty Old Town (Ewan MacColl cover)

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