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Here Comes the Irish’ showcases talented alumni

Observer Scene | Friday, October 1, 2004

The phrase “Here Come the Irish” has been used all over campus to describe the ranks of the Notre Dame football team. While the team does play Purdue Saturday, a different group of Irish will be coming to the stage of the Marie P. Debartolo Center for the Performing Arts tonight. These Irish are alumni of the University who are now nationally and internationally renowned Irish musicians and performers. The lineup includes five different groups set to showcase their talents while celebrating the new building and exciting the campus on the eve of the game. Bringing a unique blend of truly traditional but also original Irish music will be Kennedy’s Kitchen, led by Notre Dame grad Dr. John Kennedy. Together since 1998, the band resides in South Bend and regularly play both on campus and at local places such as Fiddler’s Hearth. “We’re very excited to have the opportunity to play in such an extraordinary space,” Kennedy said of the new building. “The entire community is very lucky to have such a facility and to play while it’s still fresh and new should be great.” Described on their website as playing “tear up the floor and heart thumping Irish music: traditional, pub, original, songs, stories, jokes and astonishingly large lies,” Kennedy said the sound and the songs change every night. “Whatever the day, the audience, and the music demands, we just go with it,” he said. “We’re always traditional, but with a unique energy that makes it difficult to classify. We just like to have a good time.” Kennedy has long played Irish music in the area, beginning with the band featured in the movie “Rudy.” He has grown to become friends with many other musically inclined alumni and is excited at the opportunity to play with so many of them tonight. “My only regret is that more people can’t be here. A lot of the people that helped with the O’Neill Brothers music aren’t able to make it, and that’s the only downside,” Kennedy said. “But the rest of us plan on having a lot of fun.” Perhaps the best known musicians in the group, the O’Neill Brothers rose to prominence in the last year on campus with the release of their CD for which the event this evening is named, “Here Come the Irish.” While they will focus primarily on that material and other Celtic songs they have perfected over the years, the brothers are extremely versatile and have succeeded in a variety of musical areas. With 18 CDs released, and recently celebrating the sale of the 1 millionth album, Tim and Ryan O’Neill have enjoyed a great deal of success since their days of playing piano as young boys. Forming their own label, Shamrock-n-Roll after graduating college, the brothers have provided music for NBC, HBO, ESPN and recently had the honor of performing for former President Bush. Taking orders and corresponding through their website, the O’Neill Brothers are excited to come back to Notre Dame and participate in tonight’s concert. Beyond the music of the evening, the Celtic Fire Irish Dancers will be performing throughout the night. The four girls perform original choreography designed and developed by another Notre Dame alumnus, world champion Irish dancer Paul Cusick. Regularly performing with Kennedy’s Kitchen throughout the South Bend area, the group will have the opportunity to be the first Irish dancers to grace the stage in the new building and will be a wonderful addition to all of the musicians. The concert is rounded out with two exceptional soloists, both of whom are recent graduates. Danielle Svonavec will be giving a special performance to complement her already regular vocal engagements at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart as a cantor. She also performs in the South Bend area with Fleur De Lys, a Baroque ensemble. Chicago students will be proud to hear Sean Ryan, a former Notre Dame basketball team walk-on, play the uilleann pipes. Growing up playing the flute and the tin whistle, Ryan moved to the pipes and quickly became a master musician. Competing in Ireland on several occasions, Ryan won the prestigious All-Ireland Championship in 1998, the first American ever to do so. He has been featured in concerts throughout the Chicago area and performs regularly with the acclaimed Trinity Irish Dance Company. From very different backgrounds and with very different styles, all the performers tonight share the important bonds of the Notre Dame Irish family and of beautiful Irish music. The performance begins at 9 p.m. in the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $10 for students and may be purchased at the door.