Festival favorite band Gaelic Storm will return for Irish Fest 2012 at Chicago Gaelic Park in Oak Forest.
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:34AM
Chicago Gaelic Park’s Irish Fest 2012 boasts a variety of entertainment and activities during the four-day festival over Memorial Day weekend, May 25-28.
Headlining the excitement on the 54-acre site located at 6119 W. 147th St., Oak Forest, will be famous Irish tenor Ronan Tynan and festival favorites Gaelic Storm.
These two stalwarts are joined by more 40 other acts to present a full menu of entertainment.
Tynan came on the scene as one of the original Irish Tenors. His voice and stage presence have gained him numerous noteworthy engagements including singing at Ronald Regan’s funeral when more 35 million people heard Tynan perform.
He also sang at the White House, the Belmont Stakes and many other major events.
“His beautiful voice makes his shows unforgettable,” officials said.
Gaelic Storm needs no introduction to Chicago-area audiences. The band burst on the scene as the Celtic party band in the ship’s steerage in the hit movie “Titanic.”
Since then, Gaelic Storm has released seven albums. The band’s major success however, is in its live performances.
Gaelic Storm performs more than 200 times per year, and each show is a rousing conglomeration of music, song, wit and audience participation.
The other 40 acts represent every type of Irish music including an all-female traditional Irish band (Girsa), country (Dirt Drifters), alternate Celtic rock (the Killdares) and Irish folk (the Makem & Spain Brothers).
Of course, all the popular local bands are featured along with pipe bands.
All of the entertainment takes place indoors or in huge tents.
The festival is not just music, however. There will be Irish sports; Gaelic football and hurling; dancing including ceili, set and step dancing; theater and storytelling; a petting zoo; Irish dogs and ponies; import stores and a tearoom.
For the young people there are magicians, puppets, jugglers, clowns and, most importantly, unlimited carnival rides on a huge carnival midway.
The admission price includes all entertainment, unlimited carnival rides, an Irish step dancing competition and various Irish exhibitions.
The festival hours are 4-11 p.m. May 25, 2-11 p.m. May 26, 1-11 p.m. May 27 (with Mass at 11:30 a.m.) and 1-8 p.m. May 28.
Daily admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and ages 4-12 and free for ages 3 and younger. Each day has a reduced admission of $10 for adults and $8 for children and seniors during the first hour.
Information and additional price discounts: chicagogaelicpark.org, (708) 687-9323.
More about the music
With nonstop music and free on-site parking, Irish Fest has become one of the United States’ premier musical events featuring some of the best and brightest talent appearing on stage this year. Here’s a closer look at the acts booked.
◆ Gaelic Storm sells out hundreds of venues and has played to audiences totaling in the millions, and returns to Irish Fest on May 26 and 27. This one-time pub band has turned into a premier touring act. Gaelic Storm’s compelling originals and fresh arrangements are steeped in traditional melody, creating new standards in the Celtic music genre.
Highlights from the bands career include seven Billboard chart-topping albums, a DVD, a full-length concert film featured on HD.net, song placement on two EA Sports games, a 2008 Hallmark greeting card featuring the group’s song “Kiss Me I’m Irish” and countless TV and radio appearances. “Prepare for the storm — Gaelic Storm, a fan favorite,” officials said.
◆ From County Kilkenny, Ronan’s album “Ronan” debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s Classical Crossover Chart. He is truly a modern day Renaissance man who has persevered through numerous challenges throughout his well-documented life. After touring with the Irish Tenors, his solo career brought international fame and recognition.
Ronan is famous for his performances of “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium, and he performed at New York’s 10th anniversary memorial services of the 9/11 tragedy. “Take advantage of this rare opportunity to see the gifted Ronan Tynan,” officials said of his May 27 performance.
◆ Gaelic for “young girls,” Girsa made its debut at Irish Fest in 2011. “These talented young women owned the crowds with traditional selections and their unique high-spirited energy,” officials said. The members have all known each other since they were very young, growing up participating in Irish music and dance in the community of Pearl River, N.Y.
Most of the band comes from musical families in which they learned traditional Irish music from such greats as Martin Mulvihill, Maureen Glynn Connolly and Pete Kelly. Some of the Girsa members’ parents and their lifelong friends carry on this great tradition by teaching music in the community.
“The young ladies enjoy playing together so much that they’ll bring tons of musical fun to Irish Fest again this year,” officials said.
◆ May 27 and 28 will include the Makem & Spain Brothers, an internationally known band that keeps the music alive and defines where Irish folk music is going. A host of various instruments and five male vocals using precise three-part harmonies blend perfectly for what can only be described as a wall of sound. Their talent and enthusiasm draw in fans who have never experienced the joy of folk music.
This band of brothers has played before millions of people in the United States, the Caribbean and Ireland. Along the way they were highlighted in national PBS specials and on popular Irish talk shows. The Makem Brothers, from north of Dublin in County Louth, continue an Irish musical dynasty begun by their grandmother Sarah Makem and their famous father, Tommy Makem. The Spain Brothers also learned Irish songs at their father’s knee.
When the Makems met the Spains, the brothers realized the powerful synergy of their combined talents. There are bands traveling down uncharted roads trying their best to keep the music alive, but there is only one Makem & Spain Brothers.
◆ A blend of rock, pop and Celtic, the Killdares bridge the gap between traditional and cutting edge. The Killdares have gone from local pub performers to world-class musicians who create and perform a new version of hard-driving, alternative Celtic rock.
The band shares stages with national and international artists and is one of the hottest bands in music, Celtic or otherwise. Expanding the definition of “Celtic,” the band uses fire-driven fiddle, bagpipes and a wail of electric guitar, bass and drums to create brilliant arrangements of traditional tunes and original compositions.
Even die-hard fans of purely traditional Celtic music have embraced the band’s powerful sound. In 2010, the Killdares released “Up Against the Lights,” a three-disc package (two audio CDs and one DVD) of the group’s energetic and entertaining live show at the historic Granada Theater in Dallas.
◆ Streams of Whiskey is a New York City-based band playing the music of Shane MacGowan, the Pogues and the Popes. In this regard, it makes Streams of Whiskey unique because the formula is to take MacGowan’s and the Popes’ songs and play them in the style of the Pogues.
The problem with most cover bands is the group concentrates on just one artist until it becomes a soulless imitation of that artist. But not so with Streams of Whiskey, which will perform on May 26 and 27. “You’ll never get the feeling that you were listening to a cover band,” officials said. “They actually own their renditions of the songs, which is rare for a cover band. ... They love what they do, and it shows.”
◆ Appearing May 28, Chicago rock and pop band 7th Heaven is one of the busiest indie bands in the world and touring the United States throughout 2012. Charting No. 1 in the Midwest region on the Billboard charts in September 2011, the group has had a great couple of years.
The band charted two releases in 2010; performed at Soldier Field with Bon Jovi; received coverage on TV’s ABC, NBC, FOX and WGN, and charted the hit “Better This Way” at No. 2 among Chicago radio stations. The band’s high-energy live shows have received worldwide press coverage from USA Today, SouthtownStar sister newspaper the Chicago Sun-Times and other publication. The group also has been featured on commercials and film soundtracks.
◆ On May 25 the talented and creative Nashville, Tenn. musicians Dirt Drifters will entertain with a country-rock, funky honky-tonk sound that will keep fans stompin’. Road-tested and club-polished, this is a band with a sound that has been forged on a thousand club stages.
Dirt Drifters bring a resume baked in country, rock, funk and rhythm and blues — all set in a gritty, lyrical roadhouse country sound that pleases the heart and the dance floor. Brothers Matt and Ryan Fleener grew up in Oklahoma and moved to Nashville to pursue music.
After five years they met up with the musicians who would form the Dirt Drifters. From there the band has made it a point to never drift from its blue-collar working-man personality. The result is top-shelf vintage honky-tonk sound that’s sure to please Irish Fest crowds.
◆ Other acts booked for Irish Fest include Blackstairs Rebel (County Wexford), Chicago Reel, Gerry Carney (County Mayo), Paddy Homan & Friends (County Cork), Red Rebel County, Eddie Gallagher (County Donegal), Kathleen Keane & Friends, Larkin and Moran Brothers, Tommy Goodwin & Sharon (County Kerry), Crossroads Ceili Band, the Mairtin de Cogain Project (County Cork), Sean and Charlie, Bernie Glim and Country Roads, the Lounge Puppets, the Irish Musicians, Gerard Haughey & Sean O’Donnell, Mulligan Stew, Murphy Roche Irish Music Club, the Irish Music School of Chicago, Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band, and Bagpipes & Drums of the Emerald Society.