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Irish Session Lads bring next generation of Irish tradition to Shepherdstown

By Staff | Nov 2, 2012

Those who love the fiddle, bagpipes and accordion will love the concert by the Irish Session Lads. Traditional jigs and reels meander to delicate old-world waltzes and spiral around to contemporary improvisations and layers of harmonic invention in the music of these three fine young Irish musicians who grew up in the heart of the Irish session scene in Baltimore and at camps and festivals throughout the Northeast.

Cleek Schrey anchors the band with dynamic fiddle and piano accompaniment, Sean McComiskey drives the the rhythm with lively button accordion and Stuart Jackson adds a touch of spark with his “smooth as silk” playing on the Irish uilleann pipes. The concert takes place on Friday, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. at the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $18 adults, $15 seniors, $12 members, $8 children/students. Shepherd University students get in free with their Rambler ID. For more information call (304)263-2531 or see the web page at smad.us/concerts

Sean McComiskey is among the most innovative young performers on the button accordion, with a unique harmonic style that has earned him a spot in the pantheon of Irish accordionists far beyond his native Baltimore. As the son of legendary button accordion player Billy McComiskey, Sean has been surrounded by Irish Traditional music his entire life and has developed a deep appreciation for the rich tradition of which he is a part. This has helped Sean establish a reputation as a highly regarded teacher and promulgator of Irish music and earned him teaching positions with the Catskills Irish Arts Week, Augusta Heritage Center’s Irish Arts Week, and the Baltimore Irish Arts Center.

He performs regularly with O’Malley’s March (with Baltimore’s mayor, Martin O’Malley), Corner House with fiddler Cleek Schrey and pianist Matt Mulqueen, and is a member of the Old Bay Ceili Band from Baltimore, Md.

Sean has been featured on numerous recordings to date, including Billy McComiskey’s highly anticipated second solo album, Outside The Box, and is currently collaborating with fiddler Cleek Schrey and Sean Ns dancers Shannon Dunne and Kieran Jordan on a traditional Irish music and dance performance group called the Kitchen Quartet.

Cleek Schrey is a gifted performer and teacher of Irish fiddling. Throughout his teens he was mentored by his first and primary influence, Brendan Mulvihill. Cleek also has a great interest in fiddle playing of the 78rpm era, and has spent a good deal of time digesting and interpreting the music of Michael Coleman, Lad O’Beirne, and their successors Andy McGann and Paddy Reynolds. A close friendship with Paddy Reynolds led to his involvement as co-producer of an archival recording project, and the re- mastering of much of Reynolds surviving work. The recording was released in the summer of 2005, just after the old master’s passing.

Cleek has performed in many concerts and festivals including the Washington Irish Festival, Philadelphia Ceili Group Festival, Champaign Valley Folk Festival, Baltimore Irish Festival, the University of Chicago Folk Festival and the Kennedy Center.

In the fall of 2005 he represented Irish fiddling at the Shetland Fiddle and Accordion Festival with one of his musical heroes, Josephine Keegan. He performs regularly with piano player Donna Long, and his own trio with Baltimore musicians Sean McComiskey on accordion, and pianist Matt Mulqueen. He appears on several recordings, including a forthcoming release by Cork fiddler John Daly and Irish piano & fiddle legend Josephine Keegan.

Cleek has taught weekly lessons Irish music to students aged 7 to 60, a regular group fiddle class, and offers private instruction on fiddle and piano accompaniment. For the past several years, Cleek has been on staff at the Catskills Irish Arts Week and Irish Week at the Augusta Heritage Center. His class will focus on developing good technique in tandem with a discerning ear for style. Recordings of fiddle masters will be analyzed, and tunes will be broken down to explore the possibilities of ornamentation and variation.

Stuart Jackson is a dynamic young piper who is no stranger to the Upper Potomac workshops. Coming as a student since his early teens, and focusing on Irish uilleann pipes, Stuart has developed a lovely fluid style. In the last decade, through his high school and college years, Stuart has pursued his love of Irish music and the pipes at camps in the US and abroad, concentrating on the piping of Seamus Ennis. A recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in music, Stuart has expanded his command of a variety of other instruments and in composition as well as a greater depth of knowledge of Irish piping styles.

The trio will be teaching workshops for musicians on Irish traditional music on Saturday, with an Irish music session in the evening, all instruments are welcome. For information on the workshops, musicians can look at the web page at www.upmw.smad.us for details and an application. Advance registration is highly recommended.

The concert is the third program in Shepherdstown Music and Dance’s International Concert Series this season, which celebrates music from the Americas and beyond with established masters and some of the finest proponents of the next generation of traditional music.