The Auld Shebeen Restaurant and Pub in Fairfax overflowed with Irish music and Celtic goodwill Sunday afternoon, Jan. 6, as musicians from around the region gathered to raise money on behalf of Irish balladeer Danny Doyle.
Doyle, a resident of Manassas and a premier Irish balladeer of international renown, had surgery in August to remove a blockage from a carotid artery. Due to the surgery, he will be unable to perform from nine months to a year. Sunday’s event raised approximately $2,560 for Doyle.
Robert Hickey, the immediate past chairman, and Jesse Winch, the current chairman of the O’Neill-Malcom Branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoirii Eireann (CCE) started organizing the event around Thanksgiving. Hickey is also one of the original founders of the O’Neill-Malcom Branch, which is the only CCE branch in the Washington, D.C. area.
Winch said it is important to remember that Doyle is a full-time musician "which means if you don’t work you don’t get paid and whatever health care you have is what you can buy yourself." Winch is also grateful for the many years Doyle donated his services to the CCE’s annual festival at Fairfax City’s Van Dyck Park. "We always tried to offer him an honorarium and his response was always ‘send it back to the bank,’" he said.
Musicians such as Bog Mates, Celtic Marc, Mad for the Road, Brendan Sheridan, Cara and many others donated their time and provided Irish music that kept people on the dance floor.
One of the highlights of the event was the participation of Brendan Mulvihill, who is an All-Ireland champion fiddler and who has recently been inducted into the Comhaltas Hall of Fame. Sunday’s fund raiser included a raffle for donated door prizes: Belleek China, a wool scarf handmade in Ireland, decorative bottle openers, T-shirts and caps with Irish beer logos, a $25 gift certificate to Auld Shebeen and the grand prize, two roundtrip tickets to Ireland. The winner of the roundtrip tickets to Ireland was Christy Moore, the owner of the Irish Inn at Glen Echo, Md. About two months ago, Moore ran his own benefit for Doyle.
A FEW AT Sunday’s event expressed personal connections with Doyle. Dominic Preston, the guitarist of Cara, remembers being a child and listening to Doyle on a Dublin radio program for children.
Sean Culkin a dance teacher and director of The Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance, in Silver Spring, Md., spoke about Dublin in his introduction of his dancers, whose hour-long performance ended the fund raiser.
"One of the best memories I have is Danny’s 1995 performance at Wolf Trap," said Culkin. "It was a great moment to see him on stage. Listening to Danny is like riding a roller coaster. Danny pulls emotions out of you from crying to laughter."
Paul O’Donnell of Silver Spring, Md., and raffle winner of a decorative bottle opener, described Doyle’s music as person-to-person music. "He puts himself into the music and makes you believe," O’Donnell said.
Rebecca Conley of Washington, D.C. and Lauren Robinson of Philadelphia became impromptu performers, when it was discovered they could step dance. Off the dance floor Conley said she was not too familiar with Doyle’s work, but she "wanted to support the Irish community."
Robinson admitted the draw for her was Mulvihill. "He’s the best fiddler in the world and I knew the music would be fantastic," she said.
Even before Doyle made his name in the United States, he had hits that topped the charts in Ireland. "He is an icon and not only a wonderful singer, but plays the guitar with finesse," Winch said. He was such a part of the Irish music scene that is was taken for granted he would always be there, Winch said.
A message in a Christmas card that Doyle sent to Hickey gives some indication of how he is coping. "My father used to say when he’d catch us feeling sorry for ourselves, ‘there are fella’s in the grave yard would love to have your troubles,’" Doyle wrote.