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A festive invitation to ‘Step into Ireland’

Rex Rutkoski
177356ScreamingOrphans
A band of sisters: Screaming Orphans
177356PhotoMusicianSusanBorowskigivesalesson
Pittsburgh’s Susan Borowski of Steel Clover gives an impromptu musical lesson. She will be in the Open Mic area of the Irish Festival inviting anyone to try an instrument or perform a song.
177356Doolinbest
Doolin’ from France will make its Irish Festival debut.

“Step into Ireland” is the theme of this year’s Pittsburgh Irish Festival, and it will be carried out in a number of ways, including some fast-stepping dancers — a lot of fast stepping dancers.

“We’re putting a greater emphasis on dance and highlighting all of Pittsburgh’s fantastic dance schools that are full of world-champion Irish dancers,” says Mairin Petrone, executive director of the fest, returning to the Riverplex at Sandcastle, West Homestead, Sept 7-9.

“Attendees can expect to see more than double the dancing than they have seen in the past.”

She says the festival, which this year again has a blend of well-tested and new offerings, has held the public’s imagination for 28 years because, “We strongly believe that people crave opportunities to celebrate their culture and educate the younger members of their family about the tradition they grew up with.”

Irish know
how to have fun

“We are lucky enough to have a strong local Irish community, incredibly talented local musicians and dancers, and patrons who continue to support our mission,” Petrone adds.

“We’re certainly a little biased, but we think the Irish just might have the most fun and everyone is Irish at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival.

“We want to be sure that each year, guests get to learn something new about the Irish culture and have a new experience. It is most important to us that we present an authentic Celtic experience.”

There will be four stages of live music. The philosophy for booking entertainment is simple, says festival co-founder Nan Krushinski: Find the best live Irish music groups touring and hire them.

This year is a good example, she says.

Doolin’ from Toulouse, France, is new to the festival. “We are thrilled to present them. They have an exciting sound that mixes Irish, pop, rock, and even rap in their shows. The sextet are accomplished musicians who create a powerful, high-energy performance that is unlike anything I’ve seen in years,” she says.

Doolin’ will be joined by perennial favorites — Gaelic Storm; four rocking sisters from County Donegal, Ireland, The Screaming Orphans; The Willis Clan featuring six members of the band; and Rory Makem, son of the legendary Tommy Makem.

“Each group is back by popular demand,” Krushinski says.

The complete musical line up can be found on the fest web site.

Future is bright

“The future of Irish music is bright, and we look forward to finding the best to offer at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival. Stay tuned,” she says.

Pittsburgh musician Susan Borowski’s Steel Clover will present an instrument demonstration at the “open mic” area.

“This area has been capturing the hearts of many over the past several years,” says Petrone.

Steel Clover provides an interactive experience for adults and children looking to experience playing an instrument.

Musicians and singers are given the opportunity to sing and play Celtic songs during the open mic. “The music and instrument demonstrations are wildly popular at the festival,” Petrone says. “Guests get to feel the musical experience, not just look and listen,” she says.

A taste of Ireland

A Taste of Ireland makes its debut with visitors able to sample and purchase foods and snacks made in Ireland.

Live art comes to the festival for the first time with self-taught Celtic artist Conor Coleman, a former world-class Irish dancer who performed with the Lord of the Dance company.

Pittsburgh sports fans will not be overlooked. The Pitt-Penn State football game on Saturday night and Sunday Steelers game will be broadcast on large-screen TV. The full schedule can be found on the website.

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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