Pittsburgh Irish Festival
When: 4-11 p.m., Sept. 7; 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sept. 8; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 9
Admission: Adults, $12 advance, $15 at gate; seniors (60-plus) and students with ID, $10; military active/retired and public safety officers, (with ID), $10; age 12 and under, free; Special Sept. 7 early admission, 4-6 p.m., $5, ages 13 and over. 6:00-8 p.m. $5, with college ID Weekend pass: $35.
Where: Riverplex, 1000 Sandcastle Drive, West Homestead
Details: 412-422-1113 or pghirishfest.org
Franklin Park’s Katie Grennan first met the members of Gaelic Storm, the acclaimed genre-bending Irish/Celtic rock band, when she was 12. “That’s how I was introduced to them and thus initiated my obsession with the band (seen by millions performing for Leo and Kate in the blockbuster film ‘Titanic’) throughout my middle school, high school (North Allegheny) and college years,” she recalls.
It was always one of the highlights of the year for Grennan and her friends at Pittsburgh’s Burke School of Irish Dance (now Burke-Conroy) to see Gaelic Storm live at the Pitsburgh Irish Festival and be able to dance on stage with them for a number or two.
Flash forward to 2017 when Gaelic Storm invited Grennan to become its newest member. By then, she was a multi-talented Irish fiddle player, violinist, recording artist and champion Irish step-dancer touring worldwide with major Irish dance companies and guesting with the likes of the Chieftains, Cherish the Ladies and the Pittsburgh Symphony.
She also holds a bachelor’s degree in accountancy and psychology from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s in arts management from Carnegie Mellon University with a focus on the performing arts and outreach education.
Grennan has another homecoming with Gaelic Storm, which has topped the Billboard World Chart six times, at 9:30 p.m. Sept. 7-8 and 3:30 p.m. Sept. 9 as the group headlines the 28th annual Pittsburgh Irish Festival at the Riverplex at Sandcastle, West Homestead.
Pittsburgh’s first alumnus
Musician Bob Banergee, who still lives here, is the first Pittsburgh native to play fiddle with Gaelic Storm. He now plays locally in Corned Beef and Curry, which also will perform at the Irish Festival. Banergee made a guest appearance with Grennan and Gaelic Storm at last year’s Irish Festival.
Mairin Petrone, executive director of the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, says given Grennan’s talent, she isn’t surprised the band invited her to join.
“Gaelic Storm is lucky to have her. She is a great friend of the festival and true hometown hero,” she says.
Gaelic Storm’s Highland piper Pete Purvis is impressed. “With the addition of Katie, the band has never sounded better, we’re jelling on a whole new level, and the idea of sharing these new songs with our fans is exciting,” he says.
Grennan says she is excited to be back at Pittsburgh Irish fest this year.
“It’s fun to be a part of the event I attended for so many years in a new capacity. I look forward to having local dancers up on stage with us and spending the day at the festival with family and friends when I’m not on stage,” she says. She recently recorded a solo album, “The Second Story,” available on iTunes and CD Baby, which includes original compositions.
Everyone is wild
One of the pleasant realities she says she found since joining the band is that there is a passion for Gaelic Storm nearly everywhere they go in the country.
“Audiences everywhere know the lyrics to all the popular songs and are so enthusiastic from the time we hit the stage until we do our final bows,” Grennan says. She sees Pittsburgh’s affinity for Gaelic Storm as deep rooted. “They’ve been coming off and on to the Pittsburgh Irish Fest since at least 2001 – almost the entire duration of the band,” she says.
“I also think Pittsburghers love to go out with their family and friends and just have a good time. Attending a Gaelic Storm performance outside towards the end of the summer is synonymous with that and has become a tradition for many Pittsburghers.”
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.