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Terence Mulligan Talks "The Ghost of Richard Harris" & CraicFest

CraicFest 25
February 24 & March 2-4
Various Locations

While working as a doorman at Club Macanudo in 1999, native Irish New Yorker Terence Mulligan met famed director Jim Sheridan. As a result, Mulligan founded the CraicFest (then Film Fleadh), but it was Sheridan who helped shape the cultural identity of the festival over the past 25 years. And Sheridan still serves on the board along with Liam Neeson, Denis Leary and Aidan Quinn.

Mulligan commented, “The impetus of the festival was at the Galway Film Fleadh in 1999 over a pint with Jim. He was the one who suggested that we focus on the New Irish Cinema and Irish New Yorkers would embrace a festival like this every March. Jim also opened the door to our first sponsor, The Fitzpatrick Hotel, which has been with us since 1999. After 25 years, we're still pushing the envelope.”

In 2004, Film Fleadh expanded with a Music Series transforming it into the Craicfest. The scope of the festival changed and the audience doubled as well. With the new name, the festival encompassing the best of Irish Cinema and music, prompted the New York Daily News to proclaim it, “The Premier Irish film festival in North America.”

It has now screened hundreds of films and has had numerous stars in attendance. More importantly, it has served as a launching pad for many filmmakers from the Emerald Island such as Dubliner Robbie Walsh. In 2010 it expanded to include a Kids Fleadh. In 2011, it embraced the LGBTQ community to showcase Irish Gay and Lesbian filmmakers as well. Now, every spring in NYC — in conjunction with such community haunts as the Irish Arts Center & Scandanavia House — it includes screenings at several locations. 

On Friday Feb. 24th, kicking off this year’s fest, is a concert of an all-star lineup of Irish and Irish American performers who will appear at Rockwood Music Hall. Comedian Siobhan Fallon Hogan (SNL, Seinfeld, Men in Black), musician Brendan O’Shea and local comedians Craig Geraghty and Katie Boyle are scheduled with more special guests planned. 

terrenHOn March 2nd, the Craic Film Festival component will feature the NY premiere of “The Ghost of Richard Harris.” Sheridan and Oscar nominated director and acclaimed actor Jared Harris (son of Richard) will host the screening with a Q&A to follow. Director Adrian Sibley will also be in attendance. On Friday March 3rd the Craic Fest Gala will host the NY premiere of Shelter in Solitude — written by Siobhan Fallon Hogan and starring Robert Patrick (“Terminator 2,” “Yellowstone 123”), Peter Macon (“Orville”) and Fallon Hogan. Hogan and the cast will conduct a Q&A after the screening. 

For students and young children, the Kids Fleadh will feature the best of Irish Shorts and Irish step dancing on Saturday March 4th. We will have the NY premiere of “Lakelands,” directed and written by Robbie Higgins and Patrick McGivney. A Best of Shorts program by local Irish filmmakers from the last 25 years is scheduled at 5 pm March 4th. The Closing night movie, Saturday March 4th, is "Americonned" by local Irish filmmaker Sean Claffey who will be present for a Q&A. The After party is at BAR 13.,

In order to better appreciate the fest, Mulligan answered a few questions about its evolution and where it's at today.

Q: Describe the origins of the fest and how it evolved.

craicfestTM: Craicfest started as the Film Fleadh which was purely a film festival but the idea always was to do it with both Irish film and music. We knew we needed to start small and build it up over the first few years. We expanded after those initial years to include music so it was then repositioned as CraicFest. We had a few industry people help us out in 1999 such as Bingham Ray, TC Rice and Eamonn Bowles who helped us organize and shape a film festival program during those early years. There had never been an Irish music and film festival of this magnitude in NYC. In 1999 we were in the right place at the right time. Also, rebranding the logo and festival a few years ago was one of the best moves for us as it gives the festival a modern look. 

Q: As it evolved it expanded to include music and several venues. Explain how that happened?

TM: Now, it’s evolved beyond our expectations. The expansion to music was the best thing to happen to the film fest as it brought more awareness to the film part of CraicFest and expanded our audience as well. CraicFest has always changed with the times but the program of music and film will always be about the storytelling and the Craic (having a “good time” at the festival). Also, we’ve worked at building partnerships over the years with the Irish Arts Center, NY Irish Centre and NYU Glucksman Ireland house — to name a few. We now have a Kids Fleadh program which is always on the closing day of Saturday during CraicFest. It’s a fun program for kids and families that has grown over the years. Families from all over the city come to this program. This year we are reaching out to schools to get more kids to come to the Kids Fleadh program.

Q: What do you consider as the benchmarks you’ve established over its 25 years?

TM: Well, you never forget your first night. Our first night we jumped the shark with The McCourts of New York premier and HBO got behind it with a swanky pre-reception. The second night was just as important as I knew we needed back-to-back nights. We had the Aidan Quinn film; “This is My Father." Aidan is an honorary board member. He called Sony Pictures and he told me they wanted to meet with me. I sat with CEO Michael Barker and he said, “Why am I giving this film to you because this festival has never been done?” I basically told the CEO what he wanted to hear — "Aidan is an Irish star and we are going to get great word of mouth on this film with every Irish bartender in New York City.” I got them to take out an ad for the film too LOL. You should’ve seen the look on the CEO when I said, "You’re going to take an ad right?"

There are so many moments over 25 years that were memorable but the Damien Dempsey show years ago when he had the flu and almost didn’t go on was really unforgettable. After that show, CraicFest was on another level where agents were coming to us. Also Kneecap and Rubberbandits were epic shows that tapped into a younger audience in NYC. 

Running into Colin Farrell at a Sundance party we had a chat about him coming to In Bruges premiere at CraicFest. He gave me his word that if he was in town he would come by and do Q&A. And he did. He’s a gent, a class act. That elevated the stature of the film fest from that moment on. The rest is just the Craic!

Uncivilisation Fest: Chaotic Jazz & Vegan Food

Spanning three nights of genre-bending tunes and “freak-folk-jazz”, Uncivilisation Fest XXXI comes to Brooklyn. With events and performances on September 7, 9 and 10, featuring the music collective Uncivilized, the festival contemplates the role of civilization post-climate change, while also being a counter-culture response to the chaos of society to create “post-postmodern sonic environmentalism”. The result is a truly unique sound from the 9 piece collective, plus vegan food from  bandleader UncivilizedTom's Café Uncivilized.

The finale of the festival, held at Record Shop (360 Van Brunt St), includes DJ DePasquale, readings by Sam Newsome and Shanyse Strickland, along with a finale performance by Uncivilized.

To learn more, go to:

Uncivilisation Fest XXXI
September 7, 9, & 10, 2021

Various Locations

Bard Summerscape 2021: Chausson Opera, Boulanger Concert

Bard Music Festival/Summerscape 2021
Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
July 8-August 15, 2021
DVD: Women Composers (Film Movement)
After its COVID cancellation last summer, Bard College’s annual Summerscape returned to the bucolic campus two-plus hours north of New York City for live performances, both indoors and outside, in front of real audiences—along with the livestreaming that all of us have gotten used to over the past 18 months.
French pedagogue Nadia Boulanger—an important teacher to countless prominent European and American composers—was the centerpiece of this year’s Bard Music Festival, after having been the one to be feted last summer. 
Although “Nadia Boulanger and Her World” included a few pieces by Nadia, it was mainly filled by dozens of works by composers in her orbit for decades, including her talented sister, Lili Boulanger, an accomplished composer in her own right who died at age 25 in 1918. (Nadia died at age 92 in 1979.)
Ernest Chausson's opera King Arthur (photo: Maria Baranova)

Summerscape’s centerpiece was King Arthur, a grand lyric opera by Frenchman Ernest Chausson, another tragic case of a composer dying young (he was 44 when he crashed his bike into a brick wall in 1899). Since I was unable to attend live performances of the opera, I did the next best thing, which was watch the livestream—professionally shot, edited and subtitled for maximum viewer enjoyment—at home.
Chausson’s gorgeous opera unashamedly bows to the temple of Wagner—in sound and story there are hints of Tristan and Parsifal, for starters—but its decidedly French delicacy tempers the weightiness of subject and music. 
Louisa Proske’s illuminating production was realistic and mystical by turns, the leads—Norman Garrett (Arthur), Sasha Cooke (Genièvre), Matthew White (Lancelot) and Troy Cook (Merlin)—were in magnificent voice, and Leon Botstein led the American Symphony Orchestra and the Bard Festival Chorale (director, James Bagwell) in a transcendent musical performance, highlighted by the opera’s magisterial finale.
Nadia Boulanger
I attended one of the Bard Music Festival concerts. As usual, it was a superbly curated program, nearly three hours long—almost too much despite the rich music and performances we heard. 
Titled Remembering Ethyl Smyth and Boulanger’s Circle at Home and Abroad, it was just that—beginning with a concert version of Smyth’s delightful one-act opera Fête galante, followed by a 90-minute second half. (In fact, the evening could have been shorn of the Smyth opera and still would have been musically fulfilling.)
First there was a lovely reading of Lili Boulanger’s elegant Theme and Variations, newly arranged for orchestra by Richard Wilson. Then came a propulsive performance of Walter Piston’s Symphony No. 4 and a scintillating solo turn by Luosha Fang in underrated Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicż’ Violin Concerto No. 5. Finally, Aaron Copland’s patriotic Lincoln Portrait provided a rousing finale, with Patrick Gaspard intoning the 16th president’s immortal words and sending everyone home sated.
Lili Boulanger—along with Fanny Mendlessohn-Hensel and the previously unknown to me Mel Bonis—is profiled in Women Composers (Film Movement DVD), an informative if too short documentary by pianist Kyra Steckeweh and Tim van Beveren. Steckeweh started researching female composers when she was looking for new and different repertoire to perform in a classical world dominated by dead European males. 
The film briefly examines these women’s personal and musical histories, which provides opportunities for Steckeweh to perform their works without stigmatizing them. Bonus features on the DVD are a Q&A with the directors and a performance of Bonis’ piano work “Ophelie” by Steckeweh.

The Governors Ball 10th Anniversary Brings on the Music

Celebrating ten years of being one of New York’s best concert events, The Governors Ball is back for its 10th anniversary show. Running September 24 to the 26 at Citi Field, The Governors Ball features a colossal slate of performers, including:

  • Billie Eilish
  • Post Malone
  • A$AP Rocky
  • Burna Boy
  • Pink Sweat$
  • Earthgang
  • Princess Nokia
  • Orville Peck
  • 99 Neighbors
  • Jamie XX
  • Teamarrr
  • Yeek

And many more

Along with the main festival is a slate of Gov Ball After Dark shows with Bartees Strange, Freddie Gibbs, Bankrol Hayden, Loony, and more.

To learn more, go to:
The Governors Ball 10th Anniversary

September 24- 26, 2021
Citi Field

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