Cooking up an Irish storm at the Big Apple Arts Center

Feast or Famine was the theme of the New York Irish Arts Center Irish Language Festival and Lá na Gaeilge on April 3. In Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, once a 1970s hub for poor and working-class Irish Americans, Gaeilgeoirí of all backgrounds and abilities come together for the center’s 2022 Celebration of the Irish Language.

“Welcome to our first day of Irish language in our new building,” announced Jessie Reilly, Director of Education, Family and Community Programming.

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The centre, founded in 1972, moved into its newly built state-of-the-art facilities late last year, and there was no better place to extend a cead míle fáilte to those who had come from near and far. for a taste of the Irish language.

And they came. They also brought the Irish climate with them. As the heavens opened, a wave of excitement rose among the crowd inside. A focal cúpla was uttered, and the scaifte mór quickly realized what he had missed. What they had wanted. This thirst for language. The spoken word. Comhra with a stranger. Connecting to a friend.

SOURDOUGH SEANCHAÍ: Manchán Magan served the Irish-language hors d’oeuvres at the Irish Arts Center in New York

Briana Lynch, a New Jersey native now living in Brooklyn NY, was thrilled to come to the festival and use the Irish she had learned throughout the pandemic. “It’s given me more confidence to go out and connect with people again across the language. After the pandemic, it’s really nice to remember that I can still talk to people and in Irish too.”

The day’s proceedings began with a poem read by Siobháin Ní Chiobháin, one of four in-house Irish language teachers, before everyone headed off to their workshops. “I like to think we have the best Irish language teachers in New York,” Reilly said.

Bia: The complex role of food in Ireland’s history and culture was explored in the day’s various workshops and offerings: a fun cooking class like Gaeilge with Caoimhe Nic Giollarnáith; a fascinating exploration of a Górta Mór through the Gaelic art forms of music and poetry with Joseph Jones; a Bord do Cheathrar course with restaurant and shopping vocabulary led by Paul Ferris; and a bilingual course on the indelible place of the potato in Irish culture with Ní Chiobháin.

When everyone had worked up an appetite from the workshops, they met at the café for tea and a chat, or a bit of caint agus craic. And if there was ceol to be heard, it was the harmonious sound of people coming together again, laughing again and connecting again: throughout the Irish language.

Maggie Hubbard, originally from Mississippi and now living in Brooklyn, NY, started learning the language at the Irish Arts Center during the pandemic and loves the Irish-speaking community. “It’s kind of become my little community away from home. And now I’m sucked in by the tongue. She felt that everything on offer during the festival really helped people like her, as beginners, to get “a better insight into the spirit behind the language, not just the grammar”.

Erick Boustead, from Wisconsin, who now lives in Carmel, NY, traveled over an hour and a half to get to the center. He first learned Irish when he completed an MA in Irish Studies, History and Literature at NUI Galway; his interest aroused by his mother’s grandparents coming from Ireland to America. He then found himself returning to further the language when his mother passed away. “Grief catalyzed my interest in the language,” he said. “Shortly after my mother passed away, he opened up this really intense interest in me because I had lost that family connection,” he said. “The festival keeps me in touch with the Irish-speaking community which I believe connects me to the history of the language.”

He was particularly keen to see the writer and documentarian Manchán Magan and his performance of Arán & Im. In Galway, his class friends had told Boustead about Magan, and when he first heard his podcast he was “blown away”.

There were two performances of Arán & Im de Magan. Indeed, many enjoyed it so much that they came back for a second serving.

Magan spoke of “the incantatory quality of the Irish language” as he lulled audiences into his world: a natural, non-traditional play capturing the history and beauty of the Irish language and its litany of lovable words, while cooking his sourdough bread. . As the scent rose to an enthralled crowd, only the bell of the oven interrupted their thoughts.

Ciotóg himself, Magan asked the crowd to twist the handle of an old-fashioned butter churn and turn cream into butter themselves as he continued his exploration of Irish words. If the audience were to be fed bread and butter, the host would make them work for it.

BUAILEADH BOS: The Irish Arts Center welcomes Caoimhe Nic Giollarnáith, Manchán Magan, Joseph Jones, Siobháin Ní Chiobháin and Paul Ferris.

BUAILEADH BOS: The Irish Arts Center welcomes Caoimhe Nic Giollarnáith, Manchán Magan, Joseph Jones, Siobháin Ní Chiobháin and Paul Ferris.

Who knew that a soothing and tenuous sounding word like cáithnín could mean so many things? Like “a bit of flour” – that unmeasured amount that Magan slipped between her fingers on the dough. Or “something small that gets into the eye and irritates it”. Maybe “a snowflake or even a subatomic particle”.

The show seemed to end too soon, but not quite, as the audience was invited to taste Magan’s bread and that butter they had churned with their own hands. Lots of nibbles and remarks of “blasta” and “iontach blasta” rang out throughout the satisfied theater.

There was another series of workshops, so that attendees had the chance to catch something interesting that they had missed the first time – and now they were connecting and reconnecting with people they had just come from. meeting for the first time that day.

Indiana’s Maria Walker, who now lives in Manhattan, came to the Irish language in a more roundabout way than most.

“I have a background in linguistics, so I started learning Irish because of its grammatical structure which is really interesting,” he explained. pay attention to the people who speak it. With Irish I found a wow factor – it’s an amazing group of people trying to keep this language alive.

She knew she would have nothing to fear coming to the center alone because she was convinced that the Irish-speaking community would make her feel at home. “I made friends as soon as I opened my mouth and started speaking Irish. Everyone is so welcoming in the community.

As the conversations continued, another dish was on the menu: the award-winning Irish-language film Arracht’ set in the dark and unforgiving landscape of Conamara during An Gorta Mór.

Pledges to meet again and form new Irish-speaking bands unfolded into the night as audiences made their way from the Irish Arts Center into the New York night and the end of a hit Féile na Gaeilge.

the The New York Irish Arts Center will offer Irish lessons repeat both in-person and online for each level of learner.

William E. Bennett