Fresno’s Mexican, Irish Artists Combine Talents at Benefit Event
By Kevin Hall
A unique bond shared by the Irish and Mexican peoples will be honored in a first-of-its-kind—at least for Fresno—St. Patrick’s Day benefit concert of traditional dance, song and music from both countries. See Paul Gilmore’s article for more information on this fascinating chapter in Mexican and U.S. history, but let me add I was completely unaware of the St. Patrick’s Battalion until recently. A friend raised in Mexico City told me that not only had they learned about it in school but that it also had left an important legacy. In that, when they wanted someone to do the right thing, to be honorable, people would say, “Be like the Irish.”
In addition to raising money for the Community Alliance, this year’s concert will fund DREAM Act scholarships for college-bound Latino students who lack residency status or U.S. citizenship. Just as the hundreds of thousands of Irish people who fled their oppressed, devastated country throughout the 19th century struggled to overcome prejudice and discrimination in the United States, today we see the same struggle being waged by immigrants from Mexico and countries throughout the Americas. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
We see this celebration not as a tribute to a devastatingly violent war, but as homage to the courage, dignity and respect of those who stood up to tyranny. Always through peaceful means but with the same depth of conviction, many in our community continue the struggle. The work never ends, but it is always healthily reinvigorating to celebrate the joys of culture, of community and of kinship. So join us for this evening of respite and rejuvenation.
The following artists will be donating their talents and time to this benefit concert. The list of performers is still growing so expect a few surprises, but it is clearly going to be an amazing evening. Please join us and spread the word!
The McTeggart Irish Dancers
The McTeggarts are an ever-changing group of dancers interested in traditional Irish step dancing. Their director, Fresno resident Maureen McTeggart Hall, is a master of the art who teaches classes in Fresno, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Lexington. As a young girl in Ireland, she and her siblings were taken throughout the newly independent country by her IRA-veteran father, Tom McTeggart, to be taught by the elderly dance masters. She is the longest active teacher in North America having taught continually here since 1959. The Fresno class meets every Wednesday night and beginners are always welcome. Dancers performing will include Richelle Dadian, Kaleigh Lawrence, Ryan Nabors and Maureen’s grandson Joey Hall.
Grupo Folklórico de Fresno City College
Grupo Folklórico de Fresno City College is composed of the students in the Advanced Class of Mexican folk dance offered by the college. They are taught and directed by Dr. Ma. Guadalupe Castro Páramo. The philosophy of the group is to learn and perform dances in their most authentic form. Not as a copy of the Ballet Folklórico de Mexico, but as the people who originate the dances—in their place of origin—do them. Dr. Castro travels to Mexico periodically to learn new dances and brings back videos, photographs, music and prototypical costumes that can be re-created in detail here. Therefore, the performances are less exaggerated in terms of the moves and accessories, but richer in content with more variety of steps combinations and a higher degree of difficulty.
Roscanna is a blend of family and friends who have been playing music together for more years than their youngest member has been alive. Larry Cusick plays fiddle, Irish flute and uilleann pipes. Larry has enjoyed playing traditional Irish music for several decades. Susan Heidebrecht plays the bodhran, the Irish drum. Susan and Larry are married and have played music together for 24 years. Neil Cusick is the son of Larry and Susan. Neil plays Irish flute, low whistle, guitar and clarinet. Kathryn Johnsen has been enjoying music all of her life. She currently loves sacred harp singing, Taize, weekly Irish sessions, the Fresno Harp Circle and her two ensembles, Rosetree and Pipe on the Hob. Jim Michael has been playing with various Irish and barn dance bands in Fresno, Visalia, Yosemite and Northern California since the 1980s. Best known as a singer and guitar player, Jim began his musical career busking in Southern California in the early 1970s.
Fresno Harp Circle
The Harp Circle is a place for adult enthusiasts to enjoy playing harp in a cooperative, relaxed and fun environment. A circle is a place to expand one’s knowledge of repertoire and styles, to challenge one’s technical level and musicianship while learning new sorts of skills and refining musicianship, and a place to enjoy friendship with others who share one’s love of an amazing instrument. Members performing on St. Patrick’s Day are Laura Olson, Anita Pazeian, Mary Smith, Frances Smith, Kathryn Johnsen, Bianca Botha Terrazas, Alice Cover and Laura Porter.
Amelia Ryan has been singing Irish songs from her mother’s record collection since she was a child. After studying theater and music in the United States and Austria, she pursued an opera career in Germany, where she also sang with the traditional Irish folk band Strange Vibrations. Since moving to Fresno in 1996, she has occasionally acted and sung on Fresno stages, most recently in The Light in the Piazza with Stageworks Fresno and All My Sons with the Woodward Shakespeare Festival. This summer, she will be performing again with the Woodward Shakespeare Festival in The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V.
Central Valley DREAM Team
Half of the proceeds raised at the St. Patrick’s Day Benefit Concert will be used to assist undocumented students with the resources necessary to attend college and to advocate for passage of the federal DREAM Act.
The funds will be administered by the Central Valley Dream Team, a Fresno-based community organization that defends higher education rights for undocumented students by providing a network of support, as well as advocating for the DREAM Act and other pro-immigrant legislation.
The federal DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation that would allow high-achieving undocumented youth a pathway toward citizenship through higher education or service in the military. Meanwhile, the California DREAM Act will provide access for state and institutional financial aid to AB 540 students. AB 540 students are undocumented students, out-of-state citizens, and immigrants with restrictive visas that are exempt from paying out-of-state tuition at public universities. To qualify, AB 540 students must have attended a California high school for at least three years and earned a high school diploma or GED.
For further information, visit www.facebook.com/CVDREAM.
Saturday, March 17 • 7 p.m. (Doors open at 6:30 p.m.) Tickets: $15 advance, $20 at the door, $5 for students. This event will take place at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium (Fresno and O Streets in downtown Fresno) where there will be open seating.
This event is a benefit for the Community Alliance newspaper and DREAM Act scholarships. Sponsors are the Community Alliance newspaper, the Central Valley Dream Team, KFCF 88.1 FM, Fresno City College MEChA, the Communities for a New California Education Fund, Radio Bilingue and the Fresno Folklore Society.
Tickets available at Café Corazon, 1306 N. Wishon, Fresno in the Tower District; and Patrick’s Music, 769 E. Barstow, in Fresno. For more information call (559) 994-9390.