It has probably been pretty quiet around the parish of Ballyduff (population 500) in County Waterford as its primary entertaining troupe, known as The Booley House, came calling to New York. The visiting contingent – who raised their own funds – was 57 strong and their mission besides having the bit of craic on holiday was to promote the rather vibrant music and dance tradition in Waterford.
The Booley House was performed for 12 years every Wednesday night in St. Michael’s Hall in Ballyduff in July and August where tourists are their main audience. They made the most of their week in New York with an opening night in Rory Dolan’s for their family and friends last Wednesday before the first public performance in White Plains last Thursday night for an appreciative and packed audience at the Westchester Civic Center.
They headed up to the Catskills for a Villa Rome appearance on Saturday and then they capped off the brief but very successful visit with a sold out concert at Nyack’s Helen Hayes Theater last Monday evening.
The Booley House presentation that I witnessed on Monday in Nyack managed to strike that balance between an amateur and professional performance that one likes to see in traditional music and dance shows like this, of which, I have seen and organized quite a few.
Shanachai and Fear an Ti Jim Lenane served as an effective guide throughout the program and delivered those marvellous stories long associated with Ireland’s greatest storyteller, Eamonn Kelly, with great skill and timing.
The overall programme was folksy and sentimental without being sappy, mostly because the performers approached it from a well-honed personal perspective. Bernadette Browne proved a capable singer of those tourist staples like “Danny Boy” and “Galway Bay” while also rendering in contemporary fashion “The Spanish Lady” made popular by Mairead and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill.
Clare box player Bobby Gardiner, who lives close by, also was a guest artist for this tour. The step and set dancing choreographed by Ciara Dunne and Tom Hyland respectively was superb and spot on to the traditional music arranged in a manner by Tony Dunne and Gerry Harrington that provided a lively swing to spur on the complement of eighteen dancers.
The brush dance performed by a pair of 11-year old boys and girls was the best that I have seen as the foursome exhibited some nimble footwork and style throughout as it segues into a very fine figure of a set led by dancing master Tom Hyland.
If this show is any indication it should be crystally clear that a visit to The Booley House in Ballyduff, Waterford should be on your itinerary if you like traditional music and dance with a flair and a pride for its native origins”.
The Irish Voice, New York, 22nd April 2004