2006-07-28 / Columnists

Notes from the High C's

Rockaway Music and Arts Council
by Sharon Gabriel

As I mentioned last week, our very special guest for our Sunset Picnic Concert this Sunday will be the one and only Andy Cooney and his Band.

If you have not seen him before, you are in for a treat. To quote The New York Times, he is "Irish America's Favorite Son," and with his dynamite voice and stage presence he plays right to the audience. His songs range from "Danny Boy" and "Galway Bay" to "Shannon River" and everything in between.

Cooney is one of nine children and began singing at the age of 5 years for family, friends and at church. His professional life really began about the age of 17 when he started appearing in many of the Irish venues around the city. His singing and piano playing caught the eye of Paddy Noonan, who asked him to tour with his show and he became known from coast to coast. He eventually struck out on his own in 1994 and the rest, as they say, is history. Once he left Paddy Noonan he selected several young men to tour with him at all types of Irish events and his band was formed. His Christmas and St. Patrick's Day concerts also starred many other talented Irish performers such as Deirdre Reilly, Dermot O'Brien, Joe Cuddy and many more, for special "high energy" concerts that include comedy and dance as well as music.

If you are a devotee of Irish music you know that Cooney has recorded many albums and he currently has at least nine solo releases. In 2002 his CD "Galway Shawl" became the number one selling CD for Rego Records, where he has recorded more than eight CD's. An all-star cast of musicians, including Cherish the Ladies' Joanie Madden (who has appeared with her band at our Picnic Concerts) and Des Moore from Riverdance have lent their talents to his arrangements. A duet with the Wolfe Tones' Derek Warfield on "Take Me Home To Mayo" is a must for serious Irish music fans.

If you saw the PBS special, "An Evening of Irish Classics," you know why Cooney is a favorite with everyone. His musicians from Ireland and America were joined on stage by the renowned Nashville String Machine and world class Irish dancers added a magical touch.

To say that Cooney is multi-talented would be an understatement. In addition to singing he is also a songwriter and music producer, neither of which is very easy to do. Having been in the entertainment business for many years, I can tell you being a singer, songwriter or producer, let alone all three, is not an easy job and more people and material is rejected than is recorded. It is a very hard business to enter and so you can more than appreciate all of his special talents.

Jim Mahoney of The Daily News has dubbed him "An American Gift to Ireland's Heritage." Now, with all that said, he has entered a totally new phase, country music, and he has worked with only the best and the finest including The Oak Ridge Boys, The Statlers, Larry Gatlin and Charlie Daniels, and you can't get any better than those names. Without realizing it, there is a great connection between Irish music and country music in that they both talk about people and relationships and the music is always close to the hearts of the performers, you can just see it when they sing.

Cooney's talent is never ending. Beginning in 1995 he became associated with The Cruise of Irish Stars and every year the cruise draws more than 1,000 Irish music fans from Ireland and The United States, Cooney has included Noel V. Ginnity, Tony Kenny, Dermot O'Brien, Deirdre Reilly and many more Irish performers on these cruises. In addition to all of that, he runs an annual Tour of Ireland with CIE Tours. I have just one question: when does this man sleep?

One time he certainly won't be sleeping is Sunday evening, July 30, 6 p.m. at Ft. Tilden, when he will be performing for you and the RMAC. This handsome, charming gentleman and his band will blow you away.

See you on Sunday, and by the way, don't forget to see me and become a member of the RMAC. Help us continue with these wonderful events.

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