St. Patrick's Day activities start early, go late
St. Patrick's Day once was a one-day event on March 17 that involved the wearing of the green and a few drinks at the local pub. These days the celebration of all things Irish has turned into almost a month of activities.
St. Patrick's Day Parade
In Pittsburgh, the big event is Saturday's St. Patrick's Day Parade. The Downtown parade -- which can be traced back to 1869 and has occurred annually since 1950 -- will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, starting at the Greyhound Bus Station at Liberty Avenue and 11th Street. It will proceed to Grant Street, then turn right onto Boulevard of the Allies to the reviewing stand on Stanwix Street.
Look for "Miss Irish Smiling Eyes" of 2011, the queen of the parade. As always, there will be floats, marching bands and Irish dancers.
The theme of the parade, as always, is "A Just Peace in the North of Ireland." It's a free, family event -- no alcohol is permitted. Details: www.pittsburghirish.org/parade .
After the parade, head over to Fifth Avenue Place for "St. Patrick's Day Family Fun." The free family festival from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. features face-painting, games, crafts (making leprechaun hats and Irish pennants) and more with the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.
Altan, the traditional Irish band, will continue its 25-year trip, which has taken it from Ireland to the White House, on Thursday evening at the Byham Theater, Downtown.
The band, which features Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh on vocals and fiddle, is seen as one of the most energetic groups focusing on the traditional sound.
The group played at the White House for President Clinton and then entertained him again when he was in Ireland. It also has played at venues from the Sydney Opera House in Australia to the Hollywood Bowl.
The band also has performed with everyone from The Chieftains to Ricky Skaggs and Alison Krauss.
Music begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Admission is $20.75 and $35.75.
Details: 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org .
The Tartan Terrors combine music, comedy and dance for a high-energy show that features a champion bagpiper, drum tones from around the world and guitar-playing.
The lively Canadian group will perform its Celtic variety show at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Palace Theatre, Greensburg.
Details: 724-836-8000 or www.thepalacetheatre.org .
If you want a full day of Irish entertainment and more and an indoor venue, head to Stage AE on the North Side from 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday.
Besides bands, the event will feature Irish food, refreshments, marketplace, children's activities, sing-alongs and Irish dogs. Live music will be provided by Guaranteed Irish, Matthew Craig and the Kerry Tipper Band, Soul Searchers, Callan, BBI, Cueball, The Elliotts, Pittsburgh Police Emerald Society Pipes and Drum Band.
Dance performances will be by Bell School of Irish Dance, Burke Conroy School of Irish Dance, Pittsburgh Irish Reelers, Shovlin Academy of Irish Dance.
Admission: $10; $8 for age 60 and older, military and students with ID.
Celtic Woman is always the same as much as it is always different.
The quartet of Irish singers each year brings to its shows bits of traditional Gaelic music, some it from centuries ago. But each year, it also adds in newer songs, such as its beautiful rendition of Billy Joel's "Goodnight My Angel."
In doing that, it continues to feature the marvelous whirlwind fiddling of Mairead Nesbitt, but also adds new performers, such as Lisa Lambe, who is on her first swing with the group.
That change-amid-the-constant theme is true for this year's Pittsburgh show, as the lasses will make their first stop at the new Consol Energy Center, Uptown. The group previously has performed at the Byham Theater, the Benedum Center and Mellon Arena.
One thing is certain: the show will be spectacular.
Celtic Woman will perform 7:30 p.m. March 18. Tickets are $30 to $82.40.
Details: 800-745-3000 .
You can learn more about Ireland, its music, dance and other traditions both on television and at movie theaters this month.
• "Visions of Ireland," a helicopter point-of-view tour of Ireland -- from the remote, mist-shrouded Skellig Islands to the windswept Cliffs of Moher -- will run at 5 p.m. Saturday, and again at noon March 17 on WQED-TV.
• "When Irish Eyes are Smiling: An Irish Parade of Stars (My Music)," an archival program featuring some of Ireland's most famous ballads and folk songs, performed by legendary vocalists and narrated by Malachy McCourt, will air at 8 p.m. March 17 on WQED-TV.
• "Lord of the Dance 3-D" opens wide in movie theaters on March 17. Since 1996, the live show has grossed more than $1 billion. Starring the show's creator, producer and director Michael Flatley, the film version will be on screens for one week only, telling a story of good versus evil taken from Irish folklore, through dance and music.
'A Thinking Person's St. Pat's'
The Gypsy Cafe on the South Side will present this alternative celebration of Irish cuisine and literature on March 16.
The Dog & Pony Show Theater will present actors Karen Baum, Lissa Brennan, Martin Giles, John Gesh and Cheryl Young reading excerpts from Irish classics, mythology and contemporary fiction. There will be a four-course meal, "A Tribute to the Travellers," and Irish beer and drink specials. Admission is $40, and benefits theater programs in area libraries.
Doors open at 6 p.m., the fun starts at 8 p.m. Reservations recommended. Gypsy Cafe, 1330 Bingham St., South Side.
Live Irish music
There will be plenty of bands with a flair for Irish music playing during the next two weeks. Mullaney's Harp and Fiddle Pub (412-642-6622) in the Strip District will have full week of musical attractions, starting tonight with Finnegan's Wake, playing with Red Hand Paddy, at 9 p.m. There will be music from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and March 17 with Mark Guiser, Whiskey Limerick, Hooley, Red Hand Paddy, McClorey & Manning, Guaranteed Irish. Finnegan's Wake (412-325-2601) on the North Side will have live music starting at 3 p.m. and into the night on March 17.
Here are just some of the other Irish-influenced bands playing this week:
Callan: 6-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Park House, North Side. 412-224-2273. 7 p.m. March 17, North Country Brewing Company, Slippery Rock. 724-794-2337.
Corned Beef and Curry: 2 p.m. Saturday and March 17, Getaway Cafe, Brookline. 412-343-1333.
Hooley: 3-5 p.m. Saturday, Claddagh Irish Pub, South Side. 412-381-4800. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 17, Claddagh Irish Pub, South Side. 412-381-4800.
Michael Murphy and the Shannon River Band: 10 p.m. Saturday, Backdraft Bar & Grille, Baldwin. 412-885-1239. 3-7 p.m. Sunday, Rivers Casino, North Side. 412-231-7777. 10 p.m. Sunday, Finnegan's Wake, North Side. 412-325-2601.
Na Gaels: 7 p.m. Saturday, Irish Centre of Pittsburgh, Squirrel Hill. $20. 724-689-5140. 6 p.m. March 17, Gaelic Mass and reception, Irish Centre of Pittsburgh, Squirrel Hill.
Red Hand Paddy: 3-6 p.m. March 17, Claddagh Irish Pub, South Side. 412-381-4800.
Irish pub rules
Killian Lett, the 26-year-old great-great-great-great grandson of the creator of the iconic beer George Killian's Irish Red, is coming to the States to experience an American St. Paddy's Day in Chicago. He's helping to introduce a series of "pub rules" to explain the etiquette and traditions of pub culture in Ireland -- and sell George Killian's Irish Red, of course.
In between studying for exams, he answered a few questions about the "Pub Rules" (listed below).
"The Pub Rules are important because in Ireland, every day is celebrated like St. Patrick's Day, so there is no excuse to (be) acting like an idiot," Lett says. "The cost of not knowing the rules could end up costing you a round or two of beer.
Besides promoting his family's beer, Lett sees this as a sort of cultural exchange.
"The Killian's Irish Red Pub Rules were created to show Americans how to celebrate St. Patrick's Day like the Irish do, with proper etiquette at a bar. The rules are common knowledge to the people of Ireland and we want to share some of our bar culture with Americans."
He does have a favorite rule.
"I personally enjoy the first rule: 'The last mate to arrive shall be the first to buy the next round,' " Lett says. "I am usually the first one at the bar, so I always get my first drink free!"
Killian's Irish Red is based on a recipe that was first brewed at Lett's Brewery in Enniscorthy, Ireland, in 1864, but is now owned by Colorado-based Coors. It is not sold in Ireland.
George Killian's 'Pub Rule'
1. The last mate to arrive shall be the first to buy the next round.
2. Saying it louder does not make your point stronger.
3. He who loses a round of darts or billiards shall buy the next round of pints.
4. Tip unto bartenders as you would want tipped unto you.
5. Be slow to trust a man who shan't be found when it's his turn to buy a round.
6. Come for the entertainment. Try not to become the sideshow.
7. Holler at your quarterback, first baseman or goalkeeper. But never at the barkeep.
8. Every American is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of a proper pint.
9. An accidentally spilled pint deserves a moment of silence.
10. In here, we leave our mothers out of it.
— Michael Machosky