Irish-American Crossroads Festival: Dance, Music and More

There will be plenty of upbeat tunes and high-level Irish dancing during this weekend’s Children’s Dance and Music Hour – one of many events taking place in the Bay Area this month this as part of the 12th annual Irish-American Crossroads Festival.

“Every year we see all ages, from crawling babies to teenagers,” says Margaret McPeake, a professor at the University of San Francisco’s Santa Rosa campus and the festival’s co-producer with writer Hillary Flynn. “If you are interested in Irish music or dancing there is something for everyone.”

This year, youngsters from Marin’s Brosnan School of Irish Dance perform in everything from light jigs in soft shoes to rhythmic, joyful bagpipes performed in the kind of hard shoes that are a kind of precursor to American tap shoes.

“It’s a performance, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have little toddlers getting up and dancing to the music,” McPeake says.


The musical side of the hour will be well represented by violinist Darcy Noonan and flautist Autumn Rhodes, who will offer traditional tunes in what is called the sean nos, or old fashioned. Noonan and Rhodes, who also play the spooky tin whistle and accordion, will teach the youngsters some songs so the children can sing along in Gaelic.

The festival has long highlighted the intersections of Irish culture with various parts of the American experience, and more than a dozen literary and musical events continue throughout March, McPeake notes. On March 19, a Celtic celebration from Appalachia, drawing parallels between Irish music and early music, will debut at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley before heading to the Marin Center on March 21. And on March 22, there’s a Family Histories Workshop, where attendees can work with author Margaret Cooley on researching and composing your ancestry story.

On March 29, adults and children alike can listen to some of the fascinating oral histories of San Franciscans who came to America in the 1940s and 1950s. Stories from the former KRB Irish Dance Hall and the United Irish Cultural Center highlight the history of San Francisco seen through the eyes of a generation of Irish immigrants.

“We’re excited to explore Irish American themes, not just in music and literature, but also in local history and experiences,” McPeake said.

Mary Ellen Hunt is a freelance writer in San Francisco. Email: [email protected]

If you are going to

Irish-American Crossroads Festival: Children’s Dance and Music Hour: 11:30 a.m., Saturday, March 7. Free. Fisher Children’s Center, Second Floor, Main Library, 100 Larkin St., SF (415) 810-3774. www.irishamericancrossroads.org.

Gerald R. Schneider