One would be hard-pressed to find a more appropriate musical group to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with than The Irish Descendants. But that’s what’s happening this year as the Newfoundland folk group takes to Halifax’s Light House Arts Centre on March 17 after a nearly eight-year absence from the city.
What better place to go for a St. Patrick’s Day event and hang out with us and hear our little versions of those songs? – Con O’Brien
“Halifax was a regular stomping ground for us for two or three years,” says the band’s frontman Con O’Brien. “I always say that our first world tour was going over to play at The Lower Deck, and we would make enough money to buy a bushel of sterling apples on the way home and pay for the gas.”
The only remaining OG member of The Irish Descendants, O’Brien says the group’s early days, both in Halifax and across the country, helped to solidify its fan base. They also benefited from being one of the first on the scene with their brand of music.
“When we first started, we weren’t the only game in town, but we were one of a very small number of Irish folk bands,” he says. “The resurgent in our type of music, which we probably had a little hand in, certainly spawned an awful lot of great musicianship and interest in this type of music and interest in where we come from and who we are.”
But while their early fans have been the mainstay for the band since they first formed in 1990, O’Brien says the next generation of Irish music lovers continues to propel them.
“What I’m finding now is that 33 years into this saga, we’re running across these 20 to 25-year-olds who have become fans and know all the words to the songs,” he says.
O’Brien says he often gets calls and emails from young fans around Newfoundland’s Witless Bay, where he lives.
“They tell me they are having a shed party and ask me to come over,” he says. “I do go on occasion, and it is incredible. There are fiddles, accordions, guitars, mandolins and great singing. And coming from the Irish heart of Newfoundland, that’s quite a natural thing.”
So how did an Irish folk group from Newfoundland, who have travelled in the past as far away as Australia on St. Patrick’s Day, find themselves playing Halifax in 2023? Sometimes it is all about who you know.
“We have a personal connection with this gig as the people who run [The Light House Arts Centre] are all friends in the business,” says O’Brien. “About a year or so into COVID, they were talking about this new place they were opening up and expressed interest in us performing. And we’re finally getting an opportunity to do it.”
Besides the personal connection, O’Brien also looks forward to “reach old friends and make some new ones.”
“What better place to go for a St. Patrick’s Day event and hang out with us and hear our little versions of those songs?” he says.
And while Halifax will have an opportunity to enjoy a St. Patrick’s Day concert by The Irish Descendants, fans around the country will have an opportunity to see the band live as they make their way coast-to-coast this summer. And for those who might not be able to make it out, O’Brien says they also have a new Christmas album in the works.
“That’ll be ready sometime before the summertime rolls around and will be out just in time for our upcoming Christmas tour,” says O’Brien.
The Irish Descendants play at the Light House Arts Centre (1800 Argyle St, Halifax) on March 17. Visit lighthouseartscentre.ca for tickets and information.