CRANFORD, NJ — On Thursday, March 16, husband and wife duo Dennis Gormley and Kathy DeAngelo performed traditional Irish music at Cranford Community Center. The duo call themselves “McDermott’s Handy,” in honor of fiddler Ed McDermott.
“I learned to play Irish music from my mother who was Irish,” DeAngelo said during the performance. “She used to sing songs to the children around the house. I also learned from Ed McDermott, a fiddler, although I didn’t start to play the fiddle until after he died.”
The duo plays a variety of instruments. DeAngelo sings and plays Irish harp, fiddle and banjo. She also adds the bodhran and mandolin on occasion. Gormley sings and plays guitar, flute, tin whistle, bouzouki and mandolin.
“Ireland is the only country that has an instrument as its national symbol,” DeAngelo said in reference to the harp she played. “I had expressed interest in learning to play the harp, and one day I found one in the middle of my living room. Dennis surprised me with it, and I learned to play. I still have that harp. I also host the largest harp festival in the country. It takes place each year in north New Jersey. There are harps of all sizes and shapes at the festival. We try to get a lot of different instruments people may not see.”
At the Community Center performance on March 16, the duo played a song in honor of St. Patrick for the Irish holiday that would take place the following day. The song tells the story of St. Patrick and how he was captured to become a slave in Ireland.
“This song is loosely based on St. Patrick,” DeAngelo said. “It talks about how he was captured by the Irish raiders in England as a slave and escaped home. Then he returns to Ireland to convert them to Christianity.”
The shamrock was also discussed as a symbol of the trinity. Many people mistake the four-leaf clover as the Irish symbol.
“The shamrock is a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day, not the four-leaf clover,” Gormley said. “The three leaves represent the trinity. The four-leaf clover has no connection to St. Patrick.”
The duo performed a song called “My Maryanne,” which was sung to DeAngelo by her mother. They finished with a song called “Isle of Hope,” a song about the immigrants who came to Ellis Island.
“We dedicate this song to all the immigrants that came to this country and those who have yet to come,” DeAngelo told the audience. “The song mentions Annie Moore, who was an early Irish immigrant to enter the country. There is a statue of her on a pier looking back to Ireland. The song was recently composed, and it is one of the best about coming to America and what it must have been like.”
The audience enjoyed the performance very much and found the duo to be humorous and talented.
“I thought the performance was wonderful,” Susan Meagher of Garwood told Cranford Life in an interview after the performance. “They were humorous, traditional and multi-talented. I’d like to see them again.”
Many of the residents were seeing them for the second time.
“I loved it,” Anne Jacquin of Cranford told Cranford Life in an interview after the performance. “I saw them last year and came again because I enjoyed it so much. I’d like it to be an annual tradition.”
The Irish music put some people in the spirit for St. Patrick’s Day.
“It was fun,” Joanne Pulaski of Cranford told Cranford Life in an interview after the performance. “I got into the Irish spirit, and everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. The music was really good.”