Irish eyes smile on Los Banos for Big Night benefit

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comMarch 8, 2013 

Traditional Irish reels, jigs, hornpipes and polkas will set the mood at a St. Patrick's Day fundraiser in the Ted Falasco Arts Center.

Based in the Bay Area, the Gas Men is made up of four Irish expatriates and one American-born musician who've played from Alaska to Argentina. The quintet will perform during Big Night, the Los Banos Arts Council's biggest earner of the year. It's planned March 17 at the Arts Center, 1105 Fifth St. Doors open at 5 p.m.; tickets are $65.

Cormac Gannon, who sings and plays a one-sided drum called a bodhran, said Americans pine for the sounds of the Emerald Isle.

"All through the last century, I'd say, Irish music has been very popular in the U.S.," Gannon said in his brogue, adding the first recordings were made stateside.

"We find audiences are really into it, maybe even more so than in Ireland," he said.

Gannon said Irish music often carries the sound of the penny whistle, uilleann pipes, fiddles and a unique rhythm. Other common instruments are the banjo, mandolin, flute and accordion.

Gannon, 51, has been in the United States 21 years. He grew up in County Mayo, which is in western Ireland.

"I was actually traveling around the world, an around-the-world-trip," Gannon said, adding he stopped in Marin County. "I met my wife here and didn't go any further."

Gannon said the bandmates met during music sessions at The Plough and the Stars Pub in San Francisco. He said the bar is well known in Irish music circles and he quickly met some of the other musicians in jam sessions, which are common.

"Whenever you have a house party, which I'm having one this weekend, we'll have 10, 15, 20 musicians come," he said. "It'll turn out that a lot of the people will know the tunes, so everyone can kind of play together.

"It a community thing."

Arts fundraiser

Organizers plan to decorate the arts center like a castle, hold an auction and serve a four-course meal. The Ted Falasco Arts Center tops out at 175 seats, and organizers said sales are nearing capacity.

The proceeds assist the council's concert series and other art-related events.

For tickets, call Cyndi Roelofs at (209) 826-6132.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

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