PCS 31st Anniversary - 1st in a Series

Marilyn, Emily, Fay and Peg










Episode One – The Tribe

“We were a tribe.” Marilyn stated matter-of-factly. “We did everything together.”

“Marilyn made it all happen.”Fay added “She has wonderful ideas.” “Follow through? Well.., she’s very good at getting other people to do things.”

I’m at Cassidy’s bar in Northwest Portland sitting across a table from Fay Malloy and Marilyn Zornado, two of the founding members of the Portland Ceili Society.

Over the course of several Irish coffees, and hours of wonderful stories two things have become apparent to me: 1) The friendship these two share is a beautiful thing – something Hollywood could easily turn into a “buddy flick,” and 2) the founders of the PCS had a deep love of Irish music and dance - and were in the right place at the right time – perhaps more accurately, their actions and passion helped create that right place. As a result, Portland had a unique opportunity to experience Irish music at levels that no other city (outside of Ireland) could match

Now that I think about, I guess there was a third theme that became obvious in our talk – the founders of PCS loved to party. “It was sex, drugs and Irish music.” Marilyn joked.

The “tribe” lived mostly in Northwest Portland in the mid to late 1970’s. “We were young. Rents there were cheap.” Fay said.

Initially though, the average age of an Irish dance enthusiast in Portland was not so young. Fay explained “At that time, Brother Eugene was teaching an Irish dance class at St. Rita’s Church on Prescott”

“To a group of Septuagenarians.”Marilyn frowned.

“Yeah, so Marilyn would keep these lists with her wherever she went and any time someone would show the slightest interest in Irish music or dance, she would take down their name and number.” Fay recalled. “She even placed ads in the paper looking for younger dancers! She would call you if you missed an event – ‘Where were you last night?’”

“Well, I wasn’t going to keep dancing with a bunch of octogenarians.” (Apparently Brother Eugene’s class was aging rapidly).

Next Installment: Picnics, Folk Life and Ballots at a Deadlocked “Convention”

Jack Kenny

The Portland Ceili Society, established in 1981, will be running a series of posts commemorating our 31st Anniversary (The Board wanted to commemorate our 30th Anniversary but I procrastinated).

Ceili Friday Feb. 17th

Friday Feb. 17, 8pm-12am
PPAA, 618 SE Alder Street
Portland, OR

Music by:
Sean McComiskey
Bob Soper
Elizabeth Nicholson
Chaning Dodson

Plus guest performances by: SNNW staff www.seannos.org

About Sean:
Seán McComiskey, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, is the son of famed button accordionist Billy McComiskey. Having learned under the tutelage of his father, Seán’s personal musical style has afforded him many great accolades as a performer and teacher at some North America’s most prominent music festivals and concert halls. He currently performs with fiddler Cleek Schrey and sean-nós dancers Kieran Jordan and Shannon Dunne as The Kitchen Quartet.

SNNW & PCS Join this February!




Portland Ceili Society and Sean-nos NorthWest join together for a weekend of Irish culture. 

5th Annual Sean-nós Northwest Festival February 17th, 18th  and 19th 2012
PPAA & Multnomah Village, Portland, OR 

The 5th annual Sean-nós Northwest festival returns to Portland, Oregon for the third weekend of February 2012.  SNNW aims to promote and educate the community at large on the sean-nós or “old-style” of interpretive percussive dance and unaccompanied song.  These art forms, both emanating from the Irish Gaelic speaking adistricts of Ireland, are rather apart from the stage craft of the many ubiquitous Irish dance shows touring the globe today.  You are invited to come and witness the remarriage of music, song and dance during this weekend-long celebration featuring workshops, performances, and sessions open to the public!

The festival opens Friday night with a dance at the PPAA, 618 SE Alder Street and continues Saturday and Sundazy with events held at the Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Hwy and the Lucky Labrador Public House, 7675 SW Capitol Hwy. The festival will conclude with a concert on Sunday, 7pm at the Lucky Labrador.  

The Friday night ceili is sponsored by the Portland Ceili Society. The band for then evening will be Sean McComiskey, Bob Soper, Elizabeth Nicholson and Chaning Dodson. Also joining them for performance will be all the SNNW festival artists. It's a ceili not to be missed. 

Heading the weekend of festivities will be singer Micheál Ó Cuaig and dancer Ronan Regan, both natives of County Galway located in the culturally rich west of Ireland.  Micheál, from Cill Chiaráin in Connemara, is a singer, poet and retired educator who currently organizes the annual Féile Joe Einniú—a festival celebrating the life of Joe Heaney, a highly respected sean-nós singer who spent a considerable amount of time in the Pacific Northwest before his death in 1984.  Micheál has also served as Sean-Nós Singer in Residence at the Centre for Irish Studies at the National University of Ireland in Galway, where he helped promote the traditions of his upbringing.  Ronan, from the thriving art center of Galway City, is a dancer, fiddler and educator who has toured extensively, promoting the tradition of sean-nós dancing throughout Europe and North America.  He has also produced two instructional sean-nós dancing DVDs and in 2012 won the All-Ireland Sean-nós Dance competition at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann hosted in Co. Cavan.       


 Also headlining the festival will be Traolach Ó Riordáin and Seán McComiskey.  Traolach, a native of County Cork in the south of Ireland, will be featured as this year’s premiere Irish language instructor.  Holding a PhD in Irish Literature from the National University of Ireland, he has taught at the University of Notre Dame as well as the University of Montana where he helped establish a program of Irish Studies.  He has lived in Missoula, Montana for over a decade now promoting the Irish language at the community and university level.  Seán McComiskey, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, is the son of famed button accordionist Billy McComiskey.  Having learned under the tutelage of his father, Seán’s personal musical style has afforded him many great accolades as a performer and teacher at some North America’s most prominent music festivals and concert halls.  He currently performs with fiddler Cleek Schrey and sean-nós dancers Kieran Jordan and Shannon Dunne as The Kitchen Quartet.

Seán Williams, lecturer of Ethnomusicology and Irish Studies at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and Bob Burke, lecturer of Irish language at Marylhurst University in Portland, Oregon will be joined by a host of local professionals including sean-nós dancer and instructor Maldon Meehan, singer and recent president of the Portland Folk Music Society David Ingerson and public speaker Kimberly Goetz to round out the weekend festivities, which joyously celebrate the cultural richness of Ireland.  

Press page with photos, videos and bios. 

Dance Workshops with Patrick O'Dea

Monday February 13, 2012

Irish Set Dancing Workshop, 7:00pm
Collins View Dance and Art School
318 SW Palatine Hill Rd, Portland, OR
Admission: cash only please  $10 per person with pre-registration , $15  at door  
(Student w/school ID: $5 per person with pre-registration or $10 day of event)
Contact: For additional info call:   Betty Woerner  (503) 244-1593 or  Judy Russell (503) 452-7544  
Shoes: Low heels with smooth/slick soles best, avoid gym/running shoes if possible
Irish Old-style Step Dance Workshop, 3:30pm
Stomptown Collective AudioCinema Building 226 SE Madison Street, Portland, OR
Admission: $15 general, $10 studio members
Contact: Maldon Meehan (503) 206-9311


Patrick O'Dea of Roscommon Ireland will be in Portland for one night only to teach Traditional Irish Set Dances and Old-style step dance. Set are lively Irish dances similar to square dances. Patrick has taught throughout Europe, Japan, Ireland, the US, and is a regular instructor at the Willie Clancy Summer Festival in Ireland. Beginners are encouraged to join the fun.  No experience needed, all dancing taught and called. His vast experience and humorous personality will get your feet moving in the right direction. Patrick is highly regarded for his Munster style footwork & keeps the old set dancing traditions alive by generously passing steps on. Come learn a dance or two and have a lot of fun!



From Wikipedia:
"Stepdancing as a modern form is descended directly from old-style step dancing. There are several different forms of stepdancing in Ireland… but the style most familiar to the public at large is the Munster, or southern, form, which has been formalised by An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha—the Irish Dancing Commission. Irish step dancing is primarily done in competitions, public performances or other formal settings."


"Old-Style step dancing
Old-style step dancing is a tradition related to, yet distinct from, sean-nós dancing, though it is sometimes called "Munster-style sean-nós". Old-style step dancing evolved in the late 18th and early 19th century from the dancing of traveling Irish dance masters. The dance masters slowly formalised and transformed both solo and social dances. Modern masters of old-style step dancing style can trace the lineage of their steps directly back to 18th century dancers.


The Irish dance masters refined and codified indigenous Irish dance traditions. Rules emerged about proper upper body, arm, and foot placement. Also, dancers were instructed to dance a step twice—first with the right foot then with the left. Old-style step dancers dance with arms loosely (but not rigidly) at their sides. They dance in a limited space. There is an emphasis on making percussive sound with the toes. The Irish dance masters of this period also choreographed particular steps to particular tunes in traditional music creating the solo set dances such as the Blackbird, St. Patrick's Day, and the Job of Journey Work, which also persist in Modern Irish Step Dancing. In this context, "set dance" signifies a separate tradition from the social dance tradition also called set dance."