Twenty years ago I attended my first Buffalo Irish Festival
At that time, the festival was held at a restaurant on the downtown shores of Lake Erie that easily accommodated the wealth of Irish dancers, singers, musicians, vendors and food purveyors celebrating the Emerald Isle with thousands of Irish revelers….and those who wished they were!
One of the primary reasons I attended that year was the line-up of musicians performing throughout the three-day event. Being of Irish Descent, I’m a sucker for a ditty filled with fiddles, uilleann pipes, Bahrains, penny whistles or a well-played set of spoons.
It’s a passion I come by honestly as I grew up in a house where my mother’s Dennis Day’s Irish Favorites and Bing Crosby’s Shamrocks and Shillelaghs albums were played right along with my dad’s Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland collections.
It was, in fact, my mother’s devotion to Irish music that connected me with a duo of Irish singers/ musicians----brothers actually. Our introduction came about on March 12, 1999, the day my mother passed.
Being an only child, I was in charge of planning her funeral. While she hadn’t left specific instructions, I was determined that Irish music would be part of our family’s celebration of her life.
The main problem with my plan was that my mother’s funeral was set for March 15th, smack in the middle of St. Patrick’s High Holy Week. So it came as little surprise that every Irish band, duo and singer in Western New York was already booked.
The chances of me finding someone to perform Irish music at my mother’s funeral were seemingly slim and none. Then someone told me to call these Irish musician / brothers from Rochester.
With fingers crossed, I made the call and pled my case. With a time adjustment on my side and some creative scheduling on theirs, the brothers agreed to play the music for my mother’s funeral, beginning at the church through to the procession to the adjacent gravesite and at the “Irish wake” we held afterwards for family and friends at my home. By the end of that day of memories and mourning, the musical brothers John and Joe Dady, had officially become part of my family.
For years after my mother’s funeral I remained connected to The Dady Brothers traveling to concerts whenever they performed in Western New York.
With the advent of Facebook, Joe, John and I became “friends,” allowing us to stay in touch through good times and bad---the brothers’ annual trips to Ireland, the birth of my grandchildren, Joe’s heart attack and stroke, the passing of my father, the successful debut of a play using their original music, the publication of my books (especially Crown Hill that Joe read and loved), the addition of a recording studio in Joe's home where we talked about creating audio versions of my books. We celebrated. We mourned. and whenever we gathered in the name of Irish music, we reinforced our bond.
I continued to go to the Buffalo Irish Festival for years, timing my attendance with the Dady Brothers’ performances. It came to be a tradition within our “family.” That is until this year.
In the spring, Joe wrote a Facebook post that I can only imagine was close to impossible. In it he told all that he had been diagnosed with leukemia. Heavy chemotherapy followed by an injection of stem cells was the most aggressive and hopeful treatment. The challenge was finding a matching donor for the cells.
As in all good stories, John tested as a perfect match for his brother and without question, volunteered to undergo the surgery.
On April 24th, 2019, Joe received an infusion of life from John. Despite all efforts to the good, less than a month later Joe’s spirit gave up the fight and he passed.
Now it is August…time for the Buffalo Irish Festival. I am not attending this year. Somehow without Joe and John Dady, it was a bit too painful.
However, I decided to take Beauty & Grace to the festival as an exhibitor and share the book’s story of one of the main characters, Teagan Cormick, a young girl from Queenstown, County Cork.
And as I sit at my exhibitor’s table and talk about Teagan and Ireland, as Irish music from the festival stages filteri in and around me, I have no doubt that Joe Dady is here in spirit, fiddle in hand, a good story at the ready.
Is breá liom agus cailleann tú mo chara.
Written at the Buffalo Irish Festival Opening Day
Friday, September 24, 2019
In honor and memory of Joseph Bernard Dady