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A celebration of Irish heritage in music and dance

LEWISTON – The Castellani Art Museum will celebrate the Emerald Isle in “A Celebration of Irish Music and Dance” from 2 to 4 p.m. March 8 at the gallery on the Niagara University campus.

The event is part of several programs in the Castellani Spring Art Folk Series.

Visitors will be invited to experience Irish heritage through music and demonstrations of traditional dance, such as “Ceili,” set step and “Sean Nos.” Also included will be a presentation on Irish history and culture by Bridget English, branch chairperson of Comhaltas, an international organization dedicated to the preservation and proliferation of Irish culture.

The program also will include musical performances by Stephanie Benson, an accomplished Irish fiddler, and her husband, Tim Benson, a craftsman and performer on the traditional Uilleann pipes.

Ted McGraw will perform on the button accordion. McGraw, chairman of the Archive Committee of the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, is also the creator, host and producer of the “Irish Party House”and “Ol’ Fiddler” weekly radio programs.

In addition to the music, there will demonstrations of how to make some of the food that are known for their Irish roots, including Irish soda bread.

“There are so many people in Western New York with Irish heritage. This event is a way for everyone to join in and learn about the rich heritage of Irish culture,” said Valerie Walawender, interim curator of folk arts at the museum.

English said her Comhaltas organization is a way for her to get in touch with her Irish side. She called set dancing, a centuries old social form of dancing.

“It’s the same kind of dancing as the step dancing, which is a competition step, but a lot easier to do, and a lot more fun. There’s no real competition. It’s just for enjoyment,” she said.

Admission is free for students with identification cards and Castellani Art Museum members. Admission is $10 for non-members. Memberships are available at the event. The program is open to all.

The event is made possible with support for the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts.

The next event in the folk art series will be “A Celebration of Balkan Traditions” on April 19.