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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the April 9, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Cherish the Boys, Too

Although the Cherish the Ladies "ladies" have

become female music legends in their own right, their latest album,

"The Girls Won’t Leave the Boys Alone," features a panoply

of legendary boys — Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, the Clancy Brothers,

Mick Moloney, Brian Kennedy, Liam O’Flynn, Paddy Reilly, Tom Chapin,

John McCutcheon, to name just a few.

"The Girls Won’t Leave the Boys Alone" (on the Windham Hill

label), opens with the luscious sound of a cappella harmony for "The

Broom of the Cowdenknowes," a 300-year-old Scottish lament. The

album spins its way through of 13 songs, jigs, and reels, ending with

the special flourish of the Cherish the Ladies instrumental magic.

The all-woman ensemble of instrumentalists, singers, and dancers,

comes back to the area for a Concerts at the Crossing show at the

Princeton Community Church, Pennington, on Saturday, April 12, at

8 p.m.

Led by Joanie Madden on flutes, whistles, and vocals, the group features

Mary Coogan on guitar, mandolin, and banjo; Donna Long, piano and

keyboards; Marie Reilly, who joined the band last year, on fiddle

and tin whistle; and its newest member, lead vocalist Heidi Talbot

from County Kildare, who brings a new layer of tradition to the group.

The title of the new album gives an accurate, tongue-in-cheek nod

to the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Maken early ’60s album, "The

Boys Won’t Leave the Girls Alone." Here, it’s truly a case of

the girls pestering the boys. "The Girls Won’t Leave the Boys

Alone" is the group’s biggest collaborative effort of their 14-year,

eight-album career. In addition to a cavalcade of guy guests

— including the brothers, fathers, and sons of the "ladies"

— it features performances by vocalists Deirdre Connolly, featured

singer during 2000-2001, as well as her predecessor, Aoife Clancy,

a five-year member of the group. The track the holds the dearest tribute

to these musicians’ musical families is "The Queen of Connemara,"

a track that includes a song and a pair of Irish jigs.

Joanie Madden founded in the early 1980s. And folklorist Mick Moloney

was the catalyst. Moloney heard the caliber of the Irish-American

competitors in the All-Ireland festival, got interested, and started

to research the role of women in Irish music. Although, historically

speaking, they were scarcely represented, Moloney decided that it

was time to showcase an Irish women’s performing group.

The skeptical Madden decided to humor Moloney in what she thought

was an outrageous idea, and three concerts were scheduled in New York

in the fall of 1983. "What shall we call the group?" Moloney

wondered aloud. Madden chose the name "Cherish the Ladies"

after the well-known Irish song. A series of National Endowment grants

in the 1980s and early 1990s made it possible for Cherish the Ladies

to establish themselves. And the rest is history. The group, which

has changed its membership somewhat, but not significantly, over the

years, now performs more than 200 dates a year.

Madden was born and raised in New York City, and grew

up in a family that included five sons and two daughters. Her mother

is from County Clare, and her father is from County Galway. Although

both her parents were active musically, Joanie was the only one to

go professional. She began taking whistle lessons from Jack Coen,

and within five years became the World Champion on both the whistle

and the concert flute. In 1984, Joanie became the only American to

ever win the Senior All-Ireland Championship on the whistle. She won

her award 25 years to the day from when her father won the same award

on the accordion. "My parents knew that I was musical," she

told U.S. 1’s Elaine Strauss. "When they had parties, I wouldn’t

go to bed, but would hang around with the adults who were making music."

Madden has three solo albums to her credit. Her "Song of the Irish

Whistle" was recently named the most successful whistle album

in history, having sold more than 200,000 copies.

Although Cherish the Ladies are veterans of the recording studio,

Madden considers the group to be in its most typical state in live

performance. "Our show covers the full range of Irish culture,"

she says. "We do a balanced mixture of music, dance, and songs.

A lot of people love it because they don’t know what’s coming next."

"In the studio you have to be cautious, while with performance

you let it all go," she says. "In performance you’re getting

the true band. There are no inhibitions."

— Nicole Plett

Cherish the Ladies, Concerts at the Crossing, Princeton

Community Church, 2300 Pennington Road, Pennington, 609-406-1424.

Chris and Meredith Thompson open. Note show’s location. $20 adult;

$10 kids 14 and under. Saturday, April 12, 8 p.m.

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