Celebrate being the Irish March Madness by spending enchanted evenings with the Black Brothers Band, who make every day seem like St. Patrick’s Day. Led by the charismatic charmers from Dublin, Shay and Michael Black are the singing siblings from Ireland’s foremost family of song, The Black Family, which also includes their sisters Mary and Frances and brother Martin. Shay and Michael play an exciting mix of Dublin street songs, music hall songs and historical ballads. This year being the centenary of the 1916 Rising in Dublin, they will be adding songs from this era into the mix.
Songs of the Easter Rising:
The Easter Rising, also known as the Easter Rebellion, was an armed insurrection in Dublin during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic. Members of the Irish Volunteers, led by schoolmaster and Irish language activist Patrick Pearse and joined by the smaller Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly, along with 200 members of Cumann na mBan (Women’s Auxiliary), seized key locations in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic. The British Army quickly suppressed the Rising, and most of the leaders were executed following courts-martial, but the Rising succeeded in bringing Republicanism back to the forefront of Irish politics. Two years later Republicans won 73 Irish seats out of 105 in the 1918 General Election to the British Parliament, on a policy of abstentionism and Irish independence. On 21 January 1919 they convened the First Dáil and declared the independence of the Irish Republic.
There are numerous songs from this era commemorating the Rebellion and memorializing the people who took part in it. Songs like "James Connolly" (from the first Black Family album), sad personal stories from the Rebellion like the song "Grace", humorous ditties like "Join the British Army", have been in the family for years. Shay and Michael have a particular fondness for these songs, and haven't sung many of them since their childhood. Singing in close harmony, the brothers draw people in with their energy, wit and superb musicianship. They have a special fondness for chorus songs and love to hear their audience sing.
Singing in close harmony, Michael and Shay draw people in with their energy, wit and superb musicianship. They have a special fondness for chorus songs and love to hear their audience sing. Shay has been teaching song repertoire at The Freight on Monday nights for the past six years.
Shay and Michael grew up in Dublin and both moved to England in the 1970s, eventually settling in San Francisco for Michael and Shay in Berkeley. They’ve recorded one album with their brother Martin as The Black Brothers and three with sisters Mary and Frances as The Black Family. Michael has one self-titled solo album which was produced by guitar virtuoso and fellow Dubliner John Doyle. The Irish Echo, in its review, praised Michael as “a gifted, accomplished, sensitive ballad singer with a discerning taste in songs.” Shay has recorded and toured with the illustrious Stan Hugill, shanty group Stormalong John, Irish band Garva, The California Revels, Shira Kammen, and many other local artists. Last year he released the album Singer’s Request with Celia Ramsay.
The Black Brothers Band also features fiery fiddle virtuoso San Francisco based fiddler Bobbi Nikles, who is an acclaimed force in the Bay Area music scene. With projects ranging from creating the successful music camp Fiddlekids to performing in a wide array of bands and styles, her presence abounds. Her luscious fiddling and driving rhythm add fuel to every performance, and she has also played with Wake the Dead, Melanie O'Reilly’s Aishling and many more. Bobbi has been a contributor to Strings magazine with articles on bowing technique and instrument evaluation. A sought after teacher at camps, workshops and in her private studio, Bobbi's creative and nurturing style naturally incorporates her depth of knowledge and her experience as a teacher for over 30 years.
Also from Dublin is piano player Eamonn Flynn, who was the keyboardist on the 12 million selling movie soundtrack The Commitments. Now living in San Francisco, he has gone on to record and tour worldwide with such luminaries as Michael Franti and Spearhead, Evelyn 'Champagne' King, Elvin Bishop, Pee Wee Ellis, Donald Harrison, Bernard Purdie, Grant Green Jr., Coco Montoya, Michelle Shocked, Maria Muldaur, Tony Lindsay (Santana), and a 10 year stint with legendary New Orleans drummer Zigaboo Modeliste. His driving piano style adds excitement to the Black Brothers jigs and reels.
Rounding out the sound is cellist Myra Joy, who has been with the band for over thirteen years. She began playing cello as a child and holds a degree from San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 2007, she released an album of original compositions. She is a founding member of Elameno Quintet and Sweet Moments of Confusion. Myra has also collaborated with many musicians and ensembles including Kitka, Hans York, Melanie O'Reilly, Druid Sister's Tree Party, the pickPocket Ensemble, and Hamed Nikpay.
With many Irish musical options in the month of March, don’t miss The Black Brothers Band as they embark on another annual tour of Northern California. Their joy in performing, their love of a good story, and their charm and wit make an evening spent in their company one to savor.
Full list of tour dates can be found on the Gigs page
Michael will be touring with The Black Brothers Band in February/March 2015. See Gigs page for details.
The Black Family (Shay, Michael, Mary, Martin, and Frances) are receiving an award from iBAM. iBAM is a gathering of the best Irish authors, artists and musicians from around the world, under one roof, for a weekend Irish cultural celebration. The iBAM! 2013 awardees, include actor Brendan Gleeson (Performing Arts), author Tim Pat Coogan (Literature), the Black Family (Music), artist Robert Ballagh (Visual Arts). The Awards Dinner will be held on Sat. October, 12th at the Erin Ballroom of the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox in Chicago. The Black Family will be giving a concert the following night.
Michael is planning to teach another Irish & British Isles Song & Performance in
the Fall at Roots Music, Marin. The address is 1455 East Francisco Boulevard, Suite A, San Rafael, CA 94901 | 415- 938-PLAY (7529). Contact them if you are interested in signing up for the course.
Michael is performing at the Maine Celtic Celebration in Belfast, Maine, and will have a few special guests. He will be accompanied on piano accordion by
local Maine musician, Chris Brinn. His daughters, Ciara, Maeve and Catriona will also be featured.
Irish & British Isles Song & Performance (6 weeks): April 3 - May 22, 2013 on Wednesdays from 8:00 - 9:30 pm.
Roots Music Marin | 1455 East Francisco Boulevard, Suite A, San Rafael, CA 94901 | 415- 938-PLAY (7529)
This is a singing group for people of all musical experience levels! If you've never sung before, this workshop will free your voice! If you sing regularly, this workshop is a repertoire builder and a place to get together for holiday cheer sans commercialism. Learn and perform heartbreaking ballads, convivial drinking songs, songs that will make you and us laugh, and ... your favorite song that you've always wanted to sing ... with the wonderful support and guidance of Michael Black, a famed tradition and song keeper, and member of Ireland's well-known musical Black family. In honor of the holidays, hot drinks will be served during the workshop, and the workshop's final "class" will be a celebration and performance at a cozy pub.
Watch a documentary about The Black Family at TG4's website
Michael will be teaching singing workshops at the Catskill's Irish Arts Week in the Catskills Mountains, New York from 15 till 21 July 2012
You can now follow Michael via his public facebook page.
We have added a new video to this site of Michael performing The Willow Tree with the Black Brothers.
We have added a new galleries section to Michael's website containing photographs of Michael.
Read a review of Rathlin's Black History", a radio program by BBC Radio Ulster about the history of the Black Family on Rathlin Island including Michael Black.
Watch two video's of Michael and Shay Black performing. These two video's where broadcasted on the Irish TV Station TG4 in December 2008 and where recorded at the Plough and Stars.
You can now listen to several of tracks by Michael using the music player on this page. The tracks include some of his solo-work, some The Black Brothers and The Black Family songs, some new instrumental songs with James Kelly and even a hilarious live recording called Bat in Boisedale, more about that recording can be found here.
Samples of all tracks of Michael Black's solo album are now available. We also added a guestbook to the site, so sign the guestbook and tells us what you think of michael's solo album and his site.
Today, 30 May 2008, Michael Black's website has gone online. See all Michael's upcoming gigs, view and listen to his solo album, read his biography or get some impressions of Michael and his life.
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