It was a rather somber afternoon today at the Irish-American Heritage Museum. Word had reached us that Tommy Makem, perhaps one of the greatest Irish folk artists of all time had died. Reports say he was 74.
I’m far too young to have ever known Tommy Makem in his prime, but I did have the opportunity to see him in concert at the Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival in Albany, NY two years ago. Even then, I knew I was seeing a master at work and it is the only performance I remember vividly from that concert. His wit, humor and voice were second to none.
Just 3 months ago I had the opportunity to actually talk to Tommy about Irish Music. I had sent him a script of the exhibit on Irish Music I had writen for the Irish-American Heritage Museum. Of all the historians and artists I sent the script out to for advice, he not only read the script but called me at the office to discuss in more detail. For over an hour I listened to him (and tried to keep my notes straight) as we discussed every aspect of Irish music, history and culture. It’s one of those events that will stick with me as long as live. To hear someone in a that thick Northern Irish accent ask for me and then add ‘This is Tommy Makem’ was a thrill then, but I think I appreciate it more now.
We have a half an exhibit panel in our “Irish in Music” exhibit devoted to Tommy Makem (the other half you can guess is The Clancy Brothers), but he is referred to several times through out the exhibit. The Museum will place a piece of purple cloth over the panel in honor of one Ireland’s greatest exports to America for the remainder of the exhibit season.
The Irish American Heritage Museum exhibit Center is located in East Durham, New York and is open Wednesday through Sunday 12pm to 4pm. For more information visit the Museum web site: www.irishamericanheritagemuseum.org.