Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Remembering Frank McCourt

Left to right: Liz Kennedy, Jimmy Crowley, me, Mick Moloney, Daniel Neely,
Malachy McCourt, David Amram, Tony Horswill, Kate Bowerman.

Last night I participated in a very special event called Remembering Frank McCourt, a memorial gathering at Symphony Space for the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Angela's Ashes who died on July 19, 2009. Attending this event caused me to reflect on the many ways I was connected to Frank McCourt.

At the memorial, members of The Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra (WSHSO) led by Mick Moloney and Jimmy Crowley, offered songs and traditional tunes to conclude a lovely evening of remembrances by friends, colleagues, former students, and family. Backstage afterwards, photographer James Higgins took our picture with David Amram, who played an remarkably creative version of Amazing Grace on the low D whistle, and Malachy McCourt, who led the entire audience in singing Wild Mountain Thyme.

Through my Irish music connections, I have actually met several of the McCourt brothers. My friend Ashley Davis introduced me to Frank after her February 2009 concert at Joe's Pub. I was completely starstruck, but Frank's charm and wit immediately put me at ease. I met Frank's youngest brother Alphie in December 2008 after performing at a Christmas concert at the Irish Arts Center. I have heard Malachy speak at various WSHSO events, and after the Symphony Space memorial, we chatted a bit. Made me laugh, he did!

Looking back, I view reading Angela's Ashes as a turning point in my life. I read it the year before our family's trip to Ireland in 2003. During our visit we went to the city of Limerick and took the 2-hour Angela's Ashes tour, visiting many of the places mentioned in the book. Back in NYC, my quest to hear more Irish music led me to Mick Moloney's History of Celtic Music course at New York University. Mick invited me to join the WSHSO, and my journey in Irish music was off and running. Traditional music gave me a fresh approach to flute playing and allowed me to re-enter the world of music after a 20-year hiatus. And it all started with Frank McCourt's book.

What struck me most about the Symphony Space memorial was how many, many people Frank McCourt seemed to have influenced in one way or another. Perhaps the true measure of greatness is not your grandest achievement but rather your power to change the lives of others... just because they knew you or read your books.

Recommended reading:

Recommended viewing:
  • Frank McCourt's 2002 Commencement Address at Fieldston High School, one of NYC's prestigious private high schools. (It's all one well crafted speech, so watch both video clips. It's quintessential Frank McCourt.)

To see blog posts about other books I've read, click HERE.

© 2009, Linda Mason Hood 
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

No comments: