Tom and Marian Gittelman will be filling the big space of 30th Street Station with traditional Irish music in a free concert from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Friday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.
The Gittelmans have been mainstays in the local trad-Irish scene for more than 25 years. Marian describes their repertoire as “reels, jigs, hornpipes, dance music from the old sod.” Founding members of the band Celtic Crosswinds, they are also in Ceol Mor and The Philadelphia Ceili Band. They hold down a regular Tuesday gig at Jack McShea’s in Ardmore.
Marian Gittelman says that while she has ancestors from Counties Mayo and Donegal, Tom is “Irish by proxy.” He will bring his concertina and bazouki; Marion is the fiddler. They caught the Irish music bug only a few years into their marriage four decades ago, thanks to the long-running WXPN show The Unicorn. “We already had a great love of related kinds of music,” she says, “me more toward Appalachian music, Tom more toward bluegrass, and we just found it so inviting and fun to play.”
They will be sure to mix up the kinds of Irish they play, but she says that, should you stroll by or come running past for your train, you well may hear “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” “Danny Boy,” “Shoe the Donkey,” “Golden Slippers,” and more.
“It’s a great, big space,” she says, “so we’re considering bringing a little sound system. We’re not trying to fill the entire place up, but you’ll be able to hear us as you walk past.” She reflects on the enduring popularity of this music all over the world: “We’ve played all over, festivals, we’ve played in Europe, and there are Irish music sessions even in Japan.” It was at a gig in exotic Wilmington that an audience member heard and liked them, and put them in touch with Kim Bridgford, founder and director of the poetry and arts nonprofit Poetry by the Sea, which is collaborating with Amtrak and 30th Street Station “to bring art and poetry to the public space,” in Bridgford’s words, “in one of America's iconic locations.” Marian Gittelman calls the series "such a great thing for local musicians around here."
What would St. Patrick’s Day be without the proper music? And what would running for a train on St. Patrick’s Day be without a little hornpipe to speed you on your way? The Gittelmans will endeavor to make a proper sesiún out of the august space, and give some of the 16,000 who course through each day a little extra energy. Lá Fhéile Pádraig shona diobh!