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Quarantine Concerts: Irish Musicians Put St. Patrick’s Day Online

With their biggest gigs of the year canceled, traditional Irish musicians and dancers are planning a month-long series of streaming concerts, and asking fans to tip generously

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What to Know

  • St. Patrick's Day, March 17, is the biggest money-making day of the year for Irish musicians and dancers, often earning them enough to pay their taxes for the year
  • The Bay Area stay-at-home orders took effect at midnight on March 17, meaning all St. Patrick's Day performances and celebrations were canceled
  • A grouup of traditional Irish performers is organizing a Facebook group called the St. Patrick's Day Quarantine Concert Series where musicians will stream their work and ask for tips during the next month

For many in the traditional Irish music and dance community, St. Patrick's Day had always seemed as much a certainty as death and taxes.

"It's the first year I haven't been to a parade in my life," said 14-year-old Irish dancer Claire Donohue.

"This is the first time since I was 13 that I haven't had a show to play," said Irish musician Autumn Rhodes.

The strangely silent St. Patrick's Day came after six Bay Area counties issued stay-at-home orders taking effect at midnight on March 17th — meaning that all remaining celebrations of Ireland's patron saint had to be called off. Of course, many had been called off already.

"We started getting cancellations three weeks ago," Rhodes said. "Finally, we got the texts (from the two remaining pub owners) and the nail was in the coffin, and here we are."

By "here," she meant a breezy San Francisco backyard, where four musicians and a dancer — all staying at least six feet apart — played traditional Irish tunes for an hour, with an audience of enthusiastic birds chirping along.

The birds didn't do much to help Tim Hill, who just had 300 CDs made to sell at his pub performances throughout the week.

"I would look at this not only as a loss of income, but a loss of exposure," Hill said.

For the youngest performers, the state of affairs means once-in-a-lifetime opportunities get put on hold. Claire was supposed to travel to Ireland with her dance class.

"Right now, with the travel ban, we obviously can't go," she said. "Hopefully by next year, it'll all be better."

Travel bans have created an economic domino effect, says Rhodes, who also owns a dog walking business.

"(My clients') dogs are delighted that they're home all day, but that means that they don't need me or other dog walkers to walk their dogs," she said.

Rhodes took her disappointment to a familiar place — Facebook — and hatched a plan she hopes will help her fellow musicians.

"It's called the St. Patrick's Day Quarantine Concert Series," she said.

In the Facebook group, Irish musicians from all over the world will post and live-stream the performances they would have offered in person on March 17th. The series will go on for about a month, she said.

"Everybody will share everybody else's event, and try to get out whatever we can," she said.

Artists posting in the group have been including links to their PayPal accounts.

"If people want to, they can tip us," Rhodes said. "You know, anyone who actually has any money left nowadays."

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