City Stompers and New York Trad Fest present
Fiddle & Feet
Featuring Stephanie Coleman, Matthew Olwell, Tony DeMarco, Megan Downes
7:00 p.m. Come early to make music with your hands and feet! Easy and fun! You say you are “not a dancer"?! Matthew Olwell will introduce you to clapping, snapping rhythms and body-percussion techniques he has developed through life-long study of musical movement.
8:00 p.m. Fiddle & Feet Concert: For each fiddle, a pair of feet! Sharing the stage are Brooklyn native Tony DeMarco, godfather of NYC’s Irish music scene and founder of New York Trad Fest, and Stephanie Coleman, Oldtime fiddle and banjo powerhouse in Brooklyn and beyond. Virginia’s Matthew Olwell joins Stephanie for some downhome flatfoot clogging and hambone. Sean-nós dancer Megan Downes moves her feet to the reels, jigs, and slip jigs of Tony’s fiddle bow. Two cozy duos presented in a conversational format, showcasing cutting-edge old-style traditions.
10:00 p.m. Square Dance Party & Oldtime Jam: Steph Coleman and Friends invite you to jump up and dance, or sit and play tunes. Square dances called by Megan Downes. Swing your partner and promenade all! No experience or partner needed.
Stephanie Coleman's fiddle playing is captivating and undeniably moving. She plays traditional American tunes on fiddle and banjo with a deep satisfying groove. Steph performs and teaches in the United States, Europe and Australia, playing with The Murphy Beds in May 2018 in County Cork, Ireland at Baltimore Fiddle Fair. In 2009, she toured with Uncle Earl, an internationally known all-girl string band. Steph still plays with Kristin Andreassen and Jefferson Hamer, and her duo with Eamon O'Leary was a favorite at New York Trad Fest. Stephanie made the session at Lowlands a crucible for oldtime music in NYC, and currently curates a Thursday music night in Bushwick. Though powerfully loyal to traditional tunes, Steph has been collaborating with partner James and Ilusha Tsinadze in an energetic new band on the Brooklyn scene.
Matthew Olwell is a multimedia artist who has been performing and teaching internationally since 1996, and whose work blends live performance of percussive dance and traditional music with video, photography, and other visual artwork. The son of renowned wooden flute-maker Patrick Olwell, Matthew began his professional career touring for nine years with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, with whom he appeared in the London production of Riverdance. He has been a featured performer and teacher at numerous international festivals and camps, including the Dublin Dance Festival, the Augusta Heritage Center, the Far North Fiddle Festival, the Swannanoa Gathering, the Newport Folk Festival, the John C. Campbell Folk School, and the Aulnay All Blues Festival in Paris. In 2017 Good Foot Dance Company (which Matthew co-directs with Emily Oleson) was selected to perform at Jacob’s Pillow as part of the Inside/Out series. In the summer of 2014, Matthew performed in Russia on a U.S. State Department Arts Envoy tour with The Meaning of Buck Dance. Other recent projects include a 2017 guest appearance with Anam (co-produced by Ireland’s national Folk Theatre and The Dublin Dance Festival), and CyberTrad, Matthew’s debut solo album, which blends traditional and original Irish and Breton music, played on wooden flute and Human Beatbox, and of which the Irish Echo writes, “Outstanding... Olwell is an artist with a keen vision.” A member of the acclaimed music group Maivish and a recent graduate of Davis & Elkins College with a degree in Multimedia Performance, Matthew is currently pursuing an MFA in dance studies in Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance.
Tony DeMarco has been a bedrock presence in NYC’s Irish music scene for decades. Tony D runs one of the best and longest-running Irish music sessions in the city, every Sunday night at the 11th Street bar, east of Avenue A. Starting around 10:30pm, Tony and bouzouki/guitar/banjo player Eamon O’Leary play tunes half the night, often hosting other professional Irish musicians as they pass through town on tour. Tony has encouraged many young musicians, dancers and singers. He advocates for and promotes traditional music in NYC through New York Trad Fest, held every year in November. NewYorkTradFest.org
Tony’s story is a New York story. He was born on May 20, 1955, the second of three children raised in East Flatbush by Paul DeMarco and his wife, the former Patricia Dempsey. Paul, a grandson of Italian immigrants, was a teenage lightweight boxing star who turned down an offer to turn pro and work with lightweight champ Paddy “Billygoat” DeMarco in order to pursue a more conventional career on Wall Street. Tony’s maternal grandfather Jimmy Dempsey was a New York City cop and a son of Irish immigrants who married Philomena “Minnie” Fenimore, one of several Italian-American siblings who married into Brooklyn Irish families.
Musical ability runs on both sides of Tony’s family. During the Prohibition years, Minnie Dempsey’s Italian immigrant father ran a speakeasy in East New York, where he played the piano and mandolin. Tony’s paternal uncle Louie DeMarco was a singer who performed with 1950s doo-wop groups, including “Dickie Dell and the Ding Dongs.” Tony’s cousin John Pattitucci, from the Fenimore side of the family, is a leading professional bass player who has recorded with jazz stars Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter. But Tony definitely found his way to Irish traditional music via a different path than the one trod by musicians raised in Irish immigrant households. More typical young Irish traditional musicians in New York in the 1970s had at least one parent born in Ireland. They may well have attended step dancing classes with one of the many dance schools in the region, and most likely went to group music classes conducted in the Bronx, Brooklyn, New Jersey, or Long Island by Pete Kelly, Martin Mulvihill, and Maureen Glynn. They would have joined a branch of the international Irish traditional music organization Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and competed each year at the regional fleadh cheoil at Manhattan College in the Bronx. If they placed high enough, they would go on to the big show, Fleadh Cheoil na Éireann—the All-Ireland Fleadh—from which not a few returned home with the coveted title of “All-Ireland champion” on the fiddle, button accordion, tin whistle, or other instrument. Tony had a different background altogether. As he puts it: “I never grew up with the competitive Comhaltas scene—I came through the hippie scene, the folkie scene.”
After 17 years with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, Megan moved back to her native NYC to teach flatfoot improvisation with City Stompers, one of the forces behind Flatfoot Flatbush and this summer’s 5th annual free Porchstomp celebration, June 24, 2018 on Governors Island. Join Megan at Mike & Ruthy’s Summer Hoot at Ashokan from August 24-26. Her sean-nós Irish dance classes continue through the summer every Monday at Theatre 80 St. Mark’s, 8:00pm, Irish music session at 9pm in the tavern.
Founded in 2004 by a public school teacher with boundless energy and an appreciation of American fiddle music, City Stompers holds regular classes in American clogging and flatfoot dancing taught by Megan Downes, and special occasional workshops in percussive dance by Nic Gareiss, Evie Ladin, and Sandy Silva. City Stompers brings to NYC musical artists such as Furnace Mountain Band, Riley Baugus, Danny Knicely and Nate Leath, and Rachel Eddy for performances and workshops in oldtime fiddle, 5-string banjo, and bluegrass harmony singing. The free monthly Hoedown is a great way to experience the joy of live traditional music. Visit citystompers.org to find out where you can jump in!