On Stage at Kingsborough celebrates St. Paddy’s Day with “Claddagh”

February 27, 2018 Jaime DeJesus
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Celebrating fine Irish music right in time for St. Patrick’s Day, On Stage at Kingsborough is once again bringing world-class entertainment to Brooklyn.

On Friday March 16, famed Irish/Celtic rock group the Prodigals will have the audience dancing in the aisles with “Claddagh,” a sparkling multi-media show that fuses the group’s iconic music with world-champion Irish and tap dancers and a modern-day Irish fairy tale rich in love, life and laughter. The performance is narrated by bandleader and Broadway actor Gregory Grene.

Grene, who has a background in traditional Irish music, discussed with this paper how the long-running band, 21 years young, came to fruition.

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“The majority of my childhood was on a small farm in in the northern part of Ireland.  We used to have harvest parties every year and musicians used to come around the area and play on the stairs. I just fell in love with the music and instruments,” he said.

When he was 14, Grene went to high school in America, where he had the opportunity to play with extremely well known artists — and got to know the people who would make up the band.

“I’m totally in the Irish end of things,” he explained. “New York is a crazy and interesting town. Because of it, I ended up being a crazy mix of different things. Our drummer has one of the deepest knowledge of rock music I’ve ever seen. He really knows it backwards and forwards. He plays all types of music. The rhythm we got was from all over, from jazz rhythms to township rhythms to Latin rhythms because we’re in New York. It’s wide open.”

The group met at an Irish music session, which especially draws those living in America or England. “It’s a wonderful way to bond,” he enthused. “And it’s become part of the fabric. People played in these unpaid sessions where you meet extraordinary musicians, really top flight musicians. And you start swapping tunes. I came across a bass player and a guitarist singer while at the Irish Repertory Theater.”

What makes the band unique, said Grene, is that, “We’ve never imitated anybody else. It’s its own thing. I produced our first album by default. The way you produce a rock album is you mix it down. You start off with the rhythm track, the drums, and you layer the bass and the other instruments on top of that. That’s how you find out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve exposed the rhythm section more than most bands of our genre do. It’s really sort of four or five lead players rather than having a frontline, a backline and all those standard sorts of situation.”

The timing was right for the group to break out.

“It’s been a crazy train ride because of serendipity and good fortune,” Grene said. “When we started, Irish music was wildly popular. ‘Riverdance’ had just come out. We were hired by a supermodel to play on a yacht for a party. We played in Los Angeles, and most major venues across the United States, like the House of Blues in Cleveland, and Madison Square Garden for St. Patrick’s Day.”

For the Kingsborough show, the audience will be singing along to rollicking Clancy Brothers-era songs, moved anew by classics like “Danny Boy,” and will be dancing in the aisles to the joyous finale.

“Some songs the audience will recognize and respond to in a way that is great fun,” he said. “It’s built into the DNA. Then we’ll do some original stuff. The story will suck them in as well. And the dancers make the music that much more accessible.”

The group is excited to perform in the borough.

“We are so looking forward to it,” he said. “The performing arts is so great because people listen in a different kind of way. I love people jumping around. It’s fun.”

“Claddagh Featuring the Prodigals and World Champion Step Dancers” will be performed on Friday March 16 at 8 p.m. at On Stage at Kingsborough, 2001 Oriental Boulevard. Tickets are $32. For more information, visit www.onstageatkingsborough.org.

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