Traditional Irish music is alive and well in Chicago. One need look no further than the hooleys at Chief O'Neill's Pub and Restaurant on North Elston Avenue. A hooley is a social gathering — music, dancing, food, conversation. Under the auspices of the Irish Music School of Chicago, the tradition comes to life each month.
Sean Cleland, executive director of the school, says the hooley fits in with the Irish tradition of young and old mingling. That, he says, leads to young people learning from their elders simply by listening, which is one of the purposes of the monthly gatherings.
"Our whole mission is to provide music from generation to generation," adds Kathy Medic, the school's business manager. "Our thing is to have a 6-year-old child sitting next to an 80-year-old musician from Ireland."
At the May gathering, more than 30 musicians participated, with fiddles, tin whistles, a set of uilleann pipes, bodhrans, a concertina, guitar and bouzouki. If musicians knew a song, they'd play along; if not, they'd listen.
Margi Barbosa's 12-year-old daughter was playing among the fiddlers. "I notice how the adult musicians treat her like an equal," said Barbosa. "I like that."
Hooleys are held the last Sunday of each month at Chief O'Neill's, 3471 N. Elston Ave. The next is June 29; space is limited and fills quickly. Call 773-583-3066 to reserve.