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PREVIEW Cherish the Ladies with the Omaha Symphony

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Thursday March 11, 2010

(From The Omaha World-Herald)

By: JOHN PITCHER
Published: March 11, 2010

At some point during their concert this weekend with the Omaha Symphony, Irish folk ensemble Cherish the Ladies will dig into a rendition of “Danny Boy.”

“The audience would kill us if we didn’t,” said the group’s flute and whistle player Joanie Madden, who was on the phone from New York City.

Madden is the leader and founding member of Cherish the Ladies, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The group got its start seemingly by accident.

In 1984, Madden became the first American to win the Senior All-Ireland Championship on the whistle. “No one had ever taken that championship cup out of Ireland before,” Madden said.

That wasn’t the only surprise. Irish folklorist and musician Mick Moloney noticed that almost all of the Americans who won awards at the contest were women. Madden’s initial response was, so what?

“He said that a generation earlier, every single member of the Irish Musician’s Society had been a male,” Madden said.

Traditionally, Irish fathers passed their musical training on to their sons. But Irish immigrants such as Madden’s father, who had been an All-Ireland Champion on accordion, were now passing the tradition down to their daughters as well.

Moloney asked Madden whether she would form an all-female Irish ensemble to perform at a one-time-only concert. Madden playfully asked whether she should name the group “Cherish the Ladies,” after the popular Irish jig. The name stuck, and the band became a worldwide sensation.

Madden said “Danny Boy” will likely be the only tune the audience recognizes at this weekend’s concert.

“The rest of our program will be very authentic Irish jigs and reels,” she said.

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