Irish singer Karan Casey brings her band to the State Theater on St. Patrick's Day, Saturday 17 March, for a benefit concert to end the war in Iraq and illegal procedures in the military prison in Guatanamo Bay. Ellen Grady of the Ithaca Catholic Worker, one of the sponsors of the concert, spoke to Ithaca Blog.
Ithaca Blog: The Ithaca Catholic Worker has sponsored an annual St. Patrick's Day concert for peace for a number of years now.
Ellen Grady: Since 1997, almost every year. The first one was with Solas, when Karan was with them. When she left, she did the shows with her band. Not every year. Some years she couldn't, and we had Lunasa, and Sharon Shannon. And one year Solas, with their new singer, Deirdre Scanlon.
IB: Any particular reason behind the Irish connection?
Ellen: Well, at first it was just a personal connection. The idea for the shows was actually Karan's. Coming from Ireland, the history of living under oppression is not that distant. You know what it means. You can hear it in Karan's songs.
IB: What are the goals of the concert?
Ellen: They change from year to year. In general, we're speaking out against war and militarism. This year, the focus is correcting the situation in Guatanamo, where hundreds of people are being held without habeus corpus, without being charged with anything. We're speaking out, saying this is not what America is about, what the Constitution provides for. We're doing a lot of work with the Center for Constitutional Rights.
IB: Have you had any contact with legislators?
Ellen: We talk to politicians all the time.
Ellen: Well, you know, letters, phone calls, e-mails. Office visits. We've gone to all our elected representatives offices in Washington.
IB: Their response?
Ellen: Maurice Hinchey has been great. He's been great on the war since the beginning.
IB: Have you invited him to the concert?
Ellen: We haven't, I don't think. Not specifically. Maybe we should. That's a nice idea.
IB: A lot of times you hear`the phrase "compassion fatigue" about activist issues. Is the concert series a response to that? The idea of doing good while having fun, listening to music and celebrating?
Ellen: What they're doing, the Bush administration, is hurting America. Is saying no, is taking away from life-giving activities. We didn't have a concert last year, when members of our group were being sentenced for their anti-war activity. We didn't have a lot of energy. This year, we didn't either! But when Karan called us, and offered to do this show, and on St. Patrick's Day? You can't say no to St. Patrick's Day.
IB: And on a Saturday.
Ellen: And on a Saturday!
- Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog