BY ED FORRY
The historic M. Steinert & Sons piano retail showroom at 162 Boylston Street across from Boston Common was the setting of a private musical concert last month to mark the Boston launch of the Irish American Art and Music Foundation.
The foundation was established in 2011 by Howard Crosby, a nephew of the late Irish American crooner Bing Crosby, and Ireland’s Terence Browne, the brother of Boston attorney Aidan Browne. The two men sang and played in the first half of a 75-minute concert, with Crosby singing some Irish American treasures from his Uncle Bing’s songbook, accompanied by Browne on piano.
After a brief intermission, Crosby brought on a woman ensemble, Affiniti, featuring three classically trained master musicians: Irish soprano Emer Barry, harpist Aisling Ennis, and violist Mary McCague. The early evening hour program, sponsored by the Irish American Partnership, was followed by a wine and cheese reception centered among an array of Steinway pianos on the store’s fourth floor showroom.
The Feb. 6 concert was the first stop in an inaugural “Harry McKillop Irish Spirit tour,” which was followed by three subsequent performances in Texas from Feb. 8 to 11.
“Bing Crosby said that he started a love affair with his ancestral Ireland and its music upon hearing John McCormack sing ‘The Rose of Tralee’ on his father’s gramaphone at the start of the 20th century,” Howard Crosby explained in an accompanying program.
“The Foundation will revisit the works of these Irish American masters and others to help keep them alive in the hearts and minds of the coming generations.”
A shared love for the game of golf bonded Howard Crosby and his late uncle, but a love for music discovered in later life has seen the nephew attempt to emulate the legendary crooner.
The Crosby ancestors emigrated from Schull, Co. Cork, in 1870, and there was always a strong tradition of music in the family. Howard, however, didn’t take up singing until later life, and is a successful businessman in his own right.
“As I like to tell people, if your uncle is Bing Crosby, you need to find another line of work, which I did,” said Howard. “I started singing in a church choir when I was in my mid-20s, and the next thing you know they had made a soloist out of me and pretty soon after that I was singing and performing more and more. I will say that it is true that anywhere I sing some of his songs, it is in the same key as Uncle Bing, so let’s just leave it at that,” he said.
Included among the foundation’s current projects is the establishment of a retrospective exhibition based on the life and works of Irish-American artists John and Hazel Lavery, as part of Limerick’s term as Ireland’s National City of Culture 2014. The Foundation has also established a retrospective on the Irish influences on Bing Crosby’s career with an exhibition drawn from the Bing Crosby collection at Gonzaga University, his alma mater, in Spokane, WA.
More information about the program is available by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org