Garden City, N.Y. -- “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” is the opening verse of a song sung by Tara O’Grady at the Irish Cultural Society meeting on December 10, 2014 at the Garden City Library. Black is also the color of Tara O’ Grady’s Black Irish hair, and a symbol of the cross-cultural cabaret night she presented to over fifty appreciative members of her audience who braved an early snowy December night. “Tara’s show was well worth taking a chance on a risky night” was a common comment as members of the audience donned boots and hooded jackets. Indeed it was!
The evening was hosted by Anne Fitzgerald who had been to a Tara O’Grady show at Swing the Teapot in Floral Park. Anne prepared the members of the audience for a show that would introduce them to a charming entertainer with a gift for song that is jazzy and swinging and a show which would introduce them to familiar Irish songs sung in a whole different style.
During her show, Tara told the audience about her Donegal roots, including her many trips to Ireland, every inch of which she has driven—except Kerry: too many tourists! She brought the audience into the evolution of her Celtic/jazz style through several charming stories about her optometrist and also a Nashville musician who said she sounded like “A Celt in the Cotton Club.” Tara’s stories about her career, her inspirations for the songs she writes, and her colorful family added delight to her lively singing.
The Wild Geese photos / Gerry Regan
Guitarist Nick Russo and singer Tara O'Grady warm up the ICS' appreciative audience on a very cold night.
Tara’s play list included “Wild Rover,” Molly Malone” and “Go Lassie Go” in an up-tempo beat that showed the audience how creative Tara is as an arranger and how versatile and talented is her accompanist, Nick Russo. For example, she sang the traditional Celtic song “Black Is the Color” with a bossa nova beat. One of the many highlights of the evening was Tara’s singing “Danny Boy” in the style of Billie Holiday. Tara had researched Holiday’s life and studied her singular singing style to create a rendition of “Danny Boy” that was the talk of the night. She told the audience that Billie Holiday’s real name is Nora Fagan, a name from an Irish grandparent. Tara’s song “Gardenia Girl” from her album A Celt in the Cotton Club is a tribute to Billie Holiday.
Tara’s show also interspersed her own compositions, like “Goodnight Nora” (about her grandmother) and “In Belfast Tonight” (which the mayor of Belfast urged everyone in Belfast to buy on iTunes), with standards like “Nora” and “I’ll Tell Me Ma.” Every tune was lively, cogently rendered and masterfully accompanied.
Tara’s connection with the audience at the Garden City Library was almost genetic—she was everyone’s daughter, granddaughter, and niece. When she told the audience about the book she wrote about her maternal grandmother’s experience with driving across country with a freshly printed driver license, the obvious question was what is the title (Migrating Towards Happiness) and when will we be able to buy it (when her Hollywood agent sells it to a publishing house).
Find Tara O’Grady on taraogradymusic.com but best of all find out where her next gig will be!
John M. Walsh