If Hugo O'Conor could talk, he'd have lots to tell about Irish doings at the Manning House.
The statue outside the historic downtown building could recount stories of St. Patrick's Day luncheons and dances, of Bloomsday literary soirees and singalongs, and of all manner of craic (that's Irish for "good fun").
But the Manning House has gone dark. It's been up for sale since last year, says owner Colleen Concannon, member of a large Irish-American family in Tucson.
The sprawling 1907 house, designed by noted Tucson architect Henry Trost, is on the market for $2.5 million, Concannon says. When the old place does sell, Concannon intends to keep an eye on old Hugo.
Crafted by Sierra Vista sculptor Brian Donahue, the statue portrays the red-headed Irishman who picked the Tohono O'odham village Cuk Son as the location for a Spanish presidio in 1775. O'Conor, who spelled his name Hugh O'Connor back in Ireland, had fled his own country to escape English oppression, and used his military skills as a mercenary for the Spanish crown.
O'Conor was in the village only briefly, but he ranks as Tucson's first Irishman, and when Concannon opened a restaurant in the Manning House, she named it in his honor. She commissioned the statue, and it stood faithfully through the house's transformation from restaurant to event space.
The bronze is "my personal property," Concannon says, and if a buyer doesn't want to keep it on display, she plans to make arrangements for it with a historical foundation, pledging, "I'll keep it in public view."
Meanwhile, Hugo would be glad to know that there are plenty of Hibernian happenings elsewhere around town this year. Below is an abbreviated list. Check the Tucson Weekly's music listings to find Irish bands playing in clubs on St. Patrick's weekend.
The young traditional band Goitse is making its second stop in Tucson. The three Irishmen, one Irishwoman (who sings in Irish and English) and one American return after playing here last year during Irish season. Now on a tour through America, Goitse comes armed with its second CD, Transformed, a mix of traditional songs and the band's own compositions. Irish Music magazine declared that the new album has pushed the band "from the periphery to the big league."
Transformed also benefits from cross-cultural cross-pollination. When the band visited guitarist Conal McKane's hometown of Philadelphia last tour, they were inspired to write "Cheesesteak Reels," a new tune inspired by that heavily Irish city's prized greasy sandwich.
Goitse, 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 1, indoors at Plaza Palomino, 2970 N. Swan Road, No. 147. Tickets: $20 general; $18 age 60 and up; $23 at door. Available at www.inconcerttucson.com; Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave.; and the Folk Shop, 2525 N. Campbell Ave. Open seating; seating limited. Promoter Don Gest promises to bring in comfortable chairs. Wine and beer available.
The local a cappella chamber ensemble AwenRising sang songs in Irish at last year's spring concert. This time around, they sing in Latin, a church language that was almost lingua franca in the Catholic Ireland of old. Directed by Richard Hintze, the troupe's fine singers present An AwenRising Mass, a full-length concert Mass with works in Latin, English and Greek. 3 p.m. Sunday, March 3, Christ Presbyterian, 6565 E. Broadway Blvd. $15 general; $12 seniors; $5 students.
Speaking of Latin, Etcetera, the late-night branch of Live Theatre Workshop, takes a trip to the auld sod in the second installment of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Latin for "Theater of the World." The troupe "visits" a new country each month in a play, performing "with music, storytelling with shadow puppets ... dancing, singing and beer," Tucson Weekly theater critic Sherilyn Forrester wrote. "Don't come expecting a totally scripted, locked-down play. Yet it is a play. It's an experience, one in which we all participate (and no, you don't have to get up onstage). And it is great fun." This weekend, the fun's in Ireland. 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, March 8 and 9, at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. 327-4242. $12 at the door. $5 beer.
The same weekend, the National Dance Company of Ireland puts on a Riverdance-style show of Irish step-dancing and soft-shoe. Twenty-two dancers and nine musicians (including three Irish tenors) turn up from Dublin to perform Rhythm of the Dance, which traces the perambulations of the Irish through history and geography. The live band plays traditional instruments, from pipes, fiddle and bodhrán (drum) to flute and harp. 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 8, at the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. $20 to $43, plus fees, by calling 547-3040. To avoid fees, go the box office during the day Tuesday through Friday. www.foxtucsontheatre.com.
The Tucson-Roscommon Sister Cities has moved the annual St. Patrick's Mayor's Luncheon from the Manning House to Pastiche, 3025 N. Campbell Ave. Mayor Jonathan O'Rothschild is invited. Meet and greet is at 11 a.m., Friday, March 15. Lunch is at noon and entertainment and speeches begin at 12:15. $25 members, $30 nonmembers. RSVP 955-2684.
On St. Patrick's Day weekend, Puppets Amongus stages a puppet play about leprechauns and mermaids. Written and performed by Matt and Sarah Cotten, Irish Rover is a magical seafaring story that celebrates Irish music and myth. An Irish music seisiún and singalong follow. 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, March 16 and 17, Puppets Amongus, 657 W. St. Mary's Road. $8 adults; $6 kids; free for children 2 and younger. email@example.com; 444-5538.
Thanks to the luck of the Irish, St. Patrick's Day falls on a Sunday this year, and the 26th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival takes place on the saint's actual feast day. After trying on Presidio Park for size in 2012, this year the festival returns to its usual location at Armory Park. The one-hour parade takes a new route, starting in Barrio Histórico.
Led by grand marshal Jim Critchley and Saint You-Know-Who, the parade of dancers, musicians and floats begins at Kennedy Street and Stone Avenue in the barrio, then heads north on Stone. At Ochoa, the merrymakers walk—or roll—east to Scott, then south on Scott, and east to Armory Park, at 12th Street and Sixth Avenue. The parade's theme is "The Gathering," a nod to Ireland's attempt to persuade some of the 70 million people worldwide claiming Irish heritage to return to visit in 2013. Ireland is even offering genealogical help to locate would-be visitors' home parishes (see www.irelandxo.com/home).
The festival goes from 10 a.m. to late afternoon. Irish stew, beer and crafts are offered, and musicians and dancers perform nearly nonstop. If you're lucky, and you listen carefully in between all the uilleann piping and fiddling, you'll hear a blessing delivered in Irish by a charming Irish priest onstage.
You might imagine that St. Patrick's Day would end the whole gaelic shebang, but Gest of In Concert! has one more Irish band up his green sleeves. And its musicians—Kevin Burke and John Carty—are Irish eminences.
Renowned fiddler Burke, born in London of Sligo parents, played with Arlo Guthrie, co-founded the influential Irish Bothy Band and has performed with the Celtic Fiddle Festival and Open House. His distinctive Sligo-style fiddling has won him an All-Ireland championship and a National Heritage Fellowship. Carty, a fiddler-banjoist-flutist, was likewise born into a musical Irish family in London. Winner of an All-Ireland banjo competition and a Traditional Musician of the Year award, Carty now lives in County Roscommon and plays with the Patrick Street band. 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 25, indoors at Plaza Palomino, 2970 N. Swan Road, No. 147.
Advance tickets: $20 regular, $18 seniors 60 and older; $23 at the door. Available at www.inconcerttucson.com; at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave.; and at the Folk Shop, 2525 N. Campbell Ave. Open seating.