BRIGID 2024 celebrates Irish heritage, strong women

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Irish Festival | Ally Crowley Duncan recently went viral with over three million followers for her rock'n'roll bagpiping covers.

Emily Ambery | Layout Editor

BRIGID, the musical celebration of Irish saint and goddess Brigid, is returning to Pittsburgh this weekend after a successful inauguration in 2023.

The event, held in the August Wilson Center, has a matinee performance at 2 pm (doors open at 12:30 p.m.) and evening performance at 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.). Duquesne students can use code “DUKES” for 10% off the matinee or evening celebration of BRIGID.

The event features major performers: The Brigideens, The Bow Tides, Morgan Bullock, Ally the Piper, The Step Sisters, The Bell School of Irish Dance and The Shovlin Academy of Irish Dance.

Mairin Petrone, the executive director of the Pittsburgh Irish Festival said the program, a project of the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, plans to celebrate Irish women by highlighting Irish music and culture.

“To me, this was all about the ladies; [we asked] how do we celebrate someone who is so symbolic of strong women and [the answer] was to present strong women.”

Petrone said that the celebration sold out its 2023 location and in planning this year’s event they had to move to a bigger venue. A portion of the proceeds from the festival on Saturday will go to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

“In the spirit of St. Brigid, we felt it was important to support a women-specific non-profit in the area and the women’s center and shelter felt like a great organization because it’s very in-line with the work Brigid did,” Petrone said.

St. Brigid is a Catholic saint and a Celtic goddess. She is the patron saint of many things including poetry, beer, midwives, newborns, Irish nuns, blacksmiths, dairymaids and boatmen. Her work centered around helping others.

Petrone, a Duq alum, said her mother, Maura Krushinski, founded the Pittsburgh Irish Festival to spotlight the large percent of Irish emigration to Pittsburgh. She said about 15% of Pittsburghers identify as having Irish heritage.

Areas in Pittsburgh like Wexford and Lawrenceville have strong connections to Irish heritage.

“Growing up in Pittsburgh and spending a great deal of my time dancing at the Burke School of Irish Dance, I was truly lucky to be exposed to so many areas of the Irish arts by my teachers and immersed in a world that is so rich in tradition,” said Katie Grennan, Irish dancer for The Bow Tides.

Duquesne’s ties to Ireland are also strong and primarily linked to the Spiritans. Having a large presence in Europe, the Spiritans acted as a bridge to creating the “Duquesne in Dublin” program.

Shannon Baird, the former resident director of Duquesne in Dublin, said the newly deemed national holiday holds celebrations around the country.

“It was at first used as a day to celebrate the health care workers and essential staff but now it is a national holiday like St. Patrick’s Day,” Baird said. “Whether it’s women through the arts celebration of women in innovation it’s a nice counterbalance to St. Patrick’s Day.”

BRIGID 2023 was the largest U.S. celebration of St. Brigid. Partnering with one of the performers in the 2024 lineup, Eileen Ivers, last year’s celebration won “Best New Event” and received a Bronze Award for “Best Overall Event” from The International Festival and Events Association.

“St. Brigid is symbolic of the strength and perseverance of Celtic women and what they did to take care of their communities and support each other,” Petrone said. “They are the backbone of the support system in Ireland and unfortunately they don’t get celebrated enough.”

2024 not only hopes to celebrate the past and St. Brigid’s legend but also look to the future of Irish culture with performances by Ally Crowley-Duncan, more commonly known as Ally the Piper who plays the likes of Metallica and AC/DC on the bagpipes, or Morgan Bullock, the first Black woman to tour with Riverdance since its inception 30 years ago.

“Music is a universal language, and is an amazing source of community and connection,” Crowley-Duncan said. “Brigid, being the Patron Saint of Poets, has a special place in the arts. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate her than through Celtic music.