The Jolly Beggars: Friends First, Irish Folk Band Second

Looking for some Irish music on St. Patrick's Day? The band is playing in Fairfield.

Irish folk music is a rich cultural part of St. Patrick's Day and Connecticut band The Jolly Beggars is one of many options to get you into the spirit of the holiday on March 17 and year-round.

The Jolly Beggars were friends first before becoming a band and that chemistry carries into their performances as they play original arrangements of traditional Irish folk tunes.The group is playing at the Gaelic American Club in Fairfield at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday for St. Patrick's Day.

It all started about six summers ago when Jeff DesRosier, 29, a Wethersfield native and current Hamden resident, went on a trip to Ireland with his family and came home wanting to start an Irish folk band.

He didn't know anyone who knew how to play that genre of music, but he was friends with North Haven native Christopher Vece, 27, who owned, but didn't know how to play a penny whistle. Vece learned though as the two had jam sessions together.

Greg Wilfrid, 26, and Dan Uhl, 25, joined in when DesRosier came over Vece's apartment, where they both lived too at the time, and the rest is history.

Vocals are the foundation of the Irish folk songs they play, so the entire group, also all full-time music teachers across the state, sing in their performances. Instrumentally, DesRosier plays mandolin and guitar; Vece, now an East Hartford resident plays whistles; Wilfrid, of West Hartford, alternates between guitar, banjo and mandolin; Uhl, of New Haven, is on double bass; and Hamden native and Manchester resident Matt Torcellini, 26, plays percussion.

Their harmonies are their signature stamp and that is something they spend a lot of time on. So,  they said their audiences take notice of that and their stage presence, whether it involves howling like dogs in the middle of a song or comedic banter between songs.

"We're friends first and a band second, so we have no shame in giving each other grief live in front of people or joking around and laughing at ourselves," Wilfrid said.

The group name comes from one of the songs that they play called "The Jolly Beggar," but they toiled over many other ideas for a name that didn't sink in, like The Great Potato Surplus, before arriving at The Jolly Beggars.

The group mostly plays in Connecticut, but has also performed in Long Island and Massachusetts. They toured between Freeport, Maine and Raleigh, North Carolina back in 2011.

The Jolly Beggars also have three albums, "Why Do The Houses Stand," "Bound Far Away" and "Sunshine and Shadow," available for purchase on their website and iTunes.

In addition to the gig at the Gaelic American Club, the group is also playing at the Playwright Irish Pub in Hamden at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 21 at 9 p.m. and there again on Friday, March 27 at 8:30 p.m. and at the Somers Congregational Church in Somers on Sunday, March 29 at 4 p.m. More information on the band and their performances is available on their website, or on Facebook.

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