1981 LP Recoding

In November, 1981, The Irish Music Association released an LP recording featuring its members.

1981 LP Recoding - IMA Members

The Irish Music Association enjoys a long-established heritage in Chicago, adhering to the principles of the foundaing members “to Promote, Teach and Keep Alive the Traditional Music of Ireland” In doing that, they have actively supported Irish Music and Dance throughout Chicago for more than sixty years.

They fully deserve the support of the Irish Community of Chicago.

The Early Years

In the early years, the IMA activities included:

  • Playing at local events including Ceili, Weddings, Feiseanna, Benefit Dances and House Parties.
  • Held Annual Conventions in various cities throughout the country from the late 1950’s – late 1960’s; including New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Providence, Cleveland and Chicago.
  • Organized a tour of Ireland by Chicago-born musicians, dancers and singers in 1959. The Association organized two concerts in Chicago to raise funds for the tour; including music, song, dance and comedy.

Members of the Chicago Ceili Band included Jimmy Thornton, John Lavelle, Pat Gillhooly, Eleanor Kane Neary, John McGreevy. Mary Donnelly McDonagh, Eileen Fitzgerald; and Singers Beatrice Garrity and Margie Friel.

Chicago Gaelic Concert Dancers selected for the Tour included Mary Jane Lucid, Pat Gillhooly, Mary Campbell, Margie Bartishell, Dennis Dennehy, Joan O’Connor, Maureen Daly, John Woulfe and Michele Johnston.

Full group of musicians, singers & dancers on the Irish Tour in 1959 included Johnny Woulfe, Jim Rudden, Beatrice Garrity, Margie Bartishall, Mary Jane Lucke, Pat Gillhooly, Dennis Dennehy, Frank Thornton, Mike Malone, Joanne Harnett, Mary Donnelly McDonaugh, John McGreevy and John Lavelle, Mary Campbell, Michele Johnston, Maureen Daly and Joan O’Connor.
The group was joined by Mike Malone in Ireland, who played piano throughout the tour.

On the tour, the group played 23 concerts throughout Ireland in July, 1959 to large audiences at every concert. The favorable reports in local press throughout Ireland sparked Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann tours to North America.

An example of local reporting on the Irish Tour:

“Doherty’s Hall, Drumshambo, was packed for the stage presentation by the Chicago Gaelic Concert Group on Monday night. In a very nicely arranged and balanced program, each of the artists distinguished him or her self in their own particular sphere of entertainment, while the various exhibitions of Irish traditional figure dancing made a deep impression on the large audience. The vociferous applause and general manner in which the audience received the show was, in itself, an indication and striking proof of the high standard of the presentation.”

In the Beginning

The Irish Musicians Association of America was founded on Sunday, August 19, 1956. The inaugural convention, organized by Frank Thornton, was held in the Walnut Room of the Midland Hotel – 172 W. Adams Street, Chicago. In attendance were musicians from Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Houston and Kansas City.

The state of Illinois bestowed a charter on the Association as a “not for profit” organization on January 13, 1958. The five signatories of the IMA Charter were: Frank Thornton, Kevin Henry, Johnny McGreevy, Jimmy Neary and Jimmy Donnelly.

Aims of the Association: “To promote, teach and keep alive the traditional music of Ireland.

The Founding Members:

Tommy Caulfield
James Donnelly
John Doyle
Bob Flatley
Patrick Garvey
Martin J. Hardiman

Kevin Henry
Dan Lynch
John McGreevy
Eleanor Kane Neary
James Neary

James Neary, Jr.
Louis E. Quinn
Edward Reavy
Pat Roche
Frank J. Thornton






Executive Officers:

Martin J. Hardiman – Hon. Chairman
Frank J. Thornton – Chairman
John McGreevy – Secretary
James Neary – Treasurer


State Representatives:

James Donnelly – Illinois
Louis E. Quinn – New York
Edward Reavy & Tommy Caulfield – Pennsylvania
Tom Senier – Massachusetts
James Giblin – Cleveland
Rev. Fr. William J Kennelly – Texas
Thomas F. Shine – Missouri
Maurice O’Halloran – Michigan