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O’Malley's March comes to BlackRock Family Fun Festival in Germantown

O’Malley’s March to perform at BlackRock Family Fun Festival in Germantown this Saturday. COURTESY PHOTOO’Malley’s March to perform at BlackRock Family Fun Festival in Germantown this Saturday. COURTESY PHOTO  Before Martin O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, he played music professionally.

He still does.

While in high school O’Malley formed a band, which played Irish music and folk rock. After graduating from University of Maryland Law School, he went solo for a year.

Then, in 1988, he founded the Baltimore-based Celtic rock band O’Malley’s March, in which he is the lead singer and plays acoustic guitar and penny whistle.

The band started as a trio, but now has seven musicians.

In addition to traditional Irish music and O’Malley’s original compositions, the band’s mainstays include Johnny Cash‘s “Ring of Fire,” Woody Guthrie‘s “This Land Is Your Land,” and the parlor song “Hard Times Come Again No More.”

The band has had an eclectic performance history: it played for O’Malley’s political-campaign events, and, in 2012, at the White House for President Barack Obama as part of an extended St. Patrick’s Day celebration that honored Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

O’Malley’s March continued to perform after their founder’s decision to end his 2016 presidential bid.

O’Malley’s March has played the bar scene on weekends, including Bethesda Blues and Jazz Club, as well as in large venues, such as the Avalon Theatre in Annapolis around the holidays. It has performed at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Rams Head on Stage, also in Annapolis.

“We’ve also performed in several venues in Ireland,” said Jared Denhard, a full-time musician and band member who plays trombone, bagpipe, and Irish harp.

“We’re a rock band with Irish elements – more Irish elements than most,” said Denhard.

In addition to O’Malley himself and Denhard, the other musicians are Jim Eagan, Sean McComiskey, Pete Miller, Mac Walter, and Jamie Wilson.

Later this week O’Malley’s March will be performing at the first-ever Family Fun Festival that the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown is sponsoring.

Also performing at the Festival are the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance – offering classes in several Montgomery County locations – and the MacMillan United Pipe Band of Rockville.

“At BlackRock we’ll be accompanying Culkin and also playing between acts,” said Denhard.

“This is a free show, so bring your entire family,” said Alcona Ushe, BlackRock Center’s executive director.

The Center, now in its 15th year, came into existence because of community interest.

“There wasn’t much [in the way of arts] in Germantown,” she said. “So, the citizens pushed for it.”

The “it” now encompasses a building Ushe describes as “breathtaking,” offering visual-arts galleries, multiple classes in the arts, an outdoor stage, and two indoor stages – the 240-seat main stage and the small, flexible black box the Center is trying to turn into a cabaret, she said.

The Family Fun Festival will take place at the outdoor stage but move indoors in case of inclement weather.

“We’re committed to finding a new home for artists’ groups, not just to provide space for them but to be partners with them as resident companies of BlackRock,” said Ushe.

This may be the center’s first Family Fun Festival, but not the first time O’Malley’s March is playing there.

A few years ago, said Denhard, the band performed an indoor concert there.

For the Festival, O’Malley’s March will play a mix of original songs by its founder, traditional Irish music, and a few covers, Denhard said.

The Family Fun Festival will take place Saturday, July 28, at the BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Drive, in Germantown. Picnic blankets and low-back chairs are welcome. The music begins at 7:00 p.m.

Family-friendly activities including caricatures, face painting, and henna art precede the main event at 5:00 p.m., while food trucks and the Beer & Wine Garden open at 4:00 p.m.

For information, call 301-528-2260 or visit www.blackrockcenter.org.

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