Blackthorn to play traditional Irish tunes

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 19, 2014

Music lovers who want to enjoy a prelude to St. Patrick’s Day are in luck: The Sterling Heights Parks and Recreation Department is sponsoring a two-show concert by the Irish folk music group Blackthorn.

Blackthorn is scheduled to play at the Sterling Heights Recreation Center in Dodge Park March 9 as part of the Sterling Coffeehouse series.

Band member Richard McMullan said Blackthorn plays all over, but Sterling Heights is one of his favorite places to perform. He said the upcoming shows are selling very well so far.

“It’s been one of the first places we do,” he said. “In fact, this year, because of sell-outs … they’re actually going to have two shows on the same day so we can accommodate people.”

McMullan, 63, said he grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and he has been part of Blackthorn for around 20 years. He said the band started in 1984, when “just a couple guys in the area kind of put it together on a wing and a prayer.”

He said Blackthorn’s music grew in demand around the time shows like “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance” became well-known.

“When Irish music started to become popular in the area, I kind of abandoned the rock ‘n’ roll bands I was in and started concentrating on the Irish,” he said. “It was a lot easier to take — fewer decibels.”

The band is composed of five members: Richard McMullan, Gary McMullen, Fred Klein, David Mosher and Dennis Green. They play the flute, accordion, banjo, guitar, mandolin and more.

Richard McMullan said his band plays authentic, traditional Irish music and not the type of Tin Pan Alley tunes sung by people like Bing Crosby. This authentic Irish music helps create a strong interaction with the audiences, he said.

“There is a lot of participation on their part and a fair amount of sing-along,” he added.

Troy Nowotny, recreation supervisor for the Sterling Heights Parks and Recreation Department, said the city’s Sterling Coffeehouse series started in the early 1990s. He confirmed that Blackthorn has become a sell-out band for city events.

“(Sterling) Coffeehouse was originally designed as kind of like a gathering place during the winter months when you weren’t quite able to go outside,” he said.

“It was every Sunday in the month of March. It’s been shrunk down to just the Blackthorn (band), eventually, because it’s the most popular.”

The traditional Irish band Blackthorn will hold concerts at 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. March 9 at the Recreation Center in Dodge Park, 40620 Utica Road. Advance tickets are $14 for residents and $18 for nonresidents.

Learn more at or by calling (586) 446-2700. Find out more about Blackthorn at