The Emperor Norton

Ceili Band


The Emperor Norton Ceili Band has been a gradual evolution that started when Autumn Rhodes met the O’Donnell brothers, shortly after she moved to San Francisco. It quickly became apparent that their playing styles meshed very well, and they played together an increasing amount, but they never really formalized anything. Finally, someone suggested that they name themselves. A surprisingly small amount of brainstorming produced this name, and the band has been playing together ever since.

Band members include:

Autumn Rhodes: Kidnapped by a pack of wild, vicious corgis at a startlingly young age, Autumn found herself unable to howl and thus was forced to learn the wooden flute for the purposes of communication. About three hours later, when the corgis decided that they’d had enough of this whole ‘roughing it’ business, it was too late for Autumn: she’d already caught the Irish music bug* from them. At that point, it was either put her down, or put her in a band. Someone chose the less humane option, and she’s been playing on stage ever since.

*Yes, I know corgis are Welsh, not Irish. Work with me here.

Patrick O’Donnell: Banjo.  Pat O’Donnell comes from a family with strong ties to the Irish-American community in San Francisco.  His parents are avid set dancers and supporters of Irish culture in the Bay Area.  Pat got his musical start in punk rock music, playing the bass and guitar.  He toured extensively throughout the West Coast in his late teens.  At around age 20, he took up the tenor banjo (after receiving one from Richard Lundy) and hasn’t looked back since.  He was the winner of the 2010 Midwest Fleadh Senior Tenor Banjo competition.  Pat also plays the fiddle, the concertina, the tin whistle, and the C#/D accordion.  His hobbies include partying, beers, partying, whiskey, San Francisco Giants games, surfing, skateboarding, and partying.  He lives in San Francisco’s Sunset district and works with the city’s Parks and Recreation group. He is heavily involved with the Cooley-Keegan branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.

Sean O’Donnell: Button Accordion. Sean is Pat’s brother and is a child (now teen) prodigy on the C#/D button accordion.  With his parents’ encouragement, he took up the tin whistle and accordion as a child, under the tutelage of Miliosa Lundy of Limerick.  He plays in the style of the great Joe Cooley, who lived in San Francisco for several years in the 1970s.  He has represented San Francisco in the All-Ireland fleadh after winning the 2007 and 2011 12-15 Accordion competitions.  Here’s a video of a young Sean busking at the 2007 All-Ireland fleadh. Sean is also the Youth Officer of the Cooley-Keegan branch.  Sean also plays the tin whistle and the banjo.  His other hobbies include skateboarding, set dancing, cross-country, San Francisco Giants games, and mocking his brother.  Sean lives in Pacifica and attends San Francisco’s St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School.

Peter Persoff: Piano.  Coming soon, when he tells me what to say.

Steve Agacinski: Concertina. Steve hails from Royal Oaks, Michigan and has played the concertina since high school.  He was the winner of the 2004 Midwest Fleadh Senior Concertina competition, and was taught by concertina maker Frank Edgley.  Steve also plays the tenor banjo and guitar.  He attends many sessions throughout the Bay Area.  His other hobbies include comic song-writing (someday we’ll get him to post some of his awesome lyrics), sailing, talking about Michigan, going to Michigan, any games involving Detroit-based sports teams, and watching TV comedy.  He lives in Menlo Park and is a programmer by day.