We could call this my St. Paddy’s Day special. And this time I’m reaching even further back in time to Spring, 2002, when five non-Irish people formed an Irish traditional band, and called themselves, “Raar,” meaning “strange” in Dutch… of course.
The band was a palindrome. Same backwards and forwards. Tom Spackman (USA) played mandolin, guitar, and bodhran, and opposite him was Robin Turk (UK) with the same arsenal. Move in one place and you have Stella Rodrigues (Holland) on fiddle, and opposite her was Emma Small (South Africa) also on fiddle. I landed in the middle of the group with my freak instrument. All of us sang, all of us played with all of our heart. We had two phenomenal gigs, and that’s all. By the summer, we all kind of scattered and went back to our other pursuits. I still listen to these recordings and think, “Dang, we were really good.” And we sure did put a ton of time into items like arrangement. What if we’d had more time together? What if Cork really was home to all of us?
The following are all of the sets we performed at the UCC Traditional Music Society student concert at An Spailpin Fanach, Cork, Ireland, May 2002. Introduction by Mel Mercier. Special guest, Elin Skoglund (Sweden), on nyckelharpa.
This is another one I had to fetch with my time machine. I did spend a lovely Sunday afternoon today playing music with my new friend Bryan, but unfortunately, all the tunes I’d recorded came out as duds, because silly me, I haven’t learned how to use the recording function on my iPod yet. Grrrr.
Anyway, feeling like it’s way past time to post something on the blog, I decided to dig into the magic box o’ minidiscs and pull out something from an equally lovely Sunday afternoon. As I recall, this was a day when Fintan Lucy and I were hell-bent to play music in public. We set off from my house at the Red Abbey and headed to—Fintan, what was the name of that place that slammed the door in our faces when we showed them the instrument cases? Jeepers, I’ve never been less wanted in my life. Well we ended up at the Phoenix, next to the former musical landmark and all around groovy place, the Lobby. Man, I had it real good then. A whole host of pubs within walking distance from my house, days and days full of music, and more than my fair share of friends to share it all with.
I’m glad I happened to bring the minidisc recorder along on this little jaunt. Fintan is one of the most amazing singers I know; even a casual recording like this, with all the pub background noise, gives me the chills. The song is “John Barleycorn,” an example of Fintan taking a song that isn’t his own, but owning it like nobody’s business. I love this image of the two musicians creating their own little atmosphere in the corner of a pub, while the rest of the drinkers and socializers do their thing. I’ve purposely included the before and after chatter on this track. Fintan and I were cracking ourselves up, and enjoying every bit of the afternoon we stole for the sake of music.
Me and Fintan Lucy, improvising a few songs at the Phoenix pub, Cork City, Ireland, April 2004:
My days in Cork were so rich in music from the moment I arrived there. I hardly went anywhere without bringing my minidisc recorder along. This recording was made on November 14, 2001, which would’ve been just about 2 months after I first got to Cork for my year abroad. It was Tom Spackman and myself sitting off to the side of the session at the Gables on Barrack Street, listening to Christy Leahy on box, Johnny Neville on guitar, and Geraldine O’Callahan on fiddle. This continues to be one of the best sessions in Cork, in my opinion, although it’s never exactly the same twice. This particular night was probably the first night I started to fall in love with Johnny Neville’s guitar playing… I only wish I’d captured him singing. I pity any tourists who travel to Ireland in search of traditional music and end up sitting in a pub other than the Gables on a Wednesday or Sunday night. Unless it’s the Corner House, but that’s another story for another post.
Set of reels, recorded at the Gables, November 14, 2001.