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.
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.