Tomorrow we’re having a little session in my home; maybe one day our little group will find a public place to play. But, that’s not the most important thing right now; there are a very few talented players in town, and at least we can meet occasionally and have house sessions. I’m anticipating a strong showing on flute, pipes, fiddle, drum, guitar and voice!
Thinking about the tunes–there are so many–makes me nostalgic. I’ve been playing a long time; and I’m thankful to the folks in Tucson with whom I play tunes. But I often wish I lived in a place with more Irish musicians; and good ones, with good attitudes, because that’s what lifts your playing, when you have that kind of camradiere and talent combined.
I found this old slide–yes, a film slide–from a trip I took to Ireland to Willie Clancy Week in 1998. Here’s a photo of my fiddle class from that week:
For the majority of you who wouldn’t recognize them, the fiddlers in the back row from left to right are Bobby Casey, Joe Ryan and Peadar O’Loughlin.
In the front row, from left to right: an irritating woman from California; Conor McEvoy –then 11 and now the 2009 “TG4 Young Musician of the Year”–what a talent, I learned some great tunes from him! Then, next, a nice fellow from Australia; then me; and the very exceptionally talented Sophie Bardou, from Paris. She is an AMAZING fiddler. Check her out here.
How I got into this class is a funny story. I can’t tell you what a once-in-a-lifetime event that class was, either, to have those 3 giants of the tradition in one room for a week….it just blew my mind. Even now I can’t believe it happened!
I knew of Tony Linnane and liked his playing and went to his class the first day of the week-long festival, thinking it might be a good fit for me; and, he had everyone play a tune to audition, and I was the first to get booted out of his class because I didn’t play well enough. My playing wasn’t very good then; but, I had a good attitude, for an American, and that counts for a lot. Not enough, though, to keep me in his class!
I felt really bereft after getting the boot and was wandering around the halls of the old high school where the classes are taught during the week. I was listening to all the fiddle classes in session. I passed by classrooms and recognized teachers like Siobhan Peoples, Brendan McGlinchey and Martin Hayes; and as I wondered what I’d do, I wandered past the registration desk and a very kindly round-ish middle-aged woman asked me what was wrong–I must’ve looked quite stricken–and I explained that I’d come all the way from Arizona to learn about the music of west Clare. And then suddenly–I don’t know where he came from, he must’ve been late for class–Peadar O’Loughlin was standing behind me, and he said something like “well if you’ve come all this way to learn about the music of Clare you must come with me”. So, that’s how I ended up in his class: he escorted me there himself.
Now, Peadar is quite fresh; there’s a photo somewhere of him trying to sit in my lap during the festival. Unfortunately, I don’t have it. Neil Bettinson, a Morris dancer and concertina player from St. Bees, Cumbria has it; and though I’ve written to him asking for a copy, I’ve had no luck in getting one. Neil, if you ever read this: cough it up! I’ll never be famous enough to blackmail.