The Visitor

The Visitor

Here’s the scene. You’re at your regular local session, and just as everyone is settling in and tuning, who walks through the door but … Frankie O’Garvin, the famous fiddler! Naturally, everone is thrilled to see him. It seems he’s in town to attend an accupuncture conference, and decided to stop in, but he hasn’t brought along an instrument. Still, everyone would be delighted if Mr. O’Garvin would stay a while and have a few tunes.

Now you’re the kind of person who always takes meticulous, loving care of your instrument. Accordingly, you make it a personal policy never to lend your instrument to others to avoid problems, and some of your session mates know that. But this particular situation has never occurred before. So now comes the inevitable question as Mr. O’Garvin leans toward you and asks, "Say, mind if I borrow your fiddle?"

At this point you can hand it over, take your chances, and give everyone a thrilling session experience they’ll remember all their lives. Or you can refuse the request and explain at length to everyone why you never lend your instument, leaving your session mates glaring daggers at you and mad for the next ten years. What would you do?

So against your instincts you turn over your fiddle, and Frankie proceeds to lead the session through the most exciting sets of tunes you’ve ever played. He also bows so hard that half the hairs on your bow snap off in the process, and he rosins after every set, leaving a blanket of dust all over the top. The acid in his fingers turns your strings and bow windings a deep jet black. And when he does hand your fiddle back, he accidentaly knocks it against the table, putting a dent in the top and dropping your soundpost. "Thanks so much", he says. And your session mates don’t even realize what’s happened. All they know is they’ve just had a wonderful session experience.

Now the next time that famous fiddler Liz O’Carrollan walks into your session and asks to borrow your instrument, what will you do?

Here the names have been changed to protect the blameless, and there was never a Frankie or Liz involved. And the instrument in question has usually been guitar, not fiddle. But this situation has happened to me several times over the years, and I’m never sure how to resolve the dilemma. What would you do?

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I would lend any of my instruments without hesitation, especially to a famous fluter/piper/fiddler or whatever.
The only condition would be if it were the pipes, they MUST NOT touch the chanter reed (unless they were Benedict Koehler).
I once let a woman play my flute and she broke the Eb key spring, but that’s the worst that has happend so far.

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I don’t think I’d have much of a problem handing my fiddle over to, say, Eileen Ivers or Kevin Burke. I would be most embarrassed at them playing my really crappy fiddle, but if they put a dent in it, I would proudly show it off at every opportunity. "See this mark here? (insert name) did that when he/she played my fiddle one night." Again, my fiddle is a piece of crap, so it really would be an honor.

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It all depends on the potential borrower, your instrument (it could really be very valuable), the general circumstances, and how you feel about the situation.
If you really don’t want to lend your instrument to someone you don’t know personally you could say something about restrictions being applied more rigorously now by your insurance company.

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I would never lend my instrument to ANYONE. If they are a real musician why would they turn up without an instrument. Over the years I have seen numerous good musicians who turn up in the pub on Saturday night, have a few drinks at the bar, then someone in the session says "come on Jack, will you play a few tunes, here Molly lend him your flute". The answer is "no way", I bothered to bring mine with me and am going to play it all night and besides its unhygienic to share flutes or whistles. I really, really hate having to lend my instrument to ANYONE, yes even Matt Molloy would get a refusal "sorry matt , go home and get your own"!
I feel particularly sorry for guitar players and bodhran players as there is always someone standing at the bar who can play or keep time and there are usually generous minded musicians in the session quite willing to lend YOUR instrument, despite the fact it is your dearest possession, cost a fortune and could not possibly be replaced. no way Jose (or matt)!

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You become the internationally famed expert, and proceed to swagger into session after session round the world (so you don’t have to revisit any of them too soon), playing other people’s instruments into the ground.

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I thnk I’d stretch a point and let Kevin Burke or Martin Hayes borrow my fold iddle. Wouldn’t let Martin borrow my new shoes, though, in case he wore them out.

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I seem to have one fold iddle, and another one that doesn’t.

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I would and I have handed over. It would just be sooooo special to have anyone of real calibre here. Who cares about the personal thing of having to play yourself in the circumstances. It works both ways, and once someone else handed over to me when I had gone to a sess without an instrument and with the intention of just listening. I am not special, but gee the person who handed over was, very special to have done that for me. I’ll never forget it.

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Frankie O’Garvin can certainly borrow my fiddle. But I’ll be asking him to teach me a tune afterward!

I don’t know whether this is true or not, but it seems like people are rougher on guitars than they are on other instruments. Has anyone noticed that, or is it just me?

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im usually quite happy to loan a whistle with the warning that the hygene risk is there problem. nor recently though. (mouth ulcers). and no one has ever been mad enough to ask for a go at the pipes.

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Frankie Gavin wouldn’t ask to borrow a fiddle. he’s too much of a gent. And come to think of it, neither would anyone who is any good. It’s part of the definition of being a good player, being considerate. I just find the whole concept of this thread a non starter. I just can’t imagine good players muscling in and taking over in the way described.

I offer my fiddle frequently, but only to people I know or people I know vouch for.

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You’re quite right, Michael. If a "Great Name" came into the pub without an instrument he or she is much more likely to keep a low profile and just sit somewhere out of the way with a drink and listen. If they were recognised and someone in the session offered them an instrument to play then that would be an entirely different matter; the onus is then on the Great Name.
In practice, the people most likely to ask to borrow an instrument, perhaps in an emergency, are people you know well and who know you well - your regular session players. There’s rarely a problem there.
My previous suggestion about insurance was directed more at the situation, which I’ve come across once or twice, where some completely unknown punter comes over from the bar after a few drinks and asks - no, demands - to play someone’s instrument.

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That’s fine, Michael, but I’m afraid you’ve missed several points. First, my actual trumps your hypothetical. The situation described has actually happened to me several times, though the details were different. And the players involved were *very* well known. Second, suggesting that good players are necessarily considerate human beings is a bit idealistic, no? Especially if there are pints or other substances involved. Though I wish it were so. Third, the question of fame is relative. The visitor could be world famous, or only locally known, but the effect is the same. Fourth, the problem is not "muscling in". In each case, the player was invited in and very welcome. The problem is the mistreatment of the instrument. Fifth, in no case has the player made the offer to pay for the physical damage done, leaving me to subsidize the experience from my own pocket, in effect. Finally, the names used here are strictly fictional. In fact, Frankie Gavin did stop by our session a few months back. I wasn’t there, but reports were that he was exactly the wonderful player and gentleman you describe.

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Under no circumstances should you ever lend your bodhran to anyone. I have done this several times and have on every occasion had cause to regret it. It’s a short-cut way of making yourself the most unpopular chap on the planet. My advice to all bodhran owners, in order to avoid making yourself persona non grata in this way, is to leave your "instrument" at home at all times. Problem solved! So glad to have been of assistance! 😀

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It all depends on where these musicians stand in the pecking order

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Although I try to kep a low profile John Joe O’Kelly always insists on me borrowing his drum. One of the many drawbacks of fame.

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Excellent! At least with him lending you his drum your session can be assured of proper bodhran playing and not tunes-on-a-skin!

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I once went to a session instrument-less (just a couple of years ago, actually - I was a wee bit unhinged - say no more) and I borrowed a whistle. I returned it without sterilising it to remove my oral bacteria, yet nothing was said. Yet I’m not famous or particularly "good". The guy who’d lent me it is more "famous" than me (wouldn’t be hard, as I’m just a legend in my own on-line time) and he had prompted me to join in. It’s hard to imagine a scenario of a famous musician turning up without an instrument if he’d intended to play. Unless he was on the ale all day with his mates or something. Maybe famous players do behave like the rest of us eegits after all then. News to me.

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I can see you know something about real bodhran playing, Steve.

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Michael writes: "Frankie Gavin wouldn’t ask to borrow a fiddle."

Well… he did just that one night here in SF. No harm came to the fiddle or the session

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The guitar player at one of the sessions here also plays fiddle and has one standing by ready at all times for when the occasional tune he knows comes up. One night when Altan was in town they stopped in after the gig for a drink. None of them had their instruments with them, but after a short time Mairead came bounding over like a gazelle and asked if she could play the fiddle lying on the table. I just dare anyone here to say they would refuse such a request. Needless to say we had a great time playing all those great northern tunes with her lovely self for the rest of the night.

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Cherish the Ladies did a concert here a couple years back, partly as a fundraiser for our local symphony. Afterwards, the symphony hosted a little soiree for them at a hotel across town, and asked us to provide the music. It wasn’t long before Joanie and the gang were sitting in with us, all playing instruments borrowed—readily offered by us—on the spot. Great fun.

I’ve also had a number of "famous" players casually hand me their fiddles after a gig, saying, "Have a go on this—play me a tune."

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I can imagine a slightly different scenario for borrowing an instrument. In fact, I will probably post a thread nearer the time.

I’m going on a cycling holiday with my girlfriend to the Lake District at some point this summer. I’d love to go to a session en route, but, of course, won’t have my fiddle with me. do you think it would be OK to ask to borrow one? (I’m not famous)

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Evelyn Glennie, World-Famous Solo Percussionist, came into our pub once and borrowed a bodhran. The local arhythmic skin bashers kept doggedly bashing, unwilling to give even a few minutes of clear air to the WFSP, which she bore with good humour and we with gritted teeth..

A couple of well-known and well-recorded mandolin players (I suppose you can’t say "famous" for players of an instrument so far down the Pecking Order) have offered me "shotties" of their valuable instruments in sessions, but that’s a bit different from going up and asking.

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isn’t there a (traditional) proverb about lending and borrowing?

I don’t lend my stuff out on demand.

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I once borrowed a guitar from a session leader who played both that and fiddle in San Diego. Once he saw that I was competent, he let me play it for about an hour or so. Another time, I attended a session in Denver with just my whistle, and got invited to another session later in the week. The kind couple gave me a ride, and loaned me a guitar.
So I have benefitted from the kindness of strangers a couple of times. How could I not pass that kindness on to someone who makes a polite request?

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The only people who ever ask to borrow harmonicas are either hard-bitten blues guys who haven’t really latched on to what the rest of us are supposed to be doing or toothless men over 90 whose grandads played one on the Jarrow march. In the case of the latter I’ll tell them they can borrow one as long as I have signed guarantees from both their parents that all damage will be paid for

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Did you ever consider the possibility that the reason these visitors are asking to play your guitar is because that would prevent YOU from playing it? Just sayin…

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I always have a go on John Joe’s bodhran, esp about 3 in the morning, usually because he’s borrowed my mandolin. I also have a little go on the wee bodhran necklace he has around his neck. He seems to like it.

I got a call last Thurs saying that [famous box player] had flown into Manchester and his accordion was damaged by those nice baggage handlers, did I know anyone who could fix it? I provided some phone numbers and offered to lend him my accordion if he couldn’t get it mended. I didn’t hear any more after that but I cleaned and tidied my house from top to bottom on the off chance that he might drop by.

So good things can come out of lending and borrowing instruments.

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You must be an amazing, fantastic musician to be hanging out with all these amazing, fantastic musicians. Are you famous too?

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Ben Hall writes: "I’m going on a cycling holiday with my girlfriend to the Lake District at some point this summer. I’d love to go to a session en route, but, of course, won’t have my fiddle with me. do you think it would be OK to ask to borrow one? (I’m not famous)"

Sometimes we’ll get word prior to someone’s visit that they’re coming through without their instrument and we’ll scramble to see if anyone has an extra one we could bring to the session at the time they arrive. This has happened with fiddles more than anything else, but I have seen a flute and a harp on other occasions.

When I was in Doolin one time everyone was headed off the following night to some big ho-down in Feakle, and Terry Bingham, (a very generous man,) promised to loan me his Eb concertina so I could have a few tunes with Josephine Marsh, (who played an Eb box at the time,) and Kevin Griffin — two of the only people that didn’t plan on going. The following night the owner of McGann’s shut down the pub and left a handful of us there and said we could drink whatever we liked, (another very generous man,) and he handed me Terry’s concertina that was dropped off at the pub for me.

It seems like the idea of loaning instruments is part of the tradition based on my experience. Either that or people that play this music just happen to be very decent.

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I feel so privileged even to be writing on the same internet forum as you guys!

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"big ho down in Feakle" … ? Racy stuff!

The sum of this discussion seems to be "some people lend their instruments, some don’t "

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No, no, no—-you need to get the dash right, or the meaning changes completely!

Big ho down in Feakle=extremely large woman wearing a red leather miniskirt and clear plastic spike heels lookin’ for a good time

Big ho-down in Feakle=a big fun party! alternate sp. hoedown, etc.

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Oh.
Actually the original post was about lending your instrument to a player you greatly admire, and everyone else is in awe of, who damages it without offer of recompense.
It reminds of when I was young and too poor to afford any instrument and watching film of Pete Townshend smashing guitars . I was twitching with resentment but too cool to admit it.
"Why couldn’t he just give that guitar to me if he hates it so much?" I was thinking.
So I sympathise with MTGuru’s dilemma but fortunately these days I care not for reputations, mine included. So I would say, for fecksake Frunkie, you’ve broke me bloody fiddle, you owe me

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LOL In light of the recent remarks that got Imus fired, I suppose I should have said "shin-dig" instead. hahaha

By the way, I forgot to mention that Tony McGann closed his pub because he was off to the shin-dig in Feakle as well.

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Are we going to have to say ‘Plymouth Shin’ from now on? Or ‘Westward Shin’? Or ‘Land Shin’?

‘Yo shin shin and a bottle of rum’.

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So Dow thinks bodhran players are "fantastic Musicians". That’s interesting, especially the musicians bit.

Incidently, when Tiger Woods says he was having a beer with Greg Norman, he is NOT name dropping. Therefore if you happen to know "famous" people, people you went to school with, people you slept with, people you lived beside, people you played music with, others should not cast aspersions. It is belittling, to the person trying to be smart, not to the one who happens to know someone famous.

I number famous musicians, Holywood film stars, sports stars, politicians, and writers among my friends. That is not what makes me special.

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sure i’d let a famous "visitor" borrow my instruments. as long as they weren’t being a**holes about it.

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I talked with Sharon Stone at my local market once.

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I had lunch with Tom Wolf at my sister’s house.

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I once stood next to Tony Benn in a public urinal.

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Don’t goad me, Ben…😀

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Was that Tony Benn the piper?

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Was Sharon asking about me?

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Mike Tyson once half-threw a joking punch at me. Then he went to prison. But not for that.

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You should have bit his ear off.

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I once assembled a couple of chairs for Pete Webb.
And I’ve had conversations with Maureen Lipman, Sam Elliott, and John Duigan.
But none of these showbiz people are musicians, although Maureen Lipman CAN sing.