Return from Miltown
I’m back. And I’m glad to see that everything here at the site is more or less just like I left it ;-)
So I suppose I’d better deliver my field report. If you want the quick version, suffice to say that it was simply brilliant. I’ve come back with a renewed enthusiasm and a head full of tunes.
I showed up on the Sunday afternoon and immediately starting wandering around the pubs of Miltown, listening to all the sessions. I ended up in Quelly’s where there was a mighty session in full swing. I even managed to grab a seat near the musicians. By pure coincidence, I found myself sitting next to Conan:
"Excuse me", I said. "Is your name Conan?"
"Aye", he replied. "Are you Jeremy?"
He then proceeded to introduce me to Halldor who was sitting directly across from us blazing away on the fiddle:
So on my very first evening I had met up with two members of The Session and listened in to some great tunes.
I devoted Monday to more academic pursuits. I attended a lecture in the afternoon on the music and song of the Aran islands. I then had a few hours to kill until the evening’s fiddle recital.
I passed the time by going from pub to pub listening to the tunes. In one pub, Alec Finn and Jackie Daly were leading a session. In another, Paddy Cronin was playing tunes: sheer bliss. A few hours later, he was on stage playing alongside a veritable constellation of fiddlers. The fiddle recital was enjoyable despite the less than conducive environment of the community hall. A real eye-opener for me was hearing the beautiful playing of Gerry Harrington.
On Tuesday, I made a concerted effort to join in a few sessions: I think Haldor was starting to think I was walking around with an empty case ;-).
In the afternoon, I met up with Haldor and Conan in Quelly’s where I ostensibly played along… in fact I mostly just shut up and listened to some great music led by a superb piper (perhaps a wee bit too fast for long periods of exposure).
By early evening, I found myself in the Central Hotel where (following a Brendan McGlinchey led session in the back room) it was now nice and quite. I took the opportunity to tune up my bouzouki. While I was at it, I thought, might as well play some tunes with fiddlers Liz (a lurker here at The Session) and Jessica:
We were soon joined by a whistle player, a fiddle player and a concertina player. People were also starting to trickle into the pub and, as it turned out, there were nearly all pipers! They began strapping on their instruments and the session really started to lift off. Soon we were joined by some very young girls starting to learn some tunes and it was a joy to hear them play. Before long, the session had turned into a mammoth affair taking up half the pub.
Wednesday afternoon was the appointed day for meeting up with Session members in the Central Hotel. I went in there at the appointed time and the thought struck me, "how on earth am I going to be able to recognise anyone?".
Luckily, Conan was already there (along with Halldor) playing along with a session in full swing. Conan introduced me to Peter Phelan:
Peter then introduced me to David:
The session in the Central wasn’t that great so we decamped to an undisclosed location. I can’t tell you where it was but suffice to say that we have Peter to thank for it. Not only that, but Peter also used the grapevine to gather as many Session members there as he could. That’s how I was able to briefly meet bb:
So on my last night in Miltown, I ended up in this Cheney-esque location enjoying one of the finest sessions I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.
Steph was there with some of her friends:
Lynn was playing her flute:
David was blazing away on the mandolin and was almost always able to answer my frequently asked question "what’s the name of that tune?". He’s a walking encyclopedia.
There were some great, great tunes played and always at a nice pace: just the right speed to allow the tunes to shine.
Sometimes I felt like Goldilocks going from session to session in Miltown Malbay: "this session is too fast", "this session is too noisy", but at Peter’s session on my last night it was definitely a case of "this session is just right". Go raibh mile maith agat, Peter.
Now I’m back with my musical batteries recharged. I’ve got a head full of tunes and a renewed determination to improve my playing.
It was great meeting up with Session members face to face (sorry to have missed you, banjobabe) and I’d love to hear other peoples’ memories of Miltown. So your assignments, once you’re back, is to write "what I did on my Summer holidays" right here.