Return from Miltown

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.

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Yay! Glad to hear it was as great as usual, thanks for the report, Jeremy, and looking forward to everyone else’s impressions!

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This has to be some sort of personal record—I had no idea Jeremy could write more than three sentences at a time! 🙂

Wow, sounds like a wonderful time, like the stars (well, at least players 🙂 were aligned. Once again, we’re awestruck with what a great site this is and the quality of the world-wide community it fosters.

So what were some of the more fresh or interesting tunes that caught your ear at session?

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He might fall foul of the "name dropping police" though. 🙂

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Let’s see… fresh and interesting tunes…

Well, Peter had set Steph the homework assignment of learning Troy’s Wedding:

He also played the beautiful Soporific hornpipe, whereupon someone else at the session was able to name the composer who once taught him in secondary school:

We had a good chat about Farewell To Tchernobyl (some wit said it should be The Tumours Of Tchernobyl) and its love-it-or-hate-it status:

Apart from that, I just kept my ears peeled for tunes that kept popping up again and again during the week. To whit…

Bunker Hill:

The Kid On The Mountain:

Fred Finn’s:

and many, many more.

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Thanks for the tunes, and the photos are terrific!

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Nice piccies Jeremy. I listened to clare fm on line all week and they were broadcasting from WW. They had most of the folks in who were doing CD launches and had them play live, and they broadcast a lot of the recitals. On Wednesday they had sea-nos singers that were absolutely spellbinding — did you catch any of that? They also had a bunch of the kids come in and play — they were brilliant!!! 🙂 From the radio broadcasts it sounded like a great year.

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Yep, nice ones Jeremy. And there was our David there right enough. I wouldn’t be able to take a picture of my pint, as a pint of mine doesn’t last as long as 1/250th of a sescond.

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Great photos Jeremy, and it’s nice to be able to put some faces to some of the name 🙂

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I’m really glad you enjoyed the "Session" session!! As we say in Irish "Tá fáilte romhat" (You are welcome).

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Can I just apologise for the outrageous act of borrowing a chair from the session of "undisclosed location". I didn’t mean to mislead people into thinking i was going to sit down and i really would have loved to join you. The problem was, you see, that a brilliant fiddle player from Manchester, who used to be in a band with me da, was upstairs. I haven’t seen him in ages, etc, etc…
Can I, ever again, consider my conscience clear?!?!

Mike (Flute player from Nr Nr Manchester)

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Aaagh, I missed it again…. Nice report, Jeremy.

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Only managed the Thursday and Friday this year but found it to be one of the best so far - there seemed to be less of the rent-a -crowd brigade and many more serious musicians at the sessions. Would have enjoyed playing in any number of sessions but ended up in Hillerey’s on both afternoons - a great hostelrey where musicians were appreciated and didn’t have to put their hands in their pockets when it came to liquid refreshments! Roll on next year.

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Ahh this year was brilliant! Bannerman’s right - the numbers were down this year but the only people who were complaining were the street traders.
I’m still recovering and trying to piece together what happened each evening.
However, it was a pleasure to meet Jeremy, Jessica, Halldor, Peter Phelan and Bridie Burke.Cheers for the tunes. Have I left out any session heads? Please remind me! Oh, I met David, Helen and Laura Kerr but then that was expected. Hi Laura, thanks for inviting me to the party.

Well I ended up staying with a friend just a mile and a half from Miltown. He’s a marvellous flute repairer and is in the final stages of upping sticks from London and shifting the business to Clare. There were about 6-8 of us at any given time, including a friend of Zina’s (Hi Kevin!) and we had a ball, mostly down to the fact that we all play a bit and because of the wonderful hospitality afforded to us by our host. He has a session room in the house with great acoustics and it was nice to sit in there for an hour or two every so often. The banter, music and food were great.

Most days we headed to the afternoon piping recital; got to hear Conor McKeon, Robbie Hannon, Jimmy O’Brien Moran and Leo Rickard. They were all excellent in their own way, although Conor McKeon was a revelation and Leo’s slow air in particular was just gorgeous.

After the recital, usually a big feed followed by session. Queally’s was always a good stand-by although sometimes hard to find a spot to sit down. It seemed to be a great gathering place, with many well-known musicians simply hanging around outside chewing the fat. Other favourites were “the Blondes” (I think it’s called Lynch’s), Hillery’s, the Crosses of Annagh (of course), the pub whose name I dare not speak,all the pubs in Mullagh and Gleason’s and McCarthy’s in Coor, although the last lot were our usual end-of-night refuges. Most “nights” I got home between 6 and 7 AM; Wednesday was an early night (12 midnight) and on Saturday I crawled in at 12 in the afternoon from the previous night!

I managed to squeeze in the fiddle and flute recitals too – highlights were Zoe Conway, whose technique, grace and beauty (it has to be said) stood apart, and Sean Ryan playing whistle. The man’s a living legend.

I’m sure the stories and craic will emerge over time on this site as time goes on – I think I’ve written enough already. However, if anyone gets the chance, try and listen to “The Langer Song” which made it to No 1 in the Irish charts. It’ll give you a idea of the fun you might’ve missed.

As my friend said to me on the way home yesterday, Happy New Year. Those of you who were there will know what he means.

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Great to hear your report Conan, and I think I know who the flute repairer friend is.

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Jeremy, can I just ask, did you take those pictures? It’s just that i could swear i was in that session unless they all look the same in the place that must not be named…I was the fluteplayer in the corner, Michael…

Hmmm…get back to me on that…

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I know who the flute repair friend is also.

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sorry did not get to meet you during Willie Week and glad you enjoyed the craic. I had quite a different kind of festival. spent my time in Milltown with some very good friends. None of us actually thought Milltown as a place was very inviting this year, it was quite rough the only night I ventured near the town there were fights on the street and drunks all over the place. This may seem par for the course for festivals but I know a different kind of Milltown from years gone by. Therefore we went to sessions outside of the town itself (all secret locations of course) but not to worship at any particular musical shrine. We played with lots of local musicians who avoided Milltown for the week and also in the company of some big names (but I won’t drop any). Met some wonderful musicians from all over the place and even some Session members who were not invited into the inner circle but sure it was great anyway!
Was in Tubbercurry last night and what a different scene - much quieter but very, very nice music. Had a wonderful session with some brilliant younger musicians and some older ones also. Roll on Drumshanbo next week!.

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Well, folks, - here’s my story. I got along to the Central just before 3pm on the Wednesday, and there yez were, gone. In your place was the session from hell, complete with the devil on the banjo. Because I didn’t see David there, I reckoned you’d moved on somewhere else, but I never thought to look in the place which must never be named, so I’ll have to wait until next year to meet up with some of you. I was particularly sorry to have missed “El Supremo”, so Jeremy, I hope you can make it back again next year.
I agree with the general consensus that it was one of the best Willie Weeks there’s been, and it was certainly one of the best I’ve been to. A lot of the time, it’s just a matter of landing in the right place, at the right time , with the right people, and this year, most of the time for me, things fell into place.
I only made it along to the fiddle concert, which wasn’t the best one I’ve been to, but I agree totally with Conan that Zoe Conway stole the show. Thought Paddy Cronin was great too, although he only played the one jig. I enjoyed the talks by both Fintan Vallely and Gary Hastings on the subject of flute bands in Ireland and other places. Favorite haunts were “Queally’s” and “The Blonde’s” [“Cleary’s”-not “Lynch’s”], “Fahy’s”, and all the bars in Mullagh.
Will asks about the tunes played. I don’t think I heard all that many “new” tunes this year, it seemed mainly to be the old favourites which were being played in the sessions I was at. One thing I did think was that this year, for some reason, hornpipes seem to be “cool” again. They were being played in just about every session I was at – did anyone else think that? A good thing, in my opinion.
Some good new CDs were launched on the Sunday, including the 2nd Volume of “The Hidden Fermanagh”. Lovely, lovely music, and I’d like to think some of these tunes will be in circulation by next year. I strongly recommend the book and both CDs to anyone looking for some new interesting material.
We also did quite well for the weather, ( apart from Friday), but finding a half-decent feed is still a problem. I heard that 5 of the bars in Miltown are up for sale, so we’d better hope they don’t all close, or things’ll get pretty crowded next year.
Next year, I promise I’ll be on time!

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It must be a matter of take-the-money-and-run because I doubt the craic is that excessive all year through. If it is though I wanna buy one, lol!

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Kenny, sorry to have missed you. But, given the session that was going on in the Central Hotel, can you blame us for making a hasty exit? 😉

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I was really sorry to miss meeting you all! But, see… I had heard that Ronan Browne and Peadar O’Loughlin were going to be playing out in Mullagh. And I’m afraid that was uncontestable-with. I got to hear themselves and Jimmy O’Brien Moran and Jesse Smith, and Harry Bradley (on pipes), playing at Conways, a really lovely early evening session, and it was without a doubt the highlight of my week. But I was sorry to miss you chaps all the same!

Another highlight of my week was the session up at McCarthy’s on the Monday night/morning, with Gerry Harrington & Co, that I just mentioned on the ‘weird things’ thread. What a gorgeous player he is, and also the the harmonica/concertina player, also described in the other thread. Unfortunately, I peaked a bit early, as I then caught the Miltown Lurgy that was going round, and was at low revs for the rest of the week… tried to take it easy and resist the pangs of FOMS (Fear of Missing Something) which are a major problem at Miltown. It’s hard to disentangle the entire week… it went so damn fast. I have some nice photos, including a few of Gerry Harrington from that McCarthy’s session, will post them up when I get a chance.
Like Conan, I was billeted with the Host with the Most - the man is a star. And such a nice crew to spend a week with. Not that I saw some of them much - barely crossed paths with Conan! But then, Conan is a tune-hound of the first order and runs on some special sort of battery power - I’m just a mere mortal and can’t keep up… I did meet up with BB too, but she’s on those same batteries as Mr McDonnell. Up against that sort of energy, I’m just an innocent bystander… 😉
A few tunes seem to have soaked into my cortex over the week - one of them I think is called ‘Last House in Connacht’ and I also heard ‘the Girl that Broke my Heart’ alot, or at least, it seems to be going round and round my head now. So I guess I did!
I didn’t go to any recitals this year except for two of the lunchtime piping recitals - Robbie Hannon and Jimmy O’Brien Moran. Specially enjoyed the latter. I also attended a class by Ronan Browne & Sean Corcoran which I think they will run again next year, and I would highly recommend it to anyone! The focus of the class is on learning to listen, for want of a better explanation… the idea was to listen to lots of stuff (on recordings), selected by themselves, and to discuss it. Which turns out to be a very interesting excercise. Besides which, of course, they both have enormous funds of knowledge and anecdotes, which are reason enough for attending the class, not to mention the 2 CDs worth of fascinating bits and pieces that you get to hear.
I’ve probably forgotten some other exceptional moments but they’ll come back to me…!

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I have been playing irish music here in Miltown Malbay for over thirty years and I am so DISGUSTED with the comments from Kenny and Jeremy and their other friends from the You know my exposure to your site has been all positive until now. I have enjoyed the rapport on site and the access to tunes has been great. I would have recomended it to anyone. HOWEVER!!!! I was playing in the session referred to above as the session from hell!!!!
Let me put tell you about that day…. Now if that was the opinion of those who were there then they are entitled to it. But the beheviour of the session people,, There is a book called session Etiquite which they could do with reading. I give special mention to the person called "Peter". You walked into a session in full swing, introduced all your friends to each other "Only" proceeded to ignore all others when starting tunes. and then packed everyone off to somewhere else after destroying the dynamic of the session. Well NEWSFLASH!!! the session picked up quiet well after you left..
It makes me sad to think that something that is usually as people friendly as an Irish Music Session can be robbed of its friendliness by a clique!!!!!
You are all welcome back to Willie week next year but, try and be a bit more considerate.
Oh and check out that book!!!!!!! or the following site.
And did you all know….. among those musicians that day were three lecturers of the Willie week.
Keep on Playing.