Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Irish Musicians

We have met so many different musicians in the Irish music world. They range from world-reknown professional artists (even a few Grammy award winners/nominees) to adult beginners. If you went through my blog posts over the years, it could read like a Who's Who in Irish music.

These people come from many countries and backgrounds. They have different points of view,  different hang ups, different home environments, different personalities, and different lifestyles. Some travel the world, some are involved in amazing philanthropic efforts, some play their music on the side and have careers in another field, some are full time musicians, some teach music to others, some compose, some believe it's important to remain true to the tradition of the music while others enjoy taking the music and merging it with different genres to make it new…I could go on and on about differences but I really wanted to talk about a couple similarities between the musicians we've met and why I feel blessed to have them in my kids' lives.

Last week at the Teetotalers concert, Kevin Crawford, the flute/whistle player, suggested he might try Paraic's Monday night session this week. He had gigs in the TN then was heading back up to this area on Monday. He messaged me Monday afternoon for session details and said he was in New York but heading down to the Jersey shore (about 2.5 hours away) where he was staying, then would try to drive to the session (90 min each way). He wasn't sure if he'd be able to make it in time for the session but he'd be mapping it out to see.

He made it!

It was a lot of driving in one day. He said he thinks the world of the kids and didn't want to disappoint them. The session was absolutely awesome! The music was great and all the kids (Haley, Dylan, Alex, and Keegan) had so much fun playing music, being together, and sharing jokes with Paraic and Kevin. At one point they all played a set of tunes (one of Haley's favorite sets) the kids learned off a Lunasa CD (Kevin's band…check them out on youtube if you have never heard them) and on the way home Haley said it was the highlight of her night! Dylan was smiling from ear to ear while he played. They barely left their seats in the 2.5 hours they were jamming.

This story illustrates one of the similarities between most of the Irish musicians we've met. They go out of their way to encourage the next generation of musicians. There have been a rare few along the way who don't (in my experience those tend to be the less advanced adults rather than the "icons") but the vast majority have been very supportive by welcoming the kids in sessions, inviting them onstage for a tune, staying after performances to talk or play a tune with them, talking to them in classes, etc… They understand when a six, eight, or eleven year old plays a tune at a session often viewed as "show-offy" it isn't to show off but because they love the tune, it may even be their favorite tune, and think others will join in with them. They teach session etiquette to enthusiastic young musicians gently. They realize getting a chance to play tunes or talk to people whose CDs they listen to over and over to learn tunes from will be a highlight in their life.

Another similarity is their apparent love of the music. Folk music does not make millionaires on the level of famous pop artists…there may be a few who've done extremely well but most simply make a nice living or do it on the side or for fun. Many Irish musicians have a "real" job so they are able to play the music on their own terms or for fun rather than having to change things to appeal to a broader audience. Touring musicians keep crazy schedules driving hours from gig to gig, often stay in people's homes while traveling rather than in fancy hotels, and stay up late after performances to play with the local musicians in sessions for fun. I love the way many musicians do not limit themselves to performing with one group of people. We've seen very few large egos. Many musicians belong to multiple groups, large or small, and perform solo as well and there seems to be a general camaraderie among them when they meet up at camps and festivals where they will enjoy talking and playing tunes with each other after performances.

Lastly, Irish musicians are fun! No matter where we travel, we look for sessions so we can meet with an area's local musicians and listen to their tunes. We have always been welcome. Besides music, sessions include stories, jokes, laughs, and general chit chat. Some of Haley's favorite sessions have been after a day of performance at a festival or at music camp when the performers get together to jam.

I believe experiences with the musicians we've met over the years have helped shape and promote my kids' love of Irish music. I feel blessed to know them and have them in my kids' lives. As a mother trying to help her child navigate her life path, I treasure each memory and kindness Haley has received from different musicians whose paths we cross.

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