Last week, my husband and I went to Ireland for our honeymoon. We had a wonderful trip--Ireland is a beautiful country that far surpassed our already high expectations. I hope to write many blog posts about the ancient beauty we experienced there, and I'd like to start with the music.
Irish pubs have regular musical performances, and even the best traditional musicians still perform in them frequently. The first night we heard a performance, we were at Kate Kearney's Cottage in the Gap of Dunloe. Kate's is famous for it's Irish Nights, which include traditional food, dancing, and music. The food was excellent, some of the best traditional Irish food we had on the trip, but the highlight was the music and dance. The band that played, Tuatha, had three musicians, Mike Dowd, Donal Moroney, and Barry Lynch, who play the fiddle, bodhran, accordion, Irish flute, bones, and tin whistle. Their music was fast-paced, lively, and exciting--they quickly inspired the audience to bounce along with the beat. The dancers demonstrated traditional dances such as the jig and the hornpipe, showing the great energy and grace it requires to perform these complicated dances.
During the musicians' break, they allowed people to come up to the stage and play on their percussion instruments. The fiddle/bodhran player, Mike, showed me how to play the bones, until one of our companions outed me as a violist. At that, Mike cheerfully lent me his violin and asked if I could play a song with the band. After a few tries, I remembered the song "Wild Mountain Thyme," and had an exciting time playing with the band for a completely unrehearsed, spontaneous performance. Improvisation--it's fun, and scary, and rarely turns out as you expect (especially when you are doing it in front of an audience). But it does make for an incredibly memorable night. More than anything, I think it helped me to feel true Irish music--it's about expressing the joys and sorrows of life, and sharing your most vulnerable moments with an encouraging crowd.