Though I haven’t been a musician all my life, I’ve had the calling. It wasn’t until the ripe age of 30 that I actually picked up the violin. I remember the first day I brought it home. I gently took it out of the case, placed it on my shoulder, tightened the bow and pulled it across the strings. I waited for something magical to happen. But no sound came out. Nothing. Not even a screech. My heart sank. So I called the violin shop to tell them it was broken and they said “did you put rosin on the bow?”…
When I first started playing Irish music, someone gave me a Martin Hayes CD to listen to. I have to admit his playing didn’t really touch me at that time. I thought his music was a bit slow for my taste. I wanted to play fast, hoppy tunes because that’s what my beginner ear thought Irish music was. All I knew at the time was Danu, Lunasa and Solas. And I wanted to play like just like them. So I put his music on the back burner in case there was a tune or two I might want to learn later.
Many years later, I was at Celtic Connections, a Celtic music festival in Scotland, where I not only got to see Martin play, I also took a master class with him to find out just what makes him tick musically. It wasn’t until then that I fully realized just how talented this man was. There is nothing like seeing a musician perform live and listening to the them tell you what these tunes mean to them. The experience was one I’ll never forget.
Dancing just plain feels good. Whether you are good at it or not, if you can just listen to the music and move your body to the beat, in my book, you can dance. Just ask any kid. Kids have no inhibitions when it comes to dancing.
When my sister and I were little, we not only danced in many recitals, but we often put on our own dance recitals in the living room of our home. I remember once getting fully decked out in costumes and singing “The Bitch is back” by Elton John, complete with broom guitars and microphones made out of hair brushes. We weren’t allowed to swear but for some reason it was okay if it was in a song. So we sang our asses off and danced so loudly that our next door neighbor came over to check on us and see if we were ok. We were not only ok, we were having the best performance of our life. Ah, the good old days.
Although my childhood dancing days are long gone, dancing still feels good to me. And luckily in Vermont we have lots of opportunities. Just last weekend I went to a masquerade party where we danced to everything from 70′s music to house music. Other weekends I’ve attended one of many contra-dances Vermont has to offer.
Dancing is fun and easy and there are lots of different types of music events to move your body to. This coming weekend is no different.
Recently, I was at a session and there was a woman playing Uillean pipes. While she played, she closed her eyes and let her head and upper body dance ever so slightly to the music. She let the tunes run right through her like it was something she couldn’t actually control. It was almost as if the pipes were just a tool to help her get that feeling out. The music was effortless and she was mesmerizing to watch.
This experience was a good reminder of why I play music. It’s really not about the notes or the number of tunes I know. It’s about how the music makes me feel when I play it. My fiddle is just a tool to express those feelings. Yet, I sometimes spend so much time trying to remember the notes and wondering whether or not they are going to sound good, that I forget to actually express them.
This is a picture me me playing recently at a benefit concert with my friend Harold.
I posted it to Facebook and one of my friends wrote:
“This is my favorite picture of you at play! Normally you look all serious and concentrating, this one makes you look like you are FEELING the music! Love it!“
Music is so great because it evokes emotions in both the person playing and the person listening. It’s a relationship that is hard to put into words. But the greatest people to watch and listen to are the people who clearly love what they are playing and have the courage to just play it from the heart.
This picture of me is one of very few where I am actually expressing what I’m feeling. But I am going to keep it around as a reminder to feel the music and forget about the notes. My fingers know where to go, I just got to trust them.
The Teetotalers are coming to the Barre Opera House next month. Will you be there? This super trio is made up of not only some of my favorite musicians but some of the best players in traditional Irish music. The band includes John Doyle on guitar, Martin Hayes on fiddle and Kevin Crawford on flute. This show is not to be missed. Get your tickets today!
When: May 4, 2013
Place: The Barre Opera House, Barre, Vermont
Hope to see you there!
This past St. Patrick’s Day was yet another fun weekend filled with some amazing music. The weekend for me started off at the weekly Irish session at Bagitos, where piper Michael Cooney generously shared some tunes. The place was so packed with musicians it was hard to find a seat.
What is fun about this session is that many great musicians from near and far are always stopping by for some tunes. If you like traditional Irish music, this is the place to be every Saturday from 2-5pm.
Here are some photos from last weekend, thanks to Annabel!
As you can probably imagine, this week is like Christmas to an Irish musician. There are so many wonderful events going on to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I captured some of my favorites below.
For the full schedule check out the Burlington Irish Heritage Festivalevents page.
FRIDAY, MARCH 15
SATURDAY, MARCH 16
The Musical Instruments of Ireland: An introduction to Celtic Instruments
Place: Pickering Room, Fletcher Free Library, College Street, Burlington
Weekly Irish Session
Place: Bagitos, Montpelier, VT
Celtic Cats St. Patrick’s Da Ceili
Place: UVM Dance Studio, Inside Patrick Gym
The Seventh Annual Music Showcase
Place: The BCA Center, 135 Church Street, Burlington
With a session that begins just prior to the show hosted by yours truly and some other great musicians.
SUNDAY, MARCH 17 – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Place: Mater Christi School, 50 Mansfield Ave, Burlington
All Day Irish Music
Place: Tent outside Ri Ra the Irish Pub, Church Street, Burlington
Time: 11:00 am on
Place: the Flynn Center Main Street, Burlington