The Magic of Music

irish music

John Doyle, Irish guitarist and folk singer

I remember the first time I met John Doyle. He was scheduled to play with Liz Carroll at a festival in Vermont. I was working at a booth selling instruments, CDs, strings, etc. He came to the booth and started looking at the CDs. I quickly ran over to him, pulled out one of his and Liz Carroll’s CDs and said “I hear the guitar playing on this one is pretty good.” He giggled gracefully at my stupid joke and we started chatting.

Later that evening there was a late night session in one of the festival tents. And because I had taken a week long fiddle workshop with Liz Carroll prior to this festival, she recognized me and called me into the inner circle to play a tune. There I was in my glory sitting with Liz Carroll on one side and John Doyle on the other. Then they asked me to start a tune.

Wouldn’t you know I couldn’t remember one, not one tune. In fact I think I completely forgot how to play the fiddle in that moment. Then all of a sudden one came to me by the grace of God (Felix the Wrestler) and everyone started playing. It was a moment I’ll never forget. Here I was, such an amateur who barely knew any tunes (this was about 10 years ago), scared to death to play in public and two of my musical heroes sitting by my side encouraging me to start a tune.

Thinking of this story reminds me just how special this music is, not only because it’s beautiful music but because the people who carry it on are beautiful people. I mean I grew up listening to the Rolling Stones, but never in my lifetime will I get to sit side by side with them to play a tune. Irish music is truly special in so many ways.

This month is your chance to meet and listen to some of these wonderful musicians. Here are a few concerts you won’t want to miss:

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What is in a name anyway?

What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet implies that the names of things do not affect what they really are. Maybe that’s true. After all, love is love, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Montague or Capulet you can’t help who you fall in love with.

But, when it comes to music, I beg to differ with good ole, Mr. Shakespeare.

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Celebrate St. Paddy’s Day in a new way

Irish MusicSt. Patrick’s Day is the day the world celebrates the patron saint of Ireland. As an Irish musician, it is usually one of my favorite holidays. Mostly because, for me, it’s a recognition of this amazing music — everyone wants to hear Irish music on St. Patrick’s Day.

Regardless of why we have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in the past, I’d like to propose that this year, we make St. Patrick’s Day a day that not only honors of the patron saint of Ireland, but also honors of all American immigrants.

Immigrants bring diversity into our culture, diversity into our music and diversity into our lives. So this year I’d like to raise that glass of green beer (or any drink) in honor of all the immigrants who came to America in search of a better life. We salute you! And thank you to all the musicians from all over the world that brought, and continue to share their music with us all.

This weekend you can enjoy all sorts of Irish music, dancing and other festivities in celebration of St. Patrick and all the immigrants who make up our fine country. Here are few of my favorite events to check out this weekend.

Friday, March 17

St. Patrick’s Day at the Grange Hall, Waterbury
317 Howard Ave, Waterbury Center
7pm-9pm
$20

A show of local world-class musicians and Irish dancers. The event is family-friendly and includes:

  • Knotwork – with Michael and Annabel Moynihan, Don Schabner and Sebastian James. Knotwork has played Irish traditional music in Vermont and across Europe for over a decade. Recordings are available on iTunes, Amazon, and other digital music stores.
  • The Northern Lights – From foot stopping jigs and reels to dreamy waltzes and hoppy hornpipes, The Northern Lights will take you away to the shores of Ireland. The trio, based out of the Waterbury/Richmond area, is made up of fiddlers Katrina VanTyne and Denise Dean, and multi-instrumentalist, Jonathan Leonard. With 2 fiddles, guitar, bouzouki, button accordion and harmonium you’re bound to enjoy the sweet melodies of this traditional Irish music band.
  • The Church Restoration Project with Allen Church and Pete Haselbach as well as Heather Morris’ Celtic Dance Company

Saturday, March 18

 

Between the Jigs and Reels: Ireland’s History Through it’s music
Pickering Room, Fletcher Free LibraryTraditional Irish Music
235 College Street, Burlington
10:30am-Noon
Suggested Donation: $8

Music has helped to cheer and sustain the Irish spirit through times of oppression, poverty, and emigration. Benedict Koehler and Hilari Farrington will weave a unique and captivating history of Ireland through music on some of its iconic instruments: Irish harp, uilleann bagpipes, button accordion, and tin whistle. Founders of the Vermont School of Irish Traditional Music, these well-known musicians have played and taught music throughout North America and Ireland.

O’hAnleigh Live
51 Main, Middlebury
7:30-9pm

All your favorite Irish-pub sing-along song with some old ballads, artful originals, and toe-tapping fiddle tunes.

Sunday, March 19

Burlington Irish Heritage Festival Ceili
Contois Auditorium, Burlington, VT
1:00pm-3:00pm

Brattleboro Irish SessionThe ceili is fun for the whole family with Irish step dancing, and some fine local traditional Irish musicians. There is a bake sale, raffle and information about Irish language, Irish culture and more. After the Ceili, musicians are invited to stick around for a traditional Irish session.

There are a ton more events going on for the next week or so. For more information on the Burlington Irish Heritage Festival download the 2017 schedule of events.

 

 

Celtic Winter Gathering – This Weekend Jan 21-22nd

Celtic DancersIf you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, check out the Celtic Winter Gathering and Green Mountain Performing Arts Winter Dance Showcase at Main Street Landing in Burlington, VT.

Here is the press release:

Celtic dancers from the northeast U.S. and Canadian provinces will convene in Burlington, VT, Saturday, January 21 from 9:00 am-3:00 pm to compete in a Scottish and Irish dance competition.

The competition, now held at Main Street Landing on the Burlington’s waterfront, has received worldwide attention by combining the Irish and Scottish culture and dance into one event which offers a unique experience for attendees.

Workshops will take place for beginners through advance dancers with Mitchell DeSimone, a performer with Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, and Natalie Quick, a former world champion Highland dancer Sunday morning, January 22. All are welcome to participate – visit Green Mountain Performing Arts for rates and times.

Scottish and Irish inspired food will be available during the event at the Celtic Cafe. In addition, Green Mountain Performing Arts (GMPA) presents its Winter Showcase on Saturday night at 6:30pm and Sunday afternoon at 2:00pm at Main Street Landing. The two showcase dance performances will feature all levels of Ballet, Tap, Hip Hop, Breaking and Musical Theater offered at GMPA.

For more information about the event contact: Heather Morris, Executive Director, Green Mountain Performing Arts, (802) 244-8600, gmpavt@gmail.com or visit the website.

The drippy side of the flute

Christy Barry, flute playerIf you’ve ever played at a session and sat next to a flute player, you know full well what the drippy side of the flute is. It’s not pretty, the condensation, I mean. The sound of a good flute player is, however.

Though the drip can be a drag, listening to the flute sing effortlessly in your ear can be quite mesmerizing and worth the drip.

There is something about the sound of a flute, that almost feels like a massage for your ears. It has this woody tone that is full and sweet and I’m not sure it can be replicated.

If you are lucky enough to play this beautiful instrument and want to improve your chops, flute and whistle player extraordinaire, Christy Barry will be giving a master class for Irish traditional flute players from 11am-4pm at the Florence Civic Center in Northhampton, MA. The cost is $50. Preregistration is required as spaces are limited. For information on email Sally or visit the Facebook page.

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The joy of coming full circle

The London EyeEverything comes full circle and I’m reminded of that more often than not. Take for example, bell-bottoms and leg warmers. Who would have thought they’d be cool twice in my life-time? Or platform shoes, of which I’m still afraid to walk in.

Even when it comes to my writing. I come up with an idea, I start writing. I take my words in another direction (maybe a few) yet I always end up writing about my original concept. Coming full circle.

For the last 4-5 months, I’ve been learning various other genres of music on my fiddle other than Irish music. I’ve been practicing some jazz, blues, folk and everything under the sun except for Irish music. It was not intentional. I was taking a class and Irish music was just not on the syllabus. I’ve also been participating in drum workshops and dance workshops that are completely unrelated to Irish music. Continue reading