Traditional Irish Music
As we have members here now, from all over the place, I thought it might be interesting to get an idea of just how many different ways there are for folks, from musical & non musical, Irish & non Irish backgrounds, to become inspired enough to, at first, take an interest in this music & then, secondly, to go that extra mile & want to actually learn to play it.
If nothing else, this'll be one way of paying tribute to & saying thanks to, your inspiration.
So to get us started, here's my story, which will hopefully inspire you to want to tell your story here, too.
I spent my first 18 years living in Scotland & although my Great Grandfather was a Fiddler & my Grandfather played Fiddle & Highland Bagpipes, I only ever heard my Grandad play his Fiddle once. So, although I may have had music in my genes, my inspiration clearly had to come from elsewhere. Like the rest of the World too, I also had a little Irish blood in me, with my maternal Grandad being from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, but one of his talents wasn't music. ;-)
I always instinctively loved music, whether the small Orchestra that played at the annual Circus (Yes, they really did use live musicians back then!) or the wonderful sound of the full size Church Organ & all those lovely Hymn melodies or Scottish Music which was on the TV & Radio regularly back then. However, when I left Scotland at 18, musically speaking I was only really interested in listening to Singer Songwriters like Bob Dylan.
Dunsany Castle, Co. Meath.
Then, in the summer of 1970, while working as a Gamekeeper on the Dunsany Estate, Co. Meath, I found myself listening to Ciarán Mac Mathúna & his wonderful show Mo Cheol Thú around 8 am every Sunday morning. Now that might seem like an early start to some folks, but of course, as a Gamekeeper, I'd already been up & working since 6am, so I listened to Ciaran as I ate my breakfast.
Ciarán Mac Mathúna.
So when most other 18 year olds would have been into Pop & R&R, I found myself being drawn more & more towards traditional music.
For those of you who have never heard of Ciaran or his radio show, which incidentally ran for 35 years, I have posted a YouTube video/audio clip from one of his last shows.
Now I know it's very hard for young folks today, to think themselves back into the way Ireland was 40 years ago, but believe me, it was a very different world back then. Dublin was more like a big Market town, full of magic, charm & innocence, than the sprawling, drug gang ridden metropolis it is today. Out in the country where I was, most folks went to Chapel twice a day, back in the days when the Church really was feared.
In any case, I found his shows absolutely magical & looked forward to them eagerly each week. They were a real education to me, a stranger in a foreign land & opened up a wonderful new world of music to me & not just the music either, but Ciaran brought all aspects of Ireland's culture into those shows.
Certainly, I have heard & seen hundreds of great musicians since the summer of 1970, who have inspired me, but only for Ciarán Mac Mathúna, I might never have been exposed to them.
It was because of Ciaran, that I went along to my local session there, in Dunshaughlin, a few times & to my first Dubliners Concert the following year, while working as a Falconer in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary & at was at that concert, that I was finally inspired to think about actually learning to play this music myself, thanks to one Barney McKenna.
So I'd like to say a huge THANKYOU to Ciarán Mac Mathúna, only for him, I probably wouldn't be playing music today.
So who or what was your first & most important inspiration?
Hey Kenneth, just because you go into a Pub, doesn't mean you have to drink alcohol. Most of the time, I only drink Coffee or flavoured water & nobody passes any remarks. In fact, it's the norm for anyone who drives to a session today, because you can't afford to drink & drive ... for many reasons.
For 8 years I ran a beginners session here in town, for kids from 10 to 17, every Wednesday evening in a local pub & of course none of us drank alcohol.
If anything, it really showed the kids that Pubs aren't just about getting drunk.
For me it was down to one person and one band. The man was Eddie Foley who taught me to play violin in Glasgow. When I got up to speed and could play the easy classical stuff, he introduced me to O'Neill's 1001. So Eddie sowed the seeds. Later when I moved to Dover I found a cassette in a music store "The Bothy Band 1975". At first I didn't want to buy it ('bothy' is a Scottish word and I hated the constipated way Scottish music was played in the 60s and 70s), but I made a leap of faith and bought the cassette. Maybe because of the photo of the band with their pints of Guinness! Once the cassette started with Track 1, The Kesh Jig set, I was hooked. I had a lifelong hobby.
I was always into music, playing flute in high school band and picking up guitar at the same time. I dabbled in a number of styles, and studied classical guitar fairly seriously for a few years before getting into the steel string fingerstyle guitar world. Folks like Michael Hedges, Preston Reed, and Laurence Juber. Around this time a friend introduced me to the irish folk/rock band Seven Nations. So celtic oriented music was on my radar. I started listening to more traditional bands and at the same time began attending sessions in Tallahassee FL where I was going to college. There is a small but strong irish music community there. Over the next few years I went to alot of sessions, started learning tunes on flute as well as arranging them for solo guitar. It was about this time that I heard about players like Al Petteway, Steve Baughman, and Tony Mcmanus, all whom greatly introduced my arranging style on solo guitar. I got introduced to the traditional bands of the genre and did a ton of listening.
Fast forward a few years and I now live in Portland OR. I released my first solo guitar cd in 2010, play at a ton of sessions, and basically try to make as much room for music in my life as possible. I am thinking about a second cd, perhaps something more group oriented.
A very good, old style traditional fiddle player and musician called John Hoban tought me the first couple of tunes and gave me a lend of his fiddle until I got my own. He was so encouraging and praised me so much that I was always looking forward to playing with him for the compliments if nothing else! Not only did he teach the tunes, he thought me to listen to proper music and appreciate it!
Hi there, and greetings from northern California!
Ok, here’s my story, and I’ll try to keep it short…. The only other musician in my family that I know of was my paternal grandpa. He played old-time fiddle in northern Alabama, and I only heard him twice (the last time, I played banjo with him). My musical career started when I was in the 5th grade; some girls moved into the neighborhood and had to practice piano 30 minutes every day. So I went on a campaign for a piano. We got one, and I played classical piano for about 3-4 years. (I’m SO glad I know how to read music!). Next up was folk guitar, inspired by my Girl Scout camp counselors. I taught myself that (age 16) and then at 21 began learning 5-string banjo. That started a long devotion to bluegrass music (I play guitar, 5-string, dobro, acoustic bass, and just a bit of mandolin). So… no musical boost from my family I had to find it all myself.
Many bluegrass musicians seem to turn to swing and jazz when they’re ready for something new…. I tried to learn swing several times but it turns out I just don’t love it. Somewhere in the last 7-8 years my husband and I lit on Irish music. One inspiration was my friend Andy Alexis, who works here in my building and is a great musician. He encouraged me to procure a “work guitar” and once a week we hold a lunch-time Irish session here at the California Environmental Protection Agency.
My husband is a writer who works in the music/entertainment industry…. He is also a musicologist of sorts and so he has helped me find and hear recordings I otherwise wouldn’t find. I spent a good two years listening to Hayes/Cahill “Live in Seattle” and found at the end of that time that I was finally hearing what was there. I got support from some internet friends (from a flatpick guitar list I’m on) and some really great recommendations for listening. (My current favorites are Junior Davey’s “A Sound Skin” and Fergal Scahill’s guitar album, both acquired on my recent visit to Ireland.)
I’ve played (mostly rhythm) guitar in the band “Nine-8ths Irish” for the last 4 years or so. I really really like the rhythm role (such freedom! Especially compared to bluegrass) and am very happy staying there in the band/session setting. But at home and for my own amusification I arrange the tunes for guitar.
So my inspiration is just this: I love the tunes, I love to play guitar, so there you go. I am quite happy at home learning my latest obsession. My latest new tune is Master Crowley’s #2, and putting Banish Misfortune into my trademark crosspicking approach.
And, I still play bluegrass. And I’m finding that playing Irish is leading me into old-time as well… but I must say that my heart’s in Irish music these days. I’ve learned more tunes in the last 5 years than in the previous 20 I’d guess… keeping my brain workin!
Its interesting Cayden how many people have been influenced by The Chieftains / Bothy Band etc. Sometimes it gets taken for granted how influential they actually were. I might post a separate tread on that if someone dosen't beat me too it. It would be interesting to see how much impact they actually had.