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?
Ian, I think one possible answer might lie in the fact that, both Ireland & Scotland lie on the extremities of the European continent. For example, they both managed to escape the direct influence of the Roman Empire & also perhaps escaped some of the diluting, melting pot effects to culture, that inevitably took place over the last couple of thousand years.
As for England, Och sure, the only Culture you boys have is .... Agri-culture! :-)
My Grandmother was actually my inspiration for, dare I say Celtic music.
She was from County Dublin, moved to Canada in 1910. When I was born my lullabies were Irish. As I grew up and she would "babysit" my brothers and me, there was her singing, or the record player would be on playing, Irish music. Not the contemporary stuff one heard back in the 50's and 60's on the radio (remember the radio?).
I have a love for music in general, such as pipe organ, piano, harp, and violin. The music I always have gravitated too, but not always would play, was what most folks think of as "Celtic". Played in pipe bands as a drummer, and so on, but have always gravitated back to the Irish. Of all the music I have played and heard these last 60 yrs it always seems to be the Irish has more "heart" in it. I don't know if it's the whiskey or the mead which helps to create it, who cares!? I just love the "heart" in it.
That's my 2 penny's worth.
Hi Albert, thanks for your story.
Mind you, I thought you would have chipped in with 2 Cent's worth. ;-)
Seriously though, isn't it amazing just how strong some of those early childhood experiences can be, when we carry them right through our whole lives.
That's what makes it so sad, when kids have a bad start in life, I guess they never quite get over it, but spend their whole lives trying.
Anyway, that's one of the reasons I enjoy teaching the music to kids, it's such an honour & a pleasure to be involved in bringing joy to children, knowing that, for some of them at least, they'll go on to enjoy listening to & hopefully playing the music, for the rest of their lives.
Hi Dick, your sharing was so interesting! I didn't have any exposure to Irish music growing up. I took a few piano lessons in grade school. Then life passed and I took up recorder for a bit. At 38 I had heard the Chieftains and the sound of the low D stayed with me but I didn't listened to Irish music after that and 14 years passed. Then about 4 years ago I just kept humming Irish type tunes and thought I'd find some real Irish music to listen too. I feel like ITM picked me. I just can't leave it alone. Now I have whistles in Low D, F, G, A, Bb, and C, high D, Eb and 2 flutes and 2 bodrans. I guess it's that one performance many years ago that eventually inspired me to action. It's been a real journey since then. So my inspirations began with one Chieftain performance and then the music itself. Now I'm inspired by my teachers, local players and many great players in the ITM world. Constantly learning tunes and listening to this music has added so much to my life.Today I'm looking forward to learning about and hearing Claran Mac Mathuna! Thanks!
To begin, I didn't start out playing fiddle and Celtic. I started playing the violin at the age of 5, and I have my mother to thank for that. My family before me wasn't very musically inclined. None of them had ever tried picking up an instrument and staying with it for a few years. My mother set me up with a violin professor who had emigrated to Texas from Romania. He could speak seven languages, and was, at one point, the lead violinist of the biggest and best orchestra in Romania before he emigrated (not sure of its actual name, but it was a very prestigious accomplishment). I took lessons from him while I still lived in Texas and played classically for about 10 years. I also joined his community orchestra, the Keene Camerata, and played in that for 7 years, finally advancing to first violin section in my 6th year there.
So I was raised classically. That all changed after about my 15th birthday. I had always loved Celtic and Irish music. Even from an early age. I just never had time for it because of all the classical pieces and exercises I had to practice. After I stopped taking lessons when I was 16, I took up fiddling. Sure I still keep up with classical, but the crowd would much more prefer to hear an upbeat jig or reel than sit there and listen to classical. I'm 17 now, going on 18, and still fiddling. I've printed off all the Irish music (jigs, reels, lambe an dro, bluegrass, you name it) I can and have been practicing and memorizing them ever since. I might not be Irish, and might not have been born playing Irish, but I'm sure as heck trying the hardest I can to do the best I can playing it.
After a while though, it gets a bit boring playing these tunes all by yourself. I've been looking around for decent guitar, fiddle, and flute players to get a little group started. This is still a work in progress, unfortunately. Not many people around here in Michigan, it seems, are very familiar with Celtic. This, however, is my story. And I hope to someday start my own little group.
Keep up the good work! Here is a link to a list of irish Trad Sessions in Michigan, but you need to contact the organizations first to be sure the information is up to date and that the session is still active.
Keep Playin' the Music!
Actually there's an active ITM group (s) in Michigan. Fenian's in Conklin is the oldest and plays strictly Irish music, McFadden's in Grand Rapids is a bit more eclectic dipping into old timey and Cape Breton occasionally and there's a smaller group in Lansing that is again strictly Irish. We don't want to forget one of the most talented of course in Traverse City (TC Celtic) and the Kalamazoo / Benton Harbor groups. Most can be found on Yahoo groups or I'd be happy to put you into contact with the groups. Occasionally we get a super session going at McFaddens and invite the whole mob.
Yes, I'm sure inspiration can be that fleeting. I think about that, every time I'm out playing in public places & hope that by just being there & doing it, I might trigger an interest.
Thanks Kenneth. I reckon Traditional Music, perhaps even more than most other forms of music, needs to be played with other people. The tunes don't seem to really come alive, until there are a few people playing them together, so if I were you, I wouldn't rest until I'd found a few more musicians to play with.