James, Morgan, Christy & Terry Roadside Pub, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare
We left Inch, Dingle late morning heading north to Clare to our rental home above Fanore. We’d rented the same home on our last trip in 2016. It’s in an area known as the Burren, huge outcrops of limestone with scrubby growth of shrubs and grasses. The home in Fanore sits high up on a shoulder with a commanding view of the sea, the Aran Islands to the near South and the village of Fanore tucked into the landscape to the North. We drove down to Ennistimon where they have a good size market to buy groceries for the week. We rent homes so we have our own space and also so we can cook meals. Eating out is fine and fun, but it gets expensive as all of you well know and we like our own cooking. On the way back to Fanore we stopped by the Roadside Pub, where we’d had a lot of fun in 2016, to see if there was a session. I jumped in while the others waited in the car and asked if there was something scheduled. The young woman I asked said there was at 9:00. I asked who might be leading it and a young man said Christy Barry and Terry Bingham. To be certain I asked if it was an open session and was assured we’d be welcomed. Some sessions aren’t wide open, sometimes they’re invitational, there’s an etiquette involved. I excitedly ran out with the info and told the others. Christy Barry, amongst Irish tune hounds, is famous. We play a couple of his jigs in our sets and have for years. It turns out we’d met Terry in 2016, he’s a very fine box player.
It also turns out that a good friend of ours, Dave Lewicki has been in Ireland since mid April. James and I met him through Morgan at Irish Tunes Camp over at Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. He does the kind of technical work where he can work remotely, so he’s been in Ireland for over 6 weeks finding sessions, meeting many fine musicians and studying with some as well. Dave’s a good player and listener and to play this music well you have to know how to listen. Good music is a conversation, that’s where the joy and fun is! Dave was meeting us at our place and as we turn in to go up the hill Dave’s in front of us. Perfect timing. We got home with all our groceries and sundries, made dinner, had good conversation and got ready and headed into Lisdoonvarna and The Roadside Pub. We arrived at 9:00, Christy was out front and we recognized Terry. They welcomed us and we sat down for some musical conversation. There’re some sessions where the tunes are fast and furious and some where they’re unfamiliar and you have to let the tune go around once or twice to catch its shape before joining in. Christy being the gracious host asked Morgan to start, but Morgan demurred and Christy and Terry started a tune we all knew. The ice broken the tunes flowed and a fun evening followed. It’s tourist season, so the Pub was full of listeners, some from France others from the USA, a few locals. Two women sitting next to me were from Pennsylvania and they really enjoyed the tunes. They remarked that it sounded as if everyone playing had played together before. They were amazed we could sit down and play like that. That’s what it’s all about. Christy at one point got his whistle out and remarked how much he didn’t like it. It looked like a plastic Susato to me, but James handed Christy his Sindt whistle. It’s a lovely thing, a sterling silver body and brass head joint. Christy gave it a little tweet and launched into the jigs we knew and have in our repertoire as well as some other tunes. He sounded great and so did the whistle. At the end of the set he looked at James and said “that’s a fine whistle, I love it. Don’t go leavin’ it here, we won’t be postin’ it on”. At one point Christy went out for a break and we got into a conversation with Terry about young players, tunes, style and other things. Terry isn’t that old probably 50’s and he prefers the older approach to the tunes and the playing. He’s not that enamored of the schools like University of Limerick that teaches traditional music. He say’s and not unfairly that they’re technically brilliant but they all sound the same. Back in the day you’d pick up the instrument you were attracted to and teach yourself. You’d learn from others as you could but you developed your own techniques and style, and truth to tell a lot of the old recordings we’ve listened to for reference bear this out. Patsy Twohey and Seamus Ennis, Joe Cooley and Micho Russell and so many others, they all have their idiosyncratic styles. I asked him when he started box and concertina and he told me when he was ten. He’s one of the least physically active players I’ve ever played with. His economy of motion is miraculous. I kid you not, he doesn’t look like he’s doing anything, his fingers barely lift from the buttons and yet all this music is flowing out. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and he’s so relaxed you’d think he was semi-dozing, but he’s totally aware of the music around him. As the evening wound down Christy asked us to play with him at Donohue’s in Fanore at 7:00 and then follow him to the Roadside in Lisdoonvarna at 9:00. Friday is taken care of and we’ll see what happens after that.