The Towers and Staunton’s Sessions,

Sunday is session day and evening in Westport. The town is well known for its musical focus and Sunday each week is “the” day where it’s all going on. Ally and I have been staying with John and Maggie McGing, friends and hosts extraordinaire! The band and I first met Maggie and John in 2012. They both love to go to the sessions to listen and we happened to be in town that year. I first really remember Maggie and John at Bould Biddie’s Pub that year, that was a truly memorable session, that’s when we really started to visit and get to know one another. We’ve corresponded via email between visits and spent more and more time with them when here, and they’ve become great friends, true friends, and now Ally and I are talking about meeting them for vacation in some lovely part of the world in winter. John used to own McGing’s pub, just down the hill from where they live. It had been in his family for years and he’d grown up in the home that was above the pub space. Westport has always been home to John and he knows everyone and they know him. He’s 6′ 6″ and impossible to miss, is a very quiet man, with an extremely dry sense of humor, a quick, observational mind that misses nothing and the ability to make a wry comment that has you laughing uncontrollably. Maggie’s a perfect match, she’s a keen mind herself, a quick tongue that’s never cruel, and a lively commentator on life and social goings on. We love them both. Maria lives next door, and you’ve read about her in previous postings. She became our social liaison our first trip in 2012, introduced us to the McGings, Maggie Neilan, Padrig and Els McKenna, Mick and Mary Mulcrone, Pat Eade, Matt Molloy, Johnny Fadgin, Dan Delany, and many others, everybody that’s become part of our life each time we come here. Some have become good friends and some casual acquaintances and they form the web of connections that make our time here so wonderful.

Maria’s been really ill, she contracted pneumonia this winter and is still having a tough time. We’ve seen her some, and she’s had a few good days, but the illness has left her weak. We’ve missed her terribly this trip. She’s funny and great company. (I just was speaking with Maria over Maggie and John’s fence and I’m happy to report she’s feeling much better today). So, back to the Sunday sessions.

We headed first to The Towers, a nice restaurant with a little snug in front where the session is. When we arrived Jackie Small, Pat Eade, and Johnny Curtis and Padraig McKenna were just getting started. We’d met Pat our first trip here, he’s a great singer and bouzouki player, Johnny remembered meeting us previously, but Jackie was new to us. He plays box and we found out is an Archivist and Ethnomusicoligist with a deep knowledge of Irish music and a mind full of great tunes, and Padraig of course you already know. With my guitar and Johnny and Pat’s octave mandolin and bouzouki we had a lot of strings jangling. Morgan showed up with James and Don came through the door, so a lively session ensued. Another bouzouki player and singer showed, whose name I failed to get, and Mick Mulcrone and his wife Mary came in as well. At some point I put my guitar away and enjoyed listening to the others. Too many strings is too many strings! Listening and socializing is just as much fun as playing sometimes. By 8:30 the session wound down and Jackie and Pat invited us to a session at Staunton’s out the Louisburgh Road. We sat down to dinner with Don and his wife Sheila and their friend Claudia who’d just arrived in Ireland, James and Bridget, Maggie and John, Morgan, Ally and I, we’d become quite a group. The Tower has great food so we had a fine meal and headed out to Staunton’s. 

We arrived close to 10:00 and stepped into a pub that felt like some of the cozy country pubs we’ve encountered. It’s a local pub, where good friends meet and swap stories, sing songs they know and play tunes. Jackie, Pat and Johnny were already there and invited us in. It had all the joys and intimacy that a small session gives. Spontaneous stories, jokes, songs. Some wonderful singing by a woman named Nancy, who had powerful interpretive abilities. When she sang a song you felt it in every part of your being. We played til near 12:30, then had some wonderful talk with Pat, Jackie and Johnny as well as Terese the owner of Staunton’s. She’s a really nice woman running a pub that’s been in her family for 100 years.