A Great Evening at Jordan’s

We drove south to the Neilan’s whom we got to know last trip. They live on a 200 acre farm in an area of East Galway part of Shanaglish. It’s beautiful country and the Neilan’s are a wonderful family. We arrived late afternoon and were greeted by Tommy Neilan. Tommy’s getting on in years but is still young in spirit. We were all pretty tired and took the night easy. We conveyed Jackie Small’s greetings, as they are old friends.

Next day, Friday, was warm and sunny we asked Tommy and Martina if they’d spoken to anyone regarding a house session. Tommy and Martina said they were waiting for us to arrive, but they would now ask some friends. We visited Ennis and knocked about for the afternoon. We got back post dinner to find out that there were going to be guests so we rushed to make the space welcome. Over the space of an hour our guests began arriving and we were glad to see young Neil Martin. We last saw him 2014 and in that time he’d won the All Ireland for under 12 for his flute playing. He’d accomplished a great deal since our last meeting. Mary and Andrew came playing flute, box and pipe, Katherine, another box player and nice person, Martina and Tommy joined in on box, and Neil’s brother Liam played bodhran. P.J., the Neilan’s neighbor added some funny story songs and part way along Eugene Lamb came. We met him in 2014 as well. He’s a great player and this time he gave us some pipes, whistle, great stories, jokes and songs as well. The evening was great fun.

Saturday we took easy. Months before we left the U.S. we’d contacted Tom Cussen our good friend and banjo maker of renown. We’d tried and failed in 2012 to meet Tom for a session, and we had one short session when we played at the Clarinbridge Banjo Festival in 2014, but we wanted to sit in a more intimate session with Tom and his friends. This trip we made sure that it was planned in advance so that nothing would interfere.  We headed up to Clarinbridge early so we could go to an antique shop we’d been to last trip. It actually belongs to a cousin of James’ wife Bridget, whom she met in Jordan’s Pub quite accidentally last trip to Clarinbridge in 2014. We then took some small roads out along the bay and walked across a field to the edge of Galway Bay. We could look south to The Burren and north toward Connemara, a breathtaking sweep of a large part of that section of coast. We got back into town had a meal, grabbed our instruments and went into Jordan’s early. As we stood outside with our pints Tom Cussen pulled up with his lovely wife Mary. We said hello and not 5 min. into conversation Tom and I are talking shop, he the banjo builder me the repairman/ builder, its in the blood, get two or more luthiers together and we’re gonna go there. The session was great, lots of fine players, young Neil, who kept up very, very well, I’m amazed at how many tunes he knows already. Neil, the boy not long to be a man will be a force to be reckoned with in the world of Irish flute players. Katherine who we played with at the Neilan’s showed up after hitting a session in Galway first. A woman named Maureen was there with her partner and she sang a song by the late Tony Small (Jackie Small’s brother) that James and I said we must learn. [Update: We did! Here it is.] Tom is a very fine banjo player, he describes himself as a good band player, but his skills are considerable. I love watching his right hand, very economical of motion, his triplets look effortless, he’s got a very strong sound. Katherine who we played with at the Neilan’s showed up after hitting a session in Galway first. A man we met on our flight in showed up with his octave mandolin, that was fun. The session was jamming, very strong playing and LOUD! A great evening.