Catch up day. We’ve all been practicing on our own and at times together, learning new parts memorizing new song lyrics all in an unhurried manner. Frankly our Westport friends wore us out. We texted Seamus Hernon in Sligo Town, which is about 35 kilometers west of here. Seamus is the son of Mai Hernon whom I take voice lessons from. She uses Skype to teach others like myself and the time I’ve spent with her has been great ear training as well as vocal training. She sings the old style of unaccompanied, ornamented singing and I’ve grown to be very appreciative of how it’s attuned my being toward really listening to melody. As an accompanist I’ve tended to feel my way through a tune, and to be honest at times in a haphazard manner, so I’ve taken it upon myself and at the urging of my bandmates to learn to play melody. I’ve been learning the tunes on whistle, flute and my guitar. It tunes me into the melody in a much more profound manner and I find myself being unsatisfied with how I’ve been accompanying a set and noticing deficiencies in my previous approach. All for the good and a chance to grow. I just realized I got off into a little side eddy there, so back to Seamus. Seamus plays flute and whistles and I’m sure other instruments as well and according to Mai knows everyone to know in Sligo’s musical environs. We’re going to meet him tonight and he’s going to take us to a session he attends, so that’s exciting! He’s also good friends with members of the Sligo band Dervish, which is one of my favorites, and they own a pub in town, so there’s a chance we may be able to get there while we’re in the area.
The session at Grainne Uaile was everything we hoped it would be. Julie on fiddle and Tom on box (two row button small accordion), Eileen on piano accordion (but a nice one, says James) Maria on Bouzouki, John McHugh on fiddle, another Pádraig on banjo and several others and the four of us. Great fun and excellent playing. Tom, Julie and Maria remembered us from two years back, which was gratifying. John and Maggie McGing, along with Maggie’s mam, Kathleen, Maria and John’s brother Dan came over from Westport to enjoy the tunes as well.
We got back after 2:00 am and had to get up early to be out of Castlebar digs by 9:00 am. My iPhone alarm woke me at 8:00 and as unobtrusive as the alert is I found it really disturbing. Not enough sleep for any of us. We drove northeast out of Castlebar toward Dublin and are now in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim. Lovely area of rolling hills, lakes and streams and the clouds have pulled away to reveal a robin’s egg blue sky. We drove through Carrick on Shannon and found Liam Cryon’s pub and he has 3 sessions a week, one of them tomorrow night, and just up the road from us there is a hotel that’s supposed to have a session on Sunday night, so prospects for tunes look great. (Later that day) It appears from the posters dotted about town that most of the music in Pubs here in Drumshanbo are gigs. We know how that goes after all, our night at Hills back home is just that, so we’re not going to go crashing in. Liam’s in Carrick on Shannon though is advertised as a session and features no one’s name, so I believe that’s where we’ll be off to this evening. We walked into the town of Drumshanbo and it’s a pretty little village and quite prosperous; very different from Castlebar. There appears to be a healthy tourist trade and we’ve been told it’s a mecca for fishing and they have a big music festival here each summer.
We saw a poster in the window of a shop advertising The Leitrim Equation, which is the title of an album I have in my collection, but they’d performed two days ago. Pity that. Leitrim has a very strong musical tradition and the Arts Council has had both Lunasa, and Dervish come to Leitrim and do a CD featuring tunes from the area and then a second CD performing with local musicians. I have the one featuring Lunasa and it’s a gem. I’m going to look to find the one with Dervish, who are from Sligo while here since I’ve had no luck finding it back home.