We needed to catch up with Gary Leahy, who lives out Newport way, just past Newport proper out on a spit of land surrounded by water and some of the prettiest land you could ask for. Gary is a bow maker of world renown and a colleague of Morgans. They’ve both exhibited at some of the same conventions and contests and both have received prestigious awards for their craft. Gary is one of the nicest men you’d ever wish to meet and it’s always a pleasure to visit him. I’m afraid we were all rather starved for internet access and the need to catch up and Gary let us hog his bandwidth which we managed to crash at one point when James and I were both using Face Time to catch up with our wives. A little reboot and no harm done.
We headed back into Newport and had dinner with Gary at Grainne Uaile pub where we shared a great meal and pints. We’d been told the night before that there was a chance that we’d be able to go back to Matt Molloy’s and have a few tunes with Matt himself. None of us was certain that would actually happen, Matt is a busy man and plays at such a high level that it seemed a remote possibility, but Maria told us to meet her there at 9:00 to 9:30. We were all pretty knackered, having had the flight over, several late night sessions so we arrived at Matt’s feeling like maybe we should just go back to home base. We called Padraig to tell him just that and tried to call Maria but she didn’t answer. We decided we’d best wait so Maria, both Maggie’s and John McGing didn’t come down to find us gone. I stepped out front because it was so hot inside and there was Maria and the others just arriving.
I told them how we were feeling and just as I turned around saw Matt arriving with his flute on his shoulder. The manager, Seamus, of Molloy’s asked us if we were going to play and we told him it didn’t look like there was much room for us but he assured us that we were expected and they’d held four stools for us. Just then Matt graciously came out to where we were sitting and inquired of us and said he was fine playing or not, but it just hit us that he’d made the effort and we’d be idiots to not sit in. Don was feeling poorly so he took the keys and went back to Castlebar. We got back into the session room and were welcomed into the circle and OMG are we glad we stayed. Matt grabbed a pint (As Noel Kelly said, ” you own the feckin’ place ) and put his flute together and we were off to the races.
Noel is one if the finest banjo players I’ve ever sat next to. The man is a roaring freight train, a storm force gale, a….. you get the picture. I was watching his right hand and the economy of motion was a beautiful thing to behold. He can play a running series of triplets with his right hand that are so beautiful and forceful you want to weep with both pleasure and awe. He asked if we were a band back in The States and I said yes, but when we come to Ireland we’re not here as a band, we’re here to learn. After the first set he leaned over to me and said, “Well, you’ve learned, you’re doing fine” and that was that. An honest recognition of our efforts and a gracious respect. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I told Noel that I was in frank admiration of his playing and that he was the engine driving the rest of us and he nodded and said that his brother John was much better than he, that he could drive a session like no one else; just spin off tune after tune and that he and Matt were amazing together. I can barely wrap my head around that. Matt was enjoying himself and played nearly the entire session. As we wound down he leaned over to us and invited us to come back and play again tomorrow. Maria assured us that this is not a common occurrence, that there are musicians that would kill to have such an invite, so we feel blessed to be asked. Matt wanted a copy of our CD to have in the pub and Noel wanted to buy one which we refused and gave him a copy as well. What a great night.
We catch a cab and go back up the hill to John and Maggie McGing’s for a bit of sustenance and a night cap. Maggie and John are gracious, treating us like family and keeping us entertained with some riotous talk and commentary. We learned some new phrases such as; “He’d skin a flea for its hide”, “He wouldn’t give you the steam off his piss , and “As tight as a fish’s arse”, all these implying a miserly bugger! I’m beginning to fade and Maggie insists that I stick around for a hot whiskey. I’m shaking my head no and she’s shaming me in a good natured way, as I’m heading out the door to sleep in a spare room at John and Maria’s I hear Maggie saying: “For feck’s sake, he’s only 66 and acts like his 87!” I’m laughing all the way ( must be 20 yards ) to bed and some needed sleep.