Ireland is fast becoming my most popular tour destination. I’ve just returned home from leading a great group of people on my “Best of Ireland and Scotland” tour. Later this month, I return to the Emerald Isle for two more of my “Taste O’ Ireland” tours. Ireland (and Scotland) are a perfect destination for summer travels as the temperature rarely climbs above 68°F, the countryside is draped in 40 shades of green, and the photo ops for sheep are plentiful. We are scheduling tours for the summer of 2015, so keep an eye out for my tours to Ireland!
Traditional folk music and singing is a nightly occurrence in Ireland. No matter what town or village, I can always find a pub with a music session. These sessions vary according to the ability and style of the musicians, but are always filled with heartfelt choruses and toe tapping jigs. It is almost as if every person on the island pops out of their mother’s womb with a song instead of a scream.
I’ve been a musician all my life, so when I hear a band in the distance or a song wafting out the door, I go for a listen. I sometimes run across situations and events that are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities where I just happen to be in the right place at the right time. In Venice, I recall sitting in on an impromptu singing session with a few salty old fishermen belting out operatic arias. On successive trips to Venice, I’ve tried to duplicate that experience and have been disappointed. Try as I might, there is no way to “manufacture” these impromptu experiences for the folks on my tours. You’ve just got to be in the right place at the right time and let it unfold around you!
Knowing all this, I shouldn’t be surprised when a gem of an event unfolds around me. This time, it all started when I coaxed a few of my tour members into a deserted Irish pub. When I say deserted, I mean just that… there was not a soul in the place except for the bartender, and he looked like he was packing it up for the evening. In fact, when we asked for a pint of Kilkenny (the local ale), he had to go to the back and fiddle with the taps just to get the stuff flowing. I began making apologies to my group for bringing them in this desolate place, but the bartender had spent several minutes getting the taps to flow, so we felt obligated to stay and have a pint. There we were, just the six of us quietly sipping our pints and looking for an exit strategy.
This was the third night of the tour and our first night out of Dublin. I was hoping to introduce my group to some traditional small town pub music. But it seemed tonight would not be the night. So, instead of experiencing music, I decided to at least tell my group about the “typical” pub music session to get them prepared for a future musical evening. As I was explaining the typical fiddling and singing found in a pub music session, a gentleman walked in the door. Dianne, one of my tour members, asked him, jokingly, if he was the singer for tonight’s session. He said no, he had just come in for a pint after playing two rounds of golf, but if we wait a bit we might coax one of his friends to belt out a song or two.
Over the course of the next fifteen minutes, the pub filled with 20 or so Irishmen who were in Kilkenny on a golf outing. They told us this was a yearly get together to play golf, have fun, and get away from their wives (said with a joke and a laugh). So, the first gentleman says to his buddy, “this lady wants to know if you are the singer.” We all expected a laugh and a swift no, but to our surprise he stood up and belted out a heartfelt ballad about “Annie Moore”, Ireland’s first immigrant to the United States.
Then began a chain reaction where each man stood and sang his favorite song. All was done a cappella, without accompaniment, and from the heart. They took great pride in their singing and in the message of the song. We were an audience of six Americans who were looking for some music, and boy did we get it! By the end of the night we were invited to join them in “God Bless America”, finally finishing the session at midnight belting out “cockles and mussels… alive, alive oh.”
You would think with six of us witnessing this impromptu singing session we would have taken some video. Unfortunately, all were having too much fun to waste time on video. So, this short segment is all I have to offer. You’ve just got to be at the right place at the right time!