We just arrived late this afternoon, and had dinner at Knox’s pub. Knowing the Trad music festival was just getting started, I made a reservation for dinner, and asked for a table that would be close to the music that evening. We would up being seated right next to the musicians, who started showing up while we were finishing our main courses.
Fantastic Trad from 7:30 until about 10:30. Then down the street, at Cruise’s, for an even larger collection of musicians. Many who’d been playing at Knox’s moved to Cruise’s. Then we stopped by another place, packed to capacity, on the way to our B&B in Ennis.
The official program mentioned just two places, and three musicians’ names. Clearly this is a dynamic gathering, and there’s so much more happening than can be listed in a schedule. There were more than 30 people playing over the 3 places- and this is on a weeknight. This weekend, there will be sessions throughout the day, and other scheduled activities such as dancing and speaking Irish (Gaelic) for those so inclined.
It’s a veritable United Nations. Players from Ireland (of course), plus England, Canada, Spain, Germany, China (those I met), and who knows where else? I suspect that many just dropped in, and were welcome. Most seemed to know each other - maybe from playing together in past years. They definitely hadn’t all gotten together for rehearsals before tonight. Listening aficionados came from USA (of course), Ireland (of course - not every Irish person there was playing!), Australia, and certainly more places. The musicians are all superb - I guess if you aren’t good enough, you don’t try to sit in. It’s stunning how everyone seems to know the song, and at some point, everyone stops, except for a soloist. Maybe there’s some secret signal, but folks start up again after the soloist plays a few bars.
One mandolin player announced to other musicians after three songs, and he’d broken not one, but two strings, that they wouldn’t believe what a bad day he’d had. Due to potholes, his car had gotten not one, but two flat tyres (tires if you’re not Irish), but he only had one spare. Now he had to borrow strings from someone, in order to keep playing. Another mandolin player offered him a viola string, and he kept going, after re-stringing his instrument while others played another song.
Instruments tonight included fiddle (including an 1800’s German violin), mandolin, flute (several varieties), bodhran, banjo, guitar, accordion, uleann pipes, and upright double bass. A couple singers broke out, too, accompanied by musicians, and it wasn’t “Danny Boy” or “When Irish Eyes are Smiling!”
Oh, also, no charge tonight for listening. The program lists some future events and performances run €10 to €25, but most is free. Tonight exceeded expectations, and the festival (“Fleadh” in Irish … rhymes with “ha”) is only getting started. This Friday and Saturday will be a crazy mob of spectators, I’m told. Come as soon as you can - you’ll be glad you did!