25 February 2004

Guinness as Usual

Downtown, a small, friendly Irish pub is the weekly host of the Folklore Society's Irish Music Sessions, usually on Tuesdays. Jane and I often go and sit in a quiet booth near the musicians who take over three of the large booths in the center of the restaurant. Depending on who is there, there can be any range of instruments-- from guitars, fiddles, and tin whistles to spoons, bodhrains, and an occasional upright bass.

After a few sessions, you start to get a feel for things. Jane is an experienced session-goer, while I for the most part have encountered Irish music through recordings or TV. This requires a different sort of musicianship than I've seen with the opera singers I normally end up with. There are very few chord books or cheat sheets, and they all seem to be able to play at least two other instruments besides the one they've brought with them. For opera singers, music is, often enough, their career, but for these musicians, it was a hobby. Perhaps music is their first love, but it's different. It's not how they earn their daily bread.

After a few sessions, you start to learn about the musicians too. Simply listening from an adjacent booth and singing along with the choruses, you learn which musicians like which songs the best. When a certain guitarist is there, they always play "Black Jack Davy." When a certain singer is there, they sing more Steeleye Span songs. Nearly every week, they play "Whisky in the Jar" and "I Wish I Was Back Home in Derry."

No matter what tunes they play, there is always interesting conversation.

Somehow, today's topic was medieval music. The mandolinist, knowing that Jane and I are Catholic, felt it necessary to tell us that for Lent, he would again give up Catholicism but go to Mass Good Friday and Easter. His reason: Catholics have the best music. His favorites are Leonin and Perotin and I must admit that I'm impressed. Not only did he know who they were, he knew the difference in their styles. However, he had a strange way of showing appreciation for them. He said it was good sh*t.

Every time we go downtown, we learn something new. This week's lesson was that Orlando di Lasso is the sh*t. And yes, that is a direct quote.

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