Sessions – Sunday evening + The Tin Box Company

You can see Joe, from Arc, on guitar here – joining in now to the session after listening in for a while from the side, after attending John Doyle’s workshop on the previous morning, after performing the night before with the band, after week’s of rehearsal, after years of practice and listening, after encouragement and example from his family, after generations of the same arc being redrawn time and again, over and over, gently and without fuss.

Singing us all into a sympathetic silence.

This one is actually a family portrait if you read it closely enough.

And if you didn’t know better, you’d almost imagine the tie was worn for the sake of this picture – what a beautiful parallel line it makes for the flute!


Meanwhile, across the road, Dan’s Thai instrument, a khene, specially made in G for trad, was soaring through a few tunes with a few others lingering like yourself as long as possible before the inevitable departure …

… and Frank was discussing with Eibhlis the finer points of Irene’s French rosin (in French!) …

and out of the blue (to some at least) the wildcard act, bluegrass band, The Tin Box Company, started up a notch or two higher their set in the front bar …

… and eventually it is time to go.

But leaving is hard. One more, maybe, across the road?

And sure there’s always Ciaran Carson’s book “Last Night’s Fun” for something of the spirit of the thing in words.

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Singing session – Tutty’s, September 23 – led by Kevin Conneff and Paddy Berry

(CJ keeps the crowds at bay from the front of Tutty’s. Now, there’s a man if ever there was possessing the appropriate level of respect for the skills and needs of singers. He kept his own name off the list, unfortunately.)

Singing is a very difficult subject to photograph: in pictures, singing might just as well be ranting or yelling or burping – you can’t really tell. What I’ve learned about photographing singing is that the most revealing shots of the singer come from capturing the expressions of the audience listening.

The already infamous (& no doubt banned from RTE!) Amsterdam ballad being sung, and even with some self-censoring there was plenty to make one blush in it … but even more to make everyone laugh and admire the cleverness of the tale and of its telling in sung verse. (It was followed by an homage to that deep and cherished classic ‘Copacabana’ – “At Tamangos, on the Northside … don’t fall in love”!)

(I learned this weekend not to stick your camera through open windows without having first taken off the lens cap: this last picture in this sequence shows the reaction of the audience as living legend, Mr Kevin Conneff, evoked Mr Bean at one point in my fumblings through the window.)

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Session Saturday – The Hollywood Inn

Playing the bones can be a ghostly thing!

Francis & Brendan blend strings and skin.

3 flute players making music (and Michael a flute maker).

Eibhlis giving in utterly to flute temptation some time around midnight on the Saturday, having lasted all of Friday night jittery and even jealous, and only indulging in a spot of whistle playing earlier on Saturday afternoon across in Tuttys, but just cracking here. Exceptional circumstances this weekend, though.

Didn’t have the big camera with me when I popped over in the early evening on Satuday, but caught this moment with the mobile – not just Eibhlis, but Eric getting some strumming in between admininstrative duties.

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Concert Saturday 22nd – Liam O’Flynn & Sean Keane

Two legends of traditional music, sitting with achieved composure on stage, almost mirroring each other in their postures – there was something so powerful & fundamental about their presence it was difficult to find a way to photograph them. The camera preferred to keep a distance.

But the night began at the other end of the musical life arc, with a pit stop outside on the street to hear Sour Milk – legends to be, perhaps. The exchange went: “Will I take a photograph of ye?” “Are you from the Wicklow People?” “No. I’m taking pictures to put on the festival website.” “O. OK. Go on!. … Wait, [to a friend pushing in on frame of the shot] – hey, you’re not in the band.” Some discussion. “O, you’re a band, are ye?” “Yes. We’re Sour Milk.” “Excellent name.” ” We’re busking.” Snap-flash. “Now you have to make a donation.” “You’re good.”

Opening the concert was Cormac Murphy, award-winning accordian player and Fuinneamh member, accompanied by his friend Oisin on bouzouki. Like it did for Eric, the latter’s surname escapes me at the moment. He’s a fine player and it is to be welcomed that his name came to the fore when Cormac was searching his mobile phone contacts list for someone to play with him for this gig. Cormac’s playing was gentle, lively and mesmerising; and the tunes a delight to hear.

Cormac must be only 17 or 18, but he had a lovely gentle and calm way of introducing tunes and he even slipped in a few anecdotes reflecting how traditional music mixes with modern life for young players.

Having accepted the request for an encore, Cormac and Oisin consult on what to play – genuinely unprepared for such an eventuality. A hornpipe, I think it was, in the end.

Liam joking to Sean that there’s no point going all the way “down there” only to have to come all the way back, when he realised it was inevitable.

After another set, the standing ovation built quickly and with applause accompanied them all the way down the aisle.

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Concert, Friday 21st – Arc + Liz Carroll & John Doyle

The last minute venue trauma aside, it was a great night for traditional music. Under the Wicklow mountains, in the tiny village of Hollywood, on this particular night, you might persuasively argue, magic took place.

The sound guys having done a great job with the acoustics of the hall, the youth collective, Arc, led by Aoife Doyle, kicked off the weekend (just after the Rugby defeat). They represent the wonders that are achieved by the whole music scene in Hollywood – youngsters introduced to music as children, learning instruments from tutors and from players and from each other as they grow older, eventually starting to play in public, and then joining a band, and then from there who knows: a great arc of musical life. (Keep scrolling down to see pictures of the school & Arc in action elsewhere.)

Headlining Friday night were Liz Carroll & John Doyle, just arrived from the US and starting their Irish tour. They must have been tired from travel and touring, but as Liz herself said not even the bad news from the Rugby could dampen their excitement about being back in Ireland again. And O how that excitement became apparent. They were phenomenal, and it was some kind of magic, and everyone felt it judging by the reception for them.

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Session – Friday, The Hollywood Inn

It was probably going a while by the time the concert goers arrived, cause there was already a kicking feel to it. But when you consider where it got by the end of the night, it was still only really warming up at midnight. The most amazing part of it was to see Liz Carroll herself sitting there among so many admirers, joining in, and then finding others starting up her tunes in a kind of gentle thank you.

Did I count 9 fiddles at one stage? Was that 5 flutes? 2 banjos. Boxes. A drum or two, and bones. And then, John Doyle … yes, John Doyle playing guitar in the middle of it all!

“Is that a mandolin, I see before me?” says Eric. (But he was still too much in admin mode on Friday night to join in.)

(“I think Bridie has rhubarb up at the house. Come on!”)

Bellows and bongos!

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