The Last post about this years Fleadh Cheoil in Sligo made me nostalgic of the Fleadhs I’ve been lucky enough to attend. There are plenty of mighty stories that come from thousands upon thousands of people gathering for a festival but today’s bit of remembering is of a simple man from Kerry, Brendan Moriarty and his love of Traditional Irish music.
I want to say it was the 2007 Fleadh Cheoil in Tullamore Ireland that we had to scramble to find a place to lay our heads, the B&B’s were filled up when my daughter got the word she qualified and got the word that we could scrape together the funds to go, just her and Pop this trip and barely enough for that. Two days before the flight left Boston we managed to find a phone number of a family who was renting rooms of their house on the outskirts of Tullamore, one phone call, one yes we have a room, one yes we’ll take it, one “no credit cards, just pays us when you get here”, No deposits, no call back number, no checkin time, I love Ireland. And as it would turn out it was a lovely house in the country with one heck of a good breakfast daily.
Now as we would gather around a table that seated 11 or 12 people, one of these was a quiet person, Brendan Moriarty. Seemed Brendan was some sort of a Contractor or ran construction crews but he didn’t talk much of business (though the Man of this house tried his best to get him to). And to the dismay of the man of this house Brendan and I became friendly. Seemed that Mr. Moriarty had a love of reels and jigs and hornpipes and airs, much better to talk about than square meters or acreage or hotel projects. The real draw though was getting to talk music with a participant of the Fleadh, “What instruments are you playing, what division are you in?, Ahh flute and whistle and slow airs”. You would have thought it was Christmas morning listening to him talk music. Now Brendan knew much more than I about the ins and outs of Irish traditional music, but he also loved the fact that a youngster would travel across the Atlantic to play this music they both loved. Every morning would have a bit of Irish music discussion always polite, always quietly asked or answered and always concerned that we were enjoying our stay at the Fleadh. Sometimes after dinner and before we headed out to the pubs to play in the myriad of different sessions there would be a tune or two played in the Parlor for Brendan, he truly appreciated the tunes.
On the day of competition the players played their jig or reel or air to the judge or adjudicator, they are held with little fanfare in classrooms of schools or offices, one player at a time, one song at a time, a small audience can listen but each instrument and division and singers and whistlers and such are adjudicated at the same time. So who do we see in the audience but Brendan Moriarty wanting to hear his young friend play and lend a little support along the way. He said he happened to see the tin whistle for her division on his way to another competition and thought it would be nice to hear hers, and a lovely tune she played.
Now some seven years later, in amongst the funny stories, the rollicking stories, the late nights, the early mornings, it’s the simple conversations of a quiet man about good traditional Irish music that stands out in my memory of the Fleadh Cheoil. I hope the years have been good to Brendan and I doubt he’ll ever know how much his love of music rubbed off on us all.