Irish music by it’s very nature promotes fun gregarious times. There is nothing to compare to the joy of being in an Irish pub and finding an Irish music session or performance band sprouting up. The impromptu singing session especially at the end of a long week really rejuvenates the soul and re-energizes the spirit.( a few guinness doesn’t hurt either). One of my favorite Irish pubs, O’Donoghues of Dublin, is famous for such Irish music sessions. My cousin and I stopped in around dinner time, it was off season(January) so we really had no expectations of Irish music, just having a social pint and catching up on family business. We sat next to the bar (which is impossible during the peak tourist season) ordered two creamy pints of guinness and settle in for a quiet chat.
The next thing we know a local Irish music session sets up next to us and the crowd starts to form. The fellow that ran this Irish music session was named Kieran, and he made fun of my Boston accent, and I wanted to know why his parents named him Karen. He was a howl, and led a lively mix of tunes and Irish songs and stories. The game of give and take is a lot of fun especially in Dublin, by the latter parts of the night the craic was great fun, we had several foreign contingents joining us. Nothing says an Irish holiday like the mixture of Dubliners, Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, Scots and Pakistani’s. I sometimes felt like c3po in Starwars, being the universal accent translator for each group, the Pakistani to American to Irish being the hardest. By the end of the night we were exhausted from talking, laughing, singing, and we made our way home, I’m always amazed how much work is involved in having a fun night out.
After a relaxing day around Dublin, mostly spent walking around Trinity College and a little time spent on Grafton st. I meet up with my cousin for a bite. Now you may find this hard to believe but after spending an unexpectedly long night out, we were a little weary of what we consumed. We decide to have a pint of black to see if this will settle our stomachs before dinner. We end up in a less traveled classic Dublin pub called Neary’s . It was very nice and quiet, no crowds, no Irish music, as we fight our way through the first sip, a Scottish chap steps in and orders a hot whiskey, he pauses a second, and with a hearty bellow proclaims “Wasn’t the Craic mighty last night lads”. Which just goes to show it’s a small world and Dublin is an even smaller, comfortable city. We enjoyed re-hashing the night before, the interesting people, the tight Irish music, the good times to be enjoyed in general. The next time over I have to make time to visit Scotland, the Scotts are a lot of fun and unique. It’ll have to be during golf season though.
Heritage crystal one of my Ireland favorites? What about Waterford Crystal? The dirty little secret is there are plenty of Irish crystal companies that are superior to Waterford. My favorite Irish Crystal Happens to be Heritage Irish Crystal for three reasons. The first being the people that run the company are just nice. The year before I opened my shop I was at the Dublin Showcase trade show in a sea of new vendors and products. I am grazing through the booths hoping to get a feel for the place when I find myself in the Heritage Irish Crystal booth. There are a couple of Japanese buyers putting an order together when a cheery gentleman asks me if I need any help. I explain that I am in the planning stages of maybe opening a shop and don’t really know what makes a good crystal. The fellow drops everything and proceeds to give me the ABC’s of high end, hand cut crystal. I would say he spent a good twenty minutes showing me the sharpness of the cut, the deepness of the cut, the weight of the glass, the way the cut diffuses light, the patterns and intricacies of the cuts in the Irish crystal. Then he tells me to go to the other crystal booths at the show and run my finger across the cuts of their crystal and compare it to Heritage Irish Crystal. I thank him for his time and ask him his name, he say’s it was a pleasure and his name is Joe. The next couple of hours I check out all sorts of products and any time I see A crystal booth I run my finger over the cut. That Joe was right, the sharpness of Irish Heritage Crystal really stood out. The next day I head back to the Heritage Irish Crystal booth to thank the Joe fellow for the crystal lesson. I ask if Joe was at the booth, but he wasn’t, I ask if the person in charge was around as I would like to put a good word in for their employee Joe. The salesman smiles and says ‘Oh Joe, you really don’t have to, he owns the company”. The cheerful, helpful salesman was Joe Williams, president and founder of Irish Heritage Crystal. The second Reason is the Quality and workmanship of the product. The third reason is Sonya Williams who is the best customer service person I’ve ever dealt with.
The Vases and Bowls are just breath taking. When I finally closed my shop 15 years after meeting Joe, their quality was still tops. I had a big pedestal bowl that I discounted and secretly hoped wouldn’t sell, when an old customer scoop up every piece I had. There will be a time I open again, and when that day comes I hope that Irish Heritage Crystal will still be around.
These days we are bombarded with technological wonders that are great fun, the huge flat screen, the video guitar heros, Madden 2012, the list goes on and on. I sometimes think that Dr. Seuss was so far ahead of his time, as the who’s blew their who hoovers and slang their slew slunkers, but my favorite gift came in the form of Irish music. What better way to pass the time than a compilation of diverse Irish tunes, songs, and music.
Here’s a track list;
The Auld Triangle-Ronnie Drew
Kennedy’s Set-The Ivy Leaf
Wild Mountain Thyme-The Border Collies
Pound a Week Raise-Liz Carroll and John Doyle
Pat’s Set-The Ivy Leaf
Reels- Liz Carroll and John Doyle
Boys of Barr na sraide-Niamh Parsons
Whiskey in the Jar- Thin Lizzy
Fairytale of New York-The Pogues
The Lonesome Boatman-The Fureys
If you’re in the mood for classic folk music try the Ronnie Drew road to Irish music, it’ll take you down the Dubliners way past Luke Kelly boulevard, it’s a gravelly well travelled road.
If you’re in the mood for classic trad music put together by young American Irish musicians, then look for the Ivy Leaf, rumor has it their debut cd is to be released in January.
The more established award winning Irish music duo of Liz Caroll and John Doyle fills the air with traditional Irish music, jigs and reels played flawlessly.
Niamh Parsons, pure emotion.
The classic Rock band of the eighties Thin Lizzy, Irelands best rock band ever pays tribute to their Irish lineage with the classic Irish folk music song Whiskey in the jar. I had a discussion with an Irish fella at Paddy Barry’s bar in Quincy, Ma. about rock music not being Irish music. He’s thinking U2, I tell him to check out folk classics by the “boys are back in town” guys-Thin Lizzy. Phil Lynott always awesome, (why can’t rock guys manage to keep themselves alive, ie. don’t overdose on heroin.)
Ireland’s modern day Irish rock/folk/trad fusion band the Pogues, with the European Christmas song, The Fairytale of New York.
Finbar Furey plays the classic Irish air after the narrative, The Lonesome Boatman,most airs are soft and almost mystical, Finbar’s air pushes the seams and just, lets loose.I was listening to the local radio station in Boston one friday when the DJ. leaves with a tease. He says “I can’t tell you who, but some one special will be at Mr.Dooley’s Bar tonight.” he goes on to say that he can’t say who, but you will want to be there. Now the night before, U2 finished their last concert in Boston, soooo putting 1 and 1 together I conclude that Bono is going to be at Dooleys. We head into Dooleys, ask the waitress what time Bonos playing, and am pleasantly surprised when instead, Finbar Furey shows up and plays a few irish music classics. The same night Dooleys poured their millionth pint and some one received a free trip to Ireland. A side note, never take friends with you who drink rum and coke when a Guinness might get you a free trip,….. NO I’M NOT BITTER.
The classic Irish Christmas music tunes or carols would have to start with the Wexford carol. Like most current Christmas songs the tune is very old, tracing back to the 13th century (around 1220A.D.). In the town of Enniscorthy, County Wexford, the director of music at St. Aidan’s Cathedral, William Ford (1859-1928), wrote down the words of a local singer and published this Irish Christmas music classic. There are many versions but if it’s Irish Christmas carols you are after, the Irish music on Tony Kenny’s Christmas Time in Ireland is a good choice.
Going old school,The Bing Crosby Christmas album includes Christmas in Killarney, and of course White Christmas. It also includes an Hawaiian Christmas carol and American classics
Available from Irish Records International, The late Noel Henry’s Christmas at home cd is a good mix of Religious music and kid’s tunes. The Henry’s mother was the reason the original record was produced with the Irish Tunes on one side and Kids tunes on the other. Noel was famous for his devotion to God and love of his fellow man
I hope You Have A Joyous Christmas, Nollaig Shona.
I will put a candle in the window ,and welcome any stranded Irish music travelers shelter and comfort
Irish food favorites have to include the full Irish breakfast sometimes referred to as a fry. It’s an Irish staple and can take some getting use to, but if you have a busy day the full Irish can hold you over till dinner. Two eggs, rashers (breakfast sausage), black and white pudding (blood sausage), cooked tomato, baked beans, toast (either brown bread, sometimes soda bread), pot of Barry’s tea, now that will stay with you.
The best thing about the full Irish breakfast is it ability to bring you back from a long night out. In 2001, I happened to be in Dublin during the play off run of the New England Patriots, and my cousin ordered the Sky sports package so we could watch the game. The time differences being what they are, we enjoyed a good night out at Johnnie Foxes and got home to watch the game at around 1:00 am. I will have to say I was totally disgusted when I went to bed around 3:00 am, having the game ending in the snow with a fumble.
The next morning I awake to the smells of the full Irish fry on the stove, I was more in the mood for a 20 oz. Pepsi and a lot of ice, the lack of sleep, the taste of guinness and defeat still fresh in my mind, the full Irish seemed a little intimidating. That just goes to show you how wrong you can be. The full Irish breakfast helped revive this tired soul, and it only took me about an hour to believe that the game didn’t end when I disgustedly went to bed. There was something about the combination of greasy sausages, really well baked bread washed down with good Irish tea, and the tuck rule that just made for a beautiful day.
Whenever you stay in a bed and breakfast take advantage of the full Irish, it will sustain you through the day. On the days you don’t feel like such a meal to start off the day, most B&Bs will offer cereal or just a good pot of Irish tea and toast. Take advantage of these included perks, the conversations around the breakfast table can be interesting and informative.
Ireland favorites, Irish food,The full Irish breakfast.
My favorite Irish songs have two characteristics, the first being Irish songs I enjoy and second being Irish songs I can handle. If you have a particular attachment to a song, such as it being from your hometown in Ireland or maybe it’s your deceased mother’s favorite Irish song, then sing it. There will be an emotion to come through that will be appreciated. Even if it isn’t appreciated, Irish music is about being true, so if it’s sung earnestly you have sung it correctly. Most of us will probably have a bunch of songs we like to listen to, really enjoy, but can’t quite pull off, cull the herd and find the ones you have a chance on. Find the songs your musical range and ability can handle. Find the version of the Irish song that you like, as lyrics to Irish songs morph over the years. It’s amazing when you listen to an Irish song on a Dubliners cd and then look up lyrics to see how different the words can be.
My being very average, the Irish songs I sing can’t range too high, no Four Green Fields being sung by this Irish music hack, but try The Bold Fenian Men, or The Water Is Wide, both are examples of beautiful Irish tunes that can be sung. So I put together a few singable Irish songs below, pick one out learn the words listen to how they should be sung. Irish music is learned by listening so listen to your favorite Irish music personality. If you have a song you absolutely love but have a spot where you cannot reach, try going down an octave, instead of over reaching
Irish songs you can sing;
Hills of Connermara
Water is Wide
Whiskey on a Sunday
A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday
Clare to here (don’t over reach)
Cliffs of Doneen
The parting Glass
Ok now you have your homework assignment, learn three of the Irish songs above. Pick an Irish music artist you like and listen to how the Irish music is sung, adapt the Irish song to your abilities and personality, and most of all enjoy singing it.
The first time you sing your Irish song you will be nervous, expect to be nervous, don’t go on and on about being nervous, just try to sing. If you stumble, the odds are several people in the crowd will know the song and help you through the rough spots. I was at the Irish Cultural Centre listening to a singing session when one of the main singers lost the words to a song I knew, knowing he stumbled, I sang the next chorus, he got back on track and finished it. It actually was kind of nice having a voice out of nowhere sing a bit of the song.
The point being don’t worry, you are not being paid, you’re there to participate in singing some Irish music.
Ireland is a scenic, beautiful, mystical place, but the Irish people and their distinct Irish way, are the reason Ireland is my favorite place to visit again and again. The Irish have a way to do things that they feel is just the way you do things. A certain common courtesy that you just don’t expect to get back home. Now I don’t mean that they fawn over you, or smooch your behind for an extravagant tip or gratuity, its more like they lend a helping hand because it’s the way you should do things.
I am attending a trade show in Dublin, and they have a dinner for the attendees on the outskirts of the city which requires taking a shuttle bus. The Bus picks everyone up at The Jury hotel Dublin. In order to get to Juries I took a taxi from one side of Dublin to the other. At the end of the night the bus picks up 8 or 9 people and drops them off until I am the last one on the bus. This Irish bus driver is a nice fellow and we have a short chat and arrive at Juries hotel. I am leaving the bus when I ask this Irish fella where a taxi stand would be. The conversation goes like this.
BD- “Why do you need a taxi?” ME-” I’m not staying in the big hotels but with my cousin near Christ Church.” BD-“Christ Church now what’s that near?” ME-“It’s down by the Old Dublin Wall,by the Brazen Head, and O’Shea’s Merchant.” BD-“Oh the Brazen Head, sure I know where that is, a taxi that ‘ll cost you a bit from here, I’ll drop you off, this was my last run, so I’m done for the night.” Me-“you don’t have to do that you’ve been carting us (trade show tourists) around all day, you probably want to get home and relax.” BD-” It won’t take more than a bit to get you there, so I’m a little late to the pub, lets go.”
Now the shuttle bus he’s driving happens to be a full sized double decker bus. Myself and my Irish companion are cutting across Irelands largest city at the end of his long day, taking him a good 15 to twenty minutes out of his way. Now thats 15 or 20 minutes to get back too, so this fella has been driving a bus for a full time shift and knows that he is adding another 40 minutes onto his day. Well it was the most pleasant 20 minutes I’ve spent in a long time. As my irish bus driving friend maneuvers the double decker bus through the busy streets of Dublin, We have a nice chat. We get to the apartment building and I thank him for going out of his way, and try to give him a tip.” What’s that for, no.” He drove me back because that is what should have been done. I tell him again to take it as a thank you, but, he declined. So not wishing to insult my host, I thank him for the lift, and ask him how much a pint is going for in his neighborhood pub. After he tells me I ask if its ok if I could buy him and a pint. Now that he could accept.
Beware! if you visit an Irish household, expect to be there for a while. Expect to be treated like a king. Expect to be offered tea and sandwiches or scones or biscuits. Expect that a sampling of Jameson or other Irish whiskey may be offered. Be polite, accept the hospitality, partake of the offerings, it is expected and to refuse is an insult. We dropped in to my cousin’s wife’s family to say hello and left 90 minutes later, we got off easy.
Attending the Irish music Fleadh in Tullamore Ireland was an Irish music extravaganza. The town which is in the exact middle of Ireland swells to over 100,000 traditional Irish music lovers. Did I mention that it was about Irish music, well any way you would think every conversation would be about tight tunes and sweet singing, but there is always somebody trying to drag you into a political conversation. Here are some examples.
Outside of the old harbor bar in Tullamore which of course is called something else now stands a regular irish fellow. I’m supposed to meet someone (at the formerly named) harbor bar and I ask him if he knows were that is. The first words out of his mouth refers to the iraq war and w.m.d’s, I deflect the question and try one more time to find the no longer named harbor bar. That was a mistake, never give them an opening, do not discus politics, the proper response should have been “I am ignorant of all world events , have a good day.” Now it is probably harder with my political leanings, being that I love America, the constitution, free markets, and individual freedom. But anyway, the fella throws the next salvo about the imperial tendency of the American military industrial complex and I take the bait, what a mistake. Ireland is a beautiful place and the people are the salt of the earth but it also is european and has its fair share of full fledge social/communist zealots. We get into the whole left right battle until I just can’t take it any more and just have to walk away, disgusted and pissed off. The funny thing is the bar this old fart is arguing with me in front of, is the formerly named harbor bar and the person I’m meeting is not there.
Just so you know , he knew I was American because of my accent. As I wasted my time, energy, and good nature with Karl O’Marx the 70 degree day changes to Forty. I walk around the block getting cold now (because we Americans wear shorts) when my mood is saved by a wise cracking Galway kid and his girlfriend. I learned that pegs are a reference to legs, as in, “check out the pegs on that guy”. Now normally I would let this go, but hey, I’m pi- , er upset. I ask the guy why he’s checkin out some fifty year old guys legs, but I think it’s nice for his sister to take him out on the town. Luckily they were good natured, and we have a good laugh and a short chat. My faith in Ireland a little restored I head into a crowded Anne Kellys Pub. My faith is fully restored when a cheerful fellow hears me order a pint, invites me to his table and wants to know what part of Boston I’m from. We had a nice chat.
Now just so you don’t think its a right wing conspiracy against any descent, My cousin comes down from Dublin for a night. We have great conversations being that our political leanings are opposites. We head out to Eugenes bar and search for a place to sit and are lucky enough to find two stools in a side bar. We’re catching up on old times when we get invited into a conversation with a couple seated next to us. Jimmy doesn’t see it coming, they start talking about the the evils of the capitalist system and blah blah blah. I ask about the great Irish music, where’s there a nice place to eat, what a lovely town Tullamore is, anything but politics in Ireland. Jimmy takes the bait, which is really funny, because Jimmy is really left leaning arguing with a couple that is farther to the left. It starts to get a little heated and I interrupt to remind Jimmy we have to head to De Bruins bar, thank the couple for a stimulating conversation, and move our seats. Jimmy’s reaction–Wow. There very rarely is give and take in these conversations, since you are on vacation avoid politics, unless you enjoy never ending conflict.
The nice part about this encounter is that we left Eugenes and headed down to Joe Lees bar and caught a really good session. Since we left the conversation before the point of ruination, we did have a good story to laugh about. The Tullamore Fleadh was a great take, The traditional Irish music was tight, and the crowd was for the most part enjoying the craic. There was one fellow who sang an amazing version of the parting glass, after all when you go to a Fleadh you’re there for the Irish music.
Irish music favorites like O’Donoghues pub by St. Stephens Green can be crowded noisy places in July, the tourist crowd can sometimes make it hard to get a feel for these old famous pubs. But consider a winter trip to Ireland. Aer Lingus has special deals in January and February that make it fairly reasonable to take a short vacation. For around $500. you can travel round trip. Places to stay normally have deals and the tourist crowds are minimal. To enjoy a January trip to Ireland, Go to Dublin, book a room in a nice downtown hotel, Try Wynn’s in Dublin 1, or book a room overlooking St Stephen’s Green. Pick a few things to do in the afternoon. Go to the Leprechaun museum on Jervis st., take a bus to Malahide castle on the outskirts of Dublin county. Stay closer to the city and check out Dublin castle, or Kilmainham Gaol (jail) and the G.P.O famous for the easter uprising of 1916. or maybe relax and have a nice cup of tea in the lounge and plan a day of shopping, the choices can seem endless.
My choice would be to find out the traditional music being offered in the pubs of Dublin. Again O’Donoghue’s is a must especially in the winter when it won’t be crowded to the gills. Check out the Quays down in the Temple Bar section of Dublin, and ask the hotel personnel what places they like. A word of caution, what a Dubliner thinks you want and what you actually want may be very different. The old separated by a common language effect applies here. You mostly want to know what sections of the city are sketchy and need to be avoided. There really aren’t many, again this varies person to person, and my favorite places tend to be non touristy old pubs.
Maybe stay in Dublin for the first two nights and plan a destination spot for two more nights, not too far away, try Wicklow. Maybe a day out to Glendalough, or an overnight in Enniskerry. Even stay in a Dublin B&B close toThe famous Johnnie Foxes, they have great Irish music year round. If you find yourself with some time take a ride to Bray harbor just south of Dublin, and have a creamy pint in one of my favorite Irish places, the Harbor bar in Bray.
The weather will be cold and grey but not bone chilling, you can still stroll the streets of Dublin and feel her heart beat. The colder weather does have some advantages, you might be more inclined to have a baileys or maybe a nice hot whiskey.
1 1/2 oz. Jameson irish Whiskey
1/ oz. lemon juice
2 spoons of sugar
2 or 3 cloves inserted int a lemon wedge
4 oz. boiling water.
Make sure glass is heat proof no need to get fancy, use whatever you would for a cup of tea. I like to have the lemon and sugar in the cup, then add the Jameson Irish whiskey then top off with hot water
Irish music favorites of mine will always start with the classic balladeers. Lock me in a room with the reincarnated legends of Irish folk music, like Luke Kelly or Tommy Makem and I’d be a happy man. I had the pleasure of hearing and seeing Paddy Reilly play at the Beachcomber Bar in Quincy Ma. some years back and he was terrific. One old guy and an acoustic guitar, producing the sweetest Irish music imaginable. I must pay homage to the Wolfe Tones, Ireland’s Irish music gift to the world, and of course the Chieftans.
Top ten Irish music cds to own.
Water from the well–The Chieftans. This well produce mixture of instrumental tunes, tightly played by Irelands most famous traditional musicians is mixed with an ample supply of Irish songs. Other Chieftans cd’s will stray from the Irish music oath but water from the well stays true to it’s Irish roots. Favorite Irish song– Jack of all Trades.
Gold and silver days–Paddy Reilly. Double cd from Irelands best Balladeer. Featuring, Dirty Old Town, Raglan Road, Slievenamon, Rare Ould Times. Favorite Irish song– Rare Ould Times.
Luke Kelly Greatest Hits–This Irish music legend, member of the Dubliners ,God rest his soul, belts out Irish songs with passion and feeling. Nice cd for St. Patricks day as it has many a lively Irish tune. Favorite Irish song– Raglan road.
Dervish,Decade cd–Dervish, A traditional Irish music band with beautiful singing from Cathy Jordan, this is a primarily tradtional Irish music, lively jigs and reels, massaged in a beautiful way. Favorite Irish tune– Kilavill set
Raised on Songs and Stories– Compilation album,with great cuts by Delores Keane, the Dubliners, Luke Kelly, and the Wolftones. Delores Keane singing Teddy O’Neil is a favorite. Favorite Irish song– Teddy O’Neil
The Wolfe Tones 25’th Anniversary Cd–The Wolfe Tones, Ireland’s rebels pack a lifetime of hits and emotion into two action packed cds. Fun, beautiful, and tragic, The full Irish music tradition. Favorite Irish song,–Black and Tans.
Spirit of a Nation–The Wolfe Tones–Beautiful Irish songs full of emotion. Favorite Irish song–The Lough Sheelin eviction.
Re-Union Cd–Clancy Brothers-Old school Irish music classics. Favorite Irish song–Finnegans wake.
Songbag–Tommy Makem, classic Irish music balladeer. Favorite irish song–Four Green fields.
Best of the original Dubliners-Featuring Ronnie Drew’s gravely voice and Luke Kelly’s passion, this double cd is hard to beat. Favorite song–the Parting Glass.
These selections represent the old school classic Irish music artist we have all heard over the years. In upcoming posts I will try to do justice to more Irish music genres just as important, and respectful of Irish music tradition. The modern women of Irish music, such as Delores Keane, Mary Black, Frances Black, Rita Connolly and more. The new generation of traditional Irish music, Lunasa, Bothy band, Patrick st., and some Irish music no has heard yet. Hope this list helps.