*I originally wrote this on The Ivy Leaf’s blog, and am reposting from there.
As many in Boston’s Irish music community and beyond have heard, this week legendary fiddle player and leader Larry Reynolds passed away. It doesn’t take much searching to find stories of Larry’s kind heart and immeasurable accomplishments in promoting traditional Irish music throughout the United States, particularly in Boston, where he and his family lived for over fifty years. He helped found the Boston Hanafin-Cooley Branch of CCE in 1975 and was an avid supporter of sessions in the area, particularly the legendary Green Briar session in Brighton. Larry was the humblest man you’d ever hope to meet, always incredibly supportive and encouraging of all musicians—especially those musicians just embarking on their traditional music journey. I was lucky enough to have been one of those young musicians affected by Larry’s generosity in my early stages of playing, and am honored to explain how much his encouragement helped me to develop as a person and a player.
I started going to the Green Briar session on Monday nights when I was about fourteen years old. I would bring my whistle and sit in the back at the slow sessions, picking my way through the tunes, hoping nobody was judging me. By the time I was fifteen, I had picked up the flute and would sometimes stay for the later session, led by Larry Reynolds and company. He was an absolute gem, taking the time to welcome me and other beginner musicians into the “advanced” session, asking me to start a set and making small talk during pauses in the music. Because of him, I felt a sense of community in the Irish music world, and would leave each session with a tiny bit more confidence than I’d started with.
Larry’s encouragement is the reason I continued to play Irish music in those formative years—he helped me to overcome the huge musical hurdle of extreme stage fright. The thought of playing a tune alone, in front of a crowd of people at a session, used to make me dizzy with anxiety. I was always a bit shy, and was content to play away sitting in the back row at sessions. However, the first year I entered the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh, Larry got wind that I was competing in the slow airs category a few weeks before. The next time I walked into the session, he waited for a lull, then leaned over and asked me to play a slow air for them. I was floored, and terrified, and anxious…but I did it. And afterward, the whole bar applauded; Larry said I was wonderful; and I was on cloud nine. Lord knows how I actually sounded, but that one action of his was enough to give me confidence for the next time.
I ended up placing 2nd in the slow airs category that year, and after that, Larry would ask how I was doing at each session, and always ask if I had any airs to play. On at least two occasions, he slipped me $20 “to buy myself a 99” in Ireland when I went over to compete. He would always say how proud Boston is of its young musicians, and always chatted with my parents—complete strangers to the world of Irish music—to make them feel at ease whenever he saw them. He was an incalculable part of the reason Boston has so many young traditional musicians and such a strong CCE program of learners. We won’t see the likes of him again, that’s for sure; but we can do our best to carry out his legacy through our music and respect for fellow musicians.
Larry’s Comhaltas profile: http://www.cceboston.org/LarryReynoldsSr.html
Just a bit more from a parent of said young potential Irish musician.
Larry always was a gentleman with a kind word and always complimentary of the music endeavors of young people. Larry Reynolds encouraged my daughter, and always had encouraging pleasant way about him. Some parents would be a little wary of taking their 14 year old to a Brighton Bar to practice music, Larry made the Brighton bar an Irish Pub, welcoming and familiar. Larry was a presence, a talented player, and a pleasant man.
Thank you for all you have done for my family and countless others, I’m sure the good Lord is laughing a bit at one of your stories, or maybe just appreciating a good reel.