Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Cuaird and more traditional players....

Today I will lead you to the music of Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill.

Both musicians are exceptional players, but, play with a touch known only to them. It's a gentle touch or as Martin Hayes calls it - The Lonesome Touch. Go check them out.

If you chance to be a fiddler, you can distinctively hear the difference between Martin's playing and Liz' playing. If your a guitar player, same goes between John and Dennis.

The Cuaird - the chair by the door...

Sunday's after mass, in the West of Ireland , are the times when the country folk would go on the cuaird. The cuaird comes from the Irish gaelic word cuiart which in short means "to visit". Similar to "visitin" down through the Appalachian areas.

No invitations are sent - it something that has been done since the small villages and towns came about. The kitchen door was left open and an empty chair sits next to the door. Neighbors from surrounding farms would start to drift in to the home, savouring the smell of brown bread, scones, and cakes. A pot of tea would be waiting for all those who came. The families would gather in the kitchen, the heart of the home. Soon, the reason for the cuaird would become apparent. News. News of the village - who was getting married, who was having a baby, how the turf and hay was getting on for the year. Women exchanged recipes while the men talked farm business. The cuaird was the lifeline to these small farmers.

As the night wore on, the conversations turned more casual and stories would begin to unfold. Stories would lead to songs, songs to prodding the lady of the house to play some tunes on the concertina. The music would begin and toes would start tapping. Tapping toes led to dancing the sets. Yes, they danced right there in the kitchen. As the dancer's spun 'round the room, they lilted the tune out loud. There was much laughter and joy, pots of sweet tea consumed, and over there in the corner, the gents would break out a jug of poitin (homemade whiskey). The dancing, songs, and stories would go late into the night.

The cuaird is a tradition that I'm not sure if it's even still carried on in today's present Ireland. But, out of the cuaird came house sessions and dances which still go on today.

Below I've linked you to a Youtube video that talks about house dances. I hope you enjoy it.

Tomorrow, more great Irish musicians and dancing at the crossroads.


  1. Thanks for this - I am half Irish(part from each of my parents), but woefully ignorant. You are inspiring me to learn more!

  2. Happy St. Patrick's Day Toni!!

    My maiden middle name was Daly- my grandmother's maiden last name. Since there are a few Alices in the family, we refer to Alice Daly when we're talking about our grandmother. She was fiercely proud of being of Irish descent, but her family's been in the States long enough to trade the land the Pittsburgh (PA) court house sits on for a squirrel gun. I only repeat the story because it's interesting- Alice Daly was a notorious liar!

  3. I will definitely check them out! I'm always looking for rare and interesting music.

  4. Nearly everyone in Australia ( the white European ones , I mean ) has some Irish heritage as lots of the convicts who pioneered our land were Irish. But how do you pronounce "cuaird"?
    Have a great day.

  5. Helen - it's kind of pronounced like the word "cured" but faster and with a harder K sound. And yes, lots of irish in Aussie land for sure!
    I hope everyone is enjoying a little Irish during the wearing of the green week.
    Paula - too funny! A notorious liar!
    Miriam - glad to hear of the spark of inspiration.
    Thomas - hope you like the music. More leads on good music to come.