I know it's only January, but, now is the time as Irish musicians we start prepping for the month of March and all the madness we bestow upon ourselves. I'm of firm belief that we do this to ourselves. I mean, afterall, what good is an Irish musician if they don't have a gig in March? The peer pressure is awful. It's like being in high school and you have to have a date for the prom, because afterall, everyone needs to go to the prom - right?
Being a musician you know a lot of other musicians and you may be sitting around having a pint or whatnot and inevitably the conversation of March comes up. The other musicians start talking about where they are playing and how they sometimes have two to three gigs in a day then go on to complain about all the amateur gobshites they'll be playing music to and that it's nothing but noise and too many Arthur Guinnesses.
Well, to this I say - fair play to ya' if this is what rocks your boat! And, I'm glad you're in the pubs and bars playing to all the loud, drunken people and not me. As a matter of fact, we choose not to play pubs during the month of March other than our regular session. Now, don't get me wrong-we have played in a pub on St. Patrick's Day once. And trust me, once was enough!!
(Sidenote - a session is a gathering of players in an informal setting that sit around and play tunes together. The session is not a performance, although we have many who come to sit and listen.)
We choose to play unusual places for the celebration of the month of the Irish. Not so unusual to us, mind you, but, to some of friends and peers they are. We perform in venues such as the local library and other library systems, retirement homes, and coffee houses. We play at farmer's markets and other homegrown venues and we like it that way. Why? Never thought you'd ask!
Because what we play is Traditional Irish Music. It's a tradition. Traditions are to be passed on. Kinda hard to do in a noisy pub full of drunken gobshites - agree? We like to play venues where you can interact with the audience. We like to talk about what we are playing, whether it's a jig or a reel or talk about the history of the song we're about to sing. It's important to us. Again, there are venues we perform at such as large festivals and fairs that it is all about playing moreso than passing the tradition. We still like to interact with the crowd. That's part of entertaining. And, let's face it, it strokes the ego a bit when you get positive feedback from those who listen, applaud, and whistle!
So, with that being said, our gigs for March this year comprise a retirement village fundraiser and a coffee house. That's it. We're happy with this. And excited, too.
The reason for the excitement is we are trying something we haven't done in a couple of years. We are joining up with another band to form joint gigs. There is a bit more intensity to it this time around and we've started the wheel in the cog turning and it's picking up steam. New songs, new tunes, new stories to tell. Four female vocalist doing four part harmonies. All entailed, the seven of us will be able to bring three fiddles, four guitars, whistle, cittern, two mandolins, two bodhrans, bozouki, octave mandolin, tenor banjo, and three male voices! A pure powerhouse of traditional music and song, I'd say!
But, it doesn't just happen. It takes time for seven people to arrange their schedules as such to meet up once a week until the week of the gigs, then we'll get together three times that week to finalize - dot the i's and cross the t's and bring it all together with confidence. It's fun, challenging, and frustrating at times and then the catharsis. Great tunes and songs to hopefully give everyone a smile!
That's why we start in January to be ready for March. To make the folks who come to hear us happy. Happy listeners make happy players. And to be proud of "the wearing of the green" and give it substance.
So, if you're not doing anything on March 13th, come out to Beans in the Belfry in Brunswick, MD and hear some trad tunes. Make sure you say "hi" if you do.
Oh, and by the way, it's Céol Anam Cara and the Craggy Island Band forming as "Céol Agus Craic" which is Irish for "fun and music".
Sounds tempting, doesn't it?