LA (Lower Alabama) Irish Trad Explorers Ireland Tour 2013

Ever since I started my Irish Trad ‘slow session’ group in Fairhope, Alabama—now going into it’s fourth year—the students have been asking me to take them to Ireland. My wife, Fran, (a fine bodhran player—really!) and I have been to Ireland four times, and we’ve played in sessions across that country as well as in Canada and Amsterdam. As anyone who plays Irish Trad knows, if you know the tune and can play it well, you are usually welcomed in to play in an session just about anywhere in the world. (Learn about & use proper session etiquette of course—don’t just jump in and start playing!)
This year (this week actually), my students and I are on our way to Ireland. Thanks to all the trips Fran and I have made, and to some connections I’ve made with my own Celtic/World band, Mithril, I’ve become friends with many great musicians in Ireland. Over the years, they’ve heard stories about the Irish group I’ve been cultivating, so when I started making plans to take the group to Ireland, they graciously agreed to help.
Big help in a roundabout way came from Fairhope pub owner Ronan McSharry. When Ronan and his lovely wife Barbie were married in Sligo in September 2011, Fran and I attended (my Mithril bandmate Andra Bohnet and I played for the wedding). Through a friend of yet another friend, we met up with a man named Martin, a retired schoolmaster, who showed us around the area. Turns out Martin and his wife run a tour service so we started talking…
…and before you knew it, we had a tour arranged for a dozen of my adult students and their spouses and friends. Thanks to Martin, we’ll be seeing the sites and enjoying great lodging and good meals; thanks to my musician friends, my students are getting a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They are not just going to see Ireland and maybe play in a few pubs. They are going to get to sit in special sessions put together for them, and play alongside such people as Thomas Walsh, composer of Inisheer (one of the most beloved tunes in Irish music); Manus McGuire, one of Ireland’s top fiddle players and founder of the Brock McGuire Band (and the ground-breaking band, Buttons and Bows); Denis Carey, the pianist of the Brock McGuire Band and a well-respected composer; and Enda Scahill, who is bringing new excitement to Irish banjo with his group, We Banjo 3. Oh, and did I mention that one of the most well-known and respected accordionists in the Irish music world,  John Whelan, has recently moved to my town of Fairhope and is also coming on the trip? (That may be the subject for a future blog post!)
My students have been working hard. They’ve memorized dozens of tunes and can play them up to speed. I’m excited—and I know they are excited. This is going to be fun & the trip of a lifetime for us all.
I’ll follow up upon our return with photos and stories of the LA (Lower Alabama) Irish Trad Explorers Ireland Tour 2013!

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