Do we ever fully know a tune, or only versions of it, temporary delineations of the possible? — Cairan Carson on the reel most commonly called ‘Last Night’s Fun’ in his Last Night’s Fun: In and Out of Time with Irish Music
Summer is passing as it always does on the Kinrowan Estate in fits and starts with both unseasonably warm weather and weather that requires a fire be started in the rooms that Ingrid, the Estate Steward, and I have on the fourth floor of Kinrowan Hall. I think that the fire this time of year as the early Autumn rains begin in earnest is as much about feeling warm as being warm.
And they also applies to my fondness for both playing and listening to Irish music as both activities are quite comfortable. It just feels good to be part either a member of the Neverending Session, particularly when they’re here in our Pub, or working behind the Bar when they’re playing as that space feels at its very best especially on an Autumn evening when there’s a chill in the air and they’re playing this music.
So I’ve decided to select reviews of books that look at Irish music this edition and several choice albums get reviewed but this is not an Irish music edition as we’ve already have that here. No I just felt like directing you to several favourite things of this manner.
Our Publisher has a look at Charles de Lint’s Forests of The Heart novel which I’m reading now and it says that we should ‘Have another drink and just listen to the music’ which I must say is most excellent advice. The novel has an astounding description of Irish music sessions which we just added it to our Words section courtesy of de Lint and you can can read that here.
Chuck has a book for you that’s very popular to borrow from the Library here: ‘Ciaran Carson is an Irish poet and musician, who has, in Last Night’s Fun, put together a series of writings, each inspired by a traditional tune. In most cases, these are short essays. For others, he has written poetry or put together sets of quotations. Occasionally the subjects in consecutive chapters are directly related, but that is most likely happenstance.’
Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music gets reviewed by John: ‘To fans of Irish music, Sliabh Luachra will need no introduction. Something of a mini republic in Irish music terms, Sliabh Luachra, translated from the Gaelic as ‘the mountain of the rushes,’ is an area that has written its own rule book within the Irish traditional lexicon and produced its share of masterful exponents. The music is characterized by a wild reckless energy, which somehow symbolizes the rugged nature of the area.’
Diana Boullier’s Exploring Irish Music and Dance gets a look from Kim: ‘Diana Boullier seeks to bridge the gap between children’s interest and the world of Irish traditional music.’
A boozy chocolate trifle is the recipe this time from Jen: ‘This dessert is highly alcoholic. And huge: the finished recipe weighs about 8 pounds, not counting the heavy glass trifle bowl, without which it really isn’t worth doing. I developed it after reading, yes, way too many English novels and wondering how to make it with chocolate.’
Robert has chocolate (funny how that works out, isn’t it?). This is another from Ritter, Ritter Sport Golden Edition Milk Chocolate Squares (and if you think that’s a mouthful, just wait): ‘I have another (huge) bar of chocolate from Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG of Germany, a major chocolatier. This one is the Ritter Sport Golden Edition Milk Chocolate Squares, and when I say “huge”, I mean just that: It’s about half a pound (8.8 oz, or 250 g) of fairly thick squares of milk chocolate.’
Alistair looks at a recording from the Celtic Fiddle Festival, a group I like a lot: ‘Play On is the fourth release from a group of musicians who had no real intention of continuing as such beyond a one-off concert series in 1993. The enthusiasm, both on and off stage, generated by that project, which featured three of the Celtic world’s most noted fiddlers, Irishman Kevin Burke, Scot Johnny Cunningham, and Christian Lemaitre from Brittany has resulted, twelve years later, in hundreds of performances and numerous successful international tours.’
Brendan has a look at group that’s Irish to the core, to wit From the beginning: The Chieftains 1 to 4: ‘The Chieftains were one of the first modern Celtic music bands. Although completely traditional in material and instrumentation (even to point of eschewing any guitar or piano), they were one of the first bands to present Irish music to an international audience as a serious craft, whose still-quite-living tradition demanded serious attention. Paddy Moloney — then a founding member of the influential (and much larger) Irish group Ceoltoiri Chualann — formed the band in the early Sixties as a compact ensemble of Irish musicians showcasing purely Irish stylings.’
Chris was able to get into a sold-out show on Ian Anderson’s golden anniversary tour: ‘Fifty years ago, a group of young musicians from Blackpool released a record called This Was, launching the career of Jethro Tull, one of the most influential and original rock bands ever. This year, Ian Anderson is out on the road, celebrating this golden anniversary with a series of shows across the US and Europe.’
Gary reviews Ameriikan Laulu, the second release from Aallotar, the chamber-folk duo of Finnish accordionist Teija Niku and Finnish-American fiddler Sara Pajunen. ‘Throughout, this music is sharply observed and deeply felt.’
Lars brings us a look at an EP by someone who’s relatively new on the country music scene, Rachel Button’s Long Way Round: ‘Rachel Button is a singer, songwriter, fiddler and vocal coach. She was born and raised in Britain but she has also lived in Vancouver and Nashville, where this EP was recorded. Rachel started out as a folk performer, but here she is closer to mainstream country.’
Robert has a recording of music by contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, a group of shorter works gathered together in an album titled Da Pacem: ‘The music of Arvo Pärt, one of the best known contemporary composers, is something I’ve always found attractive. From my first recording of Passio, which was, believe it or not, my beach music for a whole summer way back when, I’ve been an enthusiastic follower of his works.’
Our What Not is a look at a favourite reading space in Kinrowan Hall as Denise found a small charmer of a spot: ‘My favorite spot to read is a tiny rounded nook that’s just off the passage between the kitchen and the library. I sit on a large, overstuffed cushion on the floor, where I battle for supremacy with Blodeuwedd, who has decided that since I found her, I’m responsible for her . . . and her comfort. We usually find a happy compromise. Blod usually sits in the middle of the cushion, and all the mathematical formulas in the world couldn’t find the dead center of that cushion with more accuracy. After she gets comfy, I pack myself tightly underneath the little stained-glass window and lean myself back on the cool stone wall, which is a nice counterpoint to the heat of the kitchen. Cracking the window a bit gives a nice breeze and plenty of light for daytime reading. Being near the kitchen has its pluses and minuses; the kitchen staff often peek in and ask me to taste new recipes if they know I’m about. I keep hoping they’ll ask for my opinion of the wild mushroom and barley stew again, but the haggis omelet flambe was something even Blod was glad to see the back of.’
Ysbaddaden and his brood are telling me that ’tis time for their eventide feeding, so I’ll take your leave now. Now where did the kitchen staff put that leftover smoked duck from last night? Ahhh, there it is! Let me feed them and I’ll see about some music to leave with you after their feeding, so one moment please…
So what am I leaving you with for Irish tradish music? Well it’s a choice live performance of ‘‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’ by De Dannan at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio nearly thirty years ago. This is before the band split into two, each faction not speaking to the other, with only a different spelling of the name as a way of telling them apart. As of five years ago, both bands were still active, and both are very much worth hearing live if they perform in your area.