Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Day in Boston

I left on Wednesday with Mom and Dylan, destination Boston. It took around six hours to get from New Jersey to Massachusetts. We drove to the bed and breakfast first to get settled in and ready for our gig.

Soon we arrived at The Burren, a very nice pub that hosts concerts regularly in a series that is broadcast on the radio, called the Burren Backroom Series. Dylan and I were opening for Cillian Vallely and Kevin Crawford, two wonderful Irish musicians who also play in a well known group called LĂșnasa. I have played tunes many times before with Cillian and Kevin at The Swannanoa Gathering.

We were guided to the "green room" at The Burren where we stored instrument cases, took our instruments out, and listened to Kevin and Cillian's soundcheck before doing our own. Then, Dylan and I rehearsed a few sets before dinner. That's where we met Brian O'Donovan, who is the host for nearly all of the Burren Backroom Series events.

By the time we finished dinner, the show was about to start and Brian told us how it was going to run. When we were announced we went right into our first set. Afterwards, Brian asked us a few questions about when we started playing and specifics about the last set.

The show flowed smoothly and I loved playing at this event. It was very enjoyable.

After we played and a slight break, Kevin and Cillian took the stage. I love listening to Kevin and Cillian perform. They sound amazing because they have played together for almost twenty years--flute and pipes. Sometimes they do a tune with the low whistles in unique variations, and Kevin always makes funny remarks about random little things that occur during the show.

Before Kevin and Cillian played their last set, they invited Dylan and me up on stage to play a final set with them, a set of reels--finishing with The Bucks of Oranmore.

Playing at The Burren was loads of fun and I hope to do so again sometime soon.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Brock McGuire Band

Recently, I attended a wonderful concert by the Brock McGuire BandOne of the members, Manus McGuire, I met at the Swannanoa Gathering camp about four years ago. I contacted Manus telling him we were coming to his concert, and he was so excited because it had been so long since we last saw him. 

When we arrived in the city, we ate in a retro 80s diner, that wasn't very crowded, before going to the venue. Prior to the show, I met up with Manus, who asked me to play a few tunes with him during one of the sets. We decided on a set of reels towards the end of the show.

The opening act played a bluegrass sort of style--all their numbers were old-time folk songs. I thought it was interesting to hear different song styles. They sounded awesome, too!

There was a slight intermission and then the Brock McGuire Band went on. I had never heard the whole group before, only Manus playing solo. They sounded fantastic! I love the whole dynamic of the band and the way they did things differently, like playing a set of a reel, a jig, then another reel. This was unusual because usually Irish musicians play a set of reels or a set of jigs. Typically, the jigs and reels are not combined. Even when they are, musicians play the jig first because of its slower tempo. They were able to make it work because of the clever way the transitions were arranged.

Towards the end, when they called me up onto the stage, I was very excited. I played a solo reel, then, Manus joined me in a reel. I thought I would only play one set, however, he asked me if I'd like to play another couple of tunes with him and of course I said, "Yes." So, we played a duet set of reels together. I had so much fun!

After the show I was greeted by some of the audience who enjoyed my playing. The band sent me home with three CD's to listen to on our long drive home. The pianist, Denis Carey, gave me a tune book with all of his compositions, all of which I was very eager to learn. 

It was great fun to see and play with Manus, and I hope to have the pleasure again sometime in the near future!