Notes on Music

Photo by Jessica Lewis / Pexels

We’re fortunate to live in an area where live music is usually within easy reach. It’s one of the things I’ve missed most during the fallout from the pandemic. Before COVID-19, we’d go to one of two local cafes or a beer garden to enjoy an evening of music with our favorite local bands, Foxes in the Henhouse, The Tonewoods, Culann’s Hounds, Court ‘n’ Disaster, Greenhouse and occasionally on a Thursday evening or Sunday afternoon, an Irish music session.

Every other month or so, we’d head over to a cozy Irish pub in the East Bay for a session. Around 8:00 pm, musicians would begin to arrive and settle themselves in worn-out metal chairs circled around a small table laden with pitchers of beer and candles. On the wall above, a hand-lettered quote from James Connolly (1907) was illuminated by soft light:

“No revolutionary movement is complete without it’s poetic expression. If such a movement has caught hold of the imagination of the masses, they will seek a vent in song for the aspirations, the fears and hopes, the loves and hatreds engendered by the struggle. Until the movement is marked by the joyous, defiant, singing of revolutionary songs, it lacks one of the most distinct marks of a popular revolutionary movement; it is the dogma of the few and not the faith of the multitude.”

Instruments would be withdrawn from weary cases—violins, flutes, guitars, penny whistles, bodhrans, a concertina (if Riggy was there), a banjo (if Jim was there) and sometimes a harp. Lively conversation at the bar and the sounds of meals being prepared and delivered from the small kitchen, provided the background as instruments were being tuned.

At about 8:30, the ball game on the screen now muted, one of the musicians would play a note or two and the others would join in on a traditional tune, the first of many. Every hour or so, the leader of the session, (usually Shay or Peter) would call for a “bit of hush” or “best of order” at the bar. Someone would be invited to step to the mic and sing a song. Often, it would involve a chorus, and everyone present would be encouraged to sing along. For someone like me who can’t carry a tune in the proverbial bucket, this was always a welcome opportunity to join in, under the cover of other voices.

While we wait for live music to safely return, we pick up an occasional virtual concert, view favorite artists on YouTube and listen to our CD collection. And I’ll admit to spending a little longer than necessary at Grocery Outlet, mask on, enjoying the oldies.

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