afternoon sessions in Bishopstown Bar

In our recent trip to Ireland we played several gigs, but by far my favourites were the two afternoon sessions we did in the Bishopstown Bar in Cork. Over the years George Kilby Jr has been going to Ireland, this has become something of a fixture, and both afternoons were very well attended.

More or less acoustic, we arranged ourselves in a semi circle on a banquette. Sam, our drummer, sang and played a cajon, a box like drum that the player sits on and beats. In Sam’s case, this is done with considerable finesse. George, our fearless leader, played guitar and sang. Neil played accordion and harmonica and sang. I sang and mostly played bass, but also switched to mandolin for a few tunes.

As indicated earlier, this has become something of a tradition over the Jazz Festival weekend, and both afternoons saw us playing to an enthusiastic, packed bar. The absolute highlight was on the Monday afternoon, when in the midst of our second set, a number of the regular customers burst into song, one after another.

The first contributor was a sixty or more year old man, as little and gleeful as a leprechaun, with the voice of a giant. Everyone knew him, and within seconds the bar was mostly quiet as he beguiled us with an old song of longing and redemption. He was followed by several more regulars, male and female, each of them with marvelous songs to sing. Some we joined in with, others we listened to in wonder.

Only in Ireland have I witnessed this kind of spontaneous outburst. Can you imagine a customer in an English pub breaking into song in this way? I dont think so. Nor in my limited experience, in the US. How fabulous and refreshing it is to hear great singers singing for the sheer joy of it, with never a thought about getting paid. It is a humbling reminder to us professionals just how lucky we are.

After the session had ended, and we were sitting down and eating dinner, the same little mischievous fellow who had opened the local talent show stopped at our table on the way out. A far away look came into his eyes, as he opened his arms wide, and gave us several verses of yet another marvelous song. Eventually his companions grew impatient and urged him on his way, but he was still singing as he went out of the door into the street.

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