Saturday, September 15, 2012

A summer remembered

I have really fallen behind on my postings! We've been all over the place; I have to get the calendar out to remember where we've been.

I'll just backtrack to Ireland for now. "Summer" 2012 -

Mike flew to Ireland in March a couple of weeks earlier than Tania, who had one more solo concert to do and a recording session with William Pint and Felicia Dale. By the time Tania landed our first guests of the year, Jesse and Jesus, had already arrived the previous day. This was a serious climate change for them! From sunny Spain, they had flown north to frosty Ireland. We tried to keep warm by hiking all the way up to the top of Brandon Hill, but gale force winds nearly blew us off. The wind did blow down a tree, which we had to shift off the road to get back from our hike. At least we got a little bit of sunshine while they were here. That was a very scarce commodity this "summer"!

Mike got seriously stuck back into house restoration. The weather didn't cooperate for working outdoors, but as mentioned in the previous post, there was plenty to do in the bathroom. And it was great to see some real progress there.

Then it was our turn to go off visiting. We'd been trying for nearly a year to get a small Irish hurdy-gurdy players' gathering started... Turned out to be very small indeed, with just Mike, Tania, Ferris and Sam getting together again. This time, though, we were in Sam & Ferris' new house in Co Leitrim, with loads of space for playing, eating, sleeping, and messing around taking pictures and videos. (We have pictures of our 2011 meet-ups here.) We have so much fun at these sessions that we really want to share the experience with other gurdy and pipe players; hopefully we'll be able to widen the circle next year.

Our second visitor of the summer came over from Canada, breaking away from a Morris Dancing trip to England to spend a couple of days with us. I don't think the sun came out once, even briefly, while Karen was here, but we got her (and her flute) out to a couple of sessions, and a good time was had.

Mike was asked to be the soundman for a concert in the village hall over in Thomastown. It had been a while since the whole PA system got a workout, so to make sure everything was good to go, he first took over our kitchen (future living room) for a trial run. It was good timing, as well as fun, because we needed that PA for our concert in our own village hall the next weekend.

 In the week between the two village hall shows, we went to Galway to meet up with an old friend we'd not seen for too many years. Marc Gunn was leading an Irish tour for a group of his fans, and we met up with them for a few days. On our way there, we found ourselves driving through Moneygall, famed in story and song as the birthplace of Barack Obama's great-great-great grandfather. All done up for the American tourists, of course. As we stood, bemused, in front of the Obama Cafe, a helpful passerby offered to take our picture. How could we refuse?

Late June and early July, Tania and Mike parted company for six weeks. Renaissance festival season beckoned, and Tania was off across the ocean to roast in renfaire costumes in Eastern Washington heat while Mike stayed behind in the coldest, wettest Irish "summer" since records began. We avoided talking about the weather in our frequent phone calls.

No sooner did Tania get back to Ireland than it was time for what is becoming an eagerly anticipated annual tradition - Nan's visit from India. This was great, because we love to see her, we always play more music when she's around, and she brings out the best in the Irish weather! We had some great sessions in the two weeks Nan was here.

That change in the weather came none too soon. Shortly after Nan's departure, we had a day of outdoor music lined up with Sam and Ferris for Cashel's Medieval Walled Town Day. The ground may have been soggy from a "summer" (we got in the habit of referring to it in quotes) of rain, but at least the sky stayed dry for us all day.

Some of the folks we've met through the local sessions invited us to come for an afternoon boat trip on the Barrow. We set off from Tinnahinch, passed through several of the locks between there and St Mullins, and shared sunshine and music all the way.

Then there was a trip over to England and Scotland for gigs and visits with friends and family. If I can find any photos from that trip, I'll add to this. Since then, we've been all around Puget Sound, and back home to Alaska, and all up and down Vancouver Island...

We've just been traveling too much to find time to blog about it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Here we are - Inistioge, Spring 2012

Here's Mike, up a ladder. Again. I think he was painting the ceiling. Or fitting the extractor fan. Or rigging the ducting to the vent he installed in the roof. Or... I don't know. He's been up a lot of ladders this Spring.

Here's the beautiful little fireplace in the bathroom. The plan is to have it as a working open fire, but for now it's a good place for candles.

Here's the bedroom, with the vinyl flooring for the bathroom still stored in it. There was still some work to be done before that could go on the floor.

 Here's Tania at a session at Delaney's,

with Sheila on the tinwhistle. And John, the landlord, at the piano. And Mike's guitar, taking a short break between tunes.

Here's Mike after a few weeks of burning candles at both ends.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Good Old St Pat's!

St Patrick's Day! It means so many different things to different people. In North America it's a big party - a connection with a cultural heritage, a national identity, and a land left behind.

To any musician with a chunk of Irish music in the repertoire, it's the end of the Winter lull and a sign that Summer festival season is just around the corner. For many years now, we've had a St Patrick's Day band with William Pint and Felicia Dale. There's quite a bit of Celtic material in both duos' repertoires anyway, and an additional list of songs that only come out for this once-a-year marathon gig.

For the first few years, way back when, there were changes in personnel from year to year and the venue was a restaurant in Bellevue Washington, which closed long ago. The Bellevue Jake's band eventually settled into a consistent lineup (Tania and Gary Haggerty, from the original band, with William Pint and Felicia Dale) and picked up a name: "Hunter's Moon". Gary even stayed on after moving to San Francisco, travelling up for a quick couple of rehearsals and the gig. When that restaurant was sold, the band had a 10 year hiatus before finding a new home at F.X. McRory's, right in the middle of Seattle, with Mike stepping in to the lineup.

2012 presented a new challenge. St Patrick's Day fell on a Saturday, and several of the events that usually come in the week leading up to St Pat's got moved to the big day itself. The management wanted four hours of music on the Friday night, followed by an early start and nearly sixteen straight hours on the 17th.
Some musicians would have found another band to split the day with, but that would have left us with a much shorter St Pat's than we're used to... What to do?

Fortunately, the wonderful Kat Eggleston, who played with us a few years earlier when William and Felicia were away on a UK tour, was available. And her partner / bandmate John Dally had a gig in Seattle later that day anyway. So-- Friday night with W&F, Saturday morning with Kat & John, then the rest of the Saturday marathon, back to William and Felicia! As you can see from the two photos Mike took of his three bandmates, it was a seamless transition.

For these long gigs, a little advance planning goes a long way - knowing what we're going to do during the next set is more than we can expect, but we at least like to be faking it from the same notes!

Mike, of course, had the camera, so we got no picture of him even though he was in both bands. Fortunately, I found this picture from 2011 on F.X. McRory's Facebook page.