The opinions, remembrances, reflections, and wisdom of the mother of five homeschooled children as the last one leaves the nest and the ranks of the grandchildren begin to grow.
Monday, July 26, 2010
ANOTHER SESSION AT CHIEF O’NEILL’S – Sunday, July 25, 2010
The young students of the Irish Music School of Chicago have spent all their energy, have run out of memorized tunes, and now they are slipping away from the music session. As they abandon their chairs the older musicians move in to take over. This results in an acceleration of the pace of the tunes. It is 8:40 and only the most accomplished students and seasoned adults are left in the circle. The tunes not only become faster, they become more complicated – as complicated as Irish music can be. Right now the musicians are rockin'. We have 6 fiddlers, 2 button accordions, and a guitarist. The energy is at its best. At the bar are two Mexican gentlemen and a young boy who clearly has the rhythm in his system. He taps his feet and moves with the time signature as if he has been exposed to the music from birth. I mention to his grandfather (?) that he has a natural rhythm and maybe they should consider lessons. His grandfather (?) jumps at the chance for some information about lessons. Another disciple recruited.
Earlier we arrived late for the session due to one motorcycle wipe-out on the Dan Ryan and Cubs traffic on the Kennedy. When we finally parked down the block from Chief O'Neill's we met John's niece Lisa, her husband Jay, and two beautiful daughters Hannah and Grace on the way in to the pub. This is their first exposure to Irish music and the Irish tradition of including their children in these activities. As we eat, the little girls make friends with Maeve, a beginner concertina player and Irish dancer. They recruit for their circle of make believe, Kate, the daughter of a British co-worker of John's. For the next hour, they run and skip through the beer garden with several other children and not a care in the world. This is the atmosphere that accompanies most traditional music gatherings, but is even more particular to the Irish. This is how traditional music is passed from generation to generation. It is organic. It is not formal. It is not about concert quality performances for big money in front of large audiences. Rather it is a fellowship. It is a circle of lovers. Lovers of music and the dancers for whom the music was created. Tonight is a little special because a certain gentleman from Ireland, a button accordion player, has made an appearance. We all know him, but he is not a regular. His presence is special because he plays odd tunes or familiar tunes in a different key. I, of course, don't know the difference, but when he starts a tune the other musicians are literally all ears. They stop playing and listen intently to this man. Eventually they join in, but they are learning something new. Something different. Organically.
My mother listened to opera and I was trained to be a ballerina in one of Chicago's best dance schools. It was a very formal education for which I am thankful. But I am inclined toward the vulgar (of, pertaining to, or constituting the ordinary people in a society: the vulgar masses). I very much value and believe in the foundational benefits of ballet and classical music training. Those disciplines provide the dancer or musician with the fundamentals necessary for a better grasp of whatever they branch off into later in their artistic adventures. But, as an end to themselves, they do not interest me. They lack the fellowship of the vulgar.