One thing that every person I’ve ever talked to that has ever been to Ireland raves about is the music. There is music everywhere you go, from live bands in every pub (often accompanied by Irish dancing and *always* accompanied by lots of the audience singing along) to the buskers you’ll see both in the cities and way out in the countryside (at places that tourists like to stop, like Ladies’ View or the Cliffs of Moher). And honestly, the buskers are so amazing – I didn’t see a single one that wasn’t exceptionally talented.
One such exceptionally talented musician was Tina (who I mentioned in a previous posting plays at the Cliffs of Moher). Tina came to play a private show for us at the Connemara Coast Hotel:
Tina has an incredibly singing voice and plays the harp beautifully. At one point, she told us that female harp player is called a “harpist”, whereas a male harp player is called a “harper”. Being that my entire tour group was Canadian, we were quick to tell her what we think of the word “Harper”.
The next day, we saw Tina playing again – this time at the Cliffs of Moher.
There was one thing about Tina that kept bugging me though – everyone just called her “Tina”. Even the CDs she was selling just said “Tina” on them. Did this woman not have a last name? Anyway, I did some digging and discovered… her last name is Mulrooney! Given our reaction to the word “Harper”, I could see why she might not have wanted to tell us her last name1!
Here’s another busker we saw – this was a guy who was playing on the street in Killarney. I believe his name may have been Scotty.
We told him we were Canadians and he said, “I’ll sing you a famous Canadian song!” and proceeded to sing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Well, the first couple of verses of it anyway – turns out , he didn’t know the rest of the words!
Here are some more musicians in Killarney – specifically, a band that was playing outdoors at Buckley’s Traditional Pub:
And here is Declan. Isn’t he adorable?
Declan was playing the uilleann pipes at Ladies’ View in Killarney. Uilleann pipes are Irish bagpipes that you inflate by pumping a bellows with your arm, instead of by blowing into them2. We were chatting with him about the pipes and about County Kerry when one of the people in my tour group said, “Hey, were you at Buckley’s Pub last night. You walked in and handed someone a bag?” It turned out that this musician, who we just randomly ran into at Ladies View in the middle of the Ring of Kerry was, in fact, at the same pub as our group the night before. And the guy on my tour who recognized him? A retired cop3.
Another place we heard some good Irish music was at the Marine Bar in Dungarvon in County Waterford:
The place where we enjoyed our pints of Murphy’s:
We also enjoyed the music of Christie O’Neill, the pub owner and musician:
We also saw a few performances of Irish dancing, like this one at the Arlington Hotel in Dublin:
And then we saw more music and dancing at the Abbey Tavern in Howth in County Dublin:
And we even got to get in on the dancing!
When talking about the music on my trip to Ireland, I would be remiss if I did not tell you about what turned into the theme song of our tour. It’s actually not a Irish song, but rather a song that hails from the Irish capital of Canada: Newfoundland. One of our tour mates, Ed, sang us a song called Diddle Dee and Duddle Dum. And then we demanded he sing it over and over and over again at every opportunity. Because it was awesome! Here’s Ed singing it to us at the Marine Bar:
It doesn’t appear that Ed has his version up on YouTube, but I did find someone else singing it:
Now, I mentioned earlier that there was lots of audience singing along in the pubs. I think this is facilitated by the fact that (a) beer and (b) everyone sings the same six songs, at every pub, every single night. I went to Ireland not knowing the words to any Irish songs4, but before the trip was done, I was sing all the “No Nay Never No more” and “Cockles and Mussels Alive, Alive, Oh!” like a true Irish lass!
And now, some classic Irish songs for you!
Red is the Rose:
If You’re Irish (Come Into the Parlour):
All of Gods’ Creatures Have a Place in the Choir:
- For my non-Canadian readers, check out #18 and #22 on this list to get a hint about what I’m talking about [↩]
- I couldn’t find any Youtube videos of Declan – possibly because I never did find out his last name – but here’s a video of some other random playing the uileann pipes. [↩]
- In case you are curious, it turned out that the bag contained CDs. Because, of course, we asked! [↩]
- I was surprised when we first got to Ireland and my mom and my aunts were singing along with all the songs right away. Turns out, their dad used to play Irish music all the time when they were little and they still remember all the words! [↩]
- This song is so famous there is actually a statue of Molly in Dublin! [↩]