The Great American Irish Festival

This past weekend I had my first taste of a music festival. I learned about the Great American Irish Festival a couple months ago, and when I realized the High Kings and Makem and Spain Brothers would be there, I bought my tickets immediately!

I decided to spend the money on a campsite so that any friends or family who wanted to could come up, and my sister and brother joined me.

It was nothing less than awesome! Irish folk music all weekend, great weather, good food and plenty of fellow Irish fans.

The High Kings were mind blowing. The energy and skill they brought to the stage was infectious. They encouraged us to sing along with them too, which, as a singer I love doing but often feel constrained to NOT do! Their song list was everything I could hope for, Fields of Athenry, The Town I Loved So Well, Marie’s Wedding, Wild Rover and such.

Here are. Couple short videos I took.

The Town I Loved So Well

Marie’s Wedding

The Makem and Spain Brothers were awesome as well. I was sad to see Conor has left the group, his tenor was great. After their Friday concert, I went up to meet Roy Makem, and asked if they could play Ha’Penny Bridge, which I first learned from them and has become one of my favorite Irish songs. He graciously said he’d try to remember, and on Saturday, they played it! Thanks again!!!

Here is the one video I got of Ha’Penny Bridge.

Besides them, there were lots of great acts I heard for the first time, Seamus Kennedy, The Moxi Strings, Runa to name a few.

Saturday night I played my new set of bones with a group of guys in camp, one of the highlights of the weekend. I love how a shared love of music instantly creates a bond between total strangers.

Camping in my little canvas tent with my sheepskin was delicious. I slept like a rock both nights, so comfy and soft!

An Evening of Folk Music.

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The playing and singing of folk music is one of my biggest passions. When I was growing up, we sang and played music at home nearly everyday. But, what with all my older siblings being married and busy with their own families, it had become rather rare for us to get together for music.

I decided this spring, that needed to change! I’ve been going to irish sessions and open mic nights in the area, but wanted something that was more accessible for my family and friends. I wanted somewhere that kids would be welcome, and all varieties of folk music could be enjoyed.

A local park proved the ideal location so I sent out invitations to everyone I could think of on Facebook! The first one was rather slow, we had a good time, but not many showed. However, last night, the second one was well attended. We had five musicians that were not family members show up! And a few park visitors stopped by for a while!

We had a grand time! Music from Ireland, Australia, and America was sang, spanning several centuries in time, we even had some early country/rock thrown in the mix in a folk style, and one fantastic Gaelic number! Guitars, and mandolins made up the instruments of choice, with an accordion, melodica, tambourine and a set of bag pipes rounding out the mix. Kids ran around, cookies were eaten, babies cuddled, jokes shared, laughter and music filled the air.

Here a short clip I grabbed of two of the Aussie songs.

Bodhran

I’ve owned a bodhran for several years now, but never actively pursued learning how to play it.

Bodhrans are traditional Irish drums, of goatskin stretched across a wooden frame. Unlike many traditional drums it is played in a upright position rather than a horizontal one. In other words, it is struck from across the skin rather than down onto the skin.

I first heard one being played by Charlie Zahm, and fell in love with the sound of the drum, and how well it blended into the folk music style I love so much. I promptly went out and bought one to add to my musical instrument collection, and just as promptly, never learned it!

That is changing! I’ve started practicing it more and more lately and I’m beginning to have a lot of fun. Mine is a rather poor quality one, by Mid-East, but I’ve been working the skin with neatsfoot oil and glycerin/water to loosen and improve it’s sound. On a quality bodhran you needn’t do anything other than play the drum, but on mine, the skin is stretched v.e.r.y. tight and it gives an unpleasantly high sound.

I’ve also purchased a new tipper (it’s what is used to strike the drum) which will hopefully give better sound and be easier to use. The one which came with my dru is not a very good style for the type of playing I intend to use it for.

I found this website to be particularly helpful once I began to seriously work at it.  And Bodhran Expert has lots of great videos on YouTube which are tremendously helpful!

To close, here is a fantastic bodhran solo! Enjoy!

And a bodhran, tapdancing video by The High Kings.