Back at the Cottages there’s time for a rest before heading to Delaney’s pub for music. We’ve been told to get there ‘early’ for the Sunday session, and at first Mac thought this might mean mid-afternoon which is why we made sure to not stay at Cashel longer. But apparently it’s more like 7 or 8 ; just earlier than the usual 9. We go for 8, and get there about 8:30.
Locked up tight.
Errrr Is there really a Session tonight ?
Yes, surely ; just give it time. A while later a couple shows up in a 1920’s roadster that we all ohhh and ahhh over, and they assure us the Session is on. It always is.
Around 9 the door opens and the locals start to trickle in. Inside is a sort of bar & store. In the front room there’s nowhere to sit - you just get your drink at the bar while leaning against it, perusing the canned goods, toothpaste, and dog treats on the shelves. There are little packets of peanuts for those who want a nibble with their pint.
Through a doorway there’s a double room where the Sessions take place. Tuesdays and Sundays. In the first part there’s a large round table in front of a long L-shaped booth to the left, a padded bench under the window to the right, and some chairs scattered around. In the second part there’s more seating under the windows, an upright piano, a drum set, and doors to the bathrooms.
We acquire beverages and make ourselves at home. I have a first whiskey, I forget which (the idea is to taste as many as possible, to see if I like any, and it doesn’t help to forget which I’ve set aside already), but it’s an Irish one. Most people have pints of Guinness, or Bulmers cider, a drink you can hang on to for a while.
Mac forbids us to sit in certain spots. When some of the group was here Tuesday for that session I begged off of, she saw a painting of a session that had just the same people as were playing that night, in the very same spots and sometimes the same clothes. It will surely be the same tonight. You don’t mess with somebody else’s Session.
Slowly the place fills up. Eventually it becomes so crowded I hear later that people were giving up and going home without coming in. By one count there are 52 of us in here, and more at the bar. The door to the bar is supposed to stay shut, but we never once get through a song without it opening at least once. There are two tiny windows, and even with them both open onto the chilly night, it’s hot in here.
We have fiddlers, a gentle bodhrain player, a drummer, guitars, mandolins, harmonica, banjo, a dulcimer, and singers. The barman is the pianist and I hear he dearly loves to play at a Session, but he’s so busy at the bar he never even makes it into the music rooms. There is some pointing, and it seems this one fiddler made his instrument by hand, as well as one of the others. The dulcimer man made his own, too. Now these are musicians !
The old men play first.
Favorite tunes. They are favorites, even the new ones. They are delicious.
In a pause where the regulars ask among themselves -what to play ?- I nudge Darrell that our own musicians have yet to contribute, and he says to Ken Play something.
Oh No !
No, no. You don’t just up and play at a Session. We’re strangers here, and we’ll wait until we’re invited.
Ah. Didn’t know there was such an etiquette to it.
A while later, we are introduced and invited to play, and a fine thing it is. Hogeye does a song, though half the band is still next door in the bar. Then Dean, who is 14 and Ken’s grandson, gets to lead a song on his mandolin. A song I heard him learning just this morning. The cheers are thunderous, and I’m sure he’ll cherish this moment all his life.
The evening goes on. New musicians arrive, some take their leave. People make their way through the thick of the crowd, stepping over guitar cases and around stools to get to the restrooms.
I try another whiskey. Black & White. I like the scotty dogs on the label, even if it isn’t an Irish beverage.
« Burnt », Darrell says.
Like drinking a bit of bog.
More music, more. Eventually we say our goodnight and go out into the refreshing night. Everybody follows us and for a minute I think our leaving poured cold water on the whole affair. But in fact, the pub should have been closed for a good half hour already.
There was much derision earlier, when it took us just 15 minutes to get here from the cottages, because the other night it took Mac’s van an hour to find their way back. But whaddyaknow, at the first opportunity our van goes left when we should go right. The van following has learned its lesson about following Johnandrew, so they get home first.