A Celtic Tiger: The Sound of Ireland

Many of my friends at Wittenberg will know that I’m something of a music junkie. I’d already had a love of Celtic music before this semester. So, when I came to Ireland, one of the first things I did was look up some great pubs to hear traditional Irish music.

Dublin is a hub of arts and music of all kinds. Every night of the week, a gig will play into the wee hours of the morning, and on the weekends, you can hear the music pouring out of pubs until 3 or 4 a.m. In the city of Dublin, traditional music is not as popular as “newer” forms of music, but it still holds a special place in the hearts of music lovers.

At every trad (short for traditional Irish) music session I’ve been to, I’ve experienced a sense of community and friendship among the bar-goers. Dubliners who love Irish music will visit the same pubs consistently on the same nights every week. Over time, they all become close friends with each other, with the bar tenders and with the musicians, many of whom also play at the same pubs consistently. As the night goes on, there’s laughing, cheering, singing along and even a song or two sung by an audience member.

Each time I’m new in a pub, one of the musicians or bartenders has come up to me, introduced themselves, and asked if I’m enjoying myself.

“How are you liking it, then?” they’ll say. “If you want to sing a song, just let me know.”

During one of my first weekends in Dublin, the neighborhood my school is located in hosted a trad music festival, and I couldn’t be kept away. As I sat in the a pub, tapping my heals, I was entertained by a lively old man who took it upon himself to dance a jig to every song. Laughing and jumping up and down, he slapped his knee without a care what anyone else might think.

In class, I’ve had other experiences with Irish music. A professional player came to one of my classes to play us a few songs and teach us an Irish dance. In four pairs of two, we stood in a box and hopped around circle to the sound of fiddle music and tried hard not to run into each other. Irish set dancing is a lot like the square dancing of the south, and requires a lot of physical endurance. Our professor told us that her parents, who are in their 80s, still set dance three days per week and that their doctors told them they have the hips of a 35-year-old.

The best thing about listening to Irish music in a pub is that you can sing along no matter how bad you are. Nobody cares because everybody is there to simply have a good time, anyway. As the Irish say, it’s all for a bit of good craic.

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