Tag Archives: Irish music

Irish Firebrands Adventures: Irish Trad (Part 2)

In today’s post we conclude our Irish Firebrands Irish music adventures.

Chapter 9: The musical pub crawl comes to pass. This photo of one of the Temple Bar district’s famous watering holes shows how the street scene looks to Lana when she goes out with Frank:


The Oliver St. John Gogarty, by Tony Webster.

He halted before one of the brightly painted façades. “The pub crawl starts here.” The décor was just generic pub – board and brick, brass and glass, and just enough lighting to be legal. A banjo player was conducting a singalong number with the bar patrons, but Frank shook his head. “They’ve a better menu upstairs – and better music. We’ll be finished eating in time to join the crawl.”

The upstairs room was crowded, but when Frank gave his name to the head waiter they were guided directly to a table by a small window crowded with a window box of colourful flowers. After Lana was seated, several musicians entered from another door and took seats on a bench at the side of the room. One bore a guitar, another a flute, the third a fiddle and the last carried a collection of tubes and straps, a stomach-shaped bag and an apparatus that suggested a fireplace bellows.

“What on Earth is that?”

“Uilleann pipes,” Frank said. “They’re bagpipes, but instead of blowing, the piper pumps that bellows with his elbow. ‘Uilleann’ means ‘elbow’.”

“Bagpipes! Uh-oh, I don’t know about this.”

“Why, what’s wrong with bagpipes?”

“They have the same effect on me as harpsichord music.”

“That being?” He raised his eyebrows.

Lana leant towards Frank and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper. “They arouse in me an overwhelming desire….”

He leant towards her in turn, fascination written on his face. “A desire?”

“To commit axe murders!”

He gaped at her, and then he winced. “Ouch!” Struggling to suppress his laughter, he drummed the tabletop with his fingertips to express his merriment.

The other musicians checked their tuning while the piper strapped himself into his contraption. Then he launched into a long, drawn out note that turned into a simple theme. After several repetitions, the guitarist began an accompaniment of chords, to which the pipes responded with a highly ornamented motif. The energy ramped up again when the flute and fiddle joined in, rounding out the melody and accompaniment with yet another theme.

… They left the restaurant just in time to join a flock of jolly tourists led by two musicians, who escorted them across the River Liffey to a private room above a bar. There, entertained by sweet music larded with salty humour, Lana learned how to tell the difference between jigs, reels and hornpipes. Later, when the group returned to Temple Bar, a pair of dancers joined the musicians in another upstairs room, where they demonstrated steps that Lana gamely tried, to the cheers of the artists and the applause of Frank and their tourist companions.

Chapter 21: Lana takes another musical excursion with Frank – this time to a fleadh cheoil (music festival) in Connemara (a region in County Galway, on the Atlantic side of Ireland). The musical section of this chapter was inspired by various performances and competitions, including this one:


Click on image for Comhaltas full programme link.

Chapter 25: Some of the musical parts of the talent show in this chapter were adapted from Brian Cunningham’s performances at the Comhaltas event; from several recordings that had become part of my writing “soundtrack;” and spun off from performances featured in this video:


Come West Along the Road, Volume 1.

Another performance in Chapter 25 was adapted from a sean-nós vocal number heard in this recording, but I used a different version of the words (see below).

Séarlas Óg

Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile…
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

A Shéarlais Oig, a mhic Rí Shéamais,
’Sé mo mhór-chreach do thriall as Éirinn,
Gan tuinnte bróig’ ort, stoca nó leinidh,
Ach do chascairt leis na Gallaibh.

Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile…
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

Tá Séarlas Óg a’ traill ar sáile,
Béidh siad leisean, Franncaigh ’s Spáinnigh,
Oglaigh armtha leis mar gharda…
’S bainfidh siad rinnce as éiricigh!

Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile…
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

Sé mo léan géar nach bhfeicim,
Mur mbéinn beo ina dhiaidh ach seachtain,
Séarlas Óg agus míle gaiscidheach…
Ag fógairt fáin ar Ghallaibh.

Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile,
Óró, sé do bheatha ’bhaile…
Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh.

(English interpretation)

Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home…
Now that summer’s coming.

O young Charles, King James’s son
Alas your distress upon leaving Ireland
You’ve left the country naked and barefoot…
Routed by the strangers.

Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home…
Now that summer’s coming.

Bonnie Prince Charlie will come over the sea
The French and the Spanish will be with him.
Armed warriors as a guard about him…
They’ll make the heretics dance!

Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home…
Now that summer’s coming.

What a pity if I don’t see it,
Although living for a week only, after
Young Prince Charles and a thousand heroes…
Scatter all the strangers.

Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home,
Hurrah, you are welcome home…
Now that summer’s coming.

Blog text © 2016 Christine Plouvier. Excerpts © 2012 – 2016 Christine Plouvier. All Rights Reserved.


Leave a comment

Filed under books, Uncategorized

Irish Firebrands Adventures: Irish Trad (Part 1)


Bodhrán, by Hinnerk Rümenapf.

Irish traditional music helped set the mood when I was writing Irish Firebrands. Pictured is an Irish drum (the inscription on this one means “music, talk, and fun”). It bears a family resemblance to a tambourine, but it’s usually larger and it never has bells. In Ireland, I visited the shop of a bodhrán maker, and was told that the drum head is made of goatskin. The bodhrán is held upright (as in the photo), and it’s played with a single drumstick.

Irish Trad also played a large part in Irish Firebrands. In Chapter 1, we learn that the role of music in Dillon Carroll’s life had significantly changed:

Geary’s pub was chock-a-block with patrons who’d come to hear a session – and the number of unfamiliar faces meant Dillon would be speaking Irish, already. He recognised the members of the trad-band, with their fiddle, bodhrán, and guitar, but he’d not be staying to hear them play. It had been a long time since he’d paid any attention to music in pubs – or anywhere else, for that matter. Music had left his life so many years ago, that since then whatever passed for it had become merely background noise.

Chapter 4: Lana Pedersen goes to Dillon’s local for supper, on another night when a trad session gets underway.

She’d nearly finished eating when a crowd came through the door. Some persons carried musical instruments; she recognised Colm Sweeney with his button accordion, and his companions bore a mandolin, a guitar and a fiddle. You never knew what you’d hear at a trad session, and once the music started, Lana had found it nearly impossible to go before closing time.

The musicians headed towards the far end of the room, and then Frank Halligan entered the pub.

Frank, a dairy farmer with unusual avocations and a way with women tries to persuade Lana to go out with him on a musical pub crawl.

At that moment, the man with the mandolin launched into runs of crisp triplet notes that wove themselves into a tune that sparkled against a background of chords by the guitarist. The mandolin and guitar passed the melody back and forth between them, until the button accordion entered with a complementary theme that the strummed instruments then briskly supported. Lana couldn’t help tapping her foot to the rollicking rhythm, and at the end of the performance, she joined the rest of the audience in clamorous appreciation.

Frank noticed her enjoyment. “Brilliant, aren’t they? And all local lads. I’ll wager you’ve not heard anything better in the Temple Bar district.”

“Temple Bar? I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been there.”

Frank cocked an eyebrow in disbelief. “You mean to say you’ve been in Ireland all this time, and you’ve not been on a musical pub crawl in Dublin?”

“I haven’t been anywhere in Dublin, actually. The airport shuttle went past Ha’penny Bridge on the way to Busáras, and on the bus leaving town, I saw all those statues on O’Connell Street – with pigeons perched on their heads! But that’s about it.”

“Then, I take it as my job to change that! When would you like to go?”

Lana hesitated. It might be fun to do the touristy stuff someday, but right now, she needed to make up for lost research time. Besides, she wasn’t quite sure yet that she wanted to spend time with Frank anywhere but here in the safety of Geary’s pub.

… The music began again, but departing from the energetic tempo of the last number, the fiddler began a slow, undulating melody that soon found an echo in Colm Sweeney’s accordion. The two instruments plaited the notes into a gently oscillating tune that the mandolin occasionally pierced with bright, clear tones. Lana felt as if she’d been carried away by a gently rocking boat on the face of a lake that mirrored a midnight sky punctuated with glittering stars. The mood in the pub became poignantly pensive, and afterwards the applause was sincere but subdued.

Frank said, “It’s a bit early, but that made it feel like it’s time for sean-nós.”

“What’s that?” Lana said.

“Sean-nós is old-time singing or dancing. The singing is usually in Irish, without accompaniment.”

“I’ll bet you have to be really good to do that.”

“Not necessarily. There are competitions in the Gaeltachts, but here we just do it for the love of it.” Frank took another swallow from his pint. “Now, Dillon Carroll – he could compete. Singing and dancing. He learnt sean-nós from his granddad, who was reared in Connacht. The troupes you see nowadays have nothing on Dillon – when he danced, you were looking at the soul of Ireland. And sing! Why, he could sing the very heart out of your body, and hold it in his hands. But Dillon hasn’t sung or danced for years.”

After Dillon turns up at the pub, some strange things happen to him during the trad session.

Dizziness struck him. He gripped the edge of the table; then sat down and reached for his unfinished pint – but the very smell of it was so bitter it made him faint with nausea before he could put it to his lips. He’d felt this way when he was five years old and had his first taste of porter from the dregs of a bottle that Daideo’s hired hand had given him. He shut his eyes, set the glass down and pushed it away.

“Something wrong, Dillon?” It was Frank Halligan’s voice, but it sounded distant. Dillon opened his eyes and saw Frank standing before him – with Lana on his arm.

Dillon took off his spectacles and rubbed his eyes. “I’m just a bit tired.” He rose from his seat. “Hello, Lana. What brings you here?”

“Hi, Dillon. I came for supper, but wound up staying for the music.”

Frank regarded her with an exaggerated expression of disappointment. “And there was me, thinking it was because we were having such a cracking good time together!”

Lana laughed and patted his arm. “Oh, of course! Sorry about that! But it’s late – I’d better get going.” She withdrew her arm from his. “Excuse me, please. My backpack’s under the table.”

“I’ll get it for you,” Frank said. He fished out the bag and held it while Lana put her arms through the straps. The he raised his eyebrows and said, “Now, what do you say?”

Lana hesitated a moment, and then she said, “Go raibh maith agat!”

They laughed and shook hands.

“And don’t forget, I’m to bring you to Dublin for a pub crawl. Let me know when you can go.”

“Thanks. I will.”

Frank watched Lana walk away – and Dillon watched Frank. He’d never before thought that yer man’s reputation for skirt-chasing was any of his business – but somehow it felt like it was very much Dillon’s business, now.

To be continued….

Click on images for links and licenses.

Blog text © 2016 Christine Plouvier. Excerpts © 2012 – 2016 Christine Plouvier. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, Uncategorized

Irish Firebrands Adventures: Ireland.

Ireland from space (NASA)

Ireland from space (NASA)

Explore the Emerald Isle in these episodes from Irish Firebrands:


Photos from Wikimedia. Screen shot from Comhaltas. See future posts for links.



Filed under books, Uncategorized