Disclaimer: I am writing this review on Pages in the car as we head to a performance about three hours away. Masochistic? Maybe. I’m committed.
Music has been central to my life. Growing up, it was certain music on specific days of the week. With The Other my life has turned into concerts, a home with over 400 records, and a small cache of instruments. Days of silence are relatively rare.
I’ve mentioned briefly about being estranged from my Irish family. A way I tried to mend what once felt like a hole was through music. I dove into Irish music. I trained on the violin for over ten years. While I was never particularly talented, it was a solace through the tougher years.
I explored traditional Irish music. My friends found me a book called “Fidil” written by the original violinist of Celtic Woman’s mother, Kathleen Nesbitt. My classically trained self was very confused. I think my soul was searching for what Irish music is: a community. I think I was on the right track, but then the theatre became my home. Jigs and reels became finger twisters - and now I realize an incomplete story.
I wanted to highlight Irish music this week because I know there’s something there that teenage Keelin missed along the way. Also, Irish music is one of Ireland’s most infectious exports.
The Irish Music Stories podcast, hosted by American flautist Shannon Heaton, takes us on winding journeys of music through stories. At times these tales feel winding, like you’re noticing the stones on the side of the rickety road up the mountain. Eventually you get to the top and see how it all comes together, but maybe not until you get to the summit. I love when podcasts tell stories this way. It very much is the extension of oral storytelling tradition, much like Irish music is. Shannon Heaton does an excellent job of presenting tradition in an approachable way to the outsider.
The episodes are underscored beautifully, melodies are sung right next to being played, and overall this is a pleasant podcast to listen to. You can choose to listen to it closely for the content, or more informally for the masterful blend of storytelling and music. The pacing and rhythm echoes a past where the stories people told were to make monotony easier. Heaton does an excellent job of holding this tradition in her hands, and close to her heart. This is a podcast made out of joy and love for something, and that makes it so much better to listen to.
Episodes are longer- typically around an hour, but what’s really nice is that this has been recognized by the host. She has started peppering in shorter episodes, much less winding and more to the point- but I’d consider them diet editions of the longer episodes, radio cuts. They’re still great, just shorter.
This podcast reminds me of a much loved song: the Irish Pub Song (performed by a variety of artists, written by Brian Flynn)
Well, you're walkin' through a city street, you could be in Peru
And you hear a distant calling and you know it's meant for you
Then you drop what you were doing and you join the merry mob
And before you know just where you are, you're in an Irish pub
No matter where you might find yourself, you’re going to find Irish music. You’re going to find a community around it, and I think it’s one of the best things about this style of music. It’s history, tradition, fun, and it’s also home.
Post Script: in an episode I listened to, our host mentions that she may have been a punk drummer instead of a traditional flautist had she heard the wrong version of a song. As I was listening, The Other was actually listening to some punk music.