Friday, July 27, 2007

Are You Art?

It doesn’t rain all the time in Ireland. Oh, it rains every day, but maybe just a sprinkle, for maybe only a few minutes. They are in the midst of a long wet spell here, with fifty days of rain in a row. (Headline: “NOAH HAS NOTHING ON US. FORTY DAYS? BAH!”)

Still, we are lucky. Today is beautiful. I go for a long run along the sea into the nearby town of Sandhill, which is a suburb of Galway with its own amusement park. The ocean is quiet today, and people are playing on the beaches. Sitting on one sidewalk is a man playing his flute, just enjoying the sea air.

The biggest problem with an Arts Festival is you don’t always know who is creating the art.

There is music all over Galway, in the concert halls, the pubs, even in the streets. Some of it is official sanctioned art, but some is made by street performers who are trying to earn a living. You can’t always predict which one is better, either, like the flamenco dancer with the flying castanets who drew a huge crowd in the interesection of the street. She was amazing, and apparently she just showed up with three guitar players and her own plywood square.

In the evening we head to the pubs to see some sessions, which is where people just show up with their instruments and start playing. At least that’s what they say, although the pubs all list specific starting times, which would be hard if they really left it up to chance.

The pub Tigh Coili is famous for these sessions, and we arrive in the middle of a song. There are people playing guitar, banjo, and Bodhran, with a fiddle just watching.

I believe they are not getting paid, because they take way too long between songs. They chat, they drink, they laugh. It’s hard to tell the performers from the audience. I hope they at least get free beer.

The players are all young, in their 20s. Several are women, although they aren’t into it like the men are. These kids are playing Trad music, jigs and reels that are hundreds of years old. At home, we think it’s cool when teenagers play the Beatles.

People come, people go -- it’s a free form session. Eventually we wander into another, and it’s the same story, only with a piano. Players get up and move on, and others wander in to take their places.

Apparently, music is everywhere because everyone is a musician, like the middle-aged British woman we met at breakfast. She comes across the water for all the big music events – for Brits, it’s like going to Wisconsin. “Oh, yes, I play the Bodhran,” she told us. “My husband gave me one, and, well, there you go.”

I’m not sure if she'll be sitting in at a pub session tonight, but I’ll watch for her.

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