It’s Springtime in Boston. And to help emerge from Winter, this month’s episode is about how and why people head out to weekly Irish music sessions!
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John Williams and Amy Shoemaker play tunes at the Celtic Knot. From Irish Music Stories podcast Episode 03-Every Tuesday at Nine

John Williams and Amy Shoemaker

I chat with Tina Lech in Boston, John Williams in Chicago, Eoin O’Neill in Clare, and Brian Conway in White Plains, NY about the sessions they lead. I learn how each player runs these distinct weekly music gatherings–and what Irish music means to them, and the listeners who come each week.

And trust me: whether you already play the accordion, or you’ve never been to an Irish session in your life, the story here goes way beyond a few tunes in a pub.

I hope you’ll join me as I try to decode what sessions are all about. My conversations with the session leaders–and with Boston producer Brian O’Donovan, fiddle teacher Laurel Martin, and flute players Melissa Foster and Scott Boag opened my mind and my heart. There’s plenty of music heres, too. Music and poetry credits below.

One of the great interviews on the show is with bouzouki player Eoin O’Neill (he’s on the far right in this video), playing the bouzouki with Kevin Griffin on banjo, and Quentin Cooper on mandolin. It’s a beautiful set of tunes. And of you’re watching with kids or at work, keep the sound off for the first 5 seconds to avoid the colorful chat:


SEE & HEAR John Williams leading a set of jigs at the Sunday Evanston session at the Celtic Knot.

SEE & HEAR tunes at the Druid (shot in 360 video mode, so the session nook looks 4x larger than it is).

SEE & HEAR Brian Conway leading a bunch of his students in a set of reels at Dunne’s.

Next month’s episode will air Tuesday May 9th, and will feature two pubs built for music—Chief O’Neill’s in Chicago and the Burren in Somerville, Mass.

And if this is your first IMS episode, I hope you’ll also check out:
– Episode 02-Cuppa Tea with Karan Casey
Episode 01-Trip to Sligo
Episode 00-Introducing Irish Music Stories

Music and Poetry Heard on IMS Episode 03
all music traditional, unless otherwise indicated

Tune: “The Tap Room & Galway Rambler” (reel), from Rehearsal recording from circa 2009
Artist: Dan Gurney (accordion), Shannon Heaton (flute), Matt Heaton (guitar)

Song: “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” from War, 1983
Artist & Composer: U2

Song: “I’m Shipping up to Boston,” from Warrior’s Code, 2005
Artist: Dropkick Murphys
Composer: orig. lyrics by Woody Guthrie

Song: “Whiskey in the Jar,” recorded on three different Dubliners albums
Artist: Dubliners

Song: “Orinoco Flow” (AKA Sail Away), from Watermark, 1988
Artist & Composer: Enya aka Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin

Tune: “Jim Donohue’s & Maud Millar,” from Session at the Druid, circa 2017
Artists: George Keith (fiddle), Tina Lech (fiddle), Shannon Heaton (flute)

Tune: “Blackhaired Lass,” from Session at the Druid, circa 2016
Artists: George Keith (fiddle), Adam Cole Mullen (fiddle), Shannon Heaton (flute)

Tune: “Hometown Lullaby,” from Production music for this episode
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)
Composer: Matt & Shannon Heaton

Tune: “Harvest Moon,” from Session at the Druid, circa 2017
Artists: Kathleen Conneely (whistle), Declan Foley (fiddle), Mikey McComiskey

Tune: “Out on the Ocean,” from Session at Celtic Knot, October 2016
Artists: John Williams (accordion) et al

Tune: “John’s Theme,” from Production music for this episode
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)
Composer: Matt & Shannon Heaton

Tune: “Bucks of Oranmore,” from Session at Celtic Knot, October 2016
Artists: John Williams (accordion) et al

Tune: “It Goes As Follies & Eddie Duffy’s,” from Blue Dress, 2010
Artists: Shannon Heaton (flute), Maeve Gilchrist (harp), Paddy League (drums)

Tune: “After Hours Theme,” from Production music for this episode
Artist: Matt Heaton (guitar)
Composer: Matt & Shannon Heaton

Tune: “Fasten the Leg on Her & Wandering Minstrel,” from Session at Dunne’s, circa 2016
Artist: Brian Conway (fiddle)

Tunes: “Rakes Of Clonmel, The Kiltimagh Jig, Ned Coleman’s Jig,” from Steam, 2001
Artist: John Williams (accordion, concertina), Eoin O’Neill (bouzouki)

Brian O'Donovan describes the Druid. From Irish Music Stories Podcast Episode 03, Every Tuesday at Nine

Brian O’Donovan describes the Druid from the WGBH Studios.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thank you for listening. And thanks to Brian O’Donovan, Tina Lech, John Williams, Eoin O’Neill, Laurel Martin, Brian Conway, Melissa Foster and Scott Boag, for these wonderful conversations. I learned so much from hearing how different players think about sessions, and what Irish music means to them. Thank you to Jessie Voigts for helping me with my web-site. And as always, my thanks to Matt Heaton for all the guidance and production music. AND a big thank you this month to the folks who have donated to help defray travel and production costs: to Patrick O’Leary, Art Costa, Paul Willson, to my anonymous donor, and to the Mass Cultural Council: thank you for helping me build the show. If you’d like to kick in, you can DONATE HERE!