A hop and a skip around the globe: from the Alps to Caceres and on to far flung Flin Flon
Updated: Nov 13, 2022
My head is still spinning and an overall sense of confusion in relation to time and space lingers in my bones as I am sitting down to reflect on the epic musical adventures of these past few weeks. What I am not confused about in all this haze of different time zones, seasons, sleep deprivation and parallel lives is the fact that I am forever grateful for my career choice. It is indeed an utter privilege to get to play music most days of my life so far. To get to travel, experience different places and societies from this perspective, to dive into the moment and spend so much time in resonance with my fellow musical partners.
After an uplifting jam with young Sligo jazzers Nils Kavanagh and Sam Purcell, Eddie Lee & Felip Carbonell as part of the Osta Sessions, September turned out to be a bit of a time warp, bringing me back to the world of Austrian Folk Music.
Together with my early childhood friends, the Härtel siblings, I yodelled at the Rupertikirtag in Salzburg, waltzed through the night, played polkas for folk on the dance floor and got to jam with brass legends Matthias Schriefl and Johannes Bär at the Musikantenwallfahrt in Mariazell. A proper flashback to the scene of my teenage years!
(left top corner) Hartel Quintett, Rupertikirtag/ Salzburg Musikantenwallfahrt Mariazell, photos c Elmar Nasahl
A little stint with Shreefpunk + Strings in Germany was followed by a ten day trip to Spain with Sligo based band The Craic Addicts. We got to play at the beautiful Gran Teatro in Huelva on a double bill with the mighty Rarefolk, launch the 18th edition of the Cáceres Irish Fleadh, got over 1000 kids dancing, clapping and singing at our school workshops, made our first appearance on Spanish national TV and busked around a few radio stations (even managed to speak a sentence or two in spanish :-))
(Top left to bottom right: Craic Addicts Opening the Caceres Irish Fleadh; spanish national TV; Caceres Irish Fleadh; workshops; Gran Teatro Huelva; photos c Patricia Bravo Garcia)
Next to my daily attempts to have conversations in spanish, ramblings through the beautiful old town of Cáceres, eating tapas and hanging out with our amigos, as well as a great introduction into Irish sean nos dancing (amazing workshop given by Edwina Guckian!) my personal highlight of this trip was the last day of the festival.
Starting at 12pm with a gang of over 100 musicians and dancers on stage for the final official session, which involved an impromptu fusion of samba drumming and Kerry Polkas and a family trio performance of sean nos dancing by the mighty Edwina Guckian, Michael O Ruairc and their three year old son, I spent the rest of the day playing tunes with an incredible gang of Irish traditional musicians.
(Sessioning around Caceres Saturday & Sunday of the fleadh; photos c Manuel Mesa Gonzalez)
The feeling of being carried by an incredible community of musicians who in one way or other are wired to the roots of Irish traditional music continued on into a transitory all-night house session in London and all the way over to Canada!
Well here is an epic adventure!
Entering a world that to me seemed like something straight out of a movie set,
I was most honoured to share the stage with legendary musicians Cathy Jordan, Seamie O'Dowd, Rick Epping and Anna Heuston, presenting the Crankie Song Project around Manitoba.
Beyond a series of great concerts in class venues such as Johnny's Social Club in far flung Flin Flon or the stunning Westend Cultural Centre in Winnipeg, our musical ventures extended far beyond the stage: our tour van became the happening rehearsal and jamming place, an airport sculpture turned into a mini cathedral for the Crankie choir, a man cave turned into the perfect late night
session spot ... Alongside many friendly
faces, we met a Scottish fiddle -maker and his family of five-string fiddles, singer-songwriter Scott Nolan (whom we ended up recording with), a gym full of space hoppers (Seamie won the race!) and got to hang out with our long lost Canadian buddies Jordan McConnell and our fearless tour manager and boss Leonard Podolak who looked after us so very well (thank you!!!!) Love these guys!
I have to say, this band is a truly mighty gang to hang out with: not even a 14 and a half hour journey through a proper Canadian snow blizzard (literally starting out as a trip on a road to nowhere ... long story .... ) could put us into bad humour! Throughout the journey, which at times involved going at the speed of 20 kilometers without a sight of the road anymore or any idea whether we would make it back eventually or if we had to spend the night in the van with several degrees below zero, we had a mighty jam, admired the beauty of the endless landscape of snowy forests and hills. There was jokes, banter, sandwich making actions .... What an epic adventure, all of it (or should I say: AWESOME!!) For sure one to remember !!! Gracias todo el mondo