Drawn in by the music

Mary Pat, one of our Tom Begin’s session attendees, made an enlightening observation after last night’s fun. She was talking to a gentleman who was “drawn in by the music”. He started by the bar at the other end of the tavern, and gradually the music pulled him into the dining room. He was made comfortable enough by the music that he sat down by Mary Pat, a complete stranger to him, and struck up a conversation that lasted the better part of an hour.

I noticed the same thing happening all night long. People were drawn into the dining room by the music. If there was no room to sit, they stood at the back. When a table cleared, it wasn’t long before it was filled again.

There is definitely something about traditional music that has the ability to capture your heart and your attention. It certainly captured mine roughly 14 years ago when I stumbled into the genre almost by accident.

I came to California ostensibly to follow a career in Country Western music. I was invited to play in a rodeo band called “Fit 2 B Tied”, which was basically a Chris LeDoux tribute band in all but name. I also started my own C&W band called “Fiddlin’ ‘Round”, and I played in several jazz and Rock ‘n’ Roll bands. I even did a stint in a Blues jam band.

Early on I took a job as a salesman at Jim’s Music in Tustin. One of my co-workers invited me to play one Sunday afternoon at a local Irish Pub in Newport Beach called “Muldoon’s”. I told him that I had never played Irish music before, and that I wasn’t sure it was such a good idea. He said, “Mike, you’ve been faking everything else your whole life and nobody’s caught on yet. You ought to give it a try. I think you’ll like it.”

What an understatement that turned out to be! I had so much fun playing with that little band, headed by Gilman Carver. I fell absolutely head-over-heels in love with the music, and I couldn’t get enough! Not only did I immerse myself in the music, I also devoured everything about the culture, history, and mythology of Ireland.

Something about the music spoke to me in a visceral way that day fourteen years ago. It got inside of me like no other music ever had, and it wrapped around me as much as I wrapped myself up in it. It made me as Irish as if I had been born in the ould sod itself.

I still enjoy other genres of music. I love the old Country Western and Bluegrass songs and tunes, and I enjoy singer/songwriters. Story songs still get me. There is no other music, however, that has the power to draw me in so completely as Celtic music. So what if the tunes I play and listen to were popular two or three hundred years ago? They have meaning and relevancy in today’s world as much as they did back when they were first composed. New music created in the old style is still fresh and inspiring, and the different interpretations of the tunes and songs invigorate the genre.

Mary Pat’s new friend, and indeed all our new friends at Tom Bergin’s, got a taste of that last night. When I see people drawn in by the music I am playing, I have to smile. I know exactly how they feel.


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