Notes O’ The Irish
Weekly Jam Sessions Bring Culture To Life
Posted: March 16, 2013
Performers (left to right) Carole Sease, on fiddle; Erin Murphy, on Irish flute; Rae Kasdan, on piano, and Steve Kasdan, on banjo, play during an Irish Session on March 10 at Corgan’s Publick House in Harrisonburg. (Photo by Samantha Cole / DN-R)
They uphold a tradition not only marked weekly at Corgans’ Publick House in Harrisonburg, but around the world.
As the music rose, the sun set. Jim and Phyllis Gaskin eased into a tune on the fiddle and dulcimer, followed slowly by Rae Kasdan’s keyboard, Carole Sease’s button accordion, Shannon Dove’s guitar and “anchor” Erin Murphy’s Irish flute.
Bartender Nathan Eldridge poured draughts and listened to the scene as he’s done for nearly a year since Corgans’ opened.
“It brings that taste of Ireland back for us,” he said, handing out drinks — Smithwicks and Guinness. “It’s a unique thing we have here.”
But the music isn’t played with patrons’ pleasure in mind, according to Murphy, session founder and Irish flute, Irish whistle and Uilleann bagpipes player.
Free of sheet music, but bound by the centuries-old codes of etiquette and entertainment, Irish sessions are for the enjoyment of the musicians. Upholding the strict aural tradition, they each join in on a tune if they know it; if not, they’ll set down their bows and pick up a pint.
When Corgan’s opened in January 2012, owner Katharine Corgan welcomed Murphy’s merry players to suit the pub’s authentically Irish mood — reflective of her father’s Irish roots.
“These are photos of your family on the walls, right?” Shannon Dove said to Corgan, leaning on his guitar as the group carried on.
Dublin In Harrisonburg
A patron tapped Dove’s shoulder with a bill for their tip jar and requested to hear “Drunken Sailor” played next.
The jovial interactions between patrons and musicians is one of Murphy’s favorite parts of the sessions; a flair absent from her work as a doctorate-trained flutist for more than 20 years.
Although she loves her classical side, exploring her own Irish heritage added new notes to her repertoire. “For me, it is a refreshing change ... I am able to go anywhere in the world, and sit in on an Irish Session in that locale. We can be complete strangers, but know tons of the same tunes, and become instant new friends.”
Taking a break from the circle, Steve Kasdan put down his banjo and picked up a Guinness.
“I don’t have a speck of Irish in me,” he said, laughing. A trip to Ireland 10 years ago still sticks with him, however — wandering into a pub where a session was being held caught him in its magic.
“It’s clearly not mainstream music,” he said, “but for people who like traditional stuff — the romantics wanting to go back to another time and place — it’s very attractive.”
Sometimes, Murphy said, you forget you’re not in Dublin.
Contact Samantha Cole at 574-6274 or firstname.lastname@example.org.