Back in the mid-seventies my parents dragged me kicking and screaming to get some much-needed “culture”. This was an event to celebrate my mother’s Irish heritage and provide some brief respite for both my parents from the incessant “rock” blaring from my basement bedroom. The concert was not in a stadium but a real theatre and the band – The Chieftains.
I remember being completely surprised by the wonderful sounds coming from the Uilleann pipes and that odd looking drum. That drum just stuck in my head. The music was totally hypnotic but being a young teenager with a short attention span, I stuck with the mainstream heavy rock. However, after that experience, a seed had been planted. I had secretly obtained an LP of the soundtrack for the movie Barry Lyndon that I kept with a penny whistle brought from by my globe trotting Irish aunts. Safely hidden away, this seed took the better part of 16 years to germinate.
Almost 30 years to that day of culture – March 17, 2005 – I found myself standing in the wings of the stage at the historic Massey Hall with my prized O’Kane Bodhran tucked under my arm. It was a packed house on St. Patrick’s Day. As I heard Paddy Moloney calling my name before the sold out Chieftains crowd I was a teenager again, albeit a very different one. The seed of Irish culture my parents planted that day many years earlier had not only taken root but had grown to become my life.
The germination finally began in the early nineties. I was working for an Irish company and among the Irishmen parachuted in from head office was a guy who quickly became a close friend. Eugene was also an accomplished musician. He had no idea what he was doing when he complied with my request to bring back one of those ‘drums’ from one of his frequent trips home to Ireland to visit his wife and dog. So began a closeted, slow play back of every Chieftains TV appearance that I could tape on VHS. There were few resources back then to teach me how to play and no Internet. After many hours practice over a couple of years I could play fairly well….in slow motion!
It took me years of trial and error and frustration to figure out what new students of this instrument now come away with after only a few lessons.
Now it is my mission to foster appreciation of the Bodhran. When played well, and it can be, it adds a special dimension to all Celtic music. I believe that serious players of this instrument must go the extra mile to let people see past the cheap touristy, session crashing annoyance that is part of the reputation and embrace it as it truly is, the heartbeat of Celtic music. Just as importantly, I want to pass on my enthusiasm for this instrument to others so they may have the joy that I do from this.
This has become my “raison d’être”.