James Batcho, PhD | It Was Always Here
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It Was Always Here

GALWAY. I’m sitting in a pub called Brogan’s. Or “Brogan’s Music Bar,” or, by the name out front, “Ol’55.” It was recommended to me as a place for music by a friend I trust. Ireland has a pub on every corner. But being the picky guy I am, I’m particular about my public houses. I just left one before, known for its food (which was good) but which was incredibly loud. This place I’m at now is better because I’ve found my spot, like a cat.

I like this about Irish pubs. They are not bars. The best ones are houses with spaces, sections, areas. This is what gives each its character. At the prior place, each area I walked into was the same loud vibe. Here I’ve found my area, a place I can hide with my Guinness as I wait for the music to start. I’m not being anti-social, not really. I can move over to the bar and talk to people, and I probably will. But right now I want to hide, at this perfect little spot near the stage, a spot that also waits.

Ireland is teaching me many things. I’ll get to more of that in a future post. But one of the things it is teaching me is the connection of music and home life. I’ve asked a few people this question in various ways, the question of what is Irish in its music. I like the way my guesthouse owner in Doolan told me: it comes from the kitchen. I asked her, since music is famous in the town, how did music come to Doolan? Her answer: it didn’t come; it was always here. Doolan is a fishing town, a farming town; it was always that way. Music is something that happened in the home. Friends would come over to a house, often gathering in the kitchen, and music became an outpouring of the home. Eventually, she said, some players got quite good. Then there was one family in particular, I forget the name, who got a bit more serious about things. The music was home grown through teacher and apprentice. But others came as well, to see and hear what was happening. The music moved from private home to public house. And Doolan got its reputation.

And now here I am in Galway, another musical town (my landing spots are not accidental). I would ask the same question, how did music come to be associated with Galway(?), but I imagine the answer is that it always was. And now it is what it is: pub music.

Incidentally, I’ve bought a low whistle. Being a drummer, I’ve always wanted to pick up an instrument I can fit in my pocket and take with me anywhere. I’m determined to learn this, to practice daily. We’ll see what happens, but if nothing else, I’m sure to drive my neighbors in Zhuhai nuts.