Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim 21st September 2007
Reviewed by Olivia Mullooly
The Mayflower Ballroom in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim isn’t exactly Vicar Street, but once the gig of the 21st September started, it wouldn’t have mattered if it was in the garden shed or Carnegie Hall – Christy has a talent, charisma and back up team that make each gig spot on and memorable. Declan is deserving of a special mention as always, he complements Christy perfectly and I love to watch him play.
The ballroom was well primed and ready for the off when the fans started to arrive. A young girl was sitting beside me with her father, and her awed air of expectation was more energising than the excited babble emanating from around the hall…..Oh God, says I, tonight’s the night………and shortly after 8pm, Christy and Declan were warmly greeted back to the Mayflower, having played there two years previously.
The gig opened with Wise and Holy Woman, and the audience extended an enormous welcome to Christy and Declan. The hall was filled with people of all ages, but, like the young girl, we were all young at heart!!
Christy admitted to being a little nervous as it was his “first gig back”. I think September for many feels like the natural beginning of a working year, the old school days calendar is ingrained in us and after summer holidays, it can feel like a fresh start. Christy noted he hadn’t played a gig in six weeks, but reassured us that the reception in the ballroom had rendered the comeback like “getting a goal in the first three minutes!” And a good game it was too!
He settled into This is the Day, followed by City of Chicago, which heralded the beginning of the soft sing-along in the audience. Natives followed which created a quiet, reflective atmosphere in the hall.
We listened with interest as he introduced Reel in the Flickering Light, which travelled back to Ireland with him from Los Angeles. We were a model crowd and nobody clapped during the song for which thou shalt not clap! And we didn’t have to be told either!! The song was delivered with exceptional timing, clarity and comic expression, clearly a song Christy loves to sing. Another introduction followed, this time for Matty. A tale of a lonely man meeting his “dark familiar”, for want of not meeting any other, was received with a mix of giggles and sad reflection, and the song was met with some soft singing in the audience. Quiet Desperation attracted some more singers and Joxer was enthusiastically received, with no need for a request! Then Christy paused to acknowledge his “long haul listeners” i.e. myself from Co. Roscommon, who had taken the effort to travel the 25 miles, and Nicolien from The Netherlands who, to be fair, had travelled a bit further than that! Nicolien’s request for Little Musgrave was granted.
Little Musgrave’s present incarnation is faster than the rendition on the Planxty 2004 album, I think I prefer it sung at a slower pace, but maybe its just what I’ve become used to. Missing You got the crowd singing again and the juke box called for the Lakes of Pontchartrain which was sung by all. North and South was followed by a song in tribute to John Reilly – Go Move Shift – and the atmosphere as Christy explained John’s craft led him to sing The Well below the Valley with no accompaniment, except the audience as we recalled the centuries of tradition that emanated from a man who carried a treasure trove of song, preserved by Tom Munnelly, who has since also passed on to his eternal reward. It is amazing what a few people can leave behind. It takes a lifetime to accumulate such a repertoire of song and a mere second to extinguish it, unless it is preserved definitively and indefinitely. Unfortunately, these ancient songs are carried by fewer people as time passes, or maybe their voices are just harder to hear in today’s world. Christy has given an outlet to these songs, acknowledging the contribution singers and collectors have made to folk music. As long as the songs continue to be sung, they will journey on. They existed long before our generation did; I hope they still remain when we are gone.
The gig continued with Christy passing the reins to Declan. We were informed that he had decided to sing this song at the gig during the sound check, and had learned whatever words he had forgotten in the interim, but nothing fell apart in his performance it was really beautiful. I don’t have the name of the song unfortunately, only that it was once a hit for Billy Furey.
The show went on with Viva la Quince Brigada and Ride On, and staying with Ride On- the album, McIlhatton was waked yet again in Bobby Sands’ classic lament for the loss of the poitin distiller from Glenravels Glen. As A Pair of Brown Eyes ended, there was a cry for Delirium Tremens which resulted in some interesting hallucinations. Bishop Casey was taking Viagra while Gerry Adams sang The Sash Me Father Wore, as Christy tried to cajole the crowd into joining in on a verse!
In the spirit of the host county Leitrim, Ballinamore was rendered and received with good humour. Black is the Colour was followed by the penultimate song of the night, One Last Cold Kiss. The night ended with Don’t Forget Your Shovel amid roars of appreciation and applause as the crowd urged an encore, which resulted in Ordinary Man, and a special dedication to Rita and Maureen from Tennessee in the form of Nancy Spain, which we all helped to sing.
Christy expressed his admiration for the singing emanating from the audience, which, unknown to him at the time, was being helped along by the Grehan Sisters, who were an important part of his musical experience in his younger days.
The people filtered out satisfied and already awaiting his return. It was a wonderful and memorable night of wise and enchanting women, eternal love, poitin and porter, heroes and labourers, emigrants and victims of prejudice, indifference, loneliness, war and hatred, lightened by some drunken hallucinations and a reel in the flickering light. And that was just the front row!! :o) I hope to make a Dublin gig and 4711er rendezvous someday. Maybe next year, all going well. There’s another place I’ve got to be………greetings from Australia.
1. Wise and Holy Woman (aka Yellow Furze Woman)
2. This is the day
3. City of Chicago
5. Reel in Flickering Light
7. Quiet Desperation
8. Little Musgrave
11. North and South
12. Go Move shift
13. Well below the Valley.
14. I Will (Declan sings Billy Fury)
15. Quinte Brigada
16. Ride On
18. Brown Eyes
19. Delerium Tremens
21. Black is the colour
22. One Last cold kiss
24 Ordinary man.
25. Nancy Spain
This review and set list was compiled by Olivia Mullooly who attended The Mayflower Ballroom, Drumshambo, Co.Leitrim shortly before heading off to New South Wales from where she sent us the above. We wish her well in her travels.