Joe Jencks


Irish tour day 3 & 4...

Irish Tour Day 3 & 4

Today we had a day off. The tour group was turned loose to go wander the beautiful town of Dingle. Meanwhile, I found my way to the Internet caf, had a good bit of time to catch up on some correspondence and work related matters. It was a good day. Tonight we will all go to a small pub called the Small Bridge to see a local Piper. Tom tells us that he is amongst the finest in Ireland. I love the Irish pipes and am looking forward to it very much.

Last night I had my debut public performance in Ireland. It was in John Bennys pub in Dingle. I sat in with Eilish Kennedy, Tommy OSullivan, and John Benny himself. All are fantastic musicians. I expected them to invite me to sing a few songs (humor the American) and then I would leave. But they invited me to keep playing with them for the night. It was amazing. I really connected with them as musicians and people, and the crown was very appreciative. The whole culture of music here is different. Like I can really comment after only a few nights?

But in America, when you go to an Irish session or perform in an Irish pub, you are expected to be really traditional whatever that means. I have seen people really get stern looks and be discouraged from participating if they are not good enough, or if they waver from the Traditional Irish music. Scottish music or the occasional Scandinavian Fiddle tunes are allowed, but people can be strict. Almost like they are trying to out-Irish each other.

But here They wanted me to play original music. I played St. Christopher (about fisherman, and we are in a traditional fishing village) and I played For The Singing. Tommy asked my permission to learn the song straight away. Yahoo! The folk process is on its way! I have dropped my first song into the Irish music circles. Tommy says he would like to play it all over Ireland. How cool.

One of the tour group wanted me to sing John Henry. I was really nervous not sure how the pub community would relate to or react to a traditional American song Especially the way I sing it very like gospel and blues. It brought the house down! People were hooting and hollering, whistling and shouting! Over the course of the evening I also sang a few traditional Irish songs as well just to show that I could. It was a perfect evening. It felt like I passed the test with the crowd, and with other musicians straight away. It felt good.

I met a man from Georgia who wants to hire me for an Irish music festival there, I sold a CD to a woman from Holland, and I have a standing offer from the other musicians to call on them for help setting up future tours. And, I am sure I will be able to get a gig at John Bennys again. It was a good night.

It was a nice way to end the night. I was feeling a little funky when I came in as I had just inadvertently insulted the woman who owns the inter net caf. I asked for a cup of coffee, Americano (watered down espresso), and it tasted funny. I asked if it was instant. And she was genuinely offended and said in her polite Irish voice, Bite your tongue! What kind of establishment do you think this is? Instant coffee. Its an outrage! You ask for watery coffee and thats what you get.

Woops. The dumb American strikes again. I had already voiced concern about the Internet connectivity speed as well. I sat down with my coffee and sent a few e-mails and then after a bit, I said, Its good.
She said, Nope. Its too late. You cant take it back. Youre just saying that.
After a few minutes I said, You be sure and let me know if there is any way I can further embarrass myself or insult you.
And she said, Oh no. Your doing GRAND on you own!

Then we both had a good laugh and talked for a while. I explained a bit about why I am here, and she told me a bit about Ireland. When I went to pay, I figured I owed her about 12 Euro between inter net time and the coffee. But she charged me only 5 Euro. I tried to give her more and she would have none of it. She said that since I had had a hard time with the inter net she wasnt going to charge me for that. So, I gave her a CD and we talked some more. Her name is Ann. And if you ever come to Dingle, be sure to look her up at the inter net caf. She is a peach with a good sense of humor.

Another woman who was in the caf at the time of the incident came down to the pub to see me sing. After the music, I went over to see her and a friend and thank them for coming by to see me. After we got through the pleasantries, she said. So, have you insulted anyone lately? We both had a good laugh.

This afternoon, we all met in a pub called Au Flaughertys and had a good time singing what amount to social protest songs. I sang some of Woody Guthries songs, and some songs from the IWW songbook. Tom shared several pieces from his collection about the troubles in the north, and a few historic pieces about the seven signatories to the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. There was one piece in particular about James Connolly that was really moving. I hope to learn it.

I also sang one of Lynns songs, Simple Woman. It is a song that Lynn wrote before we were married, about the troubles. But it is told from the standpoint of a woman whose son has died in a form of violent social protest. The mothers reflections lean toward ultimately understanding the hatred has to stop. It brought me to tears to sing it earlier in the day. I did OK in the pub, but only because I had given myself a personal moment with the song earlier in the day.

The troubles are far away from here, but there is still a sadness in the country as a whole that relates to the fact that Ireland is not a unified country. Many people seem ready to move on, resigned for better or worse to the way things are. But some still lament deeply the division of the country. It is hard for me, as an outsider to comprehend. Maybe it is a bit like if the British had won a section of America, if maybe one quarter of the US still belonged to England. And people who lived in that section who were loyal to the idea of the United States of America were discriminated against for wanting a unified nation. I am not sure. Like I say, I am an outsider All I can do is speculate.

Here are Lynns lyrics

Simple Woman
1998, Lynn B. E. Jencks

Im only a simple woman, and these arent simple times
I had no simple childhood; it was filled with hateful crimes
But certain things were simple like how we must be free
From the cruel heavy chains of English tyranny

Im only a simple woman and I have simple joys
A tiny flat in Belfast, and my son, a lovely boy
I teach him what I know, as my mum taught to me
That if we would know justice, all Ireland must be free

Im only a simple woman and I worry about my boy
Playing out on Falls Road with a grown mans toys
Armed with stones and bottles and fueled by his love for me
Hurling words I taught him at the English enemy

Im only a simple woman, but Im good in my own way
Thats why I was surprised when the policeman came today
He stood on my front porch with his hat held in his hand
And said my boy was dead at the English armys hands

Im only a simple woman, thats why Ill never know
Why my boy was killed, why God would will it so
Was it the words I taught him? Was it the stones he threw?
Or do the English mothers teach their boys hatred, too?

Im only a simple woman, and these arent simple times
I had no simple childhood; it was filled with hateful crimes
But certain things are simple, like how we must be free
From the killing and the hatred that stole my son from me

Anyway it was a good moment for me. I know that the people who are traveling with me are on vacation, but I want them to be aware of the deep wounds that this nation has sustained. Even though we are far from those troubles in geography, it brings the Irish spirit of generosity and graciousness into a new light when one tries to understand the depth of the pain that is still an undercurrent on the culture. Ireland is also in a struggle to retain its traditional character in the wake of newfound economic prosperity. The old ways are under siege, much in the way the traditional Appalachian culture has been in the United States.

I am off now to here the piper. More to come in the next few days. I hope to get the photo problem solved so that I can post pictures of this AMAZING place.

My love to all