As a music major at Centre, one of the main things that inspired
me to study in Ireland in the first place was the music. I was really
excited to see authentic Irish music in the pubs, and I was hoping
to meet a lot of people through the music scene. Irish traditional
music has a certain appeal and vitality that makes it popular in
America and all over the world. There are lots of different varieties,
from Celtic to popular fusion bands, but there is no question that
music is one of the ways the Irish define their own culture. It
seems like a lot of the students who are musicians also like to
incorporate the Irish style when they get together to play.
I was lucky to end up in Belfast, because I’ve learned it’s
one of the best towns for ‘sessions,’ which are informal
gatherings in pubs and other venues. Ciaran Carson, an Irish poet
and music enthusiast who also teaches English here at Queens, told
me that Belfast is sort of a haven for a lot of the “old-timers”
who enjoy playing traditional music. Like much of Irish culture,
the task of finding good music is riddled with contradiction. The
best sessions are the secret ones, so you can’t find them
unless you’ve got insider’s knowledge. And once they
become too popular, they move elsewhere.
The whole system is predicated on a kind
of secrecy and mystique. Ciaran was helpful in directing me to some
good Belfast sessions, but I’m still hoping to stumble upon
a gold mine in these last few weeks.
One place he suggested is a little, out-of-the-way
called Maddens Bar in Smithfield, a short cab ride from Belfast.
It’s a bit cramped inside, but the acoustics are
great. I’ve been a couple of times, and it has been quite