Irish Music Nights
One of our very favorite things that happened while we owned the Inn were the years when Irish Music Nights came to be. We truly got lucky in those years. We had a neighbor across the road who liked to play Irish music and got together with a changing group of people to just play – a true ‘session’, as it’s called. One day he came over to the Inn and asked if his group could meet in our living room every other Sunday evening while the pub was open. It was a match made in heaven. For a couple of years this was an open invitation to anyone who played Irish music. Some nights there would be three or four musicians, some nights there would be eight or nine or more. There were kids who played. There were professional musicians. There were really good amateurs. There were nights when it was only so-so and nights when it was stupendous, but it was always magic.
You probably know this but the hubby grew up in the UK, with an Irish mother and an English father. They were both schoolteachers and so for the summer holidays (which, by the way, are so much shorter than US summer holidays. School goes into July. Summer is about six weeks long) they all went to Ireland, to the village where Mum grew up. Which just happens to be the most beautiful place in all the world, but that’s beside the point right now.
Mum grew up the daughter of an inn/pub owner. Her sister (the legendary Auntie B) continued to run the place until she passed away earlier this year. The building itself is a tall, square stone house. Very traditional looking, a little bit grand with a dinky pub downstairs that served excellent lamb sandwiches and is beloved by everyone. It is in a tiny village way out on the tip of the Ring of Kerry, right on the Atlantic. When I describe it to people here I often say the next land you would hit would be New York. Anyway, one of the hubby’s favorite childhood memories is falling asleep in one of the front bedrooms on the second floor, directly over the pub. Falling asleep to the sound of a music session getting underway below him is the lullaby of his youth. So soothing, so familiar. The muted sounds of music and laughter and singing. Fast forward to Irish music nights in Shoreham – the distant sound of music in the living room that made it’s way to the kitchen where he worked – it was that sound all over again.
Music nights ceased to be because two things happened simultaneously. The neighbor who did all the organizing moved away. But also, the music rights people came knocking. Companies like BMI and ASCAP started sending us threatening letters about copyright infringement and demanding royalty payments of upwards of $1000 a year. To let a 10 year old with a penny whistle play 300 year old folk songs in my living room, for free. We tried to talk to them, we talked to other people in the business. We heard that they shut down a coffeehouse in Rochester that hosted a open mic night. We were told that this is their mode of operating. They come out swinging, demanding money and threatening lawsuits. And the truth is, they don’t really want me and my tiny town free music night, they want franchises and large venues who will have to pay big bucks multiple times over. But they start with the little guys and raise a stink. We were outraged, the town was outraged, but the nights ceased to be. I wish now that I’d had more time for that fight, I would have loved that fight.