Sunday, 22 November 2009
»» Elphin, Co. Roscommon
Thinking back to the first occasion I met Kevin Conneff, I was brought back to Elphin, Roscommon and the Fleadh held there in 1963. It was "only" a county fleadh, but we were mad for the music and made the trip from Dublin, as we did to remote spots all over Ireland through the 50s and 60s, supporting the music wherever it was to be found. I traveled with Mick Christle to Elphin--another Drimnagh man--the great cyclist who with his brother Joe Christle led many Irish nationalist causes, including the Rás Tailteann, the all-Ireland cycling competition.
Then again, so many decades later in 2008, I was back in Ireland for a wonderful concert as guest of the Frank McGann festival in Strokestown. On the final evening as the festival wound down, I was relaxing at the hotel, when I received a message from Patsy Hanly--flute--inquiring if I would attend the final session of festivities at Hanly's bar across the street. Having just played many great sessions over the weekend, and just on the heels of playing for sets with John Lynch and the Kilfenora Band, Theresa and I were having our last meal in Ireland of the trip when the invitation came.
There were scores of musicians, and it was great music. As the night wound down, there were four of us left standing, playing into the small hours. Three great masters of Irish flute: Frank Jordan, Patsy Hanly and Roger Sherlock and myself closed the place.
85 years of age now by this time, Frank Jordan leans over the table and says to me, "I haven't played with you since 1963." When I asked him to remind me of the first time we had met, he said "Elphin" and it all came flooding back. When the session was finished at 1:30 in the morning; I was heading for Shannon for a flight leaving only in a few hours; and I gave a hug to Frank, as we were heading out saying "let's not leave it another 45 years before we meet again."