The Rick is thatched the fields are bare
Long nights are here again.
The year was fine, but now 'tis time
To hear the ballad men.
Boul in, boul in and take a chair
Admission here is free.
You're welcome to the rambling house
To hear the Seanchai
If you are anywhere near my age (apart from being on the verge of the free travel) the above will ring a bell. It was the prologue to Radio Eireann's "Rambling House"; a programme in which Ceoltoiri Cuilinn, Sean O 'Se, Arthur O 'Sullivan, Eamon Kelly et al re-enacted, through singing, music, and story telling, the Rambling Houses of old. At one time nearly every district in rural Ireland had a Rambling House; usually the home of a small farmer where the locals would gather, on a winter's night. Under the watchful eye of the man of the house each visitor exercised his talent, by singing, dancing, storytelling, lilting or playing an instrument. The aforementioned arts have not diminished. They are still with us, and better than ever. And no better man to roundup and assemble the gifted, and reproduce the essence of the Rambling houses of his boyhood, than Lyreacrompane man Joe Harrington. You remember when Joe was Mayor of Limerick?
Apart from putting Bill Clinton wide to the finer points of the battle of the Little Big Horn he imparted whispered advice to him as he mounted the rostrum. I know what it was but my lips are sealed. But it stood Clinton in good stead; he survived didn't he? (And the Presidential speechwriter wouldn't have been grasping at straws to explain the historical handshake with Castro if he'd given Joe Harrington a ring, and come to think of it I think Bush and Gore should have had a word with the Lyreacrompane man as well) Shortly after the president-coaching occasion Joe travelled his adopted Limerick, Cork, Clare, Tipperary and his native Kerry and convened a concert group of 30 of the best traditional performers from the five counties. The first Irish Rambling House concert was staged in Limerick's University Concert Hall in March 1999. The 1000 seat venue was packed to the doors and in March 2000 The Ramblers once again filled the hall, as the opening event of Limerick's biggest festival; The Millennium Civic Week. And in April they embarked on an English tour, playing to packed houses in Manchester, Haringey, Birmingham and Leeds. More recently they have delighted capacity crowds in Adare, Knockaderry and Rathkeale. Every minute of the English Tour was filmed and is available on video "The Irish Rambling House Tour of Britain". It can be had for £15 (including P&P) from firstname.lastname@example.org or from Kay O' Leary, Lyreacrompane, Co. Kerry.
Kay, who is Manager of the tour group, claims the success of the concerts lies in the use of informal but professional stage presentation.
Informal it may be and professional it certainly is. And when the aggregation of flair and dedication is co-ordinated on stage by Fear-an-Ti, Paddy McAuliffe and Bean-a-Ti, Peggy Sweeney the result is astonishing. Kay says; "The set, with it's open fire, takes the audience instantly back to how it was in the days of long ago and they quickly feel at one with the cast in the Rambling House kitchen". This was endorsed by one exile, in Manchester, who said; "It would bring you back, no matter how far you're gone". The authenticity of the set would bring a smile to the face of John Millington Synge. The crane, pot-racks and tallogue are straight out of the Celtic Twilight.
And the brillauns (poor articles of furniture) and general atmosphere, produced by accuracy in every detail, transports you to an era when;
On the white wall flickered the spluttering lamp
And lit the shadowy kitchen,
The sanded floor,
The girls by the painted dresser.......
These on the settle, those on the table; the turf
Sent up faint smoke and faint in the chimney light
From the frost-fed stars trembled and died
....the girls wide-eyed
Their loose hair flying,
Danced to the shuttle of lilted music weaving
Into the measure the light and heavy foot.
The age spread of the cast encompasses at least three generations, from a 12 year old to the 81 year old Grandad of the Irish Rambling House, Paddy Faley.And when the Bean-a-Ti stands up from the fireside to sing, it only takes a slight stretch of the imagination to smell the turf-smoke off her clothes. Her rendition of " 'Round The Old Fashioned Fireside At Home" would take even the most insensitive back in time. (Peggy Sweeney's "The Songs of Sean McCarthy" is available, on video, CD and cassette from www.kerrymusic.com) And in October The Irish Rambling House completed another very successful tour of Britain. Don't miss it. It is guaranteed to bring you back...
...no matter how far you're gone
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