The summer’s travels are in full swing around here which is a nice way to try and weather the smog and humidity that plagues our region this time of year. We started with weekend trips to various Irish Dance competitions for Maddie who is working her way up the ladder of this sport. There was also a trip to Chicago for this year’s Irish Music competition, the Fleadh Cheoil (pron: flah keeole) where Jack competed in solo competitions in mandolin, banjo and fiddle and he and I both played in the band competition. (Jack placed 1st in banjo, 2nd in mando, and amazingly, 2nd in fiddle, in spite of it being his first year in the highly competitive and crowded 15-18 year old group!! Our little band got 2nd!)
Last week while Maddie danced her little legs off at dance camp, Jack and I headed to Celtic Week at the Swannanoa Gathering down near Asheville at beautiful Warren Wilson College. This was our 2nd year there and it was like going back home this time around with all the friendly familiar faces and knowing our way to the best running trails and such. The week flew by filled with laughter, more tunes than we could possibly digest in one week, new friends and renewed fervor for this relatively obscure hobby of ours. There was a lot of joking among the lot of us about what nerds we are for traditional Irish music. And it’s the truth. We are each more nerdy than the next person and we all learn so much not only from our instructors (who literally travel from all over the world to teach at camps like this one) but from each other as well. We trade tunes and suggest albums to buy. More experienced players can sometimes be seen helping newer players around tricky bits of tunes. I had the opportunity to strap on a set of Uilleann pipes belonging to my talented friend Cathy and after a few minutes, I had squeaked out the ‘a’ part of a simple Jig. I was delighted! This could lead me even further into the rabbit hole that is Irish Music.
Occasionally I will take some ribbing from non-Irish-music-loving friends for being such a nerd about it. And my response is – dare to be a nerd yourself. About anything! If you have a hobby, any hobby, dare to dig a little deeper into it and really make a go of it. Be passionate about something that you are interested in. You will be led to meet amazing people who share your interest and can further your own knowledge and abilities in your hobby. If you don’t have a hobby, then find one. How? Well, what interests you? Seek it out. Do you like books? Find a local book making club. How about kayaking? There are groups in most cities anywhere near bodies of water and you will probably find the people involved open to sharing their love of the sport.
One of the greatest things about being at what we lovingly refer to as ‘band camp’ is simply being around other Trad Nerds who love this music as much as we do. It’s a place to feel safe in our nerd-dome and to immerse ourselves in it, if only for a week.
Tomorrow we leave for family trip out west where we plan to hit the hot springs and go for a dinosaur dig (I’m just a little nerdy about dinosaurs too…. but I’ll save that for another blog post). You can bet, I’ll have my flute and whistle with me to practice new tunes under the huge western sky before they try and escape my brain. Til next time, dare to find something you can get all nerdy about and dig in. It really makes life worth living.
Special thanks to my friend and phenomenal photographer, Larry Green in Kentucky. His photos capture the magic that is Celtic Week.