In these uncertain times, with the COVID‑19 pandemic, a lot of us are taking time to look back on things that we have done in the past, possibly to give us a sense of normality, especially for anyone who has just been through whatever degree of a “lockdown” to help slow down the spread of the virus.
For many of us, this involved retrospectively reminiscing over past events, that brought us joy, usually involving a hobby or interest that they had previously engaged in with family and friends. In my case, Irish traditional music was my interest and hobby that I found solace in.
Although it may be argued that music can be played virtually anywhere, the normal practice for Irish traditional musicians would be to meet up regularly to play music in “seisiúns,” in which they would meet together with other Irish traditional musicians and play music together. It may also be argued that in more modern times, that the new “home” of seisiúns would be in a ‘pub’ or ‘bar’ environment, as opposed to gathering in a friend or neighbours house, which would have been a more common practice, as little as 50 years ago.
Also, for many musicians, who play Irish traditional music professionally, in a band, as a solo artist, or in a teaching capacity, the pandemic has been catastrophic for them, as due to the restrictions they are not allowed to perform any concerts, travel, meet up in person to rehearse with their fellow musicians, as due to the social distancing restrictions, logistically this is just not possible.
The same goes for musicians who play as a hobby, teach music, or play at a semi-professional level, and as the summer season is generally Fleadh and Festival season, this is a very tough time for musicians, as all the festivals have been cancelled. Likewise, travel is still very restricted, most of the pubs and bars (the new “home” of seisiúns) are still closed, and in the bars that are slowly beginning to open again, it seems that live music will be the one of the last things that will be permitted.
Irish traditional music, for the musicians who play it, as well as for the love of the music, there is also a sense of community and almost family, and these are very tough times, not being able meet up and play music.
It is my hope, that soon we can find a safe and sensible way back to what we knew as “normality” and that we will all be able to play music together again soon.