Session Stories: The "Sr. Brasil" from County Clare
Updated: Jun 7, 2022
I wouldn't say I'm a "session addicted” - that person who is constantly willing to go to every possible session every day (I know a lot of people like that!). Especially living here in Galway, when back in the days there were at least two sessions a day in each pub. I usually go to one or two sessions a week. Even so, I have some stories accumulated over the last few years since I started hosting sessions at Deep Bar 611, in São Paulo, around 2014.
But today it's about one that was very special to me for several reasons. I had just moved to Ireland and was still quite shy to play as I was still getting used to the regional tunes and the styles. Yes, each session and each part of Ireland has its list of most played tunes, and I lacked (and still lack) many of the “Bog Tunes". Anyway, I was practically new to the Emerald Isle and my good friend Danny Littwin came to visit us and took us to Doolin, that charming village in County Clare. We stayed there for a few days and went to see Danny's old friends - among them, the legendary flute player Christy Barry, who along with his wife Sheila Quinn keeps the tradition of having people at home to play and tell stories, with wonderful snacks, drinks and a fireplace to keep the room warm and cozy. The house is known as Doolin Music House and welcomes friends, musicians who are passing by, and tourists who want to feel what a true local experience is.
But I want to introduce a little more about Christy Barry - one of the most renowned flutists and spoon players in the world of Irish traditional music, he carries the Clare region tradition in his sound and has spent the last 40 years touring the world. Christy even has a set of tunes with his name - Christy Barry's Jig. If you often attend to sessions, you've probably heard it at some point.
Danny is Christy's longtime friend. We arrived at the house relatively early and I I spent hours watching they talk about stories from the past - on one side a super New York accent and on the other side a thick accent that I believe is from the Clare region itself. Good for practicing English! I even joke that Christy is the Irish version of Rolando Boldrin (also known as Sr. Brasil), for being very similar physically and for telling stories in a very similar way and always in a good mood!
Other people arrived as the day goes by. Some American tourists, a guitarist from Germany and another guy who I can't remember where he was from, but stayed there waiting for his time to play. Suddenly Christy pulls out some chairs and his flute and starts playing some tunes with fiddler James Devitt and Danny. César (my husband who was there with me) and I watched until we were called to play too. Little by little I loosened up and started playing sets that I knew I would handle, even because I was used to playing with Danny and César. I remember standing there playing with my eyes closed and realize where I was and who I was playing with. I couldn't believe I was playing a set with Christy Barry himself and my dear Oran mates. Furthermore, it was a spectacular summer evening and the sun was beating down on the Cliffs and Mountains, which overlooks the living room's glass window. All very surreal for a newcomer Brazilian musician, full of fears in a totally different country.