I think I’ve mentioned our friend Simon Spalding here before. Simon’s a musician, historian, teacher and author—and an all-around awesome guy.
Simon performs both solo and with other musicians—all over the place, really, but most often in our local area. When MrH and I found out that Simon was giving an Irish music concert at a local coffeehouse with his friend and fellow musician Sean MacMahon and Sean’s daughter Maryanne MacMahon Ford Friday night, we knew we were in for a treat!
We’d planned to stop for dinner and make a full-blown date of the evening, but we were running late and only made it to the venue shortly before the concert was to begin.
The Venue: Trent River Coffee Company
The Trent River Coffee Company is a coffee shop in downtown New Bern, NC. I’ve never seen it, you understand, but it’s a really neat little place.
It’s got these uneven cement floors, and the tables and chairs are frequently rearranged for events, so that the tables are often a bit tippy. There’s a fountain to one side, turned off for performances, that I understand is populated with koi. And, though I didn’t know it until Simon mentioned it last night, there are works by local artists displayed on the walls.
The coffee is excellent, and they have tea and milkshakes as well. I’m told there are pastries, too, but I’ve never indulged.
Anyway, it’s a really nifty place, and if you’re ever in downtown New Bern, you should totally check them out.
The place was packed Friday night!
I could hear and feel people all around me and had to follow MrH carefully to avoid bumping into people who were already seated. MrH said that by the time the concert began there were at least fifty people in the audience, and for a while it looked like standing room only—but they managed to fit everybody in.
MrH parked me in what turned out to be a front-row seat and went to get our coffees.
I really love Irish music, and this concert offered a great mix.
There were jigs, reels and hornpipes, and a waltz composed by Sean’s brother Patsy MacMahon, The Tara Waltz. Some pieces were familiar, but many were new to me. I tried to remember the names so I could look them up later, but I wasn’t very successful. Too busy enjoying!
Simon and Maryanne each sang several selections, and encouraged the audience to join in. I did know The Fields of Athenry, and was glad to join Maryanne and others in the audience in the chorus—though they might not have been as glad to have me join them!
Simon sang a very funny song, Off to California, about an Irishman who has been evicted and plans to seek his fortune in California.
There were fun or funny stories about some of the songs or the musicians’ experiences playing them, as well.
I couldn’t see who was playing what, so I’m cribbing a bit from the concert page here. Sean played the accordion. Simon played his fiddle and the octave mandolin. Maryanne played tin whistle, guitar, and bodhran. (Which, I learned, is pronounced something like “bough-run,” so I’ve been saying it wrong in my head. So the concert was educational, too!)
A Great Time, Some Great Memories
During the break between sets, MrH was hungry, so he ordered a “Gritty Kitty” milkshake. This delectable concoction consists of chocolate milk, chocolate ice cream, a shot of Irish Crème syrup and ground chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Wowza! I only had a couple of sips, because dairy and caffeine are not my friends, but that joker was goooood. If you get the chance to order one, I highly recommend it! (MrH reports that it is available with white milk and vanilla ice cream as well.)
Simon had copies of a CD he and Sean had made, and we splurged and bought one. We listened to part of it on the way home. The part we listened to was all accordion and fiddle, and I think the rest of the CD is probably the same. Very nice!
Unfortunately, the CD was a limited run and isn’t available online, so I can’t post a link to it. But! You can preview and order some of Simon’s other albums on CD or in mp3 format at his website.
I looked for a link to Sean’s music, in case he’s got any for sale, but couldn’t find one. If I find out more, I’ll try to update here.
If you’re local to the New Bern, NC area, you have an opportunity to hear Sean and Simon (and a bunch of other awesome musicians) at the Trent River Coffee Company at the Celtic Music Jam Session the second Tuesday of every month from 7-9pm.
Admission is free, though they do pass a tip jar, and you’ll definitely want to order one of the great drinks to sip while you listen. You’ll probably catch MrH and me there!
What about you? Do you like Irish music? Been to any great musical performances—Irish or otherwise—lately? Or do you perform yourself?