Monday, March 20, 2023

By Alan Beirne

In January 2021 lockdowns and daily Covid numbers weighed heavy on us all. At 8 a.m. on Thursday, January 21st, 2021, I sat down to the keyboard to try and process my thoughts about how music helped me through some difficult times. Just over two years later the vision of positivity I so longed for, happened before my eyes during the “Session in the Sawdust” at Gerry Beirne’s workshop in Castlerea on the eve of St. Patrick’s  Day.

The music helped people leave hard times at the cabin door while bringing together neighbours, old friends, and musicians to celebrate life, friendship, and being Irish.

Below is the piece from January 2021, the video from ‘a session in the Sawdust last Thursday’.



January 2021: A few weeks ago when putting the Christmas decoration back into the attic I stumbled across an old iPod I received as a gift back in 2003. I didn’t hold much hope for it working but was surprised when I brought it downstairs that it didn’t even need charging and played straight away. On a dark January day it was like finding treasure as I flicked through all of the old albums. When I thought about it most of music it contained was released before iPods even existed.

I, like many, have had the pleasure of listening to music on record players, cassettes/walkmans, CD’s, mini disks, iPods and now apps like Spotify. An original gramophone and a jukebox from the old Roma chipper also takes pride of place at home.

Who remembers trying not to damage the needle of the record player, or fingers pressed intently on the play and record button while listening to the radio waiting to record your favourite song to a cassette (the timing was critical), or reading the booklet which accompanied CD’s about who wrote and sang each song, or the precision and patience required trying to wind back an unravelled cassette tape ensuring you didn’t snap it when removing it from the deck of the ghetto blaster?

During the last three lockdowns listening to music on my daily walk has been a great mini escape from the constant negativity which floods our lives. A change of record away from the normal routine playlist of breaking news can be a welcome break.

Rock floats my boat but if a Hooley with Declan Nerney, a dance to wee Daniel or a jive to the Three Amigo’s ups the buzz for someone else, then I’m all for it. A taste in music is a personal choice and if it makes you happy go for it. Come to think of it I’ve given all of the above three a go myself and really enjoyed it!

While there is now a vast selection of quality earphones on the market, it is impossible to replace the experience of live music. Lately I’ve found myself listening to live albums just to hear the roars from the crowd or people singing in unison to songs.

Our musicians and bands like many have been hit very hard over the past year but their music still brings joy to our daily lives.

Hopefully when the time is safe and right a band will play in the corner and we will all be able to embrace, dance and sing in unison about the hard times! “Hard times, hard times come again no more”.



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