Ireland comes to Mattapoisett with library music session

Jan 8, 2023

MATTAPOISETT — For a few hours on Sunday, Jan. 8 the Mattapoisett Public Library was as lively as an Irish pub. 

The sound of laughter, fiddles, mandolins and even the drone of an Irish bagpipe broke the silence. 

Ten people gathered in the building’s basement for an Irish music session, a relaxed, informal gathering of musicians who play traditional Irish tunes.

“We’re not a band, we’re not rehearsing,” said Colin Everett, who played the Uilleann pipes, also known as Irish bagpipes. “People come and go.”

Irish sessions pull from a repertoire of jigs and reels, traditional Irish songs akin to jazz standards in the United States. 

If someone knows the tune, they join in. If they don’t know the tune, they figure it out, explained Mattapoisett resident Tom Copps, who played the fiddle and mandolin. 

“Fifty percent to 60% of what we’re playing today, I’m not going to know,” he said. “But you can pick it up by ear.”

And during Sunday’s session the group played for a crowd of none, which was exactly as planned.

In Irish music, explained Copps, “even if there is a big crowd, you understand that the musicians, to a good degree, are playing for themselves.”

Sitting in a circle, each player took a turn suggesting a tune or two they’d like to play. Louise Anthony suggested Merry Blacksmith, an Irish reel. 

As Anthony’s fiddle began the tune, other musicians joined in — adding their own sounds. A mandolin here, a drum there, an uilleann playing along.

“There's a spontaneity to it,” said Copps. “When someone introduces a new tune you can see the wheels turning and you can see it coming together.”

“There’s a nice feeling of cooperation when the tune works,” said Steve Blevin, who played flute during the session. “When people are in sync it feels good.”

Blevin explained that a good session embodies the Irish word “craic.”

“It’s a feeling of camaraderie,” he said. “The music works, the beverages work — although here in the library we don’t have session beverages —  there’s a good feeling about people getting together.” 

And in the basement of the Mattapoisett library there was good company, good times and good music. 

“You get to connect with people without words,” said Linda Orr, who played the Bodrhan, a celtic drum. “You can connect with people through music.”