By John Burton
RUMSON – Twice a month on Sundays musicians have a chance to play the music they love but may not often get the opportunity while pub patrons get a chance to revel – and maybe dance a little – to the music of their Irish heritage.
Molly Maguire’s Black Point Inn, 132 East River Road, has been getting musicians together for the first and third Sundays for the last eight months or so for a very Irish tradition, the musical session.
That’s where those playing a variety of instruments – fiddle, mandolin, flute, guitar, among others – come and sit in to play the instrumentals, steeped in the centuries-old Emerald Isle heritage.
Mike Maguire, who has owned the pub and restaurant for about a year-and-a-half, said he’s been enjoying the sessions. “It’s fun, it’s nostalgia,” he said, noting his own heritage is two generations removed from his Irish roots.
“I think there is some responsibility on our part as an Irish pub to continue this,” he said. “It’s a connection to culture and where we’re from.”
The sessions feature anywhere from six to 20 musicians who play between 6 to 9 p.m., performing a variety of eclectic numbers, some dating back for hundreds of years, according Maguire and Bob Pfeffer, who organizes the events.
“It’s a real folk music. It’s soothing. It’s relaxing,” Maguire said.
“I don’t know if that means I’m getting older, but I like to hear it and relax on a Sunday night.”
“I love it,” Pfeffer said of the traditional Irish folk tunes. “It’s great music. It’s so much fun to play.”
For Pfeffer, who is not Irish, the attraction is that it’s dance music. He acknowledged the joy he gets when people start taking to the floor as he and others start ripping it up with such standards as “Garryowen,” a well-known and popular tune.
During a recent Sunday, some were making their way to an open floor area, including young children who were stepping lively.
The practice of sessions, which has lived on for ages, had somewhat fallen out of favor in the U.S. and elsewhere by the 1940s and ‘50s, but has seen a resurgence during the last couple of decades, according to Pfeffer.
“Now there are thousands and thousands of people playing,” and not just in Ireland and America, but even in places like Greece, he said.
Pfeffer, who lives in Ocean Township, said his email blast has brought musicians from all over this part of the state traveling to Molly Maguire’s to partake.
Some musicians have been known to play for hours during sessions conducted around the world. “I was in Ireland when they started a session at 9 o’clock [p.m.] and continued to the next morning,” he said.
Pfeffer has been playing the fiddle for more than 40 years. It’s not the violin, he stressed. “It’s actually the same instrument,” he conceded, adding, “It depends on how you play it. If you play classical, you call it a violin.”
Odhran King, an 11-year-old from Atlantic Highlands, was sitting in playing the bodhran, a small-framed drum, easily carried. “It’s an important instrument,” Odhran said, “because it carries the beat in songs.”
“I think it’s great because it keeps him in touch with his Irish roots,” said Gail Woods, Odhran’s mother, revealing her lilting Irish brogue, carried from her home in Drumshanbo, in County Leitrim.
“It’s a chance to practice and connect with others interested in this music,” Woods said.
And, Odhran insists, he enjoys it.
“I like this music because it’s kind of original,” he said. “It’s not, like, computerized.”
The sessions are becoming increasingly popular, as the crowd grows with each gathering, Maguire said. Initially, spectators were “some groups of people who are friends of the musicians.” Now, he said, “there are these whole groups who’ve discovered and are bringing their friends to experience it.”
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