The classic saying “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” holds true for so many of us. How many times have you said, “If I only knew then what I know now”? It isn’t fair. But as I’ve told my kids since they were little, “Fair is where you get cotton candy and ride ponies around in circles going nowhere.” Every once in a while, however, something incredible happens. A second chance. This time, everything seems different, and somehow it’s better than it was when it was lost; or given up. Recently, I’ve had two things that featured very prominently in my life years ago, re-emerge… and it’s been great!
I had the privilege of having my Pop teach me how to play guitar when I was about 10 years old. He used to play every now and then and I would love to sit and listen to his rendition of Charlie on the M.T.A. John Denver was also a staple of his musical repertoire and Grandma’s Feather Bed was one of the first songs I learned how to play. I can still remember playing Down in the Valley at some school talent show. I was hooked. His nylon stringed classical guitar was gigantic in my tiny hands, and I was never incredibly skilled, due in large part to my aversion to practicing, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve had the ability to play “by ear.” A blessing and a curse. To this day, it’s pretty easy for me to sit in with just about anybody and play songs I’ve never even heard before. I also figured out that most people don’t know much about music, they simply know whether or not they enjoyed themselves… so all I really had to do was become a solid rhythm guitarist and a clown. I’ve always considered myself more of a performer than a musician in the true sense of the word. My brother developed an interest in drums when we were teenagers, and our basement became the training ground for a formidable rhythm section. We played together off an on over the years in a number of different small local bands. In my mid 20′s is discovered a love for Irish or Celtic music and had the opportunity to play with a number of incredibly talented musicians, many of whom I am blessed to still call friends and am thrilled any time I have the opportunity to see them play. But as is so often the case, family, jobs and the inevitable crush of life brought this chapter to a close for me about 13 years ago.
When we made the decision to move to Tybee, I made up my mind to start exploring music again, if only for my own enjoyment. Bored with guitar, I turned my interests to the mandolin. A new challenge to learn a new instrument in a new season of my life seemed like just the thing I craved. My wife’s grandfather had given me his mandolin some 20 plus years earlier and it came out of mothballs, but I never really put much effort into actually learning it until the first of this year. Revisiting my love for Celtic music fit perfectly with this odd new instrument and as I searched YouTube videos for Irish music, to my surprise, many of the old songs came back to life, as well as a part of my soul. A very positive reaction to my rusty debut at a local open mic night served to remind me how much I had actually missed performing and making people smile. And then things just got ridiculous.
I friend I had met soon after we moved mentioned in passing that he would be playing the next week and I thought it would be fun to go check it out. I was aware that he played the bag pipe (quite possibly the most amazing sounding instrument ever created) but what was to happen that night was far beyond anything I could ever have imagined. Shane proceeded to play many of the songs I hadn’t played in over a decade and as I sat beside him and began to sing along, we both looked at each other in disbelief. He had also recently begun to delve into his musical past and here we were, a Scotsman and an Irishman, belting out the songs of our collective heritage… and the people around us were loving it! A week later we were back, this time I had my mandolin in tow, and it was the most fun we’d both had in years. I can be found standing out on my deck practicing old songs and learning new ones for hours at a time now. Our wives have become quick friends and they joke that Shane and I are brothers from different mothers. We just smile and digging into our memories. Parallel realities converging in this tiny little space. We even think we’ve come up with a name for our new “band” : Glórach. It’s an adjective in both Scots and Irish Gaelic which translates to “noisy, talkative, loud, harmonious, boisterous.” It describes exactly what we’re doing. I’ve got a great new friend and we’ve got quite the little man crush going on. We’re really rather pathetic and we like it that way.
Last week I saw an amazing local band. Just two guys, two guitars… and something oddly familiar that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Another long dormant part of my soul was stirring. But that’s a story for the next entry.