The live Folk Season continues at GoVinum in Bad Godesberg. This week it was the turn of Currach to whet the musical whistles of patrons. Luckily, they had a tin whistle at hand for the job, and we had John Harrison on hand to have his whistle whetted and send a report.
No loud announcement, just the inaudible, then soft, then softly haunting, ever more audible, lilting, wistful sounds of Ellen’s tin whistle.
For a simple instrument, more commonly known by its once seemingly eternal price tag as the “penny whistle”, it can, in a good pair of hands moisten the tear ducts better than any tear jerk Hollywood movie funded with a substantially larger budget than just one old pence.
One of the first Folk records I ever bought was “The Tin Whistle Pest” by Vin Garbutt, the Teeside troubadour. A singer, a songwriter, a story teller par excellence, a cracking guitar player, but a tin whistle player to blow your head off.
It’s seldom a case of “what you’ve got”, but more often a case of “what you do with what you’ve got”, and Ellen seamlessly welds “Tri Martolod” and “Brians Boru’s March” together in a way that takes you from an enchanted evening in Brittany and leaves you at the dawn of the next day, in the quiet morning, on quite a large expanse of water somewhere in the extremities of the British Isles, with the fog slowly lifting, with the gentle waves lapping against the bows of a small boat and the oars creaking somewhat, thinking what a wonderful still world this is. I hear the remote sound of a distant gull, otherwise it’s total background silence.
It’s always a great pleasure to hear live music, it’s balsam for the soul, and with “Currach” a joy for not only Celtic ears.
“Bravo!” for Ulf Breuer of “GoVinum” for being brave enough to have the courage of his convictions and launch a series of live acoustic music concerts on Tuesdays within the hallowed wooden panelling which adorn the walls of his intimate wine and beer emporium.
Ralf Wackers is a wonderful white-haired gentleman who teaches the guitar, writes a book about the Irish Bouzouki (which was originally a Greek instrument, which has passed within living memory into the very heart of the tradition of Irish music), he also plays a harp, not a Celtic one, but a somewhat bluesy one in a rack, and a banjo too.
It reminded me of Andy Irvine, who is only two years older than Mick Jagger, and both great Blues harp players, despite having a combined age of almost 140.
It also seemed as if Woodie Guthrie had come along to enjoy the evening with us as we looked many times into the Travellers’ fireside of a small town in Germany.
Ellen Jeikner didn’t bring her fiddle along, but apart from her whistles she has a very smart Epiphone Mandobird-IV electric mandolin in the condensed shape of the classic Gibson Firebird guitar which she used to very good effect during the evening.
“ Currach “ are simply at their very best purely acoustic though.
When Ralf plays the Bouzouki and a racked harp, and Ellen swaps harmonies and call and response melodies with him on the penny whistle.
Then the whole becomes so much more than its individual component parts, and a small simple primitive circular boat made of an elm, willow and hazel frame stretched with hide or canvas and jack tarred up a bit, suddenly becomes capable of crossing, not just the English Channel, but also an ocean.
What did William Shakespeare once let Henry V utter forth from his lips?
“Are we ready?”
Now was it “ If our minds” ? ………… or was it…………….
“If our Coracles be so!”
A ‘Currach’, in case you were wondering, is actually a small, wood framed, Irish boat.
If you have a coracle it’s time to fill it up with your buckets and spades and trunks and towels and pack your bags and away to the seaside, to feel some sand between your toes before rowing your boats out.
Happy holidays and hopefully see you again in the autumn for some more live acoustic music on Tuesdays in GoVinum in Bad Godesberg.
– John Harrison
More on the Band Currach: http://www.currach.de