The title of the Dr. Seuss book Oh, the Places You'll Go certainly seems to capture well the life of a Jesuit. Two summers ago we took a road trip to Denver where we studied Jesuit history for a month. One year ago at this time I was in Lima, Peru studying Spanish and learning to see the presence of God in a third-world milieu. This summer, I'm studying German in Chicago. While this summer may seem far less glamorous than my previous two, I now have pictorial evidence to the contrary.
As many of you know, I play the accordion for Irish dancers. Last Monday I received a desperate phone call asking me to come out to Irvine, California to play at an Irish dancing competition. Never one to turn down a trip across the country, I accepted the invitation and I played both Saturday and Sunday at the Feis at the Fair. So what made this event extraordinary?
I spend much of my day in the same position:
You can tell by the look of studied concentration on my face that I am thinking very hard about the piece of music that I'm playing. Taken on Saturday afternoon, this picture doesn't quite do justice to the sunburn I have sustained on my bald head.
Now, I must confess that sometimes I get lonely while playing. Irish dancing teachers and judges seem to want to talk only of Irish dancing. The Irish dancers themselves pretty much ignore me (I am, after all, only a musician so what difference do I make to them and their dancing??). So I'm forced to go off to find new friends with whom to share my feelings. Friends like these
I spent quite a long time with my two new friends, talking about our feelings and discussing the spice trade and bartering for magic beans.
But a feis requires a lot of work and, as it was an outdoor event, I ended up playing for HOURS under the blazing hot sun. Truth be told, I was under a tent for much of the day, but the heat does takes its toll after a spell. So wouldn't you know that I totally messed up during while a dancer was performing? I was contrite and apologetic but this guy wouldn't let the matter rest. Talk about a terrible stage parent!
It's one thing to want to be defensive on behalf of your child, but this fellow took it to a whole new level. So, to make a long story short, I used the broad sword I purchased from the local blacksmith (I was deciding between a sun hat and a sword. I'm glad I risked sunstroke for safety). I didn't get a picture of me with my trusty blade, but I did manage one of Ye Olde Blacksmith who forged it for me. I think his name is Lothar
As you can see below, this mildly overbearing recoiled in fear as I brandished before him my blade. He put down his weapon and surrendered. He even offered me his pelt. A friend of PETA, I respectfully declined.
And so, my feis day began to wind down. After many hours of reels and jigs and a few brushes with irate parents, I relaxed with a stein of grog. While sipping my frothy ale, I managed to capture a photo of the chair of the event as he relaxed after a hard day at the feis.
In the wake of my letter to the parents and teachers of Irish dancers, I received a number of questions as to whether I would continue playing at feiseanna. My answer is simply and resoundingly: YES. I love to play for Irish dancers. I love the fun and quirkiness of each feis day. These pictures and my (inane) story illustrate, I hope, something of the fun I find as a participant in this great art form. A joy that I hope many participants in our Irish culture avail themselves of often!