The Vallely brothers performed at a cultural center in Belfast, An Droichead Imeachtaí, on September 27th, 2014. They were accompanied by Niall Hanna of Tyrone on guitar. Susan Grace Bates opened for them on harp. At the concert I bought Niall Vallely’s instructional CD for concertina, and asked him for advice in mapping out the fingering for a new tune. He told me to not worry about it too much. Wish me luck.
We all sat at big tables for the concert, and as a solo traveller I was lucky to be invited to join some Irish speakers at a table in the front. Just having spent a week in Germany without understanding a word of what was being said around me, I just relaxed and enjoyed the music. They played very fast and tight; actually they were so seamless that during Cillian’s solo, I didn’t realize for a few minutes that Niall had been playing along as well. The notes were so perfectly in sync, because they are brothers who have been playing together their whole lives and are all now accomplished professional musicians. Also, their dad was in the audience. It was a lovely evening all around.The night before, I sought out a session at Madden’s bar on the advice of a fiddler, Rus from Chicago, and was not disappointed. The place was cozy, but not crowded, and the music was tight. One solid bodhran player is more than you can usually ask for, but there were two, as well as a sharp piper and the rest of the gang: fiddle, flute, and guitar. It was a warm welcome to the city.
The next day, I ran into a couple of the session musicians at a cultural center on the Falls Rd; it was nice to recognize someone as being familiar after a week of travelling. I think the trick to enjoying Belfast is to have some friends there, know where you’re going, have a destination in mind, and not wander around aimlessly.