Irish tunes performed by three musicians on Thursday caused toes to tap and heads to bob and brightened up an otherwise dark, rainy January night.
The Irish musicians traveled north from their Chicago and Baltimore homes to play gigs in Soldotna, Moose Pass and Anchorage last week.
The group made up of John Walsh, Pat Broader and Sean McComiskey first performed at Kenai Peninsula College Kenai River Campus on their extended weekend mini tour to a crowd of more than 100 people on Thursday evening.
“We were floored with the amount of people that come out for the gig,” Walsh said.
With Walsh on tenor banjo, Broader on a bouzouki-guitar hybrid and vocals and McComiskey on the button accordion, the trio began the evening with a few jigs before moving into the tune “Mary and the Soldier” recorded by Andy Irvine and Paul Brady in 1976.
Broader, who sang vocals throughout the performance, said Irvine and Brady’s album is one that has lasted the test of time. Walsh added that the album evolved Irish music.
Throughout the set, along with some more jigs, they played reels and hornpipes. Each type of Irish tune is designed for different types of dancing, McComiskey said. Jigs are played in 6/8 time while hornpipes and reels are in 4/4. Hornpipes are usually slower tunes, Walsh said.
Stepping away from Irish music for a song, they added “The Cape,” a Texas country song by Guy Clark to their set.
Broaders also taught the audience the chorus of “When the Boys Come Rolling Home,” involving the crowd beyond bouncing to the music.
The audience sang: “There’ll be dancin’, romancin’ and never more we’ll roam,
“There’ll be rollin’ in the hay, there’ll be whiskey in the tay when the boys come rolling home.”
Venessa Johnson, of Kenai, who is part Irish, grew up listening to her grandmother play Riverdance music. She said she enjoyed hearing her heritage through music at the performance.
Broaders, a Dublin native who lives in Chicago, said he began playing traditional Irish music when he was 8 years old.
“Growing up there was always music in the house,” he said.
Broaders said he, Walsh and McComiskey have know one another for years and have played together at different gigs.
Like Broaders, Walsh also grew up around Irish music in Dublin and has been playing the banjo for more than 30 years. He lived in Alaska for a while and now resides in Baltimore. He has performed at KPC many times, Diane Taylor, KPC programs manager, said.
McComiskey, who lives in his hometown of Baltimore was also raised around Irish music. His father, Billy McComiskey, is a well-known accordion player in their community, he said. Unlike Broaders and Walsh this was McComiskey’s first trip to Alaska.
Mary Glynn, of Kasilof, attended the jig with her husband Bill Glynn and she said she was glad for the free entertainment put on by the college.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Mary Glynn said about the concert.
She said she’ll likely be listening to Irish music more often, at least for a while, after the performance.
The KPC Multicultural Consortium, the University of Alaska Diversity Action Council and the KPC Showcase sponsored the event. Taylor coordinated the event along with Dave Atcheson, KPC instructor.
Taylor said she received “a lot of good feedback” from audience members after the concert, and has had a lot of community support for college-hosted events in general.
“I think it’s a great thing opening (the concert) up to the community,” Taylor said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.