WELCOME- Was Irish Music Brought By Space Aliens?

Apr 8, 2021 | Welcome Column

Well, then… Urrmm, now. I´ll begin at the beginnin´. [From The Quiet Man 1952.]

I met Bert Daniel in the summer of 1990 when Bert, his first cousin Wilson Cooper and I packed in to my Chevy S-10 pickup which had a bench seat behind the front seats and drove from Seattle through British Columbia to Alberta to go fishing.

It was a time when none of us were affluent, beer was a priority, and trip planning was rudimentary. Now thirty-one years later all three of us are retired and Bert is helping manage the blog of the California Bluegrass Association. I sent a fictional book I wrote about Montana to Bert to review and in return he asked me to consider providing input on Bluegrass or Irish music for his CBA blog.

After protesting my ultra-averageness in those fields, I did admit to listening to a lot of Irish music and mentioned some Irish performers I had seen in concert here in the Carolinas. So in searching for a topic about Irish music, I hit upon one that has always fascinated me:

Was Irish Music Brought to Earth by Space Aliens?

Is it just me or do the early group pictures of the Chieftans clearly show that Irish harpist Derek Bell was a space alien? Bell was the only member of the Chieftans to wear a tie at every performance. He wore socks with pictures of Looney Tunes cartoon characters and scruffy suits. His trousers were intentionally worn too short. Bell liked to tell obscene jokes. (He probably heard them on other planets. ‘Three Martians walk into a bar…’ )

Bell’s eccentricity is what we would expect of a space alien trying to hide in the middle of an Irish band. Only a space alien would be smart enough to dare people to think he was a space alien. Accordingly, Bell worked at standing out. The title of his 1981 solo album was Derek Bell Plays With Himself. Paddy Maloney kiddingly called him “Ding Dong Bell.”

Derek Bell was just eccentric enough to collaborate with Van Morrison, Sting, and the Orchestra of China. He was awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2000 by Queen Liz, perhaps making him the first space alien to ever be knighted.

But it is also the Irish music itself and not just the performers that makes me suspect the influence of extraterrestrial forces. Irish music can be haunting, foreboding, melancholy, or nostalgic when it is sober. Or it can be vibrant, vivacious,and visceral when it is “not sober.”

For the first group consider:

She Comes Through the Fair (Josh Groban)
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling (The Irish Tenors)
A Kiss in the Morning Early (Niamh Parsons)
The Star of the County Down (slow tempo by The Irish Rovers)
The Maid in the Calico Dress (Northwind)
The Isle of Inisfree (Carmen Quinn)
We Dreamed Our Dreams (Sinead Stone)
Jamie Rayburn’s Farewell (The Tannihill Weavers)
The Foggy Dew (The Chieftans and Sinead O’Connor) [Ms. O’Connor is definitely a space alien.]
The Road to Lisdonvarna (Vince Conaway)

For the latter group consider:

Galway Girl (The Kilkennys)
The Wild Rover/Whiskey in the Jar (Barnbrack)
The Congress Reel (Poitin)
Rolling Down to Old Maui (Riverclad)
Kelly of Killane (Brendan Moriarity)
The Rising of the Moon (The High Kings)
The Star of the County Down (fast tempo by Gael Force)
Galway Bay (The Clancy Brothers)
Muirsheen Durkin (Brigham Phillips)

So I leave you with these lyrics that link Eire with your Golden State:

In the days I went a courtin’, I was never tired resortin’
To an alehouse or a playhouse and many’s the house beside
But I told me brother Seamus, I’d go off and be right famous
And I’d never would return again till I’d roamed the whole world wide

Goodbye Muirsheen Durkin, I’m sick and tired of workin’
No more, I’ll dig the prates and no longer, I’ll be fooled
As sure as me name is Carney, I’ll be off to Californy
Where instead of diggin’ prates, I’ll be diggin’ lumps of gold.

Don’t forget to buy my Space Alien Detector that I sell on Amazon and take it to Irish and Bluegrass music concerts. You will quickly discover which member of the band is carrying the others with their out-of-this-world talent. My detector is calibrated to max out on 100 when Bela Fleck plays.

Bill Hestir
Coneross Ridge Ranch
Seneca, SC

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