Irish Jam Session - CHECK

Trip Start Oct 15, 2013
Trip End Jan 09, 2014

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Northern Ireland,
Sunday, November 10, 2013

Last night, we went to McDonnell's pub in Ballycastle after a particularly emotional final show at Corrymeela Community. This incredible community of friends includes people from all over the United Kingdom. They are based in this incredibly remote location right on the coast; when it’s really clear, you can actually see Scotland! We had a great time down at the beach, sharing our last few days with good friends from the cast. We also had some intimate reflection time, often prompted by the staff members at Corrymeela. They’re all about their reflection there, which was great because I was in some serious need for meditation.

Anyway, we stumbled upon a genuine Irish session! McDonnell’s Pub is one of the most popular places to hang out in Ballycastle, even though it probably couldn’t fit over fourty people. In one of the back rooms, we found a group of musicians casually sharing songs with one another. There was a singer I met who was quite familiar with the States; she toured all over the East Coast! They also had a guitarist, a fiddle player and an accordion/flute wonderwoman. They were TIGHT. I’m not sure if they’ve been playing together for long, but it sure seemed like it. I was incredibly impressed with their musicianship and keen listening ears.


Because there were so few of us, my friends told the musicians that I was a singer. Of course, I was pretty apprehensive at first but eventually lightened up and sang "Landslide" (a personal favorite). We jammed for a while, fulfilling my musical soul. The guitar player was enthused with our presence, and the main singer had been touring through the US so she had lots to share. I’m still reeling (pun? anyone?) from the woman who played accordion like I’ve never heard and fiddle around on a flute better than I ever could. I can finally ACTUALLY check off “Play in an Irish session” from my bucket list! I’ll go skydiving, find a volcano and we’ll call it a day.

I also got to talk to the bar owner, Tom, who was born on the top floor of McDonnell’s. He’s been all over the world, but still loves his hometown of Ballycastle. He walks pretty much everyone out the door, and loves when people sign the guestbook! He had to have been at least 80, meaning he’s spent four of my lifetimes centralized in Ballycastle. If there’s anything in the world that makes you feel small (but hopeful!), it’s an 80-year old man who has had an incredible life.

The next day, we had some fellowship with the cast and got to have our fond farewells. I can honestly say I’ve never had the chance to work with such a resilient group of people. The challenges overcome by those incredible individuals are seemingly insurmountable, but they somehow managed to make it to the stage, showing incredibly bravery by sharing their stories. I’m proud to include the credit on my resume and to have known these fantastic friends. As we made our way home along the beautiful Northern coast of Ireland, I couldn’t help but feel that I would return someday.

We spent the remainder of our night hanging out in Derry (hitting up our favorite pizza place Paolo’s for the last time!), then headed to Belfast for the night. Two hours on a bus is easy these days. To say the least, we’ve become familiar with the Irish countryside (and loud French babies, for what it’s worth). We arrived in Belfast, made our way back to the house in Malone and hung out with our friends at the house for a while. I ended up being awake longer than planned for some important Skype date time.

Tomorrow looks like a day spent in Belfast with some friends who were based in Derry. We’re finally getting to see the Titanic exhibit! Can’t wait. I’m sure I’ll get some worthwhile souvenirs. I’ve heard mixed reviews, so who knows what we’ll find?

Cheers! J
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Skip on

I can't wait to hear the Irish version of Landslide.. I bet Stevie would be proud..

Skip Wilders on

Save the skydiving for when you get back.. We'll do it next summer..

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