Irish music at Naggy McGee’s
The servers at Naggy McGee’s Irish Pub walked across the wooden floor to the beat of their own bodhrán.
For the past four years, the bodhrán has been a consistent presence at Naggy McGee’s thanks to Ron Young, who plays the Irish bodhrán drum twice a month in front of the pub’s fireplace.
Young is one of a number of local and area musicians who gather on the first and third Wednesdays of each month to belt out the energetic Irish jigs and melodic reels that leave a few Naggy McGee’s servers delivering food with an extra hop in their step and diners entertained for hours.
“I do see familiar faces that I think are there because we are,” Young said of the Irish session. “But I would say a majority of diners don’t expect us to be there.”
A few musicians occasionally come to Grand Junction from Durango or Moab to play in the session. Sometimes they come from farther away, as was the case at June’s first Irish session, when a musician showed up from Berkeley, Calif.
Christie Hubbard had her wood flute in her backpack. Per Irish session etiquette, she listened for a while to make sure she could keep up, then asked to join once she recognized many of “the standards” the group played.
“I had a career in classical music and got interested in Irish music about 10 years ago,” said Hubbard, who found information about the local session at thesession.org, which lists Irish sessions for interested musicians or listeners.
Hubbard was on a road trip across the country and made it a point to stop at Naggy McGee’s.
“Irish music is a little bit of improv. Not as much as jazz, but less than classical,” said Hubbard, who was drawn to Irish music nearly a decade ago.
It’s easy for Young to understand the Northern California resident’s interest in the Irish style. After all, Young hails from Southern California.
“Growing up, I heard a lot of pop music, as well as a fair amount of Latin music, and they were OK, but they never grabbed me,” Young said. “I don’t remember how, but somehow I got a vinyl from a Scottish regiment with bagpipe music, and I loved it. I assumed I was the only human in North America to like that music. Turns out, that’s not true.”
Now in Grand Junction, Young said he has only missed one Irish session since it began in April 2010 at Naggy McGee’s, 359 Colorado Ave. The restaurant opened in March of that year.
In addition to playing the bodhrán, Young plays the hammer dulcimer, which resembles a marimba, but instead of bars it has strings that Young strikes with a mallet.
The hammer dulcimer isn’t necessarily associated with Irish music, but Young enjoys the sound it provides the session’s music. Few, if any, other live music shows in Grand Junction feature the bodhrán and hammer dulcimer.
“Honestly, I get away with a lot because no one knows what it’s supposed to sound like,” Young joked.
Other instruments that often are played at the informal Irish sessions are wood flutes, fiddles, guitars and an accordion, when the woman who plays it can get to Grand Junction. She lives in Moab.
The group has played with as few as four people and as many as 18.
Sometimes, a few Irish step dancers attend the sessions with their heavy shoes and ghillies and dance to the delight of the assembled diners and the musicians, as well.
At a recent session, two young girls were so enamored with the step dance style that they received impromptu lessons on how to maintain straight posture and let the legs do all the work.
“This is the only place on the Western Slope you can get together and do this,” said dancer Kim McCormick Wilson of the informal Irish sessions.
The combination of the lively Irish session and the pub’s Irish food and drink creates quite the festive atmosphere at Naggy McGee’s on the Irish session nights.
“I wish I could do it every single night,” pub owner Eric Wilmot said. “It’s been one of the best things that’s happened to the restaurant.”