The history of Ireland is a long and bloody one, especially from the point of view of the Irish. Here in America, we have romanticized and corrupted the cultural references until we end up with our version of St. Patrick’s Day where the beer is more important than the true traditions. Columbia musician Tom Gregory, with his traditional Irish music band The Knock Climb, is attempting to set the record straight and play the real traditional tunes from the Emerald Isle. This week’s history and music lessons will be held at the University of South Carolina’s campus, with a symposium on Friends of Irish Freedom from speaker Cathleen O’Brien on Friday evening and a performance from the Knock Climb at the Clarion Hotel on Saturday evening.
Like many American music fans, Gregory admits his knowledge of real Irish music was limited to rock bands such as Dropkick Murphys, but after spending the last few summers traveling Ireland and soaking up the local music and culture, he’s a particularly vociferous convert musically and politically. (To wit: Proceeds from the concert benefit Friends of Irish Freedom, an Irish-American Republican organization connected to the Fianna Fáil political party.)
“What impacted me is how the music there is a vehicle for the most important part of the song [and] the story it was telling,” Gregory says. “Everyone knows the words to these songs and what they mean, and even people in Ireland who claim they have no love for [traditional] music can recite the words of ‘Kevin Barry,’ ‘A Nation Once Again’ and ‘Go On Home, British Soldiers.’ I think this … speaks to the culture, especially in contrast to our own, where few [Americans] can accurately recall the lyrics to our national anthem.”
Gregory admits that despite his Irish heritage, playing Irish music didn’t come easily.
“It was very difficult for me to transition musically at first because the music is very straightforward,” he says. “I struggled to not play so many embellishments on the guitar, and move my voice around with vibrato and texture. I have always trained myself to play and sing more, but here the mission is to hold that back and keep it simple.”
The songs Gregory references are part of what is referred to as the “rebel songs” of Ireland, tunes primarily concerned with Irish Republicanism that thumb their noses at the British occupation of the north. There is power still in them, he says, something he felt firsthand while playing them in Ireland.
“While sitting on the patio of Kelly’s Cellars in Belfast surrounded by locals singing, the atmosphere was electric,” Gregory says. “Lads in the crowd started requesting the rebel songs, and we played snippets — some wanted to stand up and shout them, others looked around nervously for police presence or loyalist dissenters.”
Why Gregory, an American citizen of Irish heritage, is now so invested in these issues and these songs, he says, is that it just seems like the right thing to do, at least for him.
“Sometimes we don’t find great causes, they find us,” Gregory says. “If we want to make a difference we must follow the causes which impact our hearts and captivate our minds — for me, there are now very real faces to the struggles in Ireland, struggles which are not yet resolved.” It is that struggle, and the stories it has left behind in song, that engages him in the process, he says.
“The heart of Irish music is the stories,” Gregory says. “Before you can understand the music you have to understand what it is about.”
The Clarion Hotel is at 1615 Gervais St.; The Knock Climb performs in the Magnolia Room. Music begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $10; proceeds benefit Friends of Irish Freedom. Gregory and Cathleen O’Brien speak in Room 201 of the University of South Carolina Humanities Building from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday; the talk covers Friends of Irish Freedom. Call 622-0235 for more information.
Delicious Downtown Breakfast
Tony’s is open for breakfast every day from 7:30-10:30! Conveniently located on Washington St. right off Main. Stop in for something filling and delicious before work! Follow us for updates on specials.
Back to School Tattoo Specials
Magnum Ink is offering 1/2 off all tattoos for students over 18 as well as 2 for $60 on letters or numbers for state employees. 1405 Rushmore Road, Suite B, right off of Broad River.
A two-day outdoor art and crafts show celebrating its 38th year. Being held on September 5 & 6, 2014, Click for details
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
Music Break at Music Farm Columbia
Join COR for an evening of networking for music and business leaders on September 3rd, featuring performances by Josh Roberts and the Hinges, Death of Paris, Fat Rat Da Czar, and Lazy A and the Green Thang. Free admission for musicians and members! Register here.
Not Your Typical Greek Restaurant
Ariana’s in West Columbia serves up delicious all-natural, low carb dishes, as well as homemade bread and baklava. Come try the best salad dressing in town! Location info and hours here.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Company seeking carpenters, plumbers, masons work is year around with a 40 year old company. Starting pay is $10.00 but experienced individuals will be compensated accordingly. Must have a clean driving record and must bring a copy of your driving record to the interview. Please call 803-865-1200.
Pool Cleaning-Full and part time available. Must have a clean driving record, be organized and have a professional appearance. Starting Pay is $10.00 per hr, please call for an interview, please bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Cal 803-865-1200
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com