Last Friday as I boarded my plane in Dublin, I opened the overhead bin and came across a banjo case. A nearby passenger asked if it was mine, and I said, “No, but I was going to ask the same question.” A slight man with a female companion sitting across the aisle identified himself as the owner of the case, which he said held a bouzouki.
Well, my antennae went up and I recalled an article I read on the flight over in the new issue of my favorite magazine, The Fretboard Journal. I dug in my bag, quickly found the article about bouzouki maker Edward Victor Dick and passed it along. It came back as the bouzouki owner pointed to a picture of Tony McManus in another part of the magazine and said, “I know this guy. He’s played on some of my recordings.”
At that my new acquaintances were asked to change seats so I could enjoy having a family with two children under the age of 4 across the aisle for a seven hour flight. (I’ve been there, so I was sympathetic.) On the way out, I stopped to talk with the bouzouki owner and his companion and introduced myself. He stuck out his hand and told me he was Billy Jackson. She introduced herself as Grainne Hambly, and as Billy headed back to claim the instrument, Grainne and I headed to baggage pick-up sharing musical interests and connections. They had been to the Swannanoa Gathering, where my good friend Tom Dews spent a part of his summer, and we discussed the wonderful traditional music to be found in the Asheville and Black Mountain areas of North Carolina.
Cut to the chase. I just met internationally known harper and composer William Jackson and Irish harper Grainne Hambly who were headed to the states for a series of fall concerts. Jackson was a founding member of Ossian and he and Hambly just released a new CD, Music From Ireland and Scotland. They are playing dates in North Carolina, Tennessee, and at the Virginia Harp Center in Richmond, Virginia on October 25th. I encouraged them to push their agent to get a slot on the IMT schedule in DC and Grainne told me that she will play an Irish Christmas in America Concert at the National Geographic in Washington on December 4th with the band Teada. It is now on my schedule! Check their web sites for tour dates, and go hear them if they are in your area.
Regular readers know I love The Fretboard Journal, so I was pleased it played a small part in this serendipitous moment. The fall issue is chock full of great stories. Banjo goddesses Abigail Washburn and Alison Brown talk about five strings, running your own record company, and the feminine approach to banjo playing. A story on the little known Larson brothers – makers of fine guitars that no one’s ever heard of – makes you want to run out and find one of their early 20th century creations. Wilco fans will salivate over the article on the band’s secret hideout. (I know this last fact to be true, as a colleague – and Wilco fanatic – practically tore the magazine from my hands when she saw the cover photo.) The Editor’s Note talks about meeting up with their fans at Merlefest – and I was certainly among that group. My recommendation: get a subscription. They never disappoint.
And for my last “Irish” post of the trip, I’ll provide you with some wonderful Celtic music performed by William Jackson and Grainne Hambly. Enjoy.
More to come…