Tunes and Travels: My Trip to An Irish Jam Session

Author: LanieC

Tags: Winner

I had not imagined in my eight years of classical violin training that I would end up fiddling in a pub. I wasn’t used to Maryland’s long lines of traffic and crowded streets. In Ohio, Rural King got more business than Kroger, and the biggest traffic jams were caused by cows meandering into the road. But my dad’s Washington, DC business trip brought us small-town folks to the big city, and we were trying to make it a memorable experience. Now I stared out the Metro window at graffitied buildings and my fingers cramped from clutching my violin case. It was drawing dangerously near my bedtime. But, as my dad always says, “carpe diem.”

We stepped into the pub, and I relaxed. I had wondered what this pub would be like. After passing some teenage boys swearing at each other near the Metro station, I prepared myself for a smoky room and slightly intoxicated individuals. As a dedicated Baptist girl, that didn’t sound like somewhere where I wanted to spend three hours. But I was glad to see a well-lighted room, and no tipsy people in sight. Only a restaurant with “pub” tacked to the name.

A medley of Washington DC lobbyists, elementary school teachers, and business men trickled in and we jammed ourselves into a corner of the restaurant to begin the session. I had never gotten so close to accidentally poking an eye out with my violin bow. I wasn’t familiar with the first tune and barely made a sound, but by the third song, I was sawing at my strings like an authentic Irish fiddler.

We went through reels, jigs, airs, and polkas. I joined in on Banish Misfortune, and Jenny’s Chickens, and tapped my toes to the tunes I didn’t know. A curly-haired bagpiper called “Hey, how ‘bout Teetotaler’s reel?” between slurps of his Guinness.

The tips of my fingers were starting to take on a grayish tint from pressing on the neck of my fiddle by the end of the session, and my back muscles were tied in knots. I stood, shook some kinks from my shoulders, and headed over to where my mother and sister were waiting.

We were eager to start home, so we wouldn’t be wandering the deserted Metro stations late at night, and rushed down the dark streets.  Stepping into the Metro stop, we marched forward, knowing that we were about to soldier one of the Western Hemisphere’s most frightening pedestrian obstacles: the Wheaton Metro Escalator. We glided down the 203 foot monster for two minutes and forty-five seconds, all the while squinting to catch a glimpse of the ground. After finally reaching the floor, we found a seat on the almost deserted platform while I hummed a fiddle tune. We sat in silence until my mother said, “Why don’t you all play something?” My sisters and I exchanged glances, but Tyler, a friend we brought along, unpacked his violin. I agreed to play with him, and we launched into Lilting Banshee, not minding when the people on neighboring benches didn’t even glance from their iPhones. We finished just as we saw the lights from our incoming train.

“Three more things to cross off the bucket list!” my mother remarked as we collapsed into our seats.  I looked forward to donning my fleece pajamas, and enjoying a mug of Sleepytime tea. As I lay in bed, the Lilting Banshee’s melody lulled me to sleep. Though the Emerald Isle was an ocean away, I was still able to get a flavor of Ireland’s culture in the outskirts of the U.S. Capital.