Friday night, Jeff and I got to see The Chieftains. If you do not know The Chieftains, first let me say that I’m sorry you do not and you should immediately go and find them on Google or Youtube. In reality, I know they do not suit everyone and that’s okay. You are entitled to your opinion.
I do not know when I first heard The Chieftains’ music. It must have been in college because I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything but country at home. When my sister and I lived in California in 2001, we had the opportunity to go and see this amazing group. I said at the time that I would see them again if I ever had the opportunity and I would pay whatever amount of money necessary to do so. That is a bit of an overstatement, but they fill me with a delight I am not sure I can describe.
As with all music, the sound is often what greets you first. If I were an audiologist, or some specialist in sound, I could walk you through the complex interactions of notes, music, nerves, brain processes and other feelings that make the experience of music so amazing. All I can describe for you is my experience of music, and particularly, music from The Chieftains.
The stage was small, and we were not far from the stage. The group of musicians enter, there were seven to eight of them on stage at once. The music starts. It enters my ears, as one would expect, but after that, it becomes an experience that differs greatly from most other musical experiences I have ever had. After my ears, the music goes right to my heart. It causes it to swell and float. I suddenly know how the Grinch felt when his heart grew three sizes. My heart expands and in the process, pulls open the rest of my senses. The music plays around in my brain, and tickles my sinuses, pushing me to the brink of tears. Then it moves again and flutters at the back of my eyes. This time, it pushes out the tears that have already formed. Then it jumps back to my heart and snags the attention of my soul, which then does its own little dance.
The songs are not always sad. They were often in a language I do not understand. Some of them, I’m sure if I understood, would be hilariously funny, just because of the tone in which they are done. And some are sad. They are songs of war and loss and home.
The original members of this group are getting physically old. The four members who have been together the longest, Paddy Moloney, Seán Keane, Kevin Conneff, and Matt Molloy have an impressive 52 year history together. Actually, the group has been around since 1962. Only Paddy Moloney is original to the group. Their spirits, however, still soar with their music.
I think this description of my experience pales in comparison to what it actually was like. I’ve written before that I’m doing some genealogical work. I think this is what I’m looking for – I’m looking for my link to a place that feels like home, where my spirit sings in the great chorus of the ages.
The Chieftains are friends with American astronaut, Catherine Coleman and she borrowed a flute and tin whistle from them and took them to the International Space Station. This video is not the same one we saw Friday night, but it is still amazing. I hope you find it interesting, if nothing else. Imagine, a small tiny whistle and a 100 year old flute going all the way to space.
I would love to hear about the music or places that make your soul soar.