COMMUNITY • BY REBECCA GALLERY PHOTOS • BY ERIC BOND
In the bustling hub of downtown Silver Spring sits McGintys Public House on Ellsworth Drive hosting a Traditional Irish Session every Tuesday night at 8PM.
Irish owners, managers, staff and a vast Irish menu brings a true Irish experience, a good craic (entertaining company or conversation), across the pond into Silver Spring.
The Traditional Irish Session is a casual musical social gathering amongst friends, providing a relaxed and informal setting for musicians to gather together for a common interest. The artists span a wide age range and even wider experience levels playing flutes, fiddles accordions, drums, banjos, guitars, harps and many other instruments. The traditional Irish music session is an experience that is shared by both the performers and the audience.
Irish music at McGintys has been pouring out into the night for over eight years with sessions being hosted by C.B Heinemann and Dennis Botzer. Some of the recurring musicians are Charlie MacVicar (uilleann pipes/flute/harmonica), Alex Moreno (tenor banjo), Mark Walbridge (tenor banjo), Pam Bozzi (bodhran), Henry Nolan (bodhran), Patrick Cavanagh (tenor banjo/accordion), Crystal Bailey (fiddle/tenor banjo), Karen Ashbrook (flute), Paul Runci (flute), Keith Carr (bouzouki/tenor banjo), and Marc Glickman (piano). New musicians are always welcome to bring their instruments and join in this session.
When the players gather together in a circle and begin playing their songs, Dennis Botzer and his fiddle immediately grasps the audience’s attention. Dennis has been playing the fiddle for over forty years. His pre-World War II French fiddle pours a beautiful melody into the room, leading the sessions with a strong and lovely sound.
Dennis’s inspiration for traditional Irish music resonates from “a trio that appeared at the Dubliner Pub on Capitol Hill in 1975. The Irish Tradition consisted of artists Brendan Mulvihill (fiddle), Billy McComiskey (accordion), and Any O’Brien (guitar/vocals). They influenced an entire generation of traditional Irish musicians in the Washington and Baltimore areas. Their music was infectious!” says Dennis.
In addition to the live music resonating through the warm wooden pub walls, the musicians are on occasion joined by Irish step dancers performing Sean-nos and Old Style Step Dancing. Sean-nos is a solo step dance where the dancer is working to get as synced with the music as possible. The steps are kept close to the floor and the upper body moves with the arms helping to add to the drama of the steps.
Dancer Shannon Dunne said “One of the things I like most about the style is that each dancer has their own steps and style. Families or neighbors might share a style, or certain steps. It is typical to see regional styles of Sean-nos dance. Old Style step dancing or “Muenster Style” is more formal, with the arms by the sides and the smile off the face. It ultimately turned into the modern step dancing you see today” Said Dunne.
Marc Glickman (piano) and Dennis also host a weekly Sunday brunch Irish session at P. Brennan’s Pub, in Arlington VA; another traditional Irish establishment also owned by McGintys owners Greg Whelan and Brian Dolphin. Between the perfectly poured pints, live entertainment and a lively atmosphere, McGintys is helping make Tuesday the new Friday in downtown Silver Spring.