THE SESSION IN FULL FLIGHT
a sultry June evening I met my good
buddy and AMERICAN PUBLIC
REVIEW colleague, Chris at MITCHELL'S CAFE in Lambertville,
Jersey. We had come to check out the Celtic music session which
congregates there on the first and third Wednesday night of every
|The session starts about nine o'clock and
goes until eleven or
so. Chris and I arrived early though, about seven-thirty. We were the
only patrons at the bar for almost an hour. This gave us plenty of time
to chat with Carol Bishop the affable proprietress and lady of the
manor. Carol told us that Mitchell's has been a fixture there on Church
Street for about 140 years. The original publican, Thomas Mitchell took
his first watch behind the bar way back in 1868. Carol's parents, Jim
and Peggy Bishop acquired the tavern in 1969 and it has thrived in the
good hands of the Bishop family for the past 38 years.
|HAROLD DUNN, HIMSELF
about MITCHELL'S CAFE
its prominence as the premier gathering spot for the local Illuminati
of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and British folk music. Although it has its
own, unique charm with a number of American antiques, curiosities, and
original artwork displayed around the dinning room, there are no Celtic
affectations, kitschy representations of shamrocks and leprechauns, nor
tartan tablecloths. In fact, there is nary an Irish ditty on the
jukebox. Bass Ale is offered on tap and Guinness Stout in a pub draft
can as well, but that is about the extent of British Isles culture
available at the establishment - other than the Celtic music of course.
When I ask Carol about the discrepancy, she laughs. She says she was
running a reputable local watering hole that reflected the rural,
bohemian aesthetic of the area when out of the blue she received a call
from Harold Dunn; a mover and shaker in the Delaware Valley Celtic
music community.Harold asked if Carol would be amenable to Himself
holding a session at MITCHELL'S CAFE He
it would pretty much take over the bar; however, he
her that players and fans of Celtic music would certainly be ready and
willing customers. Carol wasn't sure what to expect. She had an
unpleasant experience with a gathering of dead-beat Contra dancers
before who had the audacity to bring their own libations.
But, she gave her blessing to the proposal. It turned out to be a
tremendous success artistically, socially and commercially so it was
repeated again and again until it became a tradition. The Celtic
session now has thrived there in its assigned space upfront, near the
door at least two times a month for about ten years.
about eight-thirty, Linda Zdepski shows up with her bodhran
(pronounced: bau-ron) which is an Irish frame drum held vertically on
one's lap It is played with a double ended drumstick called a tipper.
friend; Chris is an aspiring bodhran player and received an impromptu
lesson which cost him a bite or two of his nachos. Himself; Harold Dunn
soon arrives with his fiddle, and then Mark Stewart with his mandolin
and bouzouki, and Jeff Morgan toting his guitar and concertina. These
three gentlemen comprise the stalwart and indomitable trio which drives
the whole affair. They tune up, count off, and
into a bliss of wonderful song and laughter. Two flautists and another
fiddle player come through the door and take their place in the circle.
Matt De Blass shows up and adds to the rhythm on a bodhran of his own.
He also provides high end flight to the melodies with his tin-whistle.
And still another drummer appears with an African hand drum. Tonight
too, a special guest; Carol Thompson, a Grammy award winning harper who
has performed with The Chieftains sets up her beautiful harp which is
decorated with a painted peacock and adds her ethereal plucking into
the mix. A comely lass, Kaitlin Doyle dances into the middle of it all
and performs a jig as the triplets fly.
|HAROLD DUNN ON FIDDLE AND
JEFF MORGAN ON CONCERTINA
|MARK STEWART ON IRISH BOUZOUKI
ZDEPSKI & MATT DeBLASS
FLAUTIST ON A
TRADITIONAL WOODEN FLUTE
What is a Session?
sometimes referred to as a Ceili,
is a gathering of
aficionados of Celtic music. Players at all
levels of proficiency bring their fiddles, guitars, mandolins,
bouzoukis, flutes, tin-whistles, harps, accordions, concertinas,
banjos, and bodhrans to sit together in a circle and play through the
Celtic repertoire of reels, jigs, polkas, Aires, and ballads. Fans come
too, and singers, and perhaps even a step dancer or two. The music,
poetry, fun. libation, and fellowship flow like . . . well, fine Irish
ale. All are welcome to participate in the Celtic session at
MITCHELL'S CAFE. Bring your instrument and
join in, or just grab a beer, sit back, listen, and enjoy.
search for a few words to convey the richness and joyfulness of this
evening in MITCHELL'S CAFE all
I can find to say is that the music was beyond description and the
comradery beyond compare. The experience perhaps embodied perfectly
that quality in a tavern which we at the AMERICAN
PUBLIC HOUSE REVIEW are
forever seeking; and when we find it, share it with you. What is that
quality? It's not about beverage selection, the food, the decor, nor
even the history of a pub. It's about the energy and the fellowship
found inside its walls. It's about the soul of a place, and the spirit
which is created when folks convene for no other reason than to share
an hour, hoist a glass, and celebrate our journey together towards
. . . who knows where?