Recently on my trip to Ireland, I enjoyed live Irish music almost every night. It was heaven . . . I love the fiddle and mandolin, and I learned to love the harp and uillean pipes as I got to watch excellent musicians in pub sessions share their talents. One night in Kenmare, County Kerry, I wandered into a pub and watched Mac & Mel who played the guitar, harp, various whistles and sang a lovely combination of traditional Irish songs and their own compositions. They were delightful in the small space surrounded by mostly American tourists and locals.
Every three or four songs, they’d stop and interact with the crowd saying, “would you like to hear a sad song, or a happy song?” Every single time, several in the crowd would yell out, “happy!” They’d exchange looks, talk a bit to each other and carry on with the next round of songs. Eventually, Mac told the crowd that there just weren’t that many happy songs . . . and some sad ones would have to do. It was kind of funny, and I remember thinking that a crowd of American tourists is highly likely to yell out, “happy!” because most of them would be familiar with some of the rousing pub sing-alongs rather than many traditional ballads or songs from Irish folklore, most of which aren’t funny at all. Beautiful? Yes.
I have enjoyed the popularity of Pharrel Williams’ happy sweeping the globe and videographers catching kids, street people and grandmas singing their own version of “clap your hands,” but some songs are sad, as some stories. I need a dose of happy daily, that’s for sure, and I’m also moved and devoted to the wide range of the human concert. As long as the music is sublime to me, I’m happy to hear all the songs.