An Seanachai

Halloween Specials At An Seanachaí

4 Courses & Bottle of Wine €50 (2 people)
Stay for the spooky Storytelling by the Fireplace
Saturday October 27th

More details: 
Phone: 058 46755

An Seanachaí Pulla Cross, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. Transport can be arranged.

What's the Story: Storytelling & Song At An Seanachaí

Photo By John Pelham

What's the Story: by Joe Power 

Everybody has a story, there are very few certainties in this life but that is definitely one. Even the most boring personality has his own story. And in fact if you can get people talking almost everyone has a subject that they can speak volumes about.

In Ireland this 'gift of the gab' the 'Blarney' has become legendary. And this is no coincidence as there is a very long tradition of storytelling occupying an integral part of our cultural heritage, stretching back over 3000 years in Ireland, all the way to the ancient Celtic peoples. (Celtic at least in their culture and language) who developed our myths beliefs & customs years before the Roman empire or even the Holy roman empire.

Photo By John Pelham
The great body of legends myth & story encapsulating their own actual history origins and beliefs, but of course building, elaborating & ornamenting them in the Celtic way existed for hundreds maybe a thousand years before being written down. This was an inherent fact of their religion that none of their most intimate beliefs and myths songs and stories be written down. And this is why they were called Celts. Irish is one of the very few(maybe 6 including Scots, Gallic, Welsh, the language of Brittany, Cornwall, Manx ,& of Course Irish) Celtic languages that still exist in an unbroken line back to the original Celtic language groups. All across the continent the Celtic languages have been subsumed into Latin first and then all the individual European languages.

And in Irish 'faoi ceilt' still means hidden and so the Celts were the hidden people or the people who kept their history hidden from foreign perusal, they chose who they spoke their secrets to and refused to write them down. And so a strictly oral tradition arose which is extremely strong today to the extent that the Irish are much more inclined than any other people I know to have a great many songs, stories, and poems 'off by heart' as we say in a very telling phrase. Like Beethoven said of music it should be “from the heart to the heart” so if it is described as “off by heart” it creates the Celtic triad which is also so important in our ancient love.

All this just goes to show how important it is to continue encourage and strengthen this venerable extremely ancient custom of memorising songs , poems & stories & being able to stand up “at the drop of a hat” to declaim them in public, for your friends in a warm friendly environment . This is what happened in the courts of the early kings subsequently in the house of the Norman overlords when they became more “Irish than the Irish themselves” & down through hundreds of years and more recently in little country cottages around an open fire.

Little country cottages are becoming rarer but fortunately the exact ideal environment is available up in the appropriately named hostelry An Seanachaí. Not only in the name is this great tradition of storytelling preserved but in the beautiful and utterly appropriate setting - an open fire of great antiquity , wooden tables warm friendly ambience that is extremely difficult to create but seems to manifest itself as if by magic when you walk in the door of the Seanachaí.

The sessions that we have had so far up there have been absolutely outstanding by any standards as everyone has stated who have been there, I myself go to many session but it is hard to beat the setting up on top of the hill looking down on the beautiful Dungarvan.

And when you go indoors you are walking back in history, the old traditional tunes are played with great feeling timing and melodic variation at a pace that allows the story the meaning the feeling of the time to emerge slowly & magically to weave and wind themselves around your heart, soul and mind. As I always say ever the instrumental music of Ireland tells a story & this I think is the primary lesson that an instrumentalist should learn. When the classical composers come up with a particularly beautiful & timely melody the marking (usually in Italian of course) they append to it is 'cantabile' meaning as 'if sung' that word itself tells a considerable story.
Photo By John Pelham

And of course most of the songs we sing in the Seanachaí are narrative ballads love songs rebel ballads, traditional songs, country songs -so they all tell a story. The narrative element is played down in a lot of modern pop and rock songs to give greater stress to rhythm funk and repetition, but the vast majority of songs we love best in Ireland are remarkable for the quality of the storytelling infused into them by our own heritage of the bards druids and poets who always occupied the most important part in the Celtic tribes apart from the chieftain or king himself and often indeed had more power than him as he could cause him to be deposed or supplanted with a clever lyric a satire or a piece of inventive correctly aimed.

This same shamanic power infuses the ART OF STORYTELLING itself the Seanachas (meaning Old (sean) turn (cas)- in other words yarn spinning, turning a tale putting a twist on a plain story - a wonderfully expressive word!) The storyteller or Seanachaí's function was to entertain but also to heal to comment to correct the whims and follies of the chief or the tribe or other chiefs or tribes or politicians or priests or other storytellers, indeed in other words he would not only comment on but he would influence the course of history of his race. This is what Aogan O Rathaille, Swift, Synge, Pearse, Yeats, Joyce, Shaw, & Wilde have done following in this great tradition.

On a more rustic scale the great Seanachai Eamon Kelly did the same with the great stories he collected embellished & retailed over the years. He was extremely funny & entertaining but also very sharp in his capturing and sending up of all the foibles & idiosyncrasies of the people around him. An ancient convention of the Seanachaí was the end of the story ' That's my story and if there is a lie in it , it wasn't I put it there'.

But of course every story has lies in it if only to improve it to make it more interesting , but here I will insert one of my favourite quotes, this time from Pablo Picasso 'Art is a lie that tells the truth' What better vindication do we need in Ireland for blarney and bluster. Posidonius an ancient classical writer commented on the Celts.

So to give another of my favourite quotes this time from the great philosopher Nietsche. 'Riad this and then burn it' In other words the wonderful thing about the Irish tradition is that you all don 't have to go around boring everybody with philosophy and the ancient Greeks ' You don't have to know the origin of the craic ' - you just enjoy it .

Photo By John Pelham
So come along to the Seanachai over the winter on Saturday nights and dust off any off any old songs or stories or poems or recitations that you have learned over the years or composed yourself. Otherwise why not start learning some new songs or stories. Even you say you don't sing as I always say you must teach yourself how to sing, just like you must teach yourself how to play an instrument. But everyone has lungs & vocal chords a diaphragm etc. so just start building up those throat muscles. Just because you don't sing doesn't mean you won't sing.

Remember as good as they are in themselves & for the country Riverdance, Bunratty, You're a Star are not as close to the real Ireland as a night of Seanachas song and dance beside a roaring fire on a winters night with a drink in your hand and a smile on your face & your friends all around you. Instead of going to the DVD shop & hiring out the 'Quite Man' or 'Darby O Gill and the little people' you can have the real thing the thing itself. Come out to the old style open fire stone hearth atmosphere of a real country cottage at the Seanachaí and share a story with some of your friends. It will transport you to a time and place that exists perfectly in tune with your head and your heart within yourself and within our collective history.

A familiar greeting on the Dublin streets “hey bud what's the story” again that is no lucky coincidence. Our Irish way of life is built around the story. So make that your watchword over the coming season with the long winter nights settling into the smell of hot port drifting around the glowing fireside .... Hey bud what's the story.

Storyville continues Saturday October 27th and every second Saturday at An Seanachaí Pulla Cross Dungarvan. 05846755 . All welcome - transport can be arranged.

About An Seanachaí Bar & Restaurant

An Seanachaí Bar & Restaurant has remained unspoilt by the advances of the twenty first century and has remained one of the great traditional Irish pubs and eating houses. An Seanachaí continues a tradition that began way back in the mid 1800's during the famine years.
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