Dublin July 2009

A Time to Remember - Set 1
A Time to Remember - Set 2

Vicar Street, Dublin, 4 July 2009

A few words from your webmaster

Rarely do I stand up and say a few words, yet this time around I feel I have to. Let me begin by saying that the photographs displayed on this page are only a part of what we have in stock; please visit our gallery for more photographs from "A time to remember" - we have Jim McCann's great shots you've seen earlier, we are giving StefDKs pictures a lasting home in our gallery, and we have Liam Donohues most atmospheric shots bringing you the concert even closer! Forgive me that the pictures do not necessarily match the review contents. In order to tell the whiole story, we will also include one or the other shot of Dublin locals, friends and fans - some of #em some of you may know, for the others it's just to illustrate the night and its great mood even better. Speaking of photographs and reviews, yours truly would like to take the opportunity to praise the unique Dubliners community. Band, ex-members, management, fans, it's all one big family united by the music that in the not so distant future will be heard for half a century. I do not mention names in particular right now (see our footnotes!), but let me tell you wholeheartedly: Your input is very much appreciated and is making those thousands of fans visiting this site daily very happy. So I thank you on behalf of all our visitors.

“A Time to Remember”, was a homage to Ronnie, Luke and Ciaran and a unique gig in many ways. Because of the tributes paid, many family members and friends attended. It was an emotional evening and all night long I had the impression of bearing witness to an important event in The Dubliners’ history.

A large white screen was installed on stage and when entering the venue we were immediately welcomed by (a picture of) Ronnie, Luke, Ciaran (winking at us) , Barney and John. The tone of the event was set. In his introduction, Jim McCann assured us we would be delighted with the guests of the evening. He gave a very endearing speech, peppered with humour and admiration. If only I had known in advance that so many fascinating stories and information would be shared with the audience by various artists on stage, I would have brought a recorder. 

Jim confirmed that the evening was a homage to three members of the group: for Ronnie, this summer being the 1st anniversary of his death. Ronnie, Jim said, had the most famous voice in Ireland and became not only the face of the country but of Dublin in particular. Secondly the evening was in remembrance of Ciaran, 2009 being the 21st anniversary of his death. He called him “the gentle giant with the twinkle in his eye”. Thirdly, it was to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Luke’s death. Jim praised Luke for never compromising in his beliefs or music and for bringing joy throughout the entire world with his ballads and narrations.

When The Dubliners came on stage, it struck me that John, who usually wears a shirt in his favourite colour blue, wore black trousers and a black shirt for this occasion. All evening, a treasure trove of pictures of The Dubliners, mostly from the sixties and seventies, were projected on screen. We saw some very famous ones that we know from their LP covers, some that one can see on the walls of O’Donoghue’s bar, and many others, probably from their private collection. If that wasn’t enough, every picture was brought to life as there was always a link between the pictures shown and the song or story brought on stage. For example while Barney sang ”Fiddler’s Green”, a picture of The Dubliners on Barney’s boat was projected. When John and Barney played some charming tunes, we saw a picture of the Octopus Jig behind them. 

The first tribute was for Luke. John reminded us of his special gifts. When Luke sang a song, be it a new song or a traditional ballad, his always became the definite version of that song. By means of a back projection film, Luke was then “present” at the gig with his own poem “For What Died the Sons of Roisin?” 

Then we saw his lovely red curly head in “Maids When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man” filmed in 1973 in Sweden. 
On stage The Dubliners were playing and singing with him and so was the audience. We were all projected back into past times and it felt wonderful! 

After Patsy’s splendid version of “Raglan Road”, John told us of the yearly little gathering of family and friends (incl Barney and John) at Luke’s grave, around the anniversary of his death. They customarily read some texts, play a few tunes and Luke’s brother Jimmy lays a wreath on the grave. At one of these occasions, John said, when watching the granite gravestone, he noticed some characteristics of the stone and linked them to elements of Luke’s life. The result of this reflection became his beautiful poem “Luke’s gravestone”, which he recited. Then John introduced the first guest on stage: Luke’s friend Micheál O’Caoimh, who is a regular participant in these gatherings.

In 1980, Micheál told us, he was working for a pirate radio station and met his hero for two fascinating interviews. One could still see the grief reflected in his eyes when he spoke of his dear friend. Micheál sang the song which he wrote himself: ”Luke – A Tribute” (best known as sung by Christy Moore on The Dubliners’ 25th Celebration album). To give you an idea of the captivating lyrics, I quote the third verse: “The humour of those laughing eyes, Was shared in full with all, When you chose the songs to lift the hearts, That filled the music hall, The ecstasy and joy was felt , In chorus, clap and cheer, When the 'son of Róisín' took the stage, The king of balladeers.” I needn’t tell you the audience was deeply moved. 

One of the secrets of a good Dubliners’ gig is that they instinctively manage to strike a perfect balance between sharing their joy and sorrow with the audience. Sean recounted his first memory of “The Black Velvet band”. He was driving to Kilkenny and stopped his car to listen to this song by Luke, on the radio. It fascinated him straightaway and remained on the charts for a very long time. And so, once again, it was sung with great gusto by the audience.

The second guest John introduced us to, was George Murphy, a young Irish singer. Although he hadn’t even been born when Luke died, he admires him. He sang “‘The Lifeboat Mona”, one of my personal favourites by Luke, and it was magic to hear it live! The second song he did was “The Foggy Dew” (about the Easter Rising).

The first part of the gig came to an end with “two of us on the solo”, Barney and Eamonn having fun playing some American (Glory, Glory Hallelujah) and Irish tunes. The last song “The Auld Triangle” was another highlight for me and never fails to leave a mighty impression. Patsy undoubtedly has the right voice for it! The background for “The Auld Triangle” was the more recent and famous picture of The Dubliners’ line-up at their 40th anniversary, in front of the famous staircase in Kilmainham Jail. (see the first of Jim McCann’s shots on this website).

Second set

After a short break we came back into the venue in great anticipation of what was to come in the second set. As before, Jim McCann gave a short introduction and in doing so managed to express our own thoughts beautifully: we had already experienced a phenomenal first part of a unique concert and Jim promised the second set would be even better.

Séan opened the tribute to Ciarán with one of his best known Gaelic ballads “Peggy Lettermore”, to the delight of the vast majority of the audience who had not heard this song live for a very long time, I daresay! I secretly hope that this song might be incorporated into the regular live repertoire of The Dubliners, as it suits Séan’s voice beautifully, given his ability to strike a perfect balance between humour and romance.

In the introduction to his marvellous poem “Remembering Ciarán Bourke”, John shared his vivid memories of Ciarán with the audience. He portrayed him as a wonderful speaker of the Irish language with a great knowledge of history. One of the most beautiful scenes depicted by John during his story was of Ciarán, despite only having partly recovered from his brain haemorrhage, insisting on going on tour with The Dubliners and how he would mount the stage whilst leaning on a shepherd’s crook.

The poem served as a very natural transition to a recording, made in 1963, of the old Irish drinking song “Preab San Ol” by Ciarán and Luke. John explained that the title means something like “drink with gusto”. Ciarán sang it in Gaelic and Luke would take turns singing the English translation. Both men’s voices harmonised magnificently. The picture projected onto the screen of Ciarán, John and Luke drinking, complemented the song perfectly. Within the venue you could sense the typical exuberant atmosphere of a live gig in an Irish pub and so Patsy’s “All for Me Grog” fitted in perfectly, bringing about the same roguish atmosphere among the audience that Ciaran used to create with this shanty. The ‘rocking duo’ act of Patsy and Eamonn has become an indispensable part of the 21st century version of this song.

Afterwards, we were able to catch our breath and dance along in our minds to the music of John’s “Marino Waltz” which Eamonn accompanied with visible pleasure. The peacefulness this song created among the audience paved the way perfectly for Barney’s beautiful love song “I Wish I Had Someone To Love Me”. Barney then let us in on a little secret that there was a very special guest in the audience, namely the Ambassador of Denmark who is a great fan of The Dubliners. At the Ambassador’s request, Barney dedicated the love song to the Ambassador’s wife. He sang it with all his heart and for the second time that evening received a standing ovation.

Gradually a respectful silence permeated the entire audience as a splendid colour picture of a pensive Ronnie with his guitar was projected onto the screen. People became acutely aware that the homage for the founding member, Ronnie Drew, who passed away so recently on the 16th August 2008, was about to begin. The grief caused by his passing is still very raw among his family and friends.
John said it is hard to believe that on the 16th of August it will already be a year since Ronnie departed from us. “He had a unique personality and undoubtedly left his mark on folk music. His name will never be forgotten.” John’s introduction to his poem “Ronnie’s Heaven” didn’t require as much elaboration for the Irish audience that was present here, in contrast to when he has read it on the continent. He merely explained that Joe O’Broin is mentioned in the poem, because Cliodhna and Phelim chose two of his poems for their father’s funeral.
Every time I hear John’s poetic homage to Ronnie or when I read the poem in private, I become aware of such comfort flowing from it, as it pictures Ronnie so realistically and completely in all aspects of his rich character. The way John recites it, with his familiar voice which manages to achieve a perfect mixture of sensitivity and humour, elevates this poem to dizzying heights. 

Immediately afterwards, we saw and heard Ronnie perform “McAlpine’s Fusiliers” in a DVD clip from the Late Late Show on the occasion of their 25th anniversary. At each chorus, we were shown a close-up of Ronnie’s face on the large screen. It felt like he was among us. Whilst accompanying on guitar, Eamonn turned round to face the screen so he could look at Ronnie uninterrupted. It was simply magic to witness how at that moment he was there on the stage of Vicar Street and at the same time playing along with Ronnie and the lads in 1987! All the time, he smiled at Ronnie and played passionately.

It was Barney who introduced the next special guest, Ronnie’s son, Phelim Drew! Barney was extremely proud to be able to tell us that he is Phelim’s godfather and that Phelim is following in Ronnie’s footsteps as he is already an accomplished singer and a talented actor.

Phelim began by thanking the technical crew and said it was great to remember his Dad, Luke and Ciarán. He thanked his aunts and uncles for their support to his sister and himself, as both their parents have now passed away. When he was contemplating what part he could play in this commemoration of his father, his sister had suggested to him that he sing a song. He thanked her for her confidence in him. It was a real treat to see him sing “Games People Play” with The Dubliners – not a Dubliners type of song, as Barney put it! Phelim obviously enjoyed it. Patsy rounded up Ronnie’s commemoration with his vivid version of “Finnigans’ Wake”. The applause for Ronnie and the lads was overwhelming.

John and Eamonn started tuning the fiddle and guitar for some ‘fiddle solos’ and had great fun doing so. John laughingly said “that’s near enough for hens, I suppose”. We thoroughly enjoyed “The Hens March To The Midden”, “The Fourposter Bed” and the ever increasing tempo of “The Irish Washerwoman”.

The picture of the original group, which was projected onto the screen whilst Patsy sang “Dirty Old Town”, took us back to the time when Luke was singing in English folk clubs. He brought this ballad by Ewan MacColl into The Dubliners’ repertoire which they subsequently made into a worldwide hit. And to date we are still able to enjoy it live. Unique!

John thanked everybody for joining them in this commemoration, and said he hoped that all the fans from abroad felt as welcome in cosmopolitan Dublin as the band does when they are on tour abroad. The fourth special guest, Jimmy Kelly, Luke’s brother, had the honour of singing “The Parting Glass”, a song of friendship, camaraderie and drinking to the memory of Luke, Ciarán and Ronnie, as Jimmy so aptly put it. Although Jimmy said he sings in a choir and isn’t used to singing solo on stage, he looked very much at ease. I enjoyed his beautiful, deep voice immensely.

“Whiskey in the Jar” signalled the nearing end of the gig. For the first encore, “The Wild Rover”, all the special guests joined the lads on stage. Jim shared the mike with John, George with Séan, Jimmy with Patsy, and in the right corner a trio gathered around Eamonn’s mike: Micheál, Eamonn and Phelim. It was good to see Jim carefully sing the chorus with the others. Ten men on stage and what a gang it was!

Nevertheless, the public would not let the lads leave. Everybody in the venue stood up and kept clapping, chanting and calling for “Molly Malone” and, as hoped for, our heroes came back on stage again, joined once more by Jim and Jimmy. In the background, the colour poster “A Time To Remember” was projected. John pointed out that this marvellous colour poster, with the different line-ups of The Dubliners over the years, was a graphic design by Jim McCann which had been made especially for this unique homage concert. Jim deservedly received applause for this beautiful piece of art.

The lads did their beloved Dublin proud again with “Molly Malone”. Patsy just wouldn’t tire of conducting us and kept on encouraging us to wave our arms in the air. The whole audience elatedly enjoyed the singsong. After all these years, I am now very much of the opinion that singing “Molly Malone” with the entire venue is simply a crucially important ritual, in order to be able to say goodbye for now to The Dubliners, till the next time when we can all enjoy a wonderful get-together at one of their next gigs!

Don't forget to visit our gallery for tons of more photographs!

Flying out of Dublin....

Article by Ria Voet, Belgium
Photos by Jim McCann, Liam Donohue, StefDK & Dan Cullen - see our gallery for even more photographs
(individual picture copyrights filed there too)
Luke Kelly grave photograph by Mícheál Ó Caoimh
Additional support by Mandy Byrnes, Harriet, John Sheahan

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