‘If only our leaders would climb down from their high horses and sing with us normal people’

DECLAN COYNE of the South Roscommon Singers Circle says an opportunity to re-set society may have been squandered…



So things are back to normal then.

  Normal, i.e. conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. It doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse than before. It’s just … ‘normal’.

  It annoys me though, insofar as I can be annoyed at this hour of my life, that we’ve had almost two years to take a good hard look at ourselves as a society (but not really done so) – a wonderful opportunity for us all, but especially our leaders, to set economics to one side for one brief discussion period and think, for once, with a view to coming up with a vision for what kind of society we want for our children and grandchildren into the future. Just put the value of human life and society above economics for one brief discussion period. Okay! I know it will boil down to money in the end, but without a plan and a clear vision for the future, you are throwing good money after bad and end up with a totally dysfunctional society, which is where, I fear, we are heading right now, if we’re not already there.

  But no! Such planning or vision wouldn’t be usual, typical or expected. What would be usual, typical and expected would be that the political elite are allowed to shirk their responsibility to ‘all citizens’ in favour of their wealthy friends in high places. And, of course, those political elite and their friends in high places are not subjected to the full rigours of the law, (either normal law or ‘Covid law’), in the same way that the rest of us normal people are. No, we can only dream on and get it into our thick peasant skulls that ‘normal’ can’t be changed. Of course it can’t, it’s normal. Boys will be boys and they’ll keep on throwing money at the symptoms and forget about the causes.

  Sorry, I’m not here to write about the golfgate mockery or any other elitist/political mockery; I’m here to write about …well, I’m not sure what I’m here to write about really. Roscommon People Editor Paul Healy asked me if I’d write a piece in relation to the easing of Covid restrictions and the return to ‘normal’ living.

  Hard to think of anything to report though, even after two years of isolation. However, to start with, I have to say, I enjoyed the lockdown period. Got a few jobs done about the place that had been on the long finger for years. Free from thoughts of planning the next singing session or planning the next trip to Rosslare, Miltown Malbay, Inishowen or other far-flung places on this island or even overseas, leaves the mind free to concentrate on the task at hand – and leaves you free to finish the job when you’re at it.

  In spite of that, it didn’t stop the singing. In fact I’ve probably sung a lot more in the past two years than I did for years before, all thanks to modern technology and that thing called, ‘Zoom’. Speaking of which, I’m sure there are many people around the world still scratching their heads and tearing their hair, over stuff that happened during Zoom sessions. I’ve seen and heard a few scary ones – one in particular, quite frightening, I do recall. Then there were the funny ones; there were plenty of those, but I won’t embarrass anyone any further by telling tales from school.

  Strange thing though, getting a glimpse into people’s homes and how some folk behave in the comfort of their own couch or armchair…and the conversations when they forget to ‘unmute’ or to remember that the whole world is watching them.

  Apart from those odd glitches here and there, the Zoom sessions were a wonderful way of keeping in touch with old friends and making new ones around the world; hearing singers from all corners of the planet and, of course, the range and variety that you don’t normally get at a local or regular session.

  On a personal note, one thing I’ll remember with a sense of pride was listening to a conversation between a bunch of serious folkies from across Britain discussing folk music festivals, when one of them sang the praises of Cambridge, Oxford and Knockcroghery. Nice that she thought us worthy of being on her elite list, not to mention her top three. No surprise, of course, but nice to hear just the same. Tourism and funding agencies, please take note!

  Ah! But Zoom sessions are not ‘normal’, are they? Which is why it’s great to be back with the real thing and being normal again. (Ouch! Did I say ‘normal’? Sorry.)

  Seriously though, you can’t help but feel a tremendous sense of security and comfort when you walk into a bar after two years and that guy, on the same high stool, staring into his pint with that same blank expression, is still there; and the guy at the end of the bar, with his back to the wall, is still perched up there with the same half-smile on his face, scanning the bar, observing all the comings and goings but saying nothing. And, of course, the same three guys with their heads still tilted towards each other, still giving out about the price of cattle, the sheep trade and them mad Greens. Ah, sure where would you be without normal after all! But it is nice occasionally after a Sunday afternoon saunter in St. John’s Wood, Mote Park or Kilteevan, to pop into the local for a relaxing beverage and a chat with the locals.

  My normal though, from a social perspective, would be built mostly around singing sessions and music festivals. I’ve already got in a few ‘live’ sessions since the relaxation of the rules. In some ways it was like the past two years were just a dream; the same musicians were back in their corners and the same singers and storytellers were scattered around the bars, just as if the biggest social upheaval of the past century had never happened. Strange, yet comforting.

  So, we’ll motor on and look forward to meeting more old friends face to face again, share our songs and catch up on life’s events. Sure who knows, if the good Lord is willing, we just might take up a few invitations to sing at some English Folk Clubs, and it would be great to get back to Virginia and Maryland again too. Normal stuff. Sure isn’t it grand!

  If only our leaders would climb down from their high horses and sing with us normal people. Maybe do something that doesn’t conform to their low standards; something unusual, atypical, or unexpected. Ha ha, dream on!

  Here’s to normal.

Session this Saturday in memory of Sonny

Sadly, we said goodbye to Sonny Davis in January; he was in his 98th year. For the past twenty-eight years Sonny was a regular and eager participant in our monthly (South Roscommon Singers) singing sessions. He rarely ever repeated a song in all those years, except on request. He would deliver his unique renditions of a local ballad, ‘Corbooley Hill’, or the classics, ‘Red Is the Rose’ or ‘Red River Valley’, often preceded by a humourous story or a quick joke.

  Sonny endeared himself to all who visited ‘The Circle’ and oftentimes, in a far-flung place, I would meet a fellow singer who might not have been to Knockcroghery for a while, and the first question I’d be asked is, “How is Sonny?”

  Many of those, as well as many local performers, will join together in a session of song, music, stories and poetry in memory of Sonny on this Saturday evening from 7 pm in the home of The Singers Circle, Murray’s, Knockcroghery.

  Also, this week we bid farewell to another great friend of The Circle, Noreen Geraghty. She and her late husband, Martin, were regulars at our monthly sessions and our festivals. While neither performed, they were always there and eager to help out at times of need. May they all rest in peace.