May 2008

After stepping off the plane in the morning back in Australia, my band had a gig that night at the Merry Muse Folk Club in Canberra, Australia. My body was telling me it was 07.00AM and I hadn’t slept all night, despite it being 9.00PM in Canberra. But it was a good crowd and we fired well off each other to make a good show. The audience was larger than usual and the evening had a really good feel to it. We were supported by vocal harmony group Humbug.

Full Circle Band at the Merry Muse Folk Club, Canberra

We played a great version of Farewell to Chernobyl and Trip to Pakistan – good Celtic tunes – and the folk club was nearly full – quite a contrast to some previous occasions.

It’s good to be home again after a fairly hectic two weeks away in Canada and USA, but it was also great to play in some wonderful sessions overseas.



After a great welcome at Brendan Mulvihill’s session on Monday I was recommended to try the Tuesday session at McGinty’s Pub – 911 Ellsworth Street Silver Spring. And I wasn’t disappointed. The place is easy to reach on the red metro line and the session runs from about 8.30pm.

McGinty's pub, Washington DC

The pub has Guinness on tap and about 18 other beers if Guinness is not to your taste. The session was in an alcove room around a long table – very close and intimate and away from the distractions of TV and much pf the pub noise.

McGinty's session

Again I was welcomed and introduced around, and there was a lot of curiosity about my pochette fiddle when I pulled it out from the backpack. Some tried to describe it as a cigar box fiddle, but I guess they hadn’t seen the real thing – my pochette is more shaped and has a sculpted belly, unlike the cigar box fiddles. Many commented on the surprising amount of volume I could get out of the instrument.

I’d had dinner at Romano’s Macaroni Grill and welcomed washing my food down with a pint of the good stuff at McGinty’s.

I knew about half of the tunes played and was pleased that they welcomed my starting a couple of tunes – some of which they didn’t know.

And all up I had a great time and even managed to navigate back to the metro station in time to catch the train back to Faragut about three blocks from my hotel. Once again, many thanks for the warm welcome – would that all sessions were as open as the ones I found on my travels this time πŸ™‚


Last night saw me at a great session in Washington DC at Nanny O’Brien’s Pub on 3319 Connecticut Avenue NW. The session started at 9.00pm and there was a good mix of tunes I knew and new tunes to learn. They were warm and welcoming and the session leader, internationally renowned Brendan Mulvihill is a real gem – and he sure can play! His warm welcome and handshake showed him to be a true Limerick gentleman.

Session at Nanny O'Brien's pub in Washington DC

Again there was lots of curiosity about my pochette fiddle – playing the sessions is certainly a great way to meet people – and several recommended that I came along tonight to the McGinty’s pub – so, yes I’ll be there. Rob, one of the musicians even offered to bring along a spare violin as he found my pochette a little quiet at the session. And at the end of the evening I was given a lift back to the hotel.

At the end of the session I stopped and chatted with Brendan Mulvihill about Australia, the fiddle, the craic and Irish music – and I’ve told him the tea kettle’s always on if he should ever visit Canberra. Truly a great night


The roadworks doesn’t make the Daniel O’Connell pub (at 1211 Wellington St Downtown Ottawa,Canada) easy to find, and when you do, it looks like an average punters pub. But don’t let appearances deceive – this is not your trendy boutique brewery, but the genuine article. And Thursday night saw me heading down at about 8.30pm to find a seat. And the place was almost empty – until 9.00pm when one by one people came in – mostly fiddlers with a couple of squeeze boxes, flutes, and a mandolin for good measure, and a couple of bodhran players. One of the latter had a couple of fine tuneable bodhrans with lovely tone – and he wasn’t a bad player himself.

Celtic session at Daniel O'Connell's pub, Ottawa

I was introduced around to all the musicians as they arrived and was told that another Aussie had stopped by last week – from Sydney – did I know him? His name was Tom… I laughed and said “no, but I know his cousin who lives in Perth!”

They were another very friendly bunch – and very welcoming of visiting musicians. I was warned this was a louder session than Monday night’s one but again the pochette could be heard clearly. I missed not having a shoulder rest though – something to think about for the next one.

Despite the relaxed demeanour of the musicians – there was little relaxed about the music which was good and lively. By 10.00pm the pub was packed and people were clapping and replenishing our Guinness supplies. We sang a few songs, but it was mostly again the older traditional tunes – so I was well up with most of the repertoire. I sang “the Parting Glass” as a toast to the group and they seemed to appreciate it.

Celtic music session at Daniel O'Connell's pub, Ottawa

There was a particularly fine Cape Breton fiddler there, but there was a good range of players from relative beginners to some very professional sounding players.

It was a great night and we finished up around midnight. Again may thanks to the Ottawan folkies for making me feel welcome in their session.


Rasputin’s Cafe in downtown Ottawa has a great relaxed Celtic music session every Monday night – great crowd of people and very welcoming to this stranger from downunder!


This was the first real test of the travel pochette fiddle, and despite its boxy sound it was quite loud enough to be heard easily in the session. They played mainly old school stuff – which meant I knew most of the tunes, and generally had a great time.

Celtic session Ottawa 2008

The cafe owner had been there 30 years and was very knowledgeable about the local arts and literary scene, pointing out a Canadian author who was tidying her garden across the street, to a young German academic who had come to Ottawa doing research on Canadian writers.

So, if you happen to be in Ottawa on a Monday evening – Rasputin’s Folk Cafe is well worth checking out


1:00AM somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, just after crossing the Dateline at about 33,000 feet I put the pochette fiddle through its paces – with a mute. The aircraft – a Boeing 747-700 had plenty of room in the door bay by the galley for a few quiet tunes. I had no problems using the short ΒΌ size bow – even for slow airs. And the mute was very effective in ensuring the sound didn’t get over the ambient sound of the engines.

pochette fiddle on aircraft

The flight attendant was concerned that it may be noisy as the other passengers were asleep, but after the first few notes those concerns were quickly allayed. Perhaps this is the first ‘mile-high’ pochette? Maybe this will be the start of a new movement – let’s see how many unusual places become pochette fiddle moments πŸ™‚

The only difficulty I had was actually getting the thing back in my backpack afterwards – I dislodged the bridge and the sound-post fell over. It took me the best part of 45 minutes to re-seat it. Luckily the two sound holes were just big enough to get two fingers in to manipulate the sound-post. For future design modification I would enlarge these holes a little – my left index finger was rubbed raw. The alternative would be to provide struts like inside a mandolin, but the sound-post I think works better to carry the sound through to the back plate for extra volume.

Also, if I narrowed the body a little I could fit it inside a PVC tube thus ensuring there would be no knocking against the bridge.

With the scroll removed the overall fiddle length is now down to 22cm which just brings it within the international standard for a carry-on bag without sacrificing playable string length or the traditional placement of the tuning pegs.

At no time did I have any difficulty with Australian or US security checks on the bag – even with the tip of the fiddle poking out of the top of the bag.