Friday, August 10, 2007

Armagh Rhymers

Imagine a group which plays songs and tunes with the following combinations of instruments:

  • Four bodhráns, plus vocals
  • Three bodhráns plus a tin whistle
  • Melody on guitar with accompaniment on a tin whistle

Would you enjoy such a group? Well I've seen 'em, and they're fantastic. The Armagh Rhymers (no points for guessing where they live) are an on-stage manifestation of the mumming and wrenboy traditions which dates back to at least medieval times and possibly quite a bit further. It's a custom of house visiting in disguise, and performing tunes, songs, poetry, and dancing. There's a track of part of a mummers play on the RTÉ disc Come West Along the Road, and if you've seen that, you know roughly what the Armagh Rhymers do.

If you haven't seen that, well, I'll try to describe it, but I'm not sure I can really do the show justice. The group performed traditional dance music along with melody-less drumming, poetry recitation, songs (including "Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone," and the occasional, brief, historical lesson.

Normally, the entire group would appear in disguise, but it seems Delta Airlines was still working on getting the rest of the group's luggage to Ohio.

The Armagh Rhymers performed at the 2007 Dublin Irish Festival, and I have to give credit to the festival organizers for booking such an interesting act.

By the way, you can click on the images to enlarge them.

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