St. Paddy’s Day has come and gone, but traditional Irish music can still be heard at pubs and gatherings throughout the region. Typical of the way that it has been passed down from one generation to the next, the genre is learned and practiced at these informal “jam seisúns”: defined in Barry Foy’s Field Guide to the Irish Music Session as “a gathering of Irish traditional musicians for the purpose of celebrating their common interest in the music by playing it together in a relaxed, informal setting, while in the process generally beefing up the mystical cultural mantra that hums along uninterruptedly beneath all manifestations of Irishness worldwide.”
Locally, a new generation of musicians has taken up the mantle. Among them, Dylan Foley plays regularly at the Dubliner Irish Pub on Main Street in Poughkeepsie, along with members of his family and other musical friends. “I jam there every last Sunday of the month from 5 to 8 p.m. It has a nice atmosphere, laid back, with great food,” he says.
His casual demeanor has been earned by years of serious work. As three-time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion, Foley has enjoyed the influence of primary players in the field, including Joanie Madden, Brian Conway, Mike McHale and Monsignor Charlie Coen. With a style that has been called impeccable and spirited, he has shared the stage and airwaves with the John Whelan Band and Jay Ungar’s Dancing on the Air on WAMC. In his spare time, he gives private music lessons.
The SUNY-New Paltz student who hails from Highland started taking classical violin lessons when he was eight years old, and was exposed to a variety of musical genres through the Suzuki Method. Later he studied with Rose Flanagan and began to join his parents onstage. Admitting momentarily that he’d also like to “dabble in jazz,” Foley says, “I also play other instruments in the Irish tradition: guitar, flute, tin whistle. There’s just something about Irish music that is inviting – the fact that it is an oral tradition, passed down with no sheet real music involved. People will play a tune and you hear it and try to play it. It’s a really interesting way to learn.”
Foley will launch his debut album at the Dubliner on March 25 and at Dunne’s in White Plains on Wednesday, March 28. The CD is titled Hup! and features Brendan Dolan on piano and Josh Dukes on guitar, bouzouki and bodhran.
Thoroughly steeped in the genre, Foley says, “I wasn’t born in Ireland. If you grow up in Ireland, you’re constantly surrounded by the music; kids play the music in school. I’ve thought about branching out, but there’s something about the tradition that makes me want to grow more and excel.” He’s young. He has time and the talent.
To tap into your own Irishness, you can listen to a track off Hup! through his website at www.dylanfoley.com. And check out his session with Isaac Alderson, Sean Earnest and Dan Gurney at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqqMyLIctto.