So. The mother-in-law of a fiddler I used to play with died last week. I went to visit early Monday morning, but didn’t stay for the funeral. When I got home, a friend called to say that he had just missed me at the church. He also said–I thought –that the woman who died had been a relative of Barney McKenna, the great banjo player for The Dubliners.
Later in the week, I get another message from another friend that Barney McKenna had died earlier in the week. Too weird. I call my pal to tell him about the strange coincidence. Turns out that I had misheard his original message from the start. The first friend knew about McKenna’s death and merely told me that Barney McKenna’s obituary was on the same page as the woman’s whose funeral I had just gone to. There was no connection, no relation. Man, had I misheard.
One of the founding members of The Dubliners, Barney McKenna helped changed Irish music forever, moving it from the back rooms of O’Donahue’s pub on Merion Row to concert halls in the Europe and U.S. With the original line up of Luke Kelley, Ronnie Drew, and Ciaran Bourke, Barney McKenna and the Dubliners were prolific and talented. In various incarnations and through changes of players, they played for more than 50 years.
As it happens, last week, McKenna was having tea at the kitchen table with a friend when he appeared to have “nodded off.” If you gotta go–and we all have to–what a great a way to do it, place your chin on your chest and simply nod off. Anyway, in memory of Barney McKenna, here’s a short clip of his playing in Germany sometime in the mid-90s.: