Thursday, 12 February 2009

On The Road 3. Cork. 24/4/02.

We’re taking flamenco to Cork in the springtime. I dutifully try to fight off the urge to stereotype. The pilot makes his landing announcements in a whiskey and rainwater, oysters and black stout accent. So he’s no help. We can see the water streaming from the clouds onto the glowing green beneath us as if to say: “All the fairy stories you heard are true.”
We arrive with a splash into Ireland. ‘Thank God - You lads have brought the rain with you.’ says the taxi driver, with a completely straight face. We tell him why we’re here. ‘The Opera House? A fine theatre. Now you boys mind you don’t go to any of those wicked pubs, and have a nice time in Cork.’ It is genuinely difficult to be politically correct to such a place.
We do go to some of those wicked pubs I’m afraid - but strictly on the business of promoting tomorrow’s show. We have various competitions organised through the venue and by local radio presenter and fiddler Eoghan Neff. We end up playing and singing with two local singers, a guitarist and three fiddlers, who swap instruments between choruses. Irish-blues-flamenco fusion. Some delirious fool delivers a high-folk acapella rendition of Yeats’ ‘Song of the Wandering Aengus’. No chairs are thrown, not least by me. From where I am it sounds great.... But then it would. What a place to do business.
We get back to the hotel. A nightcap is called for, since we’ve worked hard, and didn’t get much time for drinking. Just before I get up to order, the barman comes over and says: “I’m off home now lads. Help yourselves.”
This, apparently, is Cork. I want to eat it all up. Cork definitely awakes something in the flamencos from Jerez. The constant music-making reminds them of home. And they instantly sense that the audience at The Opera House is fantastically open and warm and receptive and encouraging, and that means a lot. The technicians are alert and inventive. And the front-of-house staff bring the company refreshments without being asked. They take an interest. As the man said: ‘A fine theatre’.
A fine town too. The Jerez of the North, if you like. Forget swimming with squeaky dolphins before you die, Cork is far more fun, but not necessarily drier.

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