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Sgt Mattie.

The Late Late Show

MAURICE HICKEY WEEKLY

Pat is proud to support
Power 4 Good Ireland
10th Sep 2016

Of Larks and Crows

In rural Ireland the good singer is as respected and valued as the good hurler or the handy footballer or the woman that bakes a great sponge.

In every locality there are renowned singers who at funeral wedding or wake will bring all manner of proceedings to a halt with voices that soar above the humdrum and take people to a different place.
There are times in our local pub when out of nowhere someone will start a song and one rendition will lead to another until a session bursts into bloom and the songs take us from the slopes of Slievenamon to the banks of the Ohio from the Green Fields of France to the sands of Acapulco.
The best singer in our circle is without doubt Pa Quirke in fact before he retired he was known as the singing postman. But its a fierce tough job to get him to sing and when he does hell sing for Ireland like a Fiat Mirafiori hes a devil to start but a hoor to go.
Of course for every good singer there are twenty bad ones and at least ten of those believe themselves to be an undiscovered Pavarotti a latter day Joan Sutherland a reincarnated Luke Kelly or a worthy successor to Philomena Begley.
You cant beat an honest singer but saints preserve me from the warbler with notions the vibrating noteholder or the poser who sticks a finger in her ear shakes the head and screeches like a banshee.
Ive seen and heard them all the good and the bad the larks and the tuneless the angelic and the diabolical. Of course we Irish are by enlarge a polite people and rarely will a bad singer be told the truth well either say nothing or tell lies even if the unremarkable singer has just torn the arse out of our favourite song.
You always know the chancer he or she will be called upon and will come forward with a great show of reluctance. If theres a microphone and a musician theyll spend at least ten minutes fiddling with the microphone and sending the unfortunate musician on a vain search of the keyboard to seek out their non existent key .
My council colleague Moll Gleeson is a classic of the genre she fancies herself as the new Joan Sutherland but I wouldnt ask her to sing in a cowhouse. Ive seen her in action too many times Shell always be called upon to sing early in the night in order to get the excruciation over with .
Shell feign all kinds of reluctance Oh yere awful this is not fair Im not ready for this. All the while shell be making her way to the stage and God help anyone who comes in her way or attempts to divert her from her moment in the limelight .
Shell take the mike and begin clearing her throat like a TVO Ferguson on a November morning. After much massaging of the microphone and bouts of loud irrigation of the gullet shell put on her funeral face and with a pained groan will ask What should I sing Someone will shout a suggestion and shell groan again saying Oh no Id never manage that Im not ready Oh yere awful .
Another suggestion will be shouted but this time shell pretend shes had a brainwave and will announce her chosen rendition a choice that was made ever before she came to the singsong .
Turning to the musician with all the authority of an accomplished diva she shell instruct him to give her a C. As the musician obliges Moll will tug at her array of necklaces and humming to herself will flounder around looking for a note. Are you sure thats a C shell ask. One night she pulled this stunt and the musician on duty was The Lap Kirwan keyboard player with Pee Hogan and the Blue Boys. When she asked The Lap if the chord he gave her was a genuine unadulterated C he replied No Moll tis a B flat I pumped earlier.
Eventually someone will shout Jesus Mary and Joseph Moll will you sing or twill be time to go home. Then shell launch into Toreador from Carmen and like a greyhound with a poor nose shell follow the smell of every note that rises. Making sure to end on as high a note as she can manage shell finish with a screech loud enough and piercing enough to raise every corpse in the graveyard.
One night at the Drippin Tap in Shronefodda after Moll had once again disembowelled the Toreador someone shouted Get that crow off the stage. The indignant MC asked the person who called the singer a crow to identify himself The heckler shouted back Id like to know who called the crow a singer.