Interview with Hank Wedel & Ray Barron

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

first published in The Evening Echo 2014-5-29

text of article below this
a short film made by by Florry McCarthy

Many would argue what the very bedrock of Irish music is the ‘session’, where a few musicians meet every week and like-minded people gravitate towards them. Hank Wedel and Ray Barron’s Monday night session in Charlies Bar has certainly ‘passed the audition’, as John Lennon put it, as they celebrate it’s 20th birthday this summer.

Hank summed up their session’s appeal to Ronan Leonard, “some people don’t have any solid opinion about music, its just something that’s on in the background or some people are into ‘Mass Culture’. When people come to our session they don’t necessarily get that, they get a rootsy thing that has tunes from different parts of the world filtered through Ray and his mandolin; or songs played by me from people like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Warren Zevon and other great songwriters.”

Ray explained how they started in Charlies, “Hank and I used to play a successful session in a different pub but it finished abruptly when the owner objected to paying IMRO for having live music. I was in Charlies one night socially when Majella, who had recently taken over the bar, came up to me and asked if I would fancy playing some night; when I suggested Hank & I do a weekly session she said “sure won’t they get fed up of ye!”

Despite her reaction they have lasted two decades, which adds up to over 1000 Monday night sessions, Hank credits their initial perseverance with their enduring popularity, “the reason we’ve stuck is that after a few years we became the most reliable gig in the city. Now people specifically book their holidays home at Christmas, summer or whenever so they can catch one of our Monday nights.”

Not only has the session become set in stone for Monday nights it also had an impact on how music was performed in Charlies the rest of the week, as Ray explained, “they used to have the bands perform at the other end of the bar, where the people stand now. We said we’d love to play here, but we want to play over there in the corner, and that’s when the bands moved to that spot.”

Hank carried on “we also used to bring our own PA system every week but then Charlies got their own one installed. That made it easier for them to book live music 7 nights a week, and when you think of all the bands that have come and gone there in the last 20 years that decision had some impact.”

Funnily enough the duo both have sporting reference points in the history of the session, Ray remembered the only time their weekly slot was threatened “in June 1994 during the World Cup if Ireland had beaten Holland our next match would have been on the Monday; Majella said we’d have to cancel our session but Ireland lost!”

Hank continued with a different sporting connection to the session “whenever the Cork All-Ireland teams would have homecomings at City Hall, officially they’d be going to the Imperial but more often than not they’d come over to our session in Charlies. One year the place was so packed and manic we literally couldn’t set up the gear to play… we still got paid anyway!”

After 20 years, they’ve had plenty to reflect upon, Hank reckoned “the song we’ve probably played the most is ‘Summer Sent You’, which was written by Noel Brazil. For me he was the outstanding personality at our session when he was alive; when he came in three things could happen: he’d come up and sing, sit at the bar and jokingly shower abuse at us, or get ecstatic at the music. Our most regular tune is ‘The Forest Flowers’, a waltz from Finland; it’s a haunting melody and no matter how many times we play it people react to it, even people who have heard dozens of times. I think it’s because the tune is so open that we can play it with different moods. That sums up the session in a way, from the same starting point, depending on the night, different things can end up happening.”

Hank Wedel & Ray Barron’s Monday Night session in Charlie Bar on Union Quay starts its 20th birthday celebrations from Monday 9 June at 9pm. For more information go to http://www.facebook.com/hankandrayatcharlies

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