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In High Places (2014)

After going to see The Seat (July 5th), a play written, staged, and acted by James Fleming, I went out on the town, in Galway, to explore the city’s social and artistic hubs, the pubs.

Since the Middle Ages, the Irish pubs were a center of social, political, and economic exchange, run by monastic orders. The pubs were also well-known for the revelry, dancing, and storytelling. The importance of the pub in Irish culture becomes evident when you come to realize that in the eighteenth century, Ireland was dotted with many pubs throughout the country. Now, in the present day, the pubs still keep their role as social and artistic centers, but sadly many of them are closing down and the pub tradition might eventually become a thing of the past.

One of the pubs still going strong and enjoying the spotlight of popularity, in Galway, is the Crane Bar, located on Sea Road. This pub is hard to miss, because it takes up the whole corner, and it’s painted in emerald green, one of Ireland’s national color. This pub was recommended to me by Dr. Warren G. Frisina, Dean of Hofstra’s Honors College. The Crane Bar is vibrant and resonates with the sounds of traditional music every night. On Saturday night, when I went, the music starts right on the dot at 10:30 P.M. and goes on until 4:00 A.M. the next morning.

When I got there, I faced a challenge, the Crane Bar is two floor building –it’s definitely true to its name, because cranes naturally nest are in high places. As you might know, nothing, including seventeen-step staircases will stop me from having a good time; (I know the exact number of stairs because my father counted them). On the landing of the second floor, I sat down on a wooden stool that had belonged to another person while waiting for my Electric Assist wheelchair (affectionally called EMMA) to be brought up. Once EMMA had been carried up the stairs, I had to push people out of the way so I could make room for myself.

Now as part of the crowd, I looked around at the audience and saw that the entire floor was packed to the brim with people: keeping time and drinking ale, wine, and beer to the music. The exchange among the people was continuous chitchat in different languages that I overheard. The many voices on this floor gave the bar a lively and rounded atmosphere complemented by strands of the Irish Folk music. The musical group playing was made up musicians most likely based in Galway who represented different cultures. Most notably, the first fiddler (fiddler player) was of Asian descent. I thought that the multiculturalism within the musical group was an interesting part of the cultural event taking place in the Crane Bar, because it showed that Galway itself is a larger center of cultural exchange. If you permit me the analogy, Galway seems to be a larger version of a pub, since a pub allows for uninterrupted social and artistic conversations to take place. Halfway through the improvised performance of the anonymous musical group, a woman playing a second fiddle join in, and this created a musical harmony between the two fiddlers as a well a musical competition.

On an ending note to this post (pun intended), during my time at the Crane Bar, I overheard an interesting conversation among four American women, two of them were music teachers. The music teachers were talking about the musical rhythms being played and complementing the players on their skills.

It was really a fantastic night…

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