Irish music returns to Jack Quinn after COVID-19 break | David Ramsey | News


Not everyone is Irish on Sunday afternoons at Jack Quinn’s. It only seems like this for a few hours of happiness.

What happens in Jack Quinn’s, a pub in downtown Colorado Springs, is extremely close to what happens in pubs in Dublin. For more than two decades Irish music has graced these Sunday afternoons at Jack Quinn’s,

COVID-19 shut down the Irish spectacle for five long months, but the music returned in August. It’s not the same, at least not yet. In good times, up to 28 musicians gathered near the stage. This month the number has been reduced to four or five musicians wearing masks.

“And keep the separation and all that jazz going,” Doug Huggins laughs.

Huggins, 69, has performed at Jack Quinn’s since the dawn of the Sunday afternoon sessions and serves as a guide for the music. Irish music, before COVID-19, typically filled the pub on Sunday afternoons. Huggins knows why.

“Well, it’s energy,” he said. “It’s hard to sit still. It’s rhythmic. It’s melodic. And it usually tells a story that will grab you and make you listen. They are happy drinking songs and sad songs of love and exile. … There is energy and it makes you want to get up and dance even if you can’t.

Remember, watching those who can’t dance are especially fun.

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When Huggins arrives every Sunday, he doesn’t know which musicians will be joining him, and he doesn’t know which songs will be played. It gives the sessions a loose and joyful feel.

But there is also an invigorating combination of precision and passion. Huggins explains that all musicians understand the musical vocabulary of Irish tunes. The musicians take turns playing the lead role, and if a musician is not comfortable enough with the melody to play solo, they move on.

“It’s really a kind of self-control,” Huggins says. “Nobody wants to go up there and embarrass themselves. People self-select.

Camilla Bicknell, a fiddler, has performed on Sunday afternoons for 18 years. She was trained as a classical violinist but found surprise joy in Irish music.

“You get into that groove and you start playing with each other,” she says.

“That’s what makes it so fun. And then you get hooked. It really is something magical.”

Still, Bicknell is not yet comfortable enough to join Huggins and his friends inside Jack Quinn’s. Many other regulars share his respect for the danger of COVID-19. She plans to return to the Quinn stage after the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine. Bicknell still plays Irish music, but she takes care to play outside in the great outdoors.

“It’s a genre that you can play every week and learn things with other people,” she says. “You can’t play Scottish music with other people because nobody is doing it. “

So true. I am Scottish on my father’s side, and there is no place to listen to homeland music.

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But Irish music travels quite close. For the past 15 years, I’ve been listening regularly on Sunday afternoons at Jack Quinn’s, and plan to return soon, all while wearing a mask and practicing the art of social distancing, of course.

Niall Twomey, 44, lives in Colorado Springs, but he grew up in Ireland with the lyrical accent to prove it. He visited and performed in pubs across his native land. He often sings with the Sunday Afternoon Band that meets at Jack Quinn’s.

“It has a very Irish feel,” says Twomey. “I think he has the atmosphere. You can get a pint of Guinness and eat some great Irish food. The whole thing is there for a few hours.

It’s a family scene with moms and dads listening with their kids. Usually there is friendly chatter at the tables, loud enough for a small audience but not loud enough to disturb the rest of the room.

Sometimes, however, a singer tells a sad tale of Irish exile and pain. An Irishman sitting in California wishing he was home in the arms of his Irish sweetheart. A beaten Irish soldier weeping at a friend’s grave in a foreign country.

The song transforms the room. Twomey has experienced this transformation on several occasions.

“It just gets super quiet,” he says. “Like at home.”


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