Semester Abroad, Global Correspondents Hearing Ireland Through Live Music

September 25, 2019
By Emmie Gocke, CAS '21

Emmie Gocke is one of the Semester Abroad Global Correspondents, writing and sharing her experience abroad during the Fall 2019 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their student takeovers on the @pennabroad Instagram beginning September 23, 2019.

Semester Abroad
University College Cork

After two hours of energetic dancing to a sprightly Irish band in the King’s Head, a joint which proudly displays a banner reading “Irish Pub of the Year 1651” above the stage, a group of friends and I emerged into the refreshing night air of Galway, Ireland. After classic covers of “Proud Mary” and “Teenage Dirtbag,” a strikingly different beat drifted to our ears from up the street. 

“No way, is that a drumline?” Sure enough, a group of street performers were pounding on buckets, sending a heart-stirring rhythm into the night. My friends and I began to dance down the streets, skipping and twirling over the old cobblestones. It was my fourth night in a row of listening and dancing to live music, one of my favorite things in the world.

Luckily for me, I chose the right place for my study abroad experience. Live music is a tradition so central to Irish culture that it literally flows through the streets. From American cover bands playing in crowded pubs to traditional street performances of bagpipes, mandolin, and fiddle, live music permeates every demographic of interests and activities. It’s one of those cultural centricities that can bring an entire country together. Below are a few of the styles of music I’ve encountered during my time here. 

Irish Traditional Music: 

Last Saturday I traveled to the Cliffs of Moher, beautiful 700-foot tall mossy cliffs extending over the Atlantic Ocean. Not only is the view absolutely breathtaking, but the air is also filled with the sound of Irish Traditional Music. Mandolin and bagpipe players set up along the cliffs playing for hundreds of tourists. The musicians continue the traditional tunes and beats that have been developed in Ireland over the centuries. 

I’ve also encountered several traditional musicians playing for street audiences. One such group was the Galway Street Club, which attracted a large crowd of listeners with their traditional Irish jigs and tunes played on fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and drums. 

Cover Bands: 

Most of the groups I’ve found playing in pubs and theaters have been cover bands recreating classics ranging from Adele, Britney Spears, Journey, and more. Several pubs and restaurants advertise different groups every night of the week. A favorite of these was in an evening lounge, which attracted a bit of an older crowd. People sat around the band simply enjoying the music, and a few pairs took to a small dance floor in front of the band. 

Irish traditional music street performers, the Galway Street Club

Between pubs, theaters and the streets, I know I’ll be spending my evenings in Ireland dancing along to excellent live music. With the Irish Folk Festival and Jazz Festival coming in October, things are just heating up for music in the Emerald Isle. 

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The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.

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