While the majority of people attended the Kansas City Irish Festival this weekend for the freely flowing beer, the tapping curly-wigged Irish dancers or the fiddling Celtic bands, juniors Deegan Poores and Isaac Schmidt were there for a different reason. They were there as a band, ready to play traditional Irish music.
Poores and Schmidt had been working on learning at least 18 traditional Irish songs on the guitar and banjo, respectively, ever since they played at last year’s Irish Festival.
“Last year I knew about five songs,” Schmidt said. “I had practiced about a month in advance, and it wasn’t that fun because I didn’t know that many. But this year I know about 18, so it’s a little more fun to have some diversity.”
Since banjo and guitar are traditional Irish instruments, according to Poores, it was very convenient that both played and owned them. And having already owned the kilts, the gig was locked in place. They also managed to learn the traditional Irish music completely on their own.
“I looked up Irish music on YouTube and it led me to this band called The Dubliners,” Schmidt said. “They basically have every traditional Irish song done. So I just listened to them on Spotify and I just started looking up the chords and playing the music and learning the words.”
Whenever one of them found a new song they liked, they would tell the other one to learn it. Their set list included “A Pair of Brown Eyes”, “Sweet Molly Malone” and “Whiskey in a Jar”.
“Most of them are the same chords, just sometimes in different orders,” Poores said. “Those kind of trip me up.”
Both agree that learning the words to the songs is the hardest part of the entire endeavour.
“Every song is another story, so I basically know about 20 stories,” Schmidt said. “I really like the song “McAlpines Fusiliers” because it’s funny and it talks about indentured servants from Ireland.”
This year they were planning on busking, or playing for money from the people in a populated area, like a street corner or subway station.
“They don’t allow [busking] here,” Poores said. “Five people were like ‘Yo, cut this crap out.’ It’s against the rules.”
But Poores’ dad, who was helping to put on the festival, helped them get around this rule. All the money that they collected in tips, about $20 in total, was to be donated to the Irish Center Building that is going to be built in Kansas.