The Singing Pub Contest|
The Lennon Festival is held each year in Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland. One of the highlights of the festival is a “Singing Pub” contest. People gather each night in a different pub to hear the music provided by their friends and neighbors and an occasional outsider, in a friendly contest. At the end of the contest a winning pub is selected. The exact criterion escapes me but it has to do with which pub supplied the best entertainment. I was asked to sing a song on my first visit there in the year 2000. When I said I didn't sing well, I was asked "What can you do."
I said, "I paint landscapes and write poems." I was then asked to compose a poem and read it after the singing. On the third night, I read a poem written for the contest in lieu of singing a song and dedicated it to the people of Ramelton. It was written while riding around the Irish countryside during the day. During the contest the judge asked me if I had written my poem and when I replied in the affirmative he said he would get me on right after the singing. Then a group of women from Liverpool came into the pub and it got extremely noisy. They said they had come over for a wedding the next day. A young man was doing Elvis impressions complete with body contortions and the crowd was going wild. The Judge turned and asked if I was ready. I said I didn't think anyone could hear me since there was so much noise.
He said "Okay then", and I assumed I was off the hook. Moments later he said, "You're up!"
I was surprised when the announcer said "We have with us tonight a young man all the way from San Francisco. Well he was young once! He has written a special poem just for us."
A few minutes later I was standing in front of at least a hundred slightly intoxicated festival "attendees". The term "slightly" is perhaps understating it just a bit. When they handed me the microphone I was astounded at how quiet the room had become. You could have heard a pin drop. After the reading I was approached by an older woman who said about the poem "that was touching - it was."
Then a man put his hand on my arm and said, "That was from the heart - it was."
Years later it dawned on me that maybe that was the best that they could come up with in terms of encouragement! I asked my wife what she thought and she said she could not hear me because there was so much noise. I told her there was no noise - it was perfectly quiet. She replied that the stress must have cut off my hearing.
I was entirely surprised and delighted that it was published in the Lennon Festival programme in the year 2002. In July 2003 I went again to Ramelton determined to sing in the "Singing Pub contest."
I didn't sing and I admit that I just couldn't bring myself to offending all those people by trying to sing in 2003 nor did I attempt singing in 2004. In 2005 I was approached by the pub owner after I had entered the pub of the night. She said to me "Aren't you the man that writes the poems in the programme?"
When I admitted it she asked me to read my poem before the singing started." I said I would be delighted. This time I was prepared and made sure I had everyone's attention before I began to read. I also had my wife filming a video of the reading. It came out very well and I have listened to the video many times, especially to the clapping and cheers at the end. The next night we were in the next pub in the series and shortly after I walked in I was approached by the owner and she said "I understand you read your poem in the pub last night. When I said "I had", the woman said "Well you know, there are some of us in this town don’t drink in that pub and weren't in that pub last night, so would you be willing to read it again tonight - here in this pub?" When I said I would be delighted, she seemed happy! I didn't realize it could be that easy.
Ireland has fascinated me for years and my experiences have been enriched by my trips to that beautiful country.
I haven't been able to be there since 2005 due to family considerations but I did leave behind a poem which reflected on feelings I had when observing an old cottage within easy walking distance from the village center.
In July of 2009, the people from the village of Ramelton, County Donegal, will hold the Lennon Festival for the 40th time. I have been fortunate enough to have attended five and the organizers have seen fit to publish four poems that were written especially for the festival "programme."
I hope that from these writings some of you will actually attend the Lennon Festival in July in Ramelton, County Donegal.
You will have a wonderful time!
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