Thursday, March 19, 2009
Sitting around the kitchen table, the five women of St. Brigid's casually chat with each other as they pick at their instruments. The table is covered in song sheets, glasses of wine and whiskey, and chocolate. Julia Weems begins a new melody on the guitar, and just as if someone has pressed play on a CD, the ladies all begin singing in harmony. Susan Wellman suddenly starts playing a flute as the women tap their feet and turn the pages. It's easy to imagine the same song, with its Irish Gaelic lyrics, in a pub in Irelandwith scenery of rolling hills outside and pint glasses clinking. Jackson's only all-girl Irish band is intoxicating.
Margaret Cupples, Katherine Bishop, Julia Weems, Allison Jenkins and Susan Wellman met through an interconnected web of musicians about a year and a half ago. Wellman was a part of Bound Street, another Irish band, but was looking for a group that focused more on voices and harmonies. Cupples and Bishop are Irish dancers and friends with Wellman. It was through established relationships and perfect timing that Weems and Jenkins joined the group and St. Brigid's was formed.
"Saint Brigid was a 5th-century Irish saint," Cupples says. To achieve sainthood, you have to perform a miracle.
So, what was Brigid's miracle? "Turning bathwater into beer," Cupples says as the ladies laugh knowingly.
There are other accounts of Saint Brigid being a Celtic goddess or the patron saint of dairy maids, but these women prefer Brigid and her miracle of beer as their mascot.
The ladies originally conceived St. Brigid's as an acapella group focusing heavily on harmonies. Weems began playing guitar on a few songs, and Wellman added the flute, making the transition to instruments a natural progression.
Their pub songs are mostly about whiskey, sex, lovers leaving, death and running away, but you wouldn't necessarily notice the dark or humorous side of the songs because the melodies are so beautiful.
Often, they sound like lullabies.
One Thursday a month, St. Brigid's plays at Fenian's Pub on Irish Night. On those nights you are bound to find the Irish dancers high stepping around the dance floor.
"There is a natural relationship between the music and the dance," Cupples says. "The dancers told us if we play it, they will come."
The importance of dance to Irish music is not lost on the band. They know the music's tradition was heavily influenced by interaction with audiences around them and encouraging people to dance.
"Irish music was dance music to start with, so dancers are always encouraged to participate," Wellman says.
See Saint Brigid's Thursday, March 19, at Fenian's and again Sunday, March 22, at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum for a St. Patrick's Day celebration sponsored by the Jackson Irish Dancers and the Celtic Society. St. Brigid's is available for private Christmas parties where they sing traditional Christmas songs, or for church services where they incorporate another set of gospel songs. You can call Margaret Cupples at 601-291-3378 for more information.