Joe and Mary told me on a few occasions that, although they were heavily involved in the traditional activities of the Manitoba Irish Association (or Irish Club), they would not describe its draw as “burning”. However, what did attract them to traditional performances, like Irish music, was their capacity to create community. They have many fond memories of family and friends coming together which are framed by singing and playing Irish tunes together.
Performance theorist Diana Taylor (2003) uses the concept of repertoire to talk about the ways in which certain kinds of knowledge is storied in the body and drawn upon to communicate meaning to others within a community. For example, certain kinds of gestures or performances indicate meaning to others who share a common understanding of what those actions mean. Building on this idea, she makes an argument for scenario which is “a portable framework” (28) for the performance that becomes significant as it repeated again and again. In this case, the gathering of friends and family becomes the scenario where the repertoire of traditional music is put into action. It reinforces the place of music as a communal activity that connects participants, such as Joe, Mary, and their family and friends, to a particular identity and a shared past. Whether these activities are formally structured (through regular sessions organized through the Irish Club) or spontaneously initiated at a gathering, the repeated nature of these musical activities and their pleasant, nostalgic associations – feeling “just like old times” – make them continually appealing and meaningful for Joe and Mary.
Photo: Prairie grass, Stuartburn, Manitoba.