Cappoquin – Ceapach Choinn (Conn’s Plot)

Cappoquin – Ceapach Choinn is in County Waterford and directly translated means Conn’s Plot.  Even Joyce’s “Names and Places” does not know who Conn was.  So the plot thickens!  Ah – but it’s not that kind of plot!  It is land and probably lots of it!  “This neat market town is situated on the river Blackwater at its right angled bend from east to west”,  so my guide book tells me.  But then I reach into the mahogany bookcase in the gorgeous sitting room of Richmond House Guesthouse in Cappoquin and there on the middle shelf I find “The History, Topography and Antiquities of the South West of Ireland”.  I search for Cappoquin in the index and find it mentioned twice. “Cappoquin possesses nothing worthy of particular notice except a new church ornamented with a neat spire” and again “with its light bridge crossing the Blackwater”.  It sure does not sound exciting.  But then I see this was written by Rev. Ryland in 1824!  Sure what would he know!

It is 4pm on the first day of a two night set of Christy Moore gigs in town.  The Christy crew has gathered in the community hall – Mick Devine points us at the food and the cups o’ tae.  It is a magnificent hall with state of the art facilities.  There is a crèche, a gymnasium, a community meeting room, toilets, showers and changing rooms and finally the large hall with terrificly comfortable seats.  It is early yet for the gig so I head down town for a pint.  People are battling for car space.  Someone is getting out of a car complaining that Christy Moore is causing bedlam in town.  People of all ages in the pub and most of them going to the gig.  Some have not been at a Christy concert in twenty years.  Many have travelled from Dungarvan, Tralee, Enniscorthy, West Clare, and even America.

The concert starts to a hushed and reverent audience.  The opening number is designed to create a relaxed atmosphere – Ordinary Man, and it does the trick.  Not a hand clapping, foot stomping number, nor is it a mega ciunás song that requires buckets of hush and respect.  It is also very well known so won’t tax the mind – a good choice.  The audience is in awe!

I’m itching here to talk about audiences.  Years ago the only audience you would encounter was at Mass or occasionally in the cinema.  Will we ever forget – a full house with a packed audience of baldy, Brylcreemed and capless headed men on the left and heads covered women on the right.  Ok ok, it was a church and we were the congregation but it’s the same difference!  We had a priest in Prosperous with zero tolerance for any type of distraction.  If people were coughing, he would stop the mass until they stopped and he would read the riot act if it continued.  And what about the yobbos at the cinema!  What with smart alecs shouting at the crouching cowboy – ” there’s an injun creepin’ up behind ya”, the noisy coortin’ couples snoggin’ in the back row, the crisp bag being burst against someone’s ear and all of this done in the middle of a thick pall of dense tobacco smoke!  Wow, have audiences changed.  But let’s get back to Cappoquin.

Two or three numbers in Christy does a solo – “A Stitch in Time” with six hundred people listening intensely. This is a seriously funny and important song.  If you have not heard it before, listening to the first couple of verses it is hard to know where it is going.  “She lived all alone with her husband” gets a bit of a snigger.  But from then on the listener is transfixed by what is about to happen in the song.  After the verse …

“As she started to stitch with a girlish thrill
with a woman’s eye and a seamstress skill
she bibbed and tucked with an iron will
as she stitched all around her sleeping husband”

– I can feel the penny dropping and am aware of a sudden intake of breath when I hear a group of women behind me softly laughing.  Even at this stage of the song the full impact of this shocking domestic scene takes a little while to sink in.  And indeed even when the whole story unfolds – one is not too sure whether to laugh or cry.  I stop listening to the song but strain my ears for any other type of sound!  It is totally awesome.  I can literally hear the man beside me breathing and far away in the distance above the sound curtains, and very faintly, I hear the soft whirl of a ventilating fan.  I look around to see the faces in the soft light.  (But even this I am nervous to do – what if Christy spots me?  “Stay quiet you down there and stop gawkin’ around you”!  As if……?) It is truly amazing the respect that this audience has for these mighty performers.  After “Morecambe Bay”, which ends on a lonesome note, there is absolute and total silence.  This silence is palpable and lasts for fully five seconds which is then broken by thunderous applause.  Christy has a big grin on him and looks extremely pleased.  He talks of this rare occurring magical silence after a song that has a special meaning for him, in these wonderful seconds the song is allowed to drift into a spiritual space.
The opposite also occurs – as in clapping!  Theses could and have been written on the extraordinary human behaviour of applauding.  But these old boys have it worked to a TEE – when to encourage it, play away through it, throw it out of time or stop it altogether.  All rear up umpteen times in the course of a gig.  OK – no problem with “The Shovel” – just let them bang on and enjoy themselves.  But but but but you’ve got to also stop them or they’ll miss the funny bits like ……”if you want to do it, do it agin’ the wall, there’s a shed there in the corner and they won’t see you at all… mind your sandwiches….” Even if we’ve heard it a thousand times before that doesn’t mean we’re not going to laugh yet again!  (I noticed Dikon, the sound man, smiling at Joxer and god knows but he must have heard it a gazillion times before).   And you can’t hear if everyone is stamping and clapping.   These ol’ boyos can shift and move these clappers at will.  They appear to just jump a beat and create confusion and then it just trails off a bit, then stops.

I jotted down the titles of all the 28 songs performed.  I wondered the next day how many of these were actually on an agreed set list.  Neither Declan nor Christy could give me a definitive answer.  Songs are planned, rehearsed, talked about but when the gig starts it takes on a life of its own.  Depends on the audience, the mood, the sound, the lighting, maybe even the moon phases!  One thing for sure Declan has huge patience and flexibility.  “Let’s try the key of C” sez Christy.  Declan gives him a look.  (Fine says Decy to himself, but what song are you going to sing?)  Off with Christy and Decy gets it straight away.  Then Christy changes his mind and reverts back to the usual key – no bother to the guitar maestro!

Certainly no set list when Christy starts the jukebox!  Five, six songs are shouted up together.  He hears the word “Veronica” (a song he wrote in 1996 on the day he heard of Veronica Guerin’s dreadful murder).  He picks up on it and is obviously chuffed that someone has requested it.  He forgets the start of it and looks to Declan for a clue, then he quickly recovers and gets going.  But the amazing thing about it is that I could hear plainly behind me, a prompt, “In the broad daylight…..” from a young man who had the start of this great song, way before Christy had it.

Christy connects with his audience in a most extraordinary way.  With years of experience under his belt he has developed a finely tuned gift for feeling the pulse and mood of the masses of people in front of him.  Yes, he is completely in control and within seconds he has his audience eating out of his hand, they are comfortable and relaxed in his company.  He is aware that there are maybe a dozen singers softly joining in – he even spots where they are sitting and he shouts to them to rise it!  Then there’s the humour.  “Dogs howling at the moon” and the audience automatically starts howling and Christy whispers to Deccy “distemper”!!  Deccy cracks up – unusual for Deccy, he’s a great man for the straight face!

Keep listening and you’re sure to hear more buried humour and quirky jibes.  It could be Bertie, or Charlie or even Daniel…..or ….or….or… Oooooh Lisdoonvarna!

 

 

Categories: Davoc Stories, music