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A Celebration and a Resource
for the Irish Pub Community

A Bonny Celtic Music Session

Story by Edward F Petersen - Photography by Chris Poh

On a sultry June evening I met my good buddy and PartingGlassMedia.com colleague, Chris at Mitchell's Cafe in Lambertville, New Jersey.  We had come to check out the Celtic music session which congregates there on the first and third Wednesday night of every month.

An Irish music session at Mitchell's in Lambertville, NJ as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
The session in full flight

The session starts about nine o'clock and goes until eleven or so. Chris and I arrived early though, about seven-thirty. We were the only patrons at the bar for almost an hour. This gave us plenty of time to chat with Carol Bishop the affable proprietress and lady of the manor. Carol told us that Mitchell's has been a fixture there on Church Street for about 140 years. The original publican, Thomas Mitchell took his first watch behind the bar way back in 1868. Carol's parents, Jim and Peggy Bishop acquired the tavern in 1969 and it has thrived in the good hands of the Bishop family for the past 38 years.

Carol Bishop at Mitchell's Cafe in Lambertville, NJ as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
Carol Bishop

Harold Dunn at mitchell's Cafe in Lambertville, NJ as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
Harold  Dunn, Himself

Fisg art at Mitchell's Cafe in Lambertville, NJ as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
Original Art

Nothing about Mitchell's Cafe reveals its prominence as the premier gathering spot for the local Illuminati of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and British folk music. Although it has its own, unique charm with a number of American antiques, curiosities, and original artwork displayed around the dinning room, there are no Celtic affectations, kitschy representations of shamrocks and leprechauns, nor tartan tablecloths. In fact, there is nary an Irish ditty on the jukebox. Bass Ale is offered on tap and Guinness Stout in a pub draft can as well, but that is about the extent of British Isles culture available at the establishment - other than the Celtic music of course. When I ask Carol about the discrepancy, she laughs. She says she was running a reputable local watering hole that reflected the rural, bohemian aesthetic of the area when out of the blue she received a call from Harold Dunn; a mover and shaker in the Delaware Valley Celtic music community.Harold asked if Carol would be amenable to Himself holding a session at Mitchell's Cafe. He told her it would pretty much take over the bar; however, he assured her that players and fans of Celtic music would certainly be ready and willing customers. Carol wasn't sure what to expect. She had an unpleasant experience with a gathering of dead-beat Contra dancers before who had the audacity to bring their own libations.  But,  she gave her blessing to the proposal. It turned out to be a tremendous success artistically, socially and commercially so it was repeated again and again until it became a tradition. The Celtic session now has thrived there in its assigned space upfront, near the door at least two times a month for about ten years.

The Bar at Mitchell's Cafe in Lambertville, NJ as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
The Bar in Mitchell's Cafe

At about eight-thirty, Linda Zdepski shows up with her bodhran (pronounced: bau-ron) which is an Irish frame drum held vertically on one's lap It is played with a double ended drumstick called a tipper. My friend; Chris is an aspiring bodhran player and received an impromptu lesson which cost him a bite or two of his nachos. Himself; Harold Dunn soon arrives with his fiddle, and then Mark Stewart with his mandolin and bouzouki, and Jeff Morgan toting his guitar and concertina. These three gentlemen comprise the stalwart and indomitable trio which drives the whole affair. They tune up, count off, and  Mitchell's explodes into a bliss of wonderful song and laughter. Two flautists and another fiddle player come through the door and take their place in the circle. Matt De Blass shows up and adds to the rhythm on a bodhran of his own. He also provides high end flight to the melodies with his tin-whistle. And still another drummer appears with an African hand drum. Tonight too, a special guest; Carol Thompson, a Grammy award winning harper who has performed with The Chieftains sets up her beautiful harp which is decorated with a painted peacock and adds her ethereal plucking into the mix. A comely lass, Kaitlin Doyle dances into the middle of it all and performs a jig as the triplets fly.

Harold Dunn on fiddle and Jeff Morgan on Concertina as seen in partingGlassMedia.com
Harold Dunn on fiddle
and Jeff Morgan on concertina

Mark Stewart on Bouzouki at Mitchell's Cafe in Lambertville, NJ as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
Mark Stewart
0n Irish bouzouki

Linda Zdepski & Matt DeBlass at Mitchell's Irish Pub in Lambertville, NJ as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
Linda Zdepski and Matt DeBlass
on bodhrans

An unidentified flautist at Mitchell's Cafe Irish Music session in Lambertville, NJ as seen in PartingGlassMedia.com
A flautist on a
traditional wooden flute

What is a Session?

A Session, or Seisiún, is a gathering of aficionados of Celtic music. Players at all levels of proficiency bring their fiddles, guitars, mandolins, bouzoukis, flutes, tin-whistles, harps, accordions, concertinas, banjos and bodhrans to sit together and play through the Celtic repertoire of reels, jigs, polkas, Aires, and ballads. Fans come too, and singers, and perhaps even a step dancer or two. The music, poetry, fun, libation and fellowship flow like . . . well, fine Irish ale! All are welcome to participate in the session at Mitchell's Cafe. Bring your instrument and join in, or just grab a beer, sit back, listen and enjoy.

As I search for a few words to convey the richness and joyfulness of this evening in Mitchell's Cafe all I can find to say is that the music was beyond description and the comradery beyond compare. The experience perhaps embodied perfectly that quality in a pub which we at the PartingGlassMedia are forever seeking and when we find it, share it with you. What is that quality? It's not about beverage selection, the food, the decor, nor even the history. It's about the energy and the fellowship found inside its walls. It's about the soul of a place, and the spirit which is created when folks convene for no other reason than to share an hour, hoist a glass, and celebrate our journey together towards .  .  . who knows where?

Kaitlyn Doyle dancing at the Irish music session at Mitchell's Cafe in Lambertville, NJ as seen in American Public House Review
Kaitlyn Doyle

Mitchell's Cafe

11 1/2 Church Street
Lambertville  New Jersey 08530



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