Traditional Irish music knows no season for Toraigh an Sonas

With St. Patrick’s Day just days away Toraigh an Sonas has a busy week ahead.
On Saturday, the group of musicians, under the direction of Bob Midden and Mary Dennis, will perform at The Blarney Pub, 601 Monroe St. in downtown Toledo from 2 to 5 p.m. Then on Sunday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. the party moves to Dzia’s Irish Pub, 5131 Heatherdowns Blvd., Toledo. On Wednesday, the eve of the saint’s day itself, Toraigh an Sonas will hold forth at Logan’s Irish Pub, 414 S. Main St., Findlay.
These are the musicians’ regular haunts, as is Stone’s Throw in Bowling Green, where they have played from time to time.
St.Patrick’s Day also marks the anniversary of the 1993 debut of the Bowling Green Band Paddy’s Night Out, the forbearer of Toraigh an Sonas. Midden said that after members of that band moved away he and Dennis formed the band Toraigh.
Midden, who says he has some Irish blood, took traditional Irish music to heart. It’s not just the lilting melodies and toe-tapping rhythms that captivate him. “It’s more based on a sense of community and bringing people together,” he said. “The tradition isn’t based so much on performance as much as an entertaining yourself. It rose from people entertaining each other based on what they could do.”
So when he and Dennis found fewer musicians interested in playing the music, they decided to act. They started teaching others to play. They held “slow sessions” so those who only know a few tunes could get a chance to play with other musicians. Midden said probably 30 or 40 folks have participated in those slow sessions over the last few years. As they get more proficient and comfortable they join in the regular monthly sessions held at Blarney’s, or Dzia’s or Logan’s. As many as 10 musicians can show up to take the stage, sometimes it’s just Midden and Dennis – the construction on I-75 has taken a toll on attendance in Findlay, he said.
A session “is as much a social event for the musicians as a performance,” Midden said. He hopes that sense of camaraderie extends to listeners as well. It’s a chance “to get people away from their televisions, get them out interacting with people, exchanging ideas.”
Every session is different, Midden said. Each venue has its own ambiance, and who shows up to listen and play all affect the music.
People don’t have to be Irish to enjoy the music whether they’re at the bar, or on the stage, Midden said. “You find people all over the world who love this music.”