As a familiar Irish lilt comes to life in a pub in Sweden I have never visited, I want to cry. Instead I pick up my flute to join in.
This is the Irish trad (or traditional) session culture – all you need is a space (preferably a pub to quench the thirst), a handful of trad players, someone to kick off a tune and away it rolls.
In a new city, there are few things more reassuring than finding a familiar community, and though I’d yet to say more than hello to the players, I was at home in seconds.
Back at my Swedish house, music was also hard at work with its bonding powers. A housemate plays piano. Another adores everything to do with flying and planes. After a few jams, and reprises of Les Mis’ On my Own, Coldplay’s Viva la Vida and the Qatar Airways boarding music, the living room felt even cozier.
The comfort is a familiar feeling, if I wind the clock back four years.
In Montpellier, France, I bonded with my host mother’s granddaughter as we taught each other our piano favourites. My solfege was rusty and my French was slow, but it didn’t matter. In Salamanca, Spain, I made some of my best friends through the university choir. Our songs traversed Eastern Europe to Mexico, and after rehearsals we often found tapas and got chatting.
Earlier this year, in Tokyo,Japan, I took pride in performing waiata (Māori songs) with my fellow New Zealand delegates. I also got to farewell the Japanese delegates with my flute – that’s where the photo above comes from. And every year that I return to the National (but actually international) Braille Music Camp near Sydney, Australia, I remember the joy of a shared hobby and of passing along music knowledge to a younger generation.
Music, this versatile and universal hobby, is definitely a keeper.