When Thomas Morgan, Professor of Physics, went on sabbatical to Dublin, Ireland 10 years ago, he found himself intrigued by more than just his intellectual pursuits. During his two years teaching at Queens University in Belfast, Morgan developed an interest in Irish music.
“I’ve always been interested in the physics of music—it was actually a course offered here at Wes a few years back—which you could attribute to my fascination of both fields,” said Morgan. “My mother and father were born in Ireland, so I heard this music in the background my entire life. But it wasn’t until I went to Dublin that I got into this music scene.”
After the trip, the singer and guitarist began playing music with his wife, Janet Morgan, who plays the concertina (a free-reed instrument similar to an accordion) and works at the Information Technology Services (ITS). The pair then recruited Jolee West, academic computing manager for the natural sciences and mathematics, who also plays the fiddle.
“After the three of us got together the group began to grow,” Morgan said.
The trio soon turned into a band of seven members, most of whom work at the University: Thomas and Janet Morgan, West, fiddle players Eileen Grabowski and Liz Raymond, banjo and mandolin player Brent Morgan, an instructional media specialist at ITS, and Irish drum player Suzanne O’Connell, who is a Professor of Earth and Environmental Science.
For the past 10 years, The Seisiun Clan, as they call themselves, has been playing Irish set dancing music as a seisiun group, which is an informal gathering of traditional Irish musicians, usually in a pub. Although the group does not write its own songs, which Morgan claims is a result of the abundance of Irish music available, members do enjoy singing about the old country.
“We tend to focus on jigs, reels and hornpipes,” he said. “These songs are played in groups of three tunes, and when put together, they really flow.”
The Seisiun Clan has performed at Javapalooza and Nakita’s on Main Street, accompanied by University students. In the summer, the group performs at Connecticut’s Irish Festival, which brings in numerous bands from the Northeast.
“I wouldn’t actually say we have ’a band,’” West said. “The seisiun group is called ’The Seisiun Clan,’ but it’s a pretty informal enterprise.”
Unlike Morgan, who began to pursue music as a hobby relatively recently, West became interested in music as a child, beginning classical violin at eight or nine years old.
“When I left for college, I pretty much put my violin away for 20 or so years,” West told The Argus in an e-mail. “In 2000, I went to Ireland and bought a tin whistle and some music while there, and learned the tin whistle when I got home. Then one day it occurred to me that I could play the same music on my violin, so I dug it out of the closet and started playing.”
West, who knew the Morgans from the University, was aware that they played Irish music at local seisiuns. According to West, they, along with other friends, had met a few times before to play music together. Shortly after learning how to play Irish music on the violin, she began performing at seisiums with the Morgans.
“I’ve been playing Irish music for only about four years, but my classical violin lessons served me pretty well,” West said.
According to Morgan, The Seisiun Clan counts local Irish musicians among its influences.
“[There is] a vibrant Irish music scene in Connecticut, and musicians Eddie Burke and Tom Walsh, both from the area, were instrumental in influencing the group,” Morgan said.
Burke, born and raised in Ireland, is a fiddler who influenced many musicians throughout the state. Walsh was born in Connecticut, plays the accordian and still works with the group.
Although The Seisiun Clan’s members may not be full-time musicians like Burke and Walsh, they do enjoy practicing and performing their music.
“I like the social aspects of playing seisiuns,” West said. “It’s just a really warm, welcoming social scene that I’m very glad I discovered.”