The Secret Sessions: Great Music and Fun for a very worthy cause

Irish Music Rugby Session Traditional

A family of traditional musicians, one an international rugby player, a session with their friends and a legend of Irish music, Sharon Shannon.

Ted Quinn is a mutual friend who played in a band with Robbie Henshaw's Grandad Billy. In 2017 Ted's wife Ann passed away at the South Westmeath Hospice. He and the Henshaw family wanted to make a CD to fundraise for the hospice that had provided such wonderful care for Ann during the most vulnerable time of her illness.

Sharon Shannon:''Ted invited me to a session at a lovely country pub called 'The 3 Jolly Pigeons' outside Athlone early last year, and this was my first meeting with the Henshaw family. It was a great music session and seeing the whole family involved reminded me of growing up with my own family in a similar musical environment.
They invited me to be involved in their family CD and I was delighted to be able to offer help. We rehearsed a few times during the summer during gaps in my touring and rest periods for Robbie between his Leinster and Ireland commitments. We eventually recorded the whole album in one day at Bressie's
studio in Dublin. The Henshaws are all great musicians and it’s been a privilege to be involved in such a good fun project for such a worthy cause'' 

Robbie Henshaw and his family were thrilled Sharon agreed to be involved.

Robbie Henshaw:  Music has been a huge part of my life since a very young age. Sharon Shannon was a musician I always looked up to and it is really special to have the chance to play tunes with her on this album.Together, we are aiming to support and raise funds for the South Westmeath Hospice based in Athlone, who provide an outstanding service and support to patients and families in the Westmeath and Roscommon area.” 

Ahead of their appearance on The Ray D'Arcy Show on RTÉ One, we had a quick chat with Robbie and Sharon about their shared love of traditional music 


At what age did you start learning to play music ? What instrument did you begin with and what instruments do you now play?

Robbie Henshaw:        I started at eight playing the fiddle and play the Accordion and guitar too now.

Sharon Shannon:         I was eight years old too when I started playing first, and the first instrument I started on was the tin whistle.

Do all of your family play and was there competition growing up?

Robbie Henshaw:        Yeah, all my family play an instrument. It's big in our family. There was a little bit of competition growing up, but the girls were always better than me on the instruments, I knew I was out of my depth, so I never really competed. I kinda moved over to the sport and just kept music on the side of it, you know?

Sharon Shannon:         There's four of us in the family and yes, we all play music. We used to go to the competitions, fairs and stuff like that. Yes, so we used to enter in competitions. We never competed against one another because we're all different ages and we never really played that much together in the house. We used to all be concentrating on our own stuff individually. 

What traditional groups did you most enjoy listening to growing up/learning to play?

Sharon Shannon:         Well, the groups that I was most influenced by when I was learning, and all the rest of my family, we used to look forward so much to hearing Stockton's Wing any chance we got, to hear them in concert. We looked forward to their new albums, like really, really couldn't wait to hear the next new album. The same with tunes. The individual musicians we listened to a lot as well, like the amazing Tommy Peoples from Donegal and Matt Molloy and Martin O'Connor the accordion player. We listened to great music like that non-stop. Then the Bothy Band as well and all the great musicians, the individual musicians within the Bothy Band.

Robbie Henshaw:            I listened to Lunasa, Mick McAuley and Solas and of course Sharon Shannon.

Robbie, is there a gig/show you went to that really stands out in your memory? And who would you have in your very own Supergroup?

Robbie Henshaw:        We had a great group a couple of weeks ago. So probably the group we played with a couple of weeks ago would be my group going forward.

Sharon Shannon:         Oh my God, yeah, yeah.

Robbie Henshaw:        Yeah, so Donal Lunny and Marcus Mumford and a few members of the Mumford and Sons band we get a chance to play with. And  Mundy and yeah, there were a few more people around. I think Robbie Keane was singing a song there as well, so it was a great mix.

Sharon Shannon:         Susan O'Neill, a fantastic singer from Waterford  as well, was in the session. An all-night, amazing session. Still buzzing after it actually. It was great to have all the gang playing, because they're all such great musicians.

Where is your favourite place for a trad session?  

Robbie Henshaw:        Favourite place for a session? Probably at home. Getting home for me is a big thing, to relax and switch off. Probably at home in the house or in the local pub The Lough Ree Inn in Coosan, or in the Three Jolly Pigeons Pub in Tang near Ballymahon

Sharon Shannon:         Yeah, I really enjoyed playing that session as well with all of you guys in the Three Jolly Pigeons. Yes, a beautiful little pub. Really gorgeous, old, I shouldn't be saying this, it's supposed to be a secret. The secret sessions that the lads used to have there. It's not going to be secret anymore.

I suppose, some lovely pubs in Galway for trad music as well. Tig Coili is great, a really brilliant pub for music. There's .... oh god, about  10 or 12 sessions a week there, sessions every day and every night. And the Crane as well in Galway, and where else? Out in Kinvara. My sister, Mary, plays in Kinvara as well, so I try to get out to that whenever I can, and the Abbeyglen in Clifden.

You don't want to leave anyone out.

Sharon Shannon:         Yeah, there's too many good places.

Which trad album would be your go-to for a car journey?

Sharon Shannon:         There's so many amazing Trad albums, but I think if I could only pick one, it would be one of my favorite albums of all time. It was like a bible for me as a child, and it still is, and it's called the Mighty Session with Tommy Peoples, Matt Molloy, and Paul Brady.

Robbie Henshaw:        How would I follow that? I'd probably go to a best of Lúnasa, I'd say.  Just an overall mix of all their albums. So, I think to do that on Spotify, a mix-up of all their albums, so you get a bit of everything.

Sharon Shannon:         Yeah, can I travel in the car with you as well, Robbie have the two albums together

Sharon & Robbie, what was the last non-trad album you bought?

Robbie Henshaw:        I can't really remember. It could've been ... I'd say it was Coldplay.

Sharon Shannon:         Well after our night in Sheehan’s in Dublin with Mumford and Sons, I had to go and buy the album, their brand-new album, Delta.

The Secret Sessions is Out Now.

Sharon Shannon plays the INEC in Killarney on December 31st with Nathan Carter and will be touring Australia in March 2019.