The Italian Job, with The Reel Note Band
Birmingham’s Reel Note band was invited to the world Expo in Milan to entertain visitors to the Irish Pavilion, for one week, at the event. A great honour for this band and below is a short few notes of the visit.
On Friday 23rd October the weekend started for me, by being a guest musician for The Hurling Boys, who are a great set of lads and always a pleasure to be with. Having left that gig at Derby Irish Centre, it was also immediate to Birmingham Airport for a flight to Milan via Frankfurt. We missed the connecting flight in Frankfurt, which gave us time to meet people and of course play some music. We met an Italian folk musician and a session of music developed which the Frankfurt Airport Police didn’t seem to mind.
We eventually arrived (late at night), into Milan and our lodgings for the week was the Expo Artists Village. The Irish Musician in Residence was Cormac De Barra, a brilliant harpist from Dublin. Cormac showed us to our first gig at Expo. The entrance to Expo was via a very large tented security area, where our security passes were scanned for entrance. A stairway took us to a 450 meter bridge to the Expo site. Expo is difficult to describe, but based upon a common theme, each participating country (over 160), build a pavilion, unique to themselves and show/demonstrate how their country is contributing to the Expo theme. This year’s theme was sustainable foods. The site was huge and the only way to really understand its immense scale is via the Expo web site.
The Irish Pavilion was a modern, wooden structure, exhibiting Irelands’ modern farming techniques, which assist the food market. At the front of the Pavilion, a small performance area was set up, along with excellent sound equipment and a brilliant sound engineer (Simoné) an Italian who really looked after the band. Once set up, Reel Note launched into our routine of an hour of Irish Music, Song and dance. Very quickly in our set a crowd of 100 gathered, listened, and applauded each number enthusiastically. This was the trend for all of Reel Notes performances, which consisted of an hour performance three times a day for the week.
Later on in the week we met the director of the Irish Pavilion, Neil Carron, and the Irish Commissioner General, John Kennedy. Both were very complimentary about Reel Notes’ performances.
On our final day at Expo, The Band was invited to perform at the Italian pavilion for an evening show. As the home nation, Italy had completed a very elaborate and large pavilion, (about the size of Selfridges in Birmingham), and the Italians were rightly very proud of their achievements. Reel Note completed a forty-minute show that was greeted and cheered by the Italian crowd of several hundred. This was a definite high point in the week, playing at the heart of Expo in Italy. We were the only performers to play at the Italian venue for the six months of Expo.
Reel Note consisted of Brian Malone vocals and guitar, Emily Clark vocals and guitar, Bernie Jordan button accordion, Noel Lenihan vocals, whistle, flute, Katie Jordan piano accordion, bodhran, Meave Linane dancer from the Felton academy of Irish Dance, Liam Jordan fiddle and dancer, Anna-Marie Jordan fiddle, Dave Cunningham Mandolin, Vince Jordan piano accordion, Anne Cunningham logistics manager, David Linane tour manager and Ann Jordan finance manager.