A living tradition | SteamboatToday.com

A living tradition

Old School band preserves traditional style of Irish music

Allison Plean

The Old School band members are, from left, Bonnie Murray, fiddle; Nora Parker, bodhran, dance and voice; Greg Zulevich, bozouki, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo; Gary Burman, uilleann pipes and voice. They will lead the Irish sessions every second Wednesday at Steamboat Smokehouse.

It’s not unusual for Gary Burman to awake with traditional Irish tones and melodies stuck in his head. Now he has a way to get them out.

Burman and his band, Old School, will play Irish melodies on the second Wednesday of every month at Steamboat Smokehouse. In addition to bandmates Nora Parker, Greg Zulevich and Bonnie Murray, anyone who knows the songs and wants to join in is encouraged to do so.

“We will play the typical tunes played in Irish sessions you would find in Ireland, Chicago, St. Louis or Denver,” Burman said. “It’s an international language, and the idea behind it is to get more people involved and learn how to play together.”

Burman encourages people to take a recording device, but he cautions that the Irish sessions won’t be like a bluegrass jam session.

“Irish music is a very old aural living tradition that has lasted hundreds of years,” he said. “It’s OK to change it, but only within a certain perspective that hangs on to the original roots.”

Burman said he has fallen in love with Irish music and wants to keep it alive.

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“If you were to strip me down like an onion to the core and depth of who I am, you would find the tones of these ancient melodies,” he said. “They transport me back to the roots of ancient Druid culture.”

Burman began his study of music at age 6, when he was forced to learn how to play the piano. Since then, he has picked up the trombone, drums, baritone horn, guitar, harmonica, mandolin, mandola, whistles and the Uilleann pipes.

“I was definitely a band geek as a kid but offset it by learning how to surf,” Burman said. “It was all a natural progression to the pipes. The other instruments were prerequisites.”

The Uilleann pipes are extremely difficult to play, and Burman sometimes practices as much as 10 hours a day.

“It’s like rubbing your belly, patting your head, chewing bubble gum and dribbling a basketball at the same time,” he said. “It requires a lot of strength and coordination.”

The Irish sessions will incorporate Parker’s Irish dancing and singing, and the Smokehouse will offer traditional Irish food.

“We are trying to emulate what occurred in a pub in Ireland 50 years ago,” Burman said. “We will sit at the table, drink beer, tell jokes and play.”