JENNIFER JACKSON'S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR COLUMN: Sing with a pirate on St. Paddy's Day
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The Discovery Bay Pirates — from left, Trevor Hanson, Gary Prosser and Sam Klippert — will play the St. Patrick’s Day Party at 7 Cedars Casino on Saturday, with the newest member of the band, Mike Merker, not pictured, on bass.

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A YEAR AGO last fall, Trevor Hanson was thinking about what to name the band he and two other musicians, Sam Klippert and Gary Prosser, were forming.

All three lived on Discovery Bay.

All three played in an oldies rock band, Final Approach, which was mainly a dance band.

But they also liked Irish pub music — “Drink Up the Cider,” “Haul Away Joe” — where everyone sings along on the chorus.

Driving along the bay near his home on Old Gardiner Road, Hanson realized the perfect name for the band was right in front of him: Discovery Bay Pirates.

Under that moniker, they started playing at local venues and, with the addition of Mike Merker on bass, are booked to play the St. Patrick's Party at 7 Cedars Casino next Saturday starting at 6 p.m.

They'll be doing some sea shanties, Hanson said, but don't expect eye patches or parrots.

“We're not a hat band,” Hanson said. “We decided we didn't want to be the kind of band that wears funny hats. It's mostly about the music.”

Klippert, who lives on Diamond Point, plays guitar, banjo and mandolin.

Prosser, a retired pilot who recently moved to Joyce, plays guitar.

The goal of the Discovery Bay Pirates: to revive the tradition of people spending an evening in the pub, raising a pint and their voices in song as their grandparents and great-grandparents did.

“We thought this was something that was lacking on the Peninsula,” Hanson said. “Since we couldn't be the audience, we became the band.”

Hanson, who plays guitar and tin whistle in the band, has an organic connection to Irish music:

His maternal grandfather, William Kenney, was born in Ireland in 1900 and immigrated to the States in his teens.

William was a sailor and inventor, but Hanson's grandmother, Fern Kenney, was a concert pianist.

Trevor started piano lessons in fifth grade, switched to guitar in his teens and by his 20s was a serious musician.

The need for a day job and a knack for computers led to a career in software development and design.

Eventually, Hanson, a partner in an East Coast-based firm, Hanson-Smith Ltd., only played music off and on, though he continued to frequent Irish pubs wherever his work took him: New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago.

The bands on the Irish pub circuit played traditional songs as well as ones by popular performers, including Tommy Makem.

“I learned a lot of the Pirate songs by listening to Makem,” Hanson said. “He was considered the godfather of Irish folk music.”

Ed Sullivan

Makem appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in the 1960s with the Clancy Brothers, a folk foursome who always wore Irish fisherman sweaters and who recorded with Pete Seeger.

Makem also had a club on East 57th Street in New York City called Tommy Makem's Irish Pavilion.

Hanson and his business partner, Larry Smith, were “super-regulars” at the club, where they became friends of Makem's, Hanson said; their names were on a plaque commemorating the night they drank the place dry of Guinness.

In October 1999, Hanson and spouse Meredith Hanson went on one of Makem's frequent tours of Ireland, which Hanson describes as “an organized pub crawl with a built-in band.”

“Everywhere he went, people came out to hear him,” Hanson said.

“Johnny Cunningham, the famous Celtic fiddler, came in one night and sat around till the pub closed. Then he sat in the hallway and played until 4 or 5 in the morning.”

Pubs and drinking feature prominently in Pirate repertoire, including “The Old Dun Cow,” about a pub that burned down in the 1890s while the customers were in the basement downing the stock.

Others have literary connections. A verse of “Windy Old Weather” is quoted in Rudyard Kipling's 1897 novel Captains Courageous.

“Finnegan's Wake” inspired James Joyce to write a novel of the same name, Hanson said.

Listeners will recognize “The Wild Colonial Boy” from the John Wayne movie “The Quiet Man.”

Hanson plays the tin whistle for “Carolan's Concerto,” a well-known piece of Irish harp music written in the early 18th century by Turlough Carolan, a blind harpist.

“We do play quite rowdy sea shanties, the kind of thing pirates would sing,” Hanson said.

They also do a song Tommy Makem popularized, “Bridie Murphy and the Kamikaze Pilot.” The song, about a nun who prays for a man to drop from the sky, was banned in Ireland, Hanson said.

It's set in the Pacific, where Hanson's father, Norwood Russell Hanson, was a fighter pilot.

Although he pursued a career in music — Norwood studied trumpet with William Vacchiano and played at Carnegie Hall — he joined up when the war started, developing a reputation as a “hot pilot” flying loops around the Golden Gate Bridge and Corsairs off the deck of the USS Franklin.

After the war

After the war, Norwood Hanson used the G.I. Bill to earn three degrees in as many years at the University of Chicago and Columbia University, his son said, then went to Oxford as a Fulbright Scholar, completing degrees there and at Cambridge University.

Trevor was born in 1955 in Cambridge, where his father was a don of philosophy of science.

According to his entry on Wikipedia, Norwood Hanson was a pioneer in observation theory whose books include Perception and Meaning and Patterns of Discovery.

His work was continued by Thomas Samuel Kuhn, author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a wonderful, small book written for the general audience that challenges the traditional view of scientific discovery.

Norwood Hanson also was known as “The Flying Professor” to a generation of Yale students, including U.S. Sen. John Kerry.

Trevor was 11 years old when his father crashed his Bearcat in the fog en route to Ithaca, N.Y., and died.

“He was a Renaissance man,” Hanson said of his father, who also was a Golden Gloves boxer and an artist.

While it's not truly an Irish song, the Pirates do play “Danny Boy,” written by an English barrister, because it showcases Prosser's great baritone-bass voice, Hanson said.

Other “not-so-Irish” Irish songs in their repertoire include “Clancy Lowered the Boom,” popularized by Dennis Day, a regular on “The Jack Benny Show.” But don't expect “Irish Eyes are Smiling” or “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral.”

“We are not interested in leprechauns,” Hanson said.

They do a few Scottish tunes, including “The Gallant Forty-Twa,” about the Highland regiment that became the Black Watch.

Andy Mackie followers will know the words to “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go” and recognize the tune of “Mairi's Wedding,” Andy's mother's favorite song, which he played on the harmonica.

Mackie, who died last fall, learned to play music in school when he was a boy in Scotland.

“Live music is so important,” Hanson said. “It used to be a part of growing up. Everyone sang; everybody played an instrument.”

At the end of the night, the Pirates will do a song by Makem known as “The Parting Song” or “Journey's End.”

It starts: “The fire is out, the moon is down, the parting glass is dry and done,” and ends “And when I'm done with wandering, I'll sit beside the road and weep, for all the songs I did not sing, and promises I could not keep.”

Setting his course

Hanson will not have that regret: Since deciding two years ago to “leave off doing other stuff” and return to playing music, classical to folk, he's set his course and never looked back.

The Discovery Bay Pirates play the St. Patrick's Day Party at 7 Cedars Casino, 270756 U.S. Highway 101, Sequim, on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., followed by the band 3 Miles High from 9 p.m. to 1 p.m. No cover. For 21 and older with ID.

For more information, visit www.7cedarsresort.com. 7 Cedars Casino offers free shuttle service to guests and will make special pickups for groups of seven or more while availability lasts. Phone 360-683-7777 to request group pickup.

For more information about the Discovery Bay Pirates, phone Trevor Hanson at 360-797-0087 or visit www.DiscoveryBayPirates.com.

________

Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or email jjackson@olypen.com.

Last modified: March 13. 2012 5:45PM
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