January 28

730 PM

Irish Session

You can hear the lively blend of fiddle, flute and percussion from the muddy sidewalk outside the pub. Inside, musicians pack the corner stage.

On the right are the fiddlers, three or four of them. To the left are the bodhran drummers, holding their ancient Irish tom-toms like shields.

An acoustic guitarist strums the rhythm at center stage, with a couple of penny-whistle players blowing in his ears. All the musicians are playing hard to be heard over the boisterous banter of patrons lifting pints of ale and stout malts at tables or at the bar.

A fiddler calls for The Cliffs of Moher, an instrumental known to Celtic musicians around the world. This leads into a medley of traditional jigs and reels that inspires one lass to do a high-hopping ceili dance in a corner of the room. An older man watches, smiles, claps along for a minute and orders another pint.

THE pub could be in Dublin or Belfast, where Irish folk musicians have passed down traditional tunes from generation to generation. Or it could be in New York or Boston, where tight Irish-American communities have kept a bond with old-country culture.

But it's not. It's right here in Houston's Upper Kirby district. The scene is replayed with minor variations every Wednesday night at McGonigel 's Mucky Duck's long-running Irish session. - Rick Mitchell, Houston Chronicle