All of us, his friends, people who just knew him, a vast collection people who played music with him, showed up at St. Priscilla’s Church on West Addison Street on Friday morning to say farewell to the guitarist Dennis Cahill, a renown Irish music accompanist, teacher and colleague for a whole academy of players from Chicago and far beyond.
It was one of the sweetest funeral Masses I have ever attended, awash in the best of Irish music from the best players, all gathered to say goodbye to a man who cannot be replaced. A lot of people wept, as well they should have and usually do at Irish funerals.
But this one was unforgettable.
It is well worth the time. You can listen to the Mass here, courtesy of the legendary accordion player Jimmy Keane, who most gracefully played people into the church, calm, quiet, moving Irish pieces.
I was trying to find a way to show you all the people who went to the mass, because you would know a lot of the faces if you knew anything about the world of Irish music. But I couldn’t figure out how to do that until we all went to Chief O’Neill’s Pub on Elston Avenue, the nurturing and friendly spot for people who sing and play reels and jigs and recite (as the Irish will, impressively.) That happens every Sunday evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Brendan and Siobhan McKinney, both wonderful players themselves, were in the funeral orchestra playing their Blackwood flutes. Martin Hayes, Dennis’ long time musical partner was there, along with the phenomenal fiddler Liz Carroll. Paddy Homan’s clear, clean tenor added an undeniable Irish aura, particularly during the sung parts of the Catholic mass. The whole crowd flowed to the pub affair the mass for one of those Brendan and Siobhan McKinney food and drink celebrations that just doesn’t stop.
Then Brendan solved my music problem.
He asked everyone who had played with Dennis, many of them playing at the regular sessions in the bar over the years, to gather for a picture. It was a very big collection of people, all of them with fond memories of how Dennis played, taught, laughed. All of it.
Here are lots of them: (Well, the ones that fit in this frame, at least.)
The people who played with Dennis Cahill. (There are, of course, many more.)
Go and hang out at Chiefs on any Sunday evening and a lot of these folks might be there. Ask them about Dennis and wait to hear some great stories, even as you listen to their fine music courtesy of Brendan and Siobhan.
We were all saying “Dennis” when the photo was taken.