By Sean Smith
Special to the BIR
Even by Green Briar standards, it was a big crowd. “There’s more musicians here than people,” quipped one visitor, gazing at the various instrument cases in evidence among the throng that had filled the Brighton pub.
Musicians and non-musicians alike gathered that evening of March 4 at the Green Briar Restaurant and Pub, home of what is arguably Boston’s most famous Irish music session, to honor the memory of its chief organizer and guiding spirit: Larry Reynolds, who died last October. And so, the regular Monday night musical gathering, which most weeks easily fills the room, was multiplied several times over to the extent that it was standing-room-only even for musicians.
Following a short performance by students in the Norwell-based Dunleavy Shaffer School of Irish Dance, the session got underway even as the crowd continued to swell and seats filled up rapidly.
“This is just so organic,” said a fiddler standing on the periphery, pausing in the midst of a tune medley. “Nobody has to say anything. The music is just happening.”
After about an hour, the music halted for a brief commemoration ceremony by two Green Briar representatives, Joe Fenton – who managed the pub for 18 years – and current general manager Luke Lemberg. The two offered reminiscences of Reynolds and praised him for, as Lemberg said, “all he did for the music, and for this community.”
Fenton added that Reynolds had given “his heart and soul” to the Green Briar session from its beginning nearly 25 years ago. “I remember so many times when it would be two in the morning, and the session was winding down,” said Fenton. “Then someone would say, ‘Hey, Larry, listen to this.’ And Larry would listen, and he’d be smiling.”
The two displayed a memorial plaque, emblazoned with an image of Reynolds playing his fiddle, which will hang in the Green Briar and affirm his legacy, they said (a smaller version was given to the Reynolds family).
Lemberg and Fenton also expressed their gratitude to members of the Reynolds family, including Reynolds’ widow Phyllis, who were present: “Thank you for sharing Larry with us.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Fenton and Lemberg led a toast to Reynolds, with many in the crowd hoisting shot glasses of Jameson’s (“Larry’s favorite,” one attendee remarked) that had been circulated around the room.
With that, the most appropriate and heartfelt tribute to Reynolds resumed, as musicians prepared to take up their instruments once again. To kick it off, Reynolds’ sons Mike and Sean settled into seats at the center of the gathering, Sean with his father’s fiddle in hand. The two began playing, a bevy of smartphones and digital cameras held aloft around them to record the moment, making this perhaps the most documented set of reels in the history of the Green Briar, if not Boston itself.
On and on the set went, through tunes that Larry Reynolds had led innumerable times over a multitude of Mondays: “The Foxhunters,” “The Mountain Road,” “The Bucks of Oranmore.” A pair of observers in the crowd looked on with approval and put into words what undoubtedly more than a few in the room were thinking.
“Larry would’ve loved this,” said one. “Absolutely loved it.”
“I’m sure he can hear it,” replied the other.