IRONICALLY, The Irish House Party — a deliberate attempt to recreate the craic and music of an old style social gathering — did not start off in a house at all.
Instead Gerry Nolan and Declan Quinn booked a tiny room up above a Dublin pub and opened the doors to anyone who fancied some authentic Irish music, dance and chat.
Six years on, the Irish House Party has established itself as one of the city’s must see attractions, with celebrity fans including Dara O’Briain, Louis Walsh and Irish folk legends The Dubliners, as well as becoming something of an Irish export with tours to England and now Scotland.
"House parties are very important for the survival of our music," Quinn explained.
"That’s the way music is passed on from generation to generation. We wanted to get back to that and make it very interactive. Even though we are going into theatres now, we want to give that feel of going into a house party with loads of chat."
While in the Highlands, a house party might still fall under the category of a ceilidh, in Ireland things are slightly different, Quinn pointed out.
"A ceilidh in Ireland would be more like group dancing — I know in Scotland it means more of a party than it does here — but after the shows we do in Dublin we get people up at the end and teach them a simple dance," he explained.
While still popular in rural areas, the house party tradition has died away in the cities, but even there it is a phenomenon that tourists are unlikely to encounter.
Not that the idea was aimed exclusively at the tourist market, even if Quinn, Nolan and their crew of All Ireland Champion musicians and dancers due use the format to introduce Irish music, dance and instruments like the bodhran and uilleann pipes to overseas visitors.
"The idea is that it’s something we would be proud of if our friends came round, so we don’t dress up our dancers or anything like that," Quinn added.
Among the many visitors the group have introduced to Irish music they can also include UK boy band The Wanted, who found themselves being accompanied by the Irish House Party when they appeared on long-running RTE series The Late, Late Show.
"We did one of their tunes in an Irish way and they sang over it. They were impressed because we were using Irish instruments like the whistle and fiddle," Quinn said, pointing out that in Ireland, as in Scotland, sessions do not have to be exclusively about traditional songs.
"You play what you want to. You’re not being over protective of the music in having to play it in a certain way. I find that it’s a much better way of getting your own country’s music known if you are willing to do that."
• The Irish Party is at the Empire Theatre, Eden Court, on Sunday at 2pm.