Socks in the Frying Pan inspires young musicians

Some now want to learn to play an instrument, to visit Ireland

Socks in the Frying Pan's Fiachra Hayes, left, Shane Hayes, center, and Aodán Coyne, right, perform during their concert at North Star Theatre on Wednesday, April 4, 2018.

A multi-colored sock, featuring a three-eyed blue monster, dangled off the scroll of Fiachra Hayes’s fiddle, as the renowned Irish band Socks in the Frying Pan took command of the stage at Cordova’s North Star Theater.

The sock swayed back and forth as he worked the bow vigorously over the strings.

Shane Hayes, at center stage with his button accordion, closed his eyes as he played, and leaned back, letting the music flow.

To his left, Aodán Coyne strummed his guitar, occasionally looking at the brothers and cracking a smile, while providing the steady beat.

Soon their music encompassed the whole theater.

Hosted by the Cordova Arts & Pageants, Socks in the Frying Pan, an award-winning trio from County Clare, Ireland, performed in Cordova on April 4, on the last leg of their American tour.

For the band, which ended its six-week tour in Bethel, performing in Alaska was “a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Coyne said.

So far in their fifth year of touring, they have been to 39 states and 50 countries.

Along with their music, the trio offered their impressions of American accents, playful sibling banter and stories of their time touring America.

At one point, Fiachra jokingly moved the fiddle close to Shane, brushing his face with the sock. The music never altered as they laughed with the audience.

Their music combined traditional Irish melodies with their own unique style, as they stomped their feet on the stage floor.

Children’s socks were thrown into the audience at the end of their show as the trio thanked everyone for attending.

“You can imagine what it’s like, three guys going into Walmart getting 200 kid’s socks,” Shane said with a laugh.

Earlier in the day they had performed for elementary and high school students, and asked students if they could name the instruments.

Fiachra laughed, recalling one girl who raised her hand, then said “I forgot.” He started laughing again as the group discussed the children’s imagination that was “ready and waiting.”

“Seeing other people doing something that you admire makes you inspired,” said sixth grader Allison Ritter.

The elementary students clapped along to the songs, while others talked about their “funny” accents.

“But they’re cool!” Avery Reynolds, 8, said. “I liked all of them.”

“This past group they were, I think, the ones that really out of all of our artists that we’ve had this year, that really connected to both age groups,” said Cordova Arts & Pageants secretary Alyssa Kleissler.

“It was incredibly powerful how much they connected with the students.”

After attending the special concert, many students said they wanted to learn an instrument. Others added Ireland to their travel bucket list.

Socks in the Frying Pan’s rendition of a song from The Jungle Book had the students jumping out of their seats.

“The whole auditorium was just like rowdy and the kids were just letting it go and they were so involved,” Kleissler said. “It was pure joy.”

Finn O’Toole, wide-eyed and eager, bounced out of his seat in the cafeteria the next day, saying that he’s always wanted to visit Ireland.

“It just sounds different than what we usually play,” Isabelle Nothstine said.

“I wanted to learn the accordion,” Victoria Nothstine added.

The Cordova Arts & Pageants, all volunteers, brings musicians, theatre and dance groups, and visual artists to Cordova from around the world, to perform for general audiences, with special performances for high school and elementary school students.

“We feel so strongly that people become interested in the arts when they are young, and it carries through … their whole life,” said Mazie Vandenbroek, treasurer of the board of Cordova Arts & Pageants. “It gives a quality of life that nothing else can give you.”

Art classes are not offered at the elementary school. “It’s up to the elementary school teachers to create whatever they can as far as art goes,” Kleissler said, reiterating the importance of the guests brought to town to perform. “The kids are pretty lucky to get a pretty broad and worldwide exposure in this little town.”

The non-profit arts council also provides scholarships and support for other local art events.

“This is why we bring these artists into town,” Kleissler said. “We want this impact at that level where everyone is just taken away and so involved and so present and not on their devices … everybody was connecting on such a huge scale.”

The Cordova Arts & Pageants’ main fundraiser is the Copper River Salmon Jam, July 13 and 14, where they sell weekend passes and beer.

For more information on Socks in the Frying Pan visit their Facebook and Instagram.

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Emily Mesner is a staff reporter and photographer for The Cordova Times. Reach her at emesner@thecordovatimes.com. Emily graduated from Central Michigan University, earning a degree in photojournalism with a cultural competency certificate. She first visited Alaska in 2016, working as a media intern for the National Park Service in Kotzebue and Denali National Park and Preserve, and has been coming back ever since. To see more photos, follow @thecordovatimes and @emilymesnerphoto on Instagram.