Who thinks to bring a fiddle to a funeral? Only those whose love of Irish music was inspired by this much-loved man. What else could they do to pay tribute at his final sendoff?
Frank Joyce had to keep his funeral home in Waltham open a lot later than planned Wednesday night. Larry Reynolds’s wake was supposed to last for six hours. But it took more than nine hours to get everybody through the line.
“At least a couple of thousand people,” Joyce said. “They just kept coming.”
It seemed like half of them returned to Waltham on Thursday morning, to St. Jude Church, where Larry Reynolds was dispatched from this world with the two things that embodied him: kind words and beautiful music.
A Waltham cop, perplexed by the size of the crowd that spilled out of the church onto Main Street, tugged at a photographer and asked, “Who was this guy?”
If the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem led the renaissance of traditional Irish music worldwide, Larry Reynolds led it here in and around Boston. When he first got here, he played at Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square in Roxbury. He took the music to the suburbs, playing at the Village Coach House in Brookline, the Skellig in Waltham.
His hands were a contradiction. The skin that covered them was coarse, the skin of a working man who swung a hammer. But his fingers were the digits of an artist, as dexterous as a surgeon’s. For all his talent, he was a humble man. He blushed at praise. He carried his union card, Carpenters Local 67, and his fiddle case wherever he went.
He was an easy man to find on Monday nights. For a quarter century, you could find him every Monday, sitting in the Green Briar, a pub in Brighton. He didn’t go there to drink. He went there to play music, to teach music, to evangelize, really. He was a missionary, spreading the good news. Traditional music was a restorative force to Reynolds, a relaxing, mystic tonic for increasingly frenetic times.
His wife, Phyllis, is an accomplished pianist, and she threw open their Waltham home to a never-ending stream of musicians and dancers and singers. Larry and Phyllis Reynolds were married for 58 years, had seven kids, and gave birth to countless musicians.
It is not an exaggeration to say that thousands of people, many of them without anything remotely Irish about them, became purveyors or lovers of traditional music because of Larry Reynolds.
And that is why, in this day and age of celebrity, thousands of people came to Waltham to say goodbye to someone who was neither rich nor famous.
Even at 80, Reynolds was in no rush to leave this world. But he would have enjoyed his funeral. He always found the liturgy of the Mass comforting. And there were even more musicians than priests in the church, and they sent him off with a slow air, “For Ireland I’d Not Tell Her Name,” which he loved.
To be in Reynolds’s presence was to feel the full experience of the Irish in America who were proud to love two countries at the same time, and he embodied the best attributes of America and Ireland.
Reynolds’ name would not be known in many households of Irish America or as famous as one of Paddy Moloney’s Chieftains bandmates. But Larry was a chieftain of traditional Irish music in the greater Boston area who touched all the local musicians and visiting musicians on tour with his sincerity, generosity and encouragement and his indefatigable love of sharing tunes and stories.
Posted by Jill Fallon at October 19, 2012 1:19 PM | Permalink