Every year, champions of the Irish music scene gather for an exciting tour of North America. Bringing traditional Irish music and dance around the world makes for an exciting evening and many ardent fans ... we've captured the 2005 Comhaltas Tour group on CD so you can share the experience.
“……He ( Seán Ó Riada) with Ceoltóirí Chualann reached out and swiftly captured a national audience, lifted the level of musical practice and appreciation, restored to his people an entire cultural dimension, and added no little to the gaiety of the nation. “
Thomas Kinsella 1982 ( Foreword to Our Musical Heritage by Seán Ó Riada )
1.Jigs: Rakes of Clonmel / Julia McMahon (Group)
Both of these jigs are found in the O’ Neill’s 1001 Collection (The Dance Music of Ireland O’ Neill’s 1001) as numbers 149 and 76 respectively. This collection by the then Chicago Chief of Police went on to become known as “The Book”, such was it’s undisputed importance as a source of music amongst traditional musicians worldwide from the time of it’s publication in 1913. The Rakes of Clonmel and Julia McMahon had both been included in O’ Neill’s earlier collection “O Neill’s Music of Ireland 1850 Melodies” where The Rakes of Clonmel also had the additional title of The Boys of The Lough. Interestingly both tunes were transcribed form his own repertoire i.e. F. O’ Neill is the acknowledged source in the 1903 publication meaning that it was from the playing and / or the memory of the collector himself, who was a flute-player. The tunes were probably transcribed by the County Down fiddler and violinist based in Chicago, James O’ Neill. A namesake of O’ Neill, but no relation, James O’ Neill, a sergeant in the police force, assisted O’ Neill in the transcription of many of the tunes. The great collector was always very generous in the credit he gave those who assisted him and wrote of James O’ Neill:
“ Whatever musical, antiquarian, or regenerative value the various O’ Neill Collections of Irish music may possess, no small share of the credit is due to the tireless zeal and unselfish co-operation of Sergeant James O’ Neill”
O’ Neill later wrote that he had learnt “The Rakes of Clonmel” from the piper Bernard Delaney, generally referred to as Barney Delaney. A native of Tullamore in Co. Meath Delaney had arrived in America in 1880 where he found work at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. He bought a set of pipes from the celebrated pipe-maker Billy Taylor in Philadelphia before making his way to Chicago. Already a noteworthy performer in a Chicago concert hall Delaney was invited to play in New York with the Powers’ Ivy Leaf theatrical company. However like many other noteworthy musicians known to Francis O’ Neill, Delaney was offered a position with the Chicago Police Department and during his extended time innChicago the piper played on all the important stages in the city. Barney Delaney was the source of some of the finest tunes in the O’ Neill’s Collections. When Chief O’ Neill played “The Rakes of Clonmel” to James O’ Neill to transcribe, the latter remembered a different version of this tune from his native province of Ulster, thus the origin of the second name The Boys of the Lough in the 1903 publication. A two part version of the The Rakes of Clonmel was recorded many years ago by the Dublin piper Leo Rowesome, a musician well known for “unearthing” lesser-known tunes while the Ceoltóirí Chualann ( c.f. Track 3 ) included the three part setting in their stage performances in the 1960’s.
“Julia McMahon” was popularized by the playing of the great fiddler Paddy Cronin from Gneeveguilla, Sliabh Luachra in North Co. Kerrywho spent much of his life in America . Like many of his musical counterparts Paddy used “The Book” ( O’ Neill’s 1001 ) and indeed other music collections to find fresh and interesting repertoire and it is as a result of this interest that he recorded Julia McMahon in 1977. Whereas much of our music is transmitted orally the importance of certain publications as a source of music to forthcoming generations of musicians and as a mirror of the repertoire played by practicing musicians at the time of compilation, must always be acknowledged.
2.The Teelin Polkas ( Aisling MacPhilips, Erin McGeown, James Mahon, and Claire Quinn)
In contrast to the tunes on the first track these two polkas have been primarily transmitted orally and the manner in which they have “travelled” is typical of how indeed many tunes are passed on from musician to musician and also from country to country. These two polkas are associated with the Donegal fiddler Danny O’ Donnell. A native of Teelin in Donegal, O’ Donnell spent most of his life in America where he acquired a wide repertoire including that of South Sligo which, for a variety of reasons, would have been very prominent at the time. These polkas, and similarly structured tunes are sometimes heard played as barndances. The Donegal fiddling traditions included many lesser-played rhythms ( e.g. flings, barndances, highlands, mazurkas etc. ) which have thankfully enjoyed a renewal in recent years due to the long term commitment to their regional identity by some stalwart figures in the Donegal musical tradition scene. Whereas older musicians may remember Danny O Donnell himself and his contemporaries playing these two polkas entered a wider arena from a home-recording made by Nickie and Anne McAuliffe of Castleisland Co. Kerry many years ago. Bill McEvoy ( C.F. Track 4) was home on holiday from America many years ago and requested that Nickie and Anne recorded some of what was known to be their very extensive repertoire for him to bring back to America. Many musicians today still refer to this tape which not alone went to America but from there went back to other musicians in Ireland all of whom were eager to learn new repertoire. We must remember that whereas there is a very large supply of Irish traditional music recordings available nowadays this was not always the case. Amongst the tunes that Nickie and Anne recorded were these two polkas, the second of which was recorded in barndance rhythm by Gearóid Ó hAllmharúin and Patrick Orceau on their album “Tracin” an album which was universally applauded by discerning musicians worldwide. On the album the tune is entitled Nickie’s Archive, a title which pays their tribute to the significance not just to the McAuliffes extensive repertoire but also to Nickie’s international reputation for his detailed memory on tune names and sources.
3.Song: Bhí Bean Uasal: Trad. Arr., S. Ó Riada ( Seán Ó Sé )
Séan Ó Sé was a member of that legendary group Ceoltóirí Chualann assembled by Séan Ó Riada in 1961, a group that led to an indisputable transformation to the image of Irish Traditional Music and Song both in Ireland and abroad. (It is very difficult to summarise the legacy of Ó Riada but suffice to say that he was one of the very few single individuals who can truly alter the character of a nation’s culture, in this case the nation being Ireland c.f. Foreward page 1 ) a nations culture The incredible quality of his singing voice combined with his deep understanding of the traditional singing and the Irish Language meant that Séan became an integral part of Ceoltóirí Chualann performing at all their concerts throughout the years right up to Ó Riada’s tragic death in 1971. By this time Seán had also become one of Ó Riada’s closest friends and confidantes, he was an artist and friend who had a unique understanding of the great legacy left to Irish music by the late Séan Ó Riada. Through the thirty- plus years since Seán Ó Riada’s death, Seán Ó Sé has continued to consolidate his international reputation as a truly versatile entertainer; as singer of a variety of songs, story-teller and raconteur.
Bhí Bean Uasal, often referred to as Carrigfergus is generally regarded as an Ulster song. However there are those who stoutly maintain that it is a Clare or a Kerry song. The version sung here by Ó Sé is one he learned from Seán Ó Riada and which featured in that monumental Ó Riada sa Gaeity Concert in 1969. There are of course several other versions of the song but is fair to say that the Ó Riada’s version is generally acknowledged to be the definitive one.
BHÍ BEAN UASAL
Do bhí bean uasal seal dá luadh liom
Ach dhein sí cuach díomsa faraoir géar
Do chuas na teannta 'sna bailtí móra
Ach d'fhág sí ann mé os cóir an tsaoil
Dá bhfagainnse a ceannsa faoi ársaí an teampaill
Do bheinnse arís ann im mhór thír féin
Ach anois táim tinn lag gan fáil ar leigheas agam
Is beidh mo mhuinntir ag gol im dhéidh.
I wish I had you in Carrigfergus
Is fada ón áit sinn go Baile Uí Chuain,
Sailing over the deep blue waters
I ndiaidh mo ghrá gheal ’sí ag ealó uaim
For the seas are deep love and I can't swim over
And neither home have I wings to fly
I wish I met with a handy boatman
Who would ferry over my love and I.
In Castlecomer it was reported
A marble stone there as black as ink
With gold and silver I’ll pay for porter
But I’ll sing no more ’till I have a drink
For I’m drunk today and I’m seldom sober
A handsome rover from town to town
But now I am dead and my days they are over
Come Molly a stóirín, now lay me down.
This macaraonic song, meaning a song which comprises of both the Irish and English language, is interpreted here by Ó Sé with an undisputable sense of mastery and comfort.
4.Reels:The Smiling Lady Comp. Paddy O Brien / Bill McEvoys,Comp. Séan Ryan (Janine Redmond)
Both of these reels are relatively new compositions but due to the traditional integrity of the composers they have become absorbed into the tradition to the extent that although new they sound old, yet they each have the individual stamp of their composers. The first reel was composed by the legendary two row accordion maestro Paddy O’ Brien (1922 – 1991 ) a native of Newtown, Co. Tipperary whose approach to “box” playing”, using the B/C system, marked a milestone in the development of Irish traditional music. Paddy O’ Brien spent much of his life in North America before returning to his native Co. Tipperary and like many of the greatest of our musicians who have spent time abroad he left a musical legacy on more than one continent. This particular reel was one of two tunes ( The Nervous Man being the other that he composed to remember the All-Ireland Senior Duet Competition in Ennis in 1981 won by his daughter fiddler Eileen Óg Ó Brien and accordion player Willie Fogarty. ( This is the same Willie Fogarty who is the creative producer of the Comhaltaslive internet programme and a man who has compiled so many Fleadh videos over so many years – Willie is a very highly respected box player who was taught by the late Paddy O’ Brien. ) The Smiling Lady to whom the tune was dedicated was indeed Paddy O’ Brien’s daughter Eileen who has become one the great fiddle players of her time.
The title of the second reel, Bill McEvoys No. 1, incorporates a name that is known throughout the Comhaltas and traditional music fraternity of North America. A pioneer and stalwart of C.C.E. in North America Bill was a close friend of the legendary fiddler and composer Seán Ryan ( D. 1985). A Native of Portroe in Co. Tipperary Seán Ryan’s unique style was first heard in the mid 1950’s was been held in the highest esteem by subsequent generations of musicians. Seán Ryan’s many compositions are played both nationally and internationally today as part of what is considered to be core repertoire. Bill McEvoy remembers the actual setting in which Seán Ryan composed the two reels Bill McEvoy’s No. 1 and Bill McEvoys No. 2. Seán Ryan played in America with a Comhaltas tour group in the 1970s and he composed these two reels early one morning while staying with Bill and Lil McEvoy at their home in Long Island.
5. Slow Air: Carolan’s Farewell To Music (Claire Quinn)
Turloch Carolan ( or O Carolan) as he is sometimes referred to, depending on the primary source being used by the writer in question, the harper and composer was born at Nobber, Co Meath in 1670. He went to live in Alderford Co. Roscommon at the age of four when his father started work for the Mac Dermott Roe family. This family were to play a major role in the life of Ireland’s most celebrated harper from his youth right till his death. It appears that the young Carolan was educated by the Mac Dermott Roes and when he became blind as a result of smallpox at the age of eighteen , Mrs. Mac Dermott Roe arranged for him to learn to play the harp. She further provided him with a helper and a horse and what was described as a stipend when he had finished his training and he thus began his “career” as an itinerant harper. The profession of the itinerant harper was quite a respectable one in Ireland at the time due to the structure of society – both the “old” and “new” landed classes treated the harpers with respect and these men of music, many of whom were blind, had a comfortable place in society’s hierarchical structures. Most of the writings on Carolan point to the fact that he was a good instrumentalist but that it was as a composer that he was regarded as quite remarkable. Over two hundred tunes are attributed to Carolan and these are reflective of the various musical influences which shaped his creative mind, influences such as the music of the harp tradition as it existed in Ireland (the harp of the time being the wire-strung harp), the various song and dance tunes which were in circulation and finally an influence which is often cited the music of the prominent Italian composers of the time. O Carolan returned to the home of the Mac Dermott Roe family shortly before his death and one account describes how he requested his harp played Carolans Farewell To Music before going upstairs to rest on what turned out to be his death-bed. This is one of Claire Quinn’s very wide repertoire of slow-airs most of which she acquired from her music teacher Kathleen Nesbitt, a fiddler and music teacher who has long been acknowledged for her contribution to slow-air playing over the last forty years.
6. Reels: The Mossy Banks / The Red Bee Comp. Joe Liddy ( Rory McMahon*)
The first tune has been played for many years and it’s exact origin is not clear. That said, most musicians credit the Fermanagh fiddler Seán Nugent for the popularisation of this three part setting of the Mossy Banks. Seán Nugent and the Pride of Erin Ceili Band were stalwarts of All-Ireland Fleadhanna throughout the 1970s and 80s and amongst the many tunes they brought into the more common repertoire was The Mossy Banks.
The second reel The Red Bee is a composition of Joe Liddy, the Dublin based Leitrim fiddler who played with the Belhavel Trio, the Garda Ceilí Band and the Kincora Ceili Band. The Belhavel Trio which comprised of Joe, his brother Tommy Liddy and Westmeath piper Ned Gorman was particularly well known due to their three 78’s recordings and more importantly their many radio broadcasts on Raidio Éireann throughout the 1930’s and 40’s. All of his family had been musicians and in addition to having strong roots in his own locality, Joe Liddy also had many associations with the South Sligo musical community. Like so many musicians had a very warm and generous personality and he was a much loved figure at the Cultúrlann ( C.C.E.'s Head office in Dublin) where he was an active member of the then Monkstown branch of the organisation. His first book of one hundred and three compositions were published by C.C.E. in 1981 and was followed by a second book in 1991, which comprised of one hundred and eleven tunes. The Red Bee was one of Joe Liddy’s earlier compositions which was included in his first publication. The tune became popular twenty or so years ago through the playing of Kathleen Nesbitt (c.f. Track 5) and Maebh Ní Lochlainn, whose father Peadar Ó Lochlainn was instrumental in the publication of Joe Liddy’s tunes.
7. Hornpipes: The High Level Comp. James Hill / Pretty Maggie Morrissey (Pádraig Sinnott)
Many of the hornpipes played as part of the Irish traditional repertoire have their origins in North England and the compositions of Newcastle-on Tyne fiddler James Hill are an example of such a musical transmission. This first hornpipe The High Level was named by James Hill after the then new bridge at Newcastle in the north of England linking Newcastle and Gateshead. This bridge, which was opened on August 29 1848 crossed the river Tyne in the North of England and was of a higher level than the older bridge thus the title The High Level .Other well known hornpipes which were composed by James Hill include The Bees Wing and The Wonder. His compositions have always offered a challenge to musicians due to their cleverly crafted complex structure which has a wonderful underlying musicality.
Pretty Maggie Morrissey is included in O’ Neill’s 1850 Collection, but interestingly, is not included in his O’ Neills 1001 Collection. The tune was one of many tunes which O’ Neill ( c.f. Track 1 ) sourced from the Mayo fiddler John McFadden who was a contemporary of O Neill in Chicago Many of the “big” tunes in the O’ Neills collections come from McFadden and/or his duet partner Sergeant James Early form South Leitrim. Such tunes include The Broken Pledge, a setting of Paddy Ryan’s Dream and indeed The Bucks of Oranmore. McFadden was also well known for his quality compositions which included The Queen at the Fair jig, and most likely McFadden’s (Own) Reel and McFadden’s Handsome Daughter. The hornpipe Pretty Maggie Morrissey was recorded by the legendary Michael Coleman (1891 – 1946 ) a musician who has been researched in the finest detail by Harry Bradshaw amongst other musical authorities. ( c.f. Viva Voce Michael Coleman). Much has also been written about the legacy of the Irish immigrant musicians to North America which included Coleman, James Morrisson, Paddy Killoran, Patsy Tuohy, John McKenna, P.J. Conlon and so many more, and it is testimony to their era and their crucially important 78 r.p.m. recordings that we still play so many tunes that were recorded by then.
8 Air: Bessy the Beauty from Rossinure Hill / Reel : The Flags of Dublin ( Martin O’ Donohue)
Cavan “box” player Martin O’ Donohue got this air from the Fermanagh Fiddler/Singer/Storyteller, Mick Hoy, now deceased. . Mick Hoy used to play with a friend of Martin’s, flute player Eddie Duffy RIP now also deceased and Martin used to travel to Derrygonnelly, Co Fermanagh in the 1980s to play sessions from them and in the process learn some of their rare repertoire. Rossinure Hill is to be found just outside Derygonnelly. Mick Hoy played this air Bessy the Beauty as he sang it and he chose not to over ornament it. Martin keeps to this tradition as also did many of older musicians in Fermanagh who played this version of the air.
The Flags of Dublin has long been associated with the piping tradition having been recorded by Séamus Ennis and played back in the 1970’s by the piper Trevor Stewart from whom Martin learned it. The tune originally appeared in a Cork Manuscript under the title Hand me down the tea tackling but it was published in the Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society (Vol VII ) under the title of The League and Slashers in 1909. The source for this version almost one hundred years ago was the Belfast piper R. L. Mealy.
9 Barndance: Flanagan Meets O Hanlon;Comp. Johnny Óg Connolly & Brian McGrath / Reel The Flood in the Holm (Erin McGeown)
The first tune is an example of how some really lovely tunes can be composed in a spontaneous fashion. The first part of the tune was composed by accordion player Johnny Óg Connolly and most of the second half was composed by banjo and piano player Brian McGrath on their album “Dreaming Up The Tunes”. Both men are amongst the most exciting musicians of the present –day and this really fine tune is an example of how at ease they are with their depth of musicality. The O’ Hanlon whose name features in the title of the barndance is Peter O’Hanlon who played rhythm banjo on the C.D..
The reel The Flood on The Holm was primarily from the repertoire of the much famed Donegal fiddler Johnny Doherty, but many younger fiddlers including Erin McGeown have learnt it from the playing of one of today, including Erin McGeown, have learnt it from the playing of James Kelly one of the icons of solo fiddle mastery over the last thirty years. A Native of Dublin James Kelly, whose father was the legendary John Kelly a serious authority on Irish music and member of Ceoltóirí Chualann ( c.f. track 3) has been based in Florida for many years. The Flood on The Holm is a fine example of the manner from which many tunes from the Scottish fiddle tradition were adapted by Donegal fiddlers to the Irish idiom. Johnny Doherty used the James Scott Skinner Composition The Brides as his inspiration for the many variations in the tune. A holm as referred to in the tune title is a term used for the flood plain of a river, thus the construction of such a title!
10.Song: Brocagh Brae (Aisling Campbell)
The singers of the Lough Shore area of East Tyrone had a fine repertoire of local songs which came to a wider audience in the 1960s and subsequent years mainly through the singing of the late Geordie Hanna and Sarah Anne O’ Neill. This repertoire included songs such as The Fisher’s Cot, The Banks of Sweet Lough Neagh, To All Intended Emigrants, The Lisburn Lass, Old Arboe and , not least – Brocagh Brae. Our singer here, Aisling Campbell, has learned many of the songs of this her native area and sings this song in a style and accent reminiscent of the singers mentioned above. Geordie recalled that the song was composed by one John Canavan from the Arboe area and that he himself had “picked it up” from a singer named Paddy McMahon.
One night as I lay slumbering in my silent bed alone
Some reckless thoughts came into my mind which caused me for to roam
For to leave my native country and the wee girl I do adore
So I thought it fit for to take a trip, strange lands for to explore
Now the night before I went away I was walking over Brocagh Hill
When I met my darling upon the road and her eyes with tears did fill
“Stay at home, dear John”, she said “And do not go away”
For I’ll have none to come court me when you are on the sea”
Well I took her by the lily white hand and held her both hard and fast
“Saying adieu to you my darling, for my ship she lies in Belfast
But if you’ll prove loyal then I’ll prove true for you know I’m well inclined”
So we kissed shook hands we parted and I left my wee girl behind.
Now when I landed in Belfast sure our ship she was in full sail
And away she went o’er the Lough with a soft and pleasant
She was sailing towards the ocean where the foaming billows roar
So its thanks be to the heavens above that we landed safe on shore.
Now when we landed on Green Knock shores the people they all gathered round
They said I was a wreckish lad come to cut the harvest down
They told me to return again and to never more be seen
So without delay I sailed straight away for Erin’s lovely green
When Mary heard that her John was home, her heart it did beat with joy
Saying come into my arms for you are my darling’ boy
Saying come into my arms once more for tis you I have thought a great long
And let them all say as they will, our wedding it will go on
Now Brocagh Brae’s a nice wee place where pretty girls live in
You’d think they were the nightingales when they sit down to sing
Where the salmon and trout all sport about on Lough Neagh’s verdant shore
And let them all say as they will, you are mine for ever more
11.Jigs: Jacksons Rolling Jig / Jackson’s Couge in the Mornin (Aisling McPhilips*)
The first ever printed collection of Irish music dates back to 1724 when the Neale Brothers published their “Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes” which was reissued in 1986 by Nicholas Carolan by The Folk Music Society of Ireland. Whereas the 1700s saw a number of other collections ( e.g. Burke Thumoth 1742-43)) these had their origins in the melodies of the Ballad opera era in Dublin during the middle of the century. In 1774 Jacksons Celebrated Irish Tunes was published and reprinted shortly afterwards in 1790 in a publication often called The Lee Collection. The thirteen tunes in this collection are all reputed to be the work of Piper Walker Jackson, a native of Ballingarry in Co. Limerick. The tune Jacksons Morning Brush and Strike the Gay Harp ( Jackson’s Nightcap) are probably the Jackson tunes most commonly known today. It has been said that Piper Jackson had connections with Co. Monaghan but this belief probably has it’s origins in the footnotes of the Bunting Collection. The well-known Limerick historian Dr. Mainchin Seoighe has traced this Jackson, of the Jackson tunes, to being the Limerick piper described by Ferrar, the eighteenth century traveller, as being “ a native of the county of Limerick and a good musician, who has composed a number of pieces of excellent pieces of music, which are much admired for their harmony and expression”. (The use of the word harmony by an eighteenth century professional traveller and contemporary social historian would not necessarily be the same as that used by musicians back then and/or musicians nowadays. Piper Walker Jackson was one of those musicians that O’ Neill ( c.f. track 1 ) classed as a Gentleman Piper and he belonged to the landed classes and at least minor gentry in his native County Limerick. There is still some debate, primarily based on the research of Breandán Breathnach as to whether or not more than one piper Jackson existed, perhaps based on a correspondence to Chief O’ Neill that made reference to a piper Jackson near Ballybay in County Monaghan. The fact that “Jackson” tunes, which simply means tunes with the name Jackson at the start of the title, formed a sizeable part of the Gunn Collection, from the neighbouring county Fermanagh, would help substantiate this claim. However it is quite a complex picture which requires further study.
The first jig “Jackson’s Rolling Jig” was later printed in the O Neills 1001 Collecttion ( No. 170) and it was also published in his earlier larger 1850 work.A close examination of O’ Neills works, especially his 1922 Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody publication indicate that O’ Neill was in possession of a copy, whether re-issue or original or first edition we do not know, of The Jackson publication of 1774. The second of these two Jackson tunes Jacksons Couge in The Morning”is a setting taken from the Gunn Collection, Co. Fermanagh the native area of our flute-player. The Gunn Book comprises a manuscript collection of dance tunes written down by John Gunn, the forefather of a very strong family musical tradition, from Corratistune, near Upper Lough Erne, near County Fermanagh. This collection has been recently been highlighted in the publication “The Hidden Fermanagh” where the exact history and content of the Gunn manuscript is explained in great detail. A further interesting feature to this tune title Jacksons Couge in the Morning is the fact that a couge is a porridge pot in the Scots dialect.
12. Hymn Tune: A Dhia na Nollag, Comp. M. Ní Dhuibhir / Reel: Sonny’s Return ( Niamh Denmead)
This first slow piece is actually the melody of a hymn woman named Máire Ní Dhuibhir from the Connemara Gaeltacht. It became popular after it was heard unfortunately with no title or composer credits, on a radio broadcast. It was popularised by the playing of the great flute player from Carna, Marcus Hernon, who credits Máire for the composition of this truly beautiful melody which in fact forms part of an entire mass which was composed by Máire Ní Dhuibhir.
The reel Sonny’s Return is associated with the distinctive music of accordion player Sonny Brogan. Sonny Brogan reputedly brought this tune back with him to Ireland following a visit to England and this led to the appropriate name. Sonny Brogan was a very popular musician with a fine repertoire who had close associations with Ceoltóirí Chualann as well as being part of the very active music scene in Dublin 1960s and 1970s. The reel was further “spread” when it featured on the Joe Burke and Andy McGann 1965 album “A Tribute To Michael Coleman”
13. Slip Jigs: I have a Wife of my Own/ I am the Boy for Bewitching Them (Group)
Both of these slip jigs are included in O Neill Collection 1001. The first tune which is very rarely played was sourced by the collector from the playing of a flute player Mr. Timothy Downing, O’ Neills native Tralibane in West Cork. To quote O Neill “The rudiments of music on the flute were kindly taught me by Mr. Timothy Downing, a gentleman farmer in Tralibane, our townland.” O’ Neill was delighted to procure some of the many manuscripts which Downing had kept in a chest and from which he had taught his pupil tunes. Captain O’ Neill obtained the manuscripts from Downing’s daughter when he, O’ Neill, was at home in Ireland on a visit and he accessed some more through Downing’s son who was living in Bangor, Co. Wales. No one could possibly doubt the incredible commitment shown by this unique man Francis O’ Neill to the collection and preservation of Irish music.
The second slip jig I am the Boy for Bewitching Them is also in the O’ Neill collection and was primarily introduced into the present traditional repertoire through the playing of Séamus Connolly. A virtuoso fiddler, Séamus Connolly, who was originally from Killaloe in Co. Clare has spent most of his life in North America was the founder of the Boston College Gaelic Roots festival. Having been director of the music, song and dance input to the Irish Studies Programme at the College since 1990 Séamus was also an adjunct professor of music there. A few years ago Séamus Connolly was named the Sullivan Artist in Residence in Irish Music and Professor at Boston College. His achievements have been multi-faceted but like so many of the best Irish traditional musicians he consistently brought quality tunes, many of them from rare and unusual sources, to the attention of the traditional musical fraternity.
14. Reels: Jimmy Batty’s ,Comp. John Carty/ Fr. O Grady’s Farewell to Bocca, Comp. Josie McDermott ( James Mahon *)
The first reel, which James learned from the playing of flute-player June McCormack was composed by the London born banjo / fiddle player John Carty.now living in Ireland. Having been taught by the highly reknowned Brendan Mulkere and having been involved with the London Irish Music Circle John Carty had already established his reputation as an outstanding musician prior to coming to live to Ireland in the erly 1990s. Over the last number of years has proved no just to be a master banjo player but also a master fiddler. John’s father, John P. Carty, a musician also, was a Roscommon man by birth and the name “Batty” has a significance within the family.
The second reel also has Roscommon connections as it is a composition of flute/whistle player, singer, lilter and raconteur Josie McDermott ( 1925 – 1992). Born at Coolmeen, which although within the county boundaries of Sligo is very near Ballyfarnon Co. Roscommon Josie McDermott grew up in a very rich musical environment. He had a very broad taste in music and played a wide variety of musical genre, including jazz, on a wide variety of instruments. He composed some lovely tunes including this reel, all of which are treasured by the musical fraternity.
15. Song: An Poc ar Buile:Trad. Air, Focail; D. Ó Mulláin, Words; S. Ó Croinín (Seán Ó Sé )
An t-Oireachtas is, and was, a large and prestigious gathering of Gaelic singing, music and culture which took place annually, organised by the Gaelic League. Through the early half of the twentieth century an t-Oireachtas was the one and only gathering of consequence where the old Gaelic songs and singing styles of the several Gaeltacht areas ( the areas in which the Irish language was the first language of the community) got an airing. An Poc Ar Buile was written by Dónal Ó Mulláin from Cúil Aodha to the air of a much older song called An Boc ar Buile and in the early 1940’s Ó Mulláin came to the Oireachtas festival (then held in Dublin) with his newly composed song An Poc ar Buile where it was received with great enthusiasm. Séan Ó Sé heard this song sung by Peáití Thaidg Pheig Ó Tuama when he was a student at Coláiste Íosagáin in Baile Bhúirne. It was this song that brought Seán Ó Riada and Seán Ó Sé together when Seán Ó Riada arranged it for a recording in his newly formed group Ceoltóirí Chualann in 1961. The song was an immediate hit this time on a much wider stage. Some called it the first Irish language pop song, but indeed no song is more traditional. More than forty year later it is still Seán’s most requested song. This version includes a verse in English by Seán Ó Cróinín.
16. Reels: All the Way to Galway /Snow on the Hills/The Cavan Reel ( Group)
The first of these three reels is also known as The Road To Lisdoonvarna, as that is name by which it was recorded by The Chieftains. It occurs under it’s older title in the Ryans Mammoth Collection (1883) a collection which is regarded as being the most important collection of Irish music in America before Francis O’ Neill. The tunes in Ryans Mammoth Collection, which later became known as Coles due to a reprint under another publisher in 1940, were of diverse backgrounds. It was described as follows:
“William Bradbury Ryans Mammoth Collection of more than 1051 Reels and Jigs, Hornpipes, Clogs, Walk Arounds, Slip Jigs, Essences, Strathspeys, Highland Flings and Contra Dances with figures”. William Bradbury Ryan was born in Vermont , USA and actually enlisted in the union army as a musician in 1861. Having fled and been recaptured he began working with publisher Elias Howe with whom he published this very significant collection of music. Whereas many of the tunes were borrowed from previous publications e.g. Rileys Flute Melodies 1814 the collection also included composition from thirty-nine musicians of the era, including some minstrel performers and even clog dancers. The book has long been used as a source of tunes for musicians and some of the most distinctive tunes in the present-day repertoire e.g. The Condradiction Reel ( The Souvenire of Venice ) were originally sourced from Ryans Mammoth and from there entered the broader arena. The final reel is one that dates back to The Flanagan Brothers a group who were to the forefront of the music hall scene in North America as far back as the late 1920s. Amongst the tunes they recorded on 78 r.p.m. was this tune The Cavan Reel, a tune which was “resurrected” so to speak by Paul Brock and Frankie Gavin. The structure of the tune would have rendered it very suitable to the music and instruments ( banjo and accordion) played by the Waterford born Flanagan brothers who emigrated to North America at a young age like so many other Irish musicians before and after them.
Recorded at: CCÉ, 32 Belgrave Square, Monkstown, Co. Dublin
Producer: Siobhán Ní Chonaráin
Sound Engineering and Mastering: Alan Gleeson 087 – 2890276
Singing Advisor: Séamus MacMathúna
Design: Daire Ó Beaglaíoch, Graftrónaic
CD Replication: Trend Studios
Sleevenotes: Siobhán Ní Chonaráin, Nickie McAuliffe, Séamus MacMathúna, Paddy Ryan with thanks to Seán Ó Sé, Martin O’ Donohue, Kathleen Nesbitt Marcus Hernon, Eileen Óg O’ Brien and Ted McGraw for their contributions.
Special thanks to Nickie McAuliffe for his additional repertoire to the tour, to Bernard O’ Sullivan Tour Co-ordinator and all the staff at C.C.E. Monkstown and to Ian Roome for the loan of a Bb Jeffries Concertina used in the initial stages of the recording process.