Dave Flynn - Contemporary Traditional Irish Guitar
Liner notes by Dave Flynn
It may seem a bit odd to call any music contemporary and traditional, but that’s exactly what the music on this recording is. The oldest tunes on this recording date from around the 1950’s, most are much more recent than that. All of the tunes have been composed and performed by Irish traditional musicians. So they are part of the tradition, yet they are contemporary. They reflect the constantly evolving nature of the Irish music tradition.
The majority of the music on this recording is by Paddy Fahey, a magical fiddle player and composer who is, to me and many others, one of the finest composers Ireland has every produced. I also hold the music of Ed Reavy, Tommy Peoples, Liz Carroll, Charlie Lennon and Larry Redican in very high esteem. It is a special skill to be able to compose tunes that sound new, whilst fitting seamlessly into the tradition. These composers have done just that and in doing so they’ve created miniature masterpieces of melodic beauty.
All the compositions on the recording were originally fiddle tunes and so in my arrangements I’ve tried to recreate some of phrasing of the fiddle on the guitar by tuning it to match the tuning of a fiddle. The keys of my settings of the tunes differ from the originals in most cases, due to my use of a capo on the guitar to achieve a brighter sound.
Alongside these arrangements I present ‘The Mahatma of the Glen’, a new arrangement of three of the seven sections that make up ‘Music for the Departed’, an extended composition I created for Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill and Ioana Petcu-Colan, who premiered it in 2006 at the Masters of Tradition Festival in Bantry.
This arrangement and indeed this recording are dedicated to the memory of the great fiddle player James Byrne - the Mahatma of the Glen.
About the Artist
Dave Flynn is an award-winning composer and musician from Dublin, Ireland who works across many musical genres with a particular emphasis on traditional and contemporary Irish music. Dave is perhaps best known for ‘Music for the Departed’ his innovative collaboration with the renowned Irish Fiddle and Guitar duo Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill and the virtuoso classical violinist Ioana Petcu-Colan, which was premiered at the 2006 Masters of Tradition Festival in Bantry, Ireland.
Dave has received audience and critical acclaim for his unique compositions and songs, virtuoso musicianship and stunning live performances. His numerous awards include the 2002 IMRO Composition Award and the 2004 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Composers Award. Aside from his composition skills, Dave is particularly noted for his virtuoso guitar and mandolin skills which have seen him perform across many different genres, both solo and alongside such internationally renowned musicians as Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Steve Cooney, Louis Stewart, Roland Dyens, The Crash Ensemble, Líadan, John Feeley, Clive Carroll and the Dublin Guitar Quartet the acclaimed group Dave co-founded before going solo.
‘This is a collection of traditional and contemporary Irish tunes played on the nylon-strung guitar. The premise was to record only tunes which were written in the past 50 years. I guess this disqualifies them as traditional tunes in the strictest sense, but why quibble with music this beautiful. There is little information about Dave Flynn on the CD insert, but by simply listening to his light and sensitive touch, it becomes clear that he is a very fine player who has thorough understanding of the subtle nuances of Irish fiddle tunes. He states that he uses the various alternate tunings, achieving a bright and percussive sound with the use of a capo. A majority of the tunes were written by Paddy Fahey. Dave used a master’s thesis on Fahey’s music as a source along with recordings by Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill and Kevin and Seamus Glackin, among others, for the other selections. The CD opens with “Paddy Fahey’s Reels No. 20 & 6.” It would be easy to typecast this music as “new age” upon casual listening, but Dave has a subtle pulse and grace with his right hand, and the resultant arrangement is very lovely. “The Kinnycally Jig,” from Tommy Peoples, follows with its rich chord melody and deliberate tempo. The melody is played over an insistent bass ostinato. Dave also includes one of his own pieces. The keystone of the recording is “The Mahatma of the Glen,” three movements – slow air, slide and slip-slide – from an extended seven-section piece called “Music for the Departed,” written for Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill and Ioana Petcu-Colan. With occasional dissonance in the slow air, it is less traditional in sound than the other compositions on the CD. Dave Flynn is a masterful guitarist. If your Celtic music taste is more contemporary, this CD will be a wonderful listening experience.’ — Tom Druckenmiller
Irish Music Magazine
This recording is quite striking and unique for a number of reasons. Firstly, Dave Flynn has made a full album comprising of melodic dance music played exclusively on nylon string guitar. Although the guitar is an instrument not normally associated with playing Irish dance music, Dave breathes new life into the music with a lovely melodic lilt and lift to each tune that has been carefully selected to feature on this recording. It is not your typical guitar album; the dexterity of finger movement and sheer delight in playing these melodies is quite apparent from start to finish on this album. He has made carved a niche to represent his own distinctive and personal style that shines through in many ways on this album. In the sleeve notes, Dave notes the paradox in the album’s title; however, this collection features many tunes that were composed relatively recently yet are known and played worldwide as part of the traditional music canon. Most of the music performed stems from the pen of Paddy Fahey – “a magical fiddle player and composer who is, to me and many others, one of the finest composers Ireland has ever produced.”
The album is worth the purchase alone for the pleasure of hearing so many Fahey tunes in one setting. Also, other notable composers’ tunes are included including those of Cavan-born Ed Reavy, Donegal master Tommy Peoples, Leitrim’s legend Charlie Lennon, and the great Irish-American fiddler Larry Redican. As Dave notes so importantly, “It is a special skill to be able to compose tunes that sound new, whilst still fitting seamlessly into the tradition.” Interestingly, all of the compositions on the album were originally fiddle tunes and so, Dave has fittingly tried to translate the fiddle style in terms of rhythm and phrasing onto his guitar by matching it to the tuning of the fiddle. It’s quite a pleasure to hear many of these tunes heard in different keys to the originals due to the use of a capo to create a brighter overall sound, as it gives the listener a fresh insight into these wonderful, melodic melodies. There are some lyrical introductions also to tunes that lure the listener into the tune – listen to track 7, for example. Finally, it’s beautiful to see hear “The Mahatma of the Glen” on this recording – a recent original composition, dedicated to a master Donegal fiddler, the late James Byrne who also made such a remarkable contribution to the world of Irish Music. To conclude, this is a must for anyone who enjoys contemporary traditional music at its best.
When I received Dave Flynn’s recent disc entitled “Contemporary Traditional Irish Guitar” I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Driven by my curiosity, I listened to the album immediately. Nothing could have prepared me for the innovative, soothingly pastoral music that washed over me. The works, arranged and composed by Flynn, are a unique and truly satisfying blend of traditional Irish melodies and harmonies, gently delivered in a contemporary style vaguely similar to new-age fingerstyle guitar. At a glance, the specific nature of the album title might seem to suggest that there won’t be very much variety in the music, but the truth is that each work is unique and the album is a journey through a diverse collection of compositions. Resting comfortably between the worlds of classical guitar and popular music, this album has a distinctly universal appeal. If you’re not already intrigued, try listening to one track, I can almost promise that you will want to buy this disc just to hear them all. © Timothy Smith