Grey Larsen began his musical career at age three when he reached above his head to play the piano and picked out the melody of his favorite song, Home on the Range. Steeped in his father's love of classical and folk music, he studied piano and cello, worked his way with fascination through much of the keyboard music of J. S. Bach, began composing at age 12, and as a teenager began delving into Irish and Appalachian music on guitar, flute, concertina, fiddle and other instruments. He graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music with a degree in composition in 1976.
Grey's musical childhood also included stints in a grade school garage rock band comprised of classical guitar, snare drum, clarinet, and piano, and later in various folk and early music groups throughout high school and college. At Oberlin, Grey met fellow Cincinnatian Malcolm Dalglish, who would become a longtime musical partner. While they did not focus exclusively on Irish music, Grey?s and Malcolm's early recordings, such as Banish Misfortune and Thunderhead, which became classics in the U.S. folk scene, were deeply influenced by the elder Irish players they knew such as Michael Kennedy, Tom Byrne and Tom McCaffrey. After seven years as a duo Grey and Malcolm joined forces with Vermont songwriter and old-time fiddler Pete Sutherland to form the trio Metamora, which for seven more years reached deeply into American, French Canadian, Irish and other European traditions, both vocal and instrumental, and explored progressive composing inspired by those traditions.
Currently, Grey records, produces and masters recordings, scores films, and edits music for various books and for Sing Out! Magazine. He is equally at home playing the fiddle music of Appalachia and his native Midwest as he is playing Irish music, and performs in a wide range of groups and venues. However, in recent years, Grey has chosen to focus foremost upon deepening his understanding of Irish traditional music, especially as represented in flute and tin whistle playing. His solo recording, The Gathering, and his recording with Québecois guitarist/vocalist/foot percussionist André Marchand, The Orange Tree, trace his increasing mastery of the subtleties of flute and whistle playing.
In recent years, Grey has become a much sought-after teacher of Irish flute and whistle. In July 2003, Mel Bay Publications will issue Grey's 500 page book "The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle," a very comprehensive volume on Irish flute and whistle traditions, in which Grey explores both techniques and philosophies of playing and presents his own new notation system for flute and whistle ornamentation. More books are coming soon.
In meeting Paddy, Grey found an ideal partner both in a passion for Irish traditional music and in musical virtuosity. "Dark of the Moon," and their debut CD "The Green House" represent for Grey both the culmination of years of deep exploration of Irish music and the birth of a promising new collaboration.
Paddy League's first formative musical experience came at the age of three in the form of an encounter with the bass drum of a New Orleans brass band. While he didn't formally take up the drumsticks until a teenager, the myriad dents in his family's kitchenware attest to the influence of that early childhood event.
Paddy was born in 1979 into a family with a rich and varied musical history. His mother Asimoula and grandfather Henry Kelly were both accomplished musicians in the fields of orchestral and swing music, and his paternal great-grandfather Tom McAviney was a flute player who, along with his younger brother Mike, was active in the Philadelphia Irish music community of the early 20th century. The soundtrack of Paddy's childhood was further composed of the Greek dance music of his grandmother's culture, and the funk, rock, and rhythm and blues of his father's eclectic record collection. These seemingly disparate influences took a firm hold early on and have remained constant sources of inspiration and growth throughout his musical journey.
Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, Paddy was exposed to even more music, and took up a serious study of jazz and Latin percussion while in high school. He was soon performing regularly in jazz and fusion groups in the D.C. area, mentored and encouraged by musicians such as saxophonist Tim Eyermann and percussionist Keith Killgo. He also spent several years studying Indian tabla and Nepalese folk percussion with the late Prof. Indra Lal Shrestha of Kathmandu, and began incorporating all of these influences into his bodhrán playing.
Paddy's involvement in traditional Irish music initially came about through an interest, acquired from his grandfather, in the Irish language. In seeking out avenues of learning, he became involved in the D.C. area's flourishing traditional music community, and has since become one the most respected percussionists and bodhrán teachers on the North American acoustic and traditional music circuit.
Grey and Paddy met in 1996 while teaching at the Swannanoa Gathering at Warren-Wilson College outside of Asheville, North Carolina, and mutually recognized a kindred spirit. They began performing together in the Spring of 2000, and 'The Green House' is the result of their first full year of making music together.
LINER NOTES for DARK OF THE MOON:
For additional notes on this music, visit www.greylarsen.com.
1. The Cat that Ate the Candle / Petticoat Loop / The Corry Boys (3:29)
Flute, guitar, and bodhran.
Three unusual 'crooked' reels, with extra beats added to the normal structure (dancers beware!). The first comes from Dublin piper Tommy Reck, the second from Co. Donegal fiddler Johnny Doherty, and the third from Co. Leitrim flute player John McKenna, who was an active recording artist in the New York City Irish-American music scene of the 1920s.
2. John Stenson's Reel / Palm Sunday (5:00)
Flute and guitar.
John Stenson's Reel, a Northern tune, is normally played quite fast in the key of A. We've recast it here in G and encouraged it to slow down a bit. Palm Sunday is a lyrical jig we learned from fiddler Kevin Burke.
3. Michael J. Kennedy Jigs: Untitled / Untitled / Haste to the Wedding (4:51)
Anglo concertina, guitar, harmonium, and bodhrán.
Three jigs from Co. Galway melodeon player Michael J. Kennedy (1900 ' 1978), who had one of the most interesting repertoires of any Irish musician we've ever known. The first two jigs are crooked - this time having fewer beats than normal - and the third is a rare Galway version of the well-known jig Haste to the Wedding. Our first CD, The Green House, contains three 1976 recordings of Michael playing and reminiscing. Hup, a Mhicheal!
4. The Blackbird / The Gold Ring (6:41)
Flute, harmonium, and bodhrán.
The Blackbird is one of the oldest Irish airs still commonly played today - so old, in fact, that it seems to have lost its words (if indeed it ever had any) and now exists purely as a instrumental piece. Some conjecture that the title refers to Napoleon Bonaparte, who at one time was Ireland's hoped-for liberator. Likewise, The Gold Ring is presumably one of the oldest extant Irish dance tunes - according to legend, an otherworldly reward to a scrupulous piper.
5. Michael J. Kennedy Schottisches: Untitled / Untitled / Pretty Molly Brannigan (4:46)
Low G tin whistle and guitar.
Three more tunes from Michael J. Kennedy. The first schottische is crooked, and intriguingly ambiguous as to where the melody begins, so we've tried two different departure points. Michael's version of Pretty Molly Brannigan, a common song of unrequited love, has an unexpected turn that suggests an older sense of modality.
6. Another Jig Will Do / The Ship Doctor / I'm the Boy for Bewitching Them (3:32)
Flute and guitar.
Three slip jigs. We found The Ship Doctor (An Dochtuir Loinge) in Breandan Breathnach's Ceol Rince na hEireann. The last tune comes from the fiddling of Seamus Connolly, and bears one of the most self-affirming titles in Irish music.
7. Sliabh Geal gCua na Feile / The Drunken Gauger (6:30)
Anglo concertina and harmonium.
The first tune is the air of Sliabh Geal gCua na Feile (Bright Beautiful Mount Cua), a song in the Irish language composed in 1890 by Pádraig Ó Máille. Ó Máille had left his home in the West of Ireland to work in the coalmines of Wales. The lyrics tell of the emigrant's loneliness, homesickness, and despair. The Drunken Gauger, on the other hand, is an old set dance from West Clare which celebrates a (sadly) defunct profession involving pub-hopping government employees. The tune is associated with two late legendary West Clare fiddlers - Bobby Casey and Junior Crehan, who surreptitiously learned it from a traveling dancing-master. Thanks to Kevin Crehan for the yarn.
8. Thugamar Fein an Samhradh Linn (We Brought the Summer with Us) (4:08)
A summer carol from Munster. For Michaux.
Samhradh, samhradh, bainne na ngamhna
Thugamar fein an samhradh linn
Samhradh bui na noinin glegeal
Thugumar fein and samhradh linn.
Summer, summer, the milk of the calves
We brought the summer garland with us Yellow summer of the bright daisies
We brought the summer with us.
9. The Day I Met Tom Moylan / Josie McDermott's / The Colliers' Reel (5:37)
Anglo concertina and guitar.
Three reels that call to mind Tom Byrne and Tom McCaffrey, two immigrants from Counties Sligo and Leitrim to Cleveland, Ohio from whom Grey learned much of his music. Their version of the first tune, a version of Man of the House, has an uncommon chromatic turn that inspired our arrangement of this selection. Grey learned the second tune on a 1979 visit to the home of Co. Sligo flute and saxophone player Josie McDermott, a neighbor of Byrne's in Ireland, and memorized it while enjoying a lift on the back of Tom Byrne's brother's tractor. Byrne, who had been a coalminer (i.e. collier) in Co. Sligo, gave us this setting of The Colliers' Reel.
10. The Slopes of Mount Storm / Hurry the Jug / Dark of the Moon (7:47)
Flute, guitar, and harmonium.
Grey composed the first tune and named it for his favorite childhood sledding slopes. Hurry the Jug, an old set dance, comes from fiddler Tom McCaffrey. Normally played in E Dorian, Grey plays it here in G Dorian. Dark of the Moon is another composition of Grey's. Its title refers to the waning, darkening phase of the moon and the mysteries of Southern Indiana moonlore. More on this at www.greylarsen.com.
11. Child of My Heart / The Star Above the Garter / My Love in the Morning (3:48)
Flute, guitar, and harmonium.
Two beautiful single jigs on either side of a famous slide from Sliabh Luachra, the Cork/Kerry border region. We learned Child of My Heart from the Capt. Frances O'Neill's 1001 Gems collection and My Love in the Morning from Breandan Breathnach's Ceol Rince na hEireann. The title of the second tune, James Kelly tells us, has exclusively to do with heraldry.
Grey Larsen and Paddy League
Dark of the Moon (Sleepy Creek Music)
BY FRANK LEWIS
The commodification of all things Irish is a relatively recent phenomenon. There was a time, long before Riverdance and U2, when Guinness was hard to find in this country and traditional Irish music even harder. So when Cincinnati native Grey Larsen was studying at Oberlin in the '70s and wanted to learn traditional tunes, he had to be creative. When he heard that some Irish immigrants gathered in Cleveland every week for a private jam, he started showing up.
The result was a musical education no classroom could have provided and a passion for the Irish flute. That devotion resonates throughout Dark of the Moon. Perhaps because it's used less frequently than the fiddle, the flute lends traditional Irish music a slightly different quality -- more ethereal somehow, more emotive. Paddy League's accompaniment on bodhran, the Irish percussive instrument, and guitar is first-rate, but it's Larsen's mastery of the flute that makes Dark of the Moon a worthy addition to any discerning fan's collection. Â
Slipcue.com, CD Review
Grey Larsen & Paddy League "Dark Of The Moon" (Sleepy Creek Music, 2003)
American-born Grey Larsen has written the book on Irish piping and tin whistle playing... literally. This fine all-instrumental album is a companion to Larsen's new instructional/historical tome, Essential Guide To Irish Flute And Tin Whistle, which may be one of the definitive works on the subject. By itself, however, the album is quite lovely and impressive, a beautiful set of flute and tin whistle tunes, with a grace and melodic depth to match other recent masterpieces such as Joannie Madden's solo work... A lovely and very listenable set... Highly recommended!
Musesmuse.com, CD Review
CD REVIEW: Grey Larsen & Paddy League - Dark of the Moon
By Ben Ohmart - 09/20/03
No, it's not a Pink Floyd tribute cd. It's
Grey Larsen - Irish flute, tin whistle, anglo concertina, harmonium & Paddy League - Bodhran, guitar, anglo concertina playing traditional Irish music. The title of the cd, according to Larsen, was so named because his flute tunes are playing in the dark key of G-minor. The dark of the moon period starts the day after the full moon and continues until the day before the new moon. A time of transition. A time to think about the changes in your world and life, and that is exactly what Grey and Paddy are up to. It is not a dark album. There are moments of pensive acoustic guitars and cues to the listener through the concertina which say, 'Now stop a minute and consider your gifts.' But any cd that contains the frivolity and good-natured folk of 'The Slopes of Mount Storm' (written by Larsen) cannot be conceived as anything dark.
The highlands have never sounded better in this all-instrumental piece of Celtic gold. It is not meant to be dramatic like Riverdance, it is here for you, whatever your mood, and contains some of the best playing of the genre. I'd like to see this cd spun in every bookstore in the land. Stimulates the need to know.