The Island of Saints and Scholars
A trip to Ireland often reserves the pleasant surprise of an encounter with musicians playing simply for pleasure, their own or that of their close friends. That is when one regrets not having brought along a cassette recorder !
This record is devoted to traditional music, such as it is practised in Ireland today following successive revivals and the country's recent history. The leading groups of the 70's and 80's had many followers and instrumental music is flourishing as never before.
Music is an inherent part of life in Ireland. In many cases, a musician's first musical experience is within the family circle. One frequently comes across whole families involved in traditional music, song and dance. The phenomenon of the singing pubs appeared in the sixties and was followed by that of the traditional music sessions.
Today, more and more pubs invite a few musicians (particularly during the summer) who find themselves playing around a table or, occasionally, on a small stage. Over the past few years the practice of paying one or two musicians, who lead the session and who are likely to attract other players, has developed. Spontaneous sessions still take place of course, generally in the country and outside the summer holiday period ; simple encounters between musicians and an occasion for the public to hear the music ! Some musicians also play for the booming record industry and in groups which export this music to the United States, Australia, Europe...
The tremendous enthusiasm for traditional music in County Clare is concentrated in its capital, Ennis - a haven for a great number of musicians from all over Ireland.
Kevin Crawford, James Cullinan
Kevin Crawford is the finest example of the above : he left his native England to go to a wedding in this area and never returned home ! Kevin who is one of the most promising flute players of his generation, wonderfully sociable and of incomparable energy, is very much in demand in the area. He plays with The Moving Cloud and has recently brought out a solo CD ("D Flute Album"). James Cullinan is a fiddle player from the Ennis area.
Martin Ryan, Marcus Moloney, Seán Fitzpatrick
English domination was first established in the port towns of Ireland. Despite this, traditional music is still alive in these towns, as witnessed by this trio (accordion, banjo, guitar). Martin and Marcus are from Limerick, while Seán is from the Falls Road in Belfast, the famous Catholic area of the city. They play three reels in which their exuberance is surpassed by a distinctive cohesiveness.
Eithne Ní Donaile, John Weir
Eithne is a young harp player from Ennis, who learned by ear in the sessions. This musical background, unusual for a harpist, led her to appreciate the role of the accompanist, whereas most harpists are, above all, soloists.
John is a native of Belfast and lives in Ennis with his wife Eithne. His calm style and his tunes are closer to his adoptive region, County Clare.
Garry Shannon, Maurice Griffin
Garry is one of a very well known family of musicians from Corofin, in west Clare. He is very creative in exploring new ways of playing the concert flute.
Maurice's sisters, solo step dancers, gave him the taste for percussions. From dancing, Maurice moved on to play the bodhrán and the bouzouki. All bodhrán parts on this recording are played by him.
John lived in Kanturk, County Cork, until the age of 20, when he emigrated to England. He has now lived in County Clare for 20 years. It was in England, for the well known TOPIC record company, that John made his first record. His mother sang traditional songs but was known chiefly as a good dancer. John plays the accordion and considers that nowadays singers are not enough in demand in sessions in Ireland.
Michael Collins, Tim Collins, Eithne Ní Dhonaile, Maurice Griffin, Denis Liddy, Garry Shannon, John Weir
This is an informal group, created for the occasion. All of the musicians live in Ennis and play together from time to time, when they meet at family gatherings for example (Michael and Tim are brothers), at sessions and also in small bands.
Now we come to Miltown Malbay, County Clare. This little town, with its market and its shops is the centre of the surrounding rural community. It is also the birthplace of the famous piper Willie Clancy and the location of the Summer School dedicated to him. Seán Talty, son of Martin Talty, who was a musical companion of Willie Clancy, has always lived in this town. Seán started to learn the tin-whistle around the age of 5 and at 17 got his first practice-set. Although during his childhood the music of West Clare was his environment, it was only little by little that Seán felt the importance of preserving the style and the tunes of his area. On his uilleann pipes, dating to the 19th century, Seán plays a slow-air, A Stór Mo Chroí ("love of my heart") and a reel, The Beauty Spot.
Paul Dooley is a harp player, born in Dublin, now living in Ennistymon.
Paul is one of the few musicians who play in the manner observed by Bunting in 1792 at the Belfast Harp Festival. This consists mainly in playing with the nails on metal strings. Paul made his own harp, modelled on the most ancient harp in existence in Ireland, and even in Europe, that of Brian Boru (last High King of Ireland), which is now in Trinity College Dublin.
The main city of the West, Galway is always full of life thanks to a large student population.
Maureen Fahy, Élís Egan, Chris Kelly