Various performers: The Early Days of Irish Music in London
Various performers: The Continuing Tradition of Irish Music in London
Topic Records TSCD679T / TSCD680T
Michael Gorman, fiddle. 1. Reel: The Jolly Tinker. 2. Reel: Bonnie Kate
Gerry Wimsey, flute (3), Clarke's tin whistle (4). 3. Reel: The Boys of Ballisadare. 4. Reel: The Copperplate
Paddy Taylor, flute. 5. Hornpipe: Paddy Taylor's. 6. Reel: The Cabin Hunter. 7. Slow Air: With Kitty I'll Go. 8. Slides: Pat Hanley's No. 1 / Pat Hanley's No. 2
Nan Landers, melodeon. 9. Hornpipe: Nan Landers'. 10. Slide: Nan Landers'
Jimmy Power, fiddle; Patsy Goulding, piano. 11. Reels: The Wild Irishman / The College Grove / Jenny Picking Cockles
Danny McNiff, flute. 12. Slip Jig: Doherty's. 13. Polkas: Danny McNiff's / Farewell to Whiskey. 14. Reel: The Streams in the Valley
Bobby Casey, fiddle. 15. Reel: The Beauty Spot. 16. Hornpipe: Poll Ha'penny. 17. Jigs: Brian O'Lynn / The Maid in the Meadow
Mick Gorman (nephew), fiddle. 18. Reels: The Girl that Broke My Heart / Dick Cosgrove
Jimmy Hogan, accordeon; Bobby Hall, piano; Brian Green, drums. 19. Reels: The Copperplate / The Bunch of Keys
Martin Byrnes, fiddle. 20. Reels: St. Ruth's Bush / Paddy Kelly's Favourite
Paddy Malynn, accordeon. 21. Jigs: Wallop the Spot / The Tongs by the Fire
Julia Clifford, fiddle. 22. Slow Air: The Red-Haired Boy. 23. Jig: The Cliffs of Moher
Paddy Breen, flageolet. 24. Hornpipe: The Cuckoo's Nest. 25. Polka: Tralee Gaol. 26. Jig: The Pipe on the Hob
Bobby Casey, fiddle; Willie Clancy, uilleann pipes. 27. Jig: Munster Buttermilk. 28. Reels: The West Wind / Sean Reid's Fancy
Martin Byrnes, fiddle; Tony Howley, flute. 29. Reel: The Humours of Scarriff. 30. Reels: The Galway Rambler / The London Lasses
Martin Wynne, fiddle. 31. Jigs: The Rose in the Heather / The Gold Ring / The Maid on the Green / Saddle the Pony
Michael Gorman & Martin Wynne, fiddles; Bill Rollison, piano. 32. Reel: The Boys of the Lough
Jimmy Power, fiddle; Clancy, flute; Tommy Maguire, accordeon; Paddy Furey, piano. 33. Reels: The Liffey Banks / The Shaskeen
Bobby Casey, fiddle; Willie Clancy, uilleann pipes. 34. Jig: When We Were Drinking. 35. Reels: The Old Bush / The Chicago
Roger Sherlock, flute; Liam Farrell, mandolin. 1. Reels: The Chicago / The Green Fields of America
Edmond Murphy, fiddle; Mick Gorman (nephew), flute. 2. Reels: Limerick Lasses / Come West along the Road. 3. Reel: Cregg's Pipes
Michael Gorman, fiddle. 4. Reel: Farrell Gara. 5. Reel: Miss McLeod's
Paddy Breen, flageolet (6/7/8/9); lilting (10). 6. Hornpipe: The Red-Haired Lad. 7. Set-Dance: The Orange Rogue. 8. Set Dance: Rodney's Glory. 9. Fling: Green Grow the Rushes O. 10. Katie's Reel
Sonny Murray, concertina. 11. Reel: Christmas Eve
Jimmy Cleary, banjo; Margaret Barry, banjo. 12. Hornpipe: The Belfast
Michael Gorman, fiddle. 13. Reel: Put the Cake on the Dresser. 14. Jig: The Strayaway Child
Michael Gorman, fiddle; Margaret Barry, banjo. 15. Reel: Jenny's Welcome to Charlie
Michael Falsey, flute. 16. Reel: Big Pat. 17. Jig: Molloy's Wife
Seamus Ennis, uilleann pipes. 18. Slow Air: The Clay of Kilcreggan. 19. Programme Piece: The Ace and Deuce of Piping. 20. Jigs: Paddy O'Rafferty / The Sixpenny Money
Bobby Casey, fiddle. 21. Reel: Sean sa Ceo
Bobby Casey, fiddle; Sean Kenny, piano. 22. Jig: The Frieze Britches. 23. Reel: The Flax in Bloom
Mick Gorman (nephew), flute. 24. Reels: The Salamanca / The Yellow Tinker. 25. Jig: The Newport Lass. 26. Reel: The Flogging
Michael Gorman, fiddle. 27. Hop Jig: The Kid on the Mountain. 28. Hornpipe: Dwyer's
Gabe O'Sullivan, fiddle (29), flute (30). 29. Reel: The Lady on the Island. 30. Reel: Maud Miller
Liam Farrell, banjo. 31. Polka: The Mountain Pathway
Michael Daly, flute; Liam Farrell, banjo. 32. Reel: The Galway Rambler
Johnny Discin, fiddle. 33. Reels: The Bunch of Keys / The Star of Munster
Mick Gorman (nephew), flute. 34. Reels: Mulhaire's / Father Kelly's
Edmond Murphy, fiddle; Mick Gorman (nephew), flute. 35. Reel: The Concert Reel
The Hibernian Ceili Band: Brendan McGlinchey, fiddle; Roger Sherlock, flute; Raymond Roland, accordeon; Liam Farrell, banjo; PJ Hines, piano; Brian Green, drums. 1. Reel: The Dublin
Bobby Casey, fiddle. 2. Reels: The Duke of Leinster & his Missus. 3. Reel: The College Grove
Oliver Roland, accordeon. 4. Reel: Kitty in the Lane. 5. Jigs: The Rookery / The Cliffs of Moher
Vincent Griffin, fiddle. 6. Reels: Night in Ennis / The Maid behind the Bar. 7. Reels: Paddy Ryan's Dream / Mamma's Pet
Roger Sherlock, flute. 8. Reels: The Galway Rambler / The London Lasses
Roger Sherlock, flute; Raymond Roland, accordeon; Liam Farrell, mandolin. 9. Reels: The Old Bush / The Galty
Martin McMahon, fiddle (10/11), accordeon (12); Teresa McMahon, guitar (10/11), keyboard (12). 10. Reel: Speed the Plough. 11. Reel: The Bucks of Oranmore. 12. Reel: The Star of Munster
Tommy McCarthy, concertina (13); uilleann pipes (14). 13. Reel: The Laurel Tree. 14. Jigs: The Miners of Wicklow / Paddy Taylor's
Sean Maguire, fiddle. 15. Jigs: Garrett Barry's Favourite / The Luckpenny
Raymond Roland, accordeon; Benny O'Connor, drums. 16. Reel: The Eel in the Sink
Raymond Roland & Kit O'Connor, accordeon; John Joe Doyle, fiddle; Paddy Taylor, flute; Benny O'Connor, drums. 17. Reel: Sean sa Ceo / Come West along the Road
Andy Boyle, fiddle; Michael Falsey & unidentified, flutes. 18. Reels: The Congress / The Bag of Spuds
Joe Ryan, fiddle. 19. Reels: Dinny O'Brien / Farewell to Connacht. 20. Reel: Tommy Potts's
Tommy McCarthy & Bobby Casey, fiddles. 21. Reel: Maud Miller. 22. Reel: The New Custom House
Gerry Clancy, accordeon; unidentified, bodhran. 23. Reels: I'm Waiting for You & The Bag of Spuds
Johnny Hynes, Clarke's tin whistle. 24. Reel: Carmel O'Mahony. 25. Jigs: The Boys of the Town / We Drink and Kiss the Ladies. 26. Reel: Scotch Mary
Frank Mahoney, fiddle. 27. Reel: The Stoney Steps
Julia Clifford, fiddle; Billy Clifford, flute; John Clifford, piano-accordion. 28. Hornpipes: Bill Black's / O'Byrne's
Tommy McCarthy, uilleann pipes. 29. Jigs: Old Hag, You Have Killed Me / Old Tipperary
Raymond Roland & Kit O'Connor, accordeon; John Joe Doyle, fiddle; Paddy Taylor, flute; Benny O'Connor, drums. 30. Jig: Father Kelly's
Raymond Roland, accordeon; Kevin Taylor, drums. 31. Reels: The Little Thatched Cottage / Down the Strand
Michael Falsey, flute. 32. Reel: Sporting Paddy. 33. Reel: Cregg's Pipes
Oliver Roland, accordeon. 34. Reel: Imelda Roland's
Edmond Murphy, fiddle; Mick Gorman (nephew), flute. 35. Reels: Colonel Roger's / Happy Days of Youth
The Hibernian Ceili Band: as track 1. 36. Hornpipes: The Friendly Visit / The Cuckoo. 37. Reels: The Merry Harriers / The Hut in the Bog
Johnny Duffy, fiddle; Tommy Healy, flute; Reg Hall, piano. 1. Reels: Tarbolton / The Longford Collector / The Sailor’s Bonnet. 2. Reels: Martin Wynne’s No. 1 / Martin Wynne’s No. 2
Jimmy Power, fiddle; Reg Hall, piano. 3. Jigs: Whelan’s / The Lark in the Morning
Jimmy Power, fiddle; Reg Hall, piano; Gerry Wright, bodhran. 4. Reels: Jackie Coleman’s / The Castle
Danny Meehan, fiddle; Michael Hynes, flute; Dermot Kearney, piano. 5. Single Jig: The Flax-dresser / Highland: The Limerick Races
Michael Hynes, flute; Dermot Kearney, piano. 6. Reels: Billy Brocker’s / The Humours of Tulla
Danny Meehan & Bobby Casey, fiddles; Reg Hall, piano; John McLaughlin, spoons. 7. Jig: Cherish the Ladies
Bobby Casey, fiddle; Andy Boyle, fiddle. 8. Reels: Lucy Campbell / The Bucks of Oranmore / Rakish Paddy
Bobby Casey, fiddle; Tommy McCarthy, concertina. 9. Reels: Connemara Stockings / Ships Are Sailing
Finbarr Dwyer, accordeon. 10. Hornpipes: The New Century / Caroline O’Neill’s. 11. Reels: Kitty in the Lane / Maude Miller
Jimmy Power, Paul Gross & Lucy Farr, fiddles; Tommy Maguire, accordeon; Reg Hall, piano. 12. Jigs: The Mouse in the Cupboard / Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part
Maureen Minogue, fiddle; Tadgh Kearney, accordeon; Tom Cussen, banjo; Jimmy Hogan, piano. 13. Polkas: The Glenside No.1 / The Glenside No. 2
Lucy Farr, fiddle; Tommy Healy, flute; Reg Hall, piano. 14. Reels: Eddie Maloney’s / Lady Gordon. 15. Schottisches: Sweet Flowers of Milltown / The Boys of Knock
Jimmy Power, fiddle; Paddy Malynn, accordeon; Frank Blaney, banjo; Reg Hall, piano. 16. Jigs: The Knights of St. Patrick / Paddy in London
Joe Whelan, accordeon; Liam Farrell, banjo; Reg Hall, piano. 17. Hornpipes: The Humours of Tullycrinme / Mickie Callagher’s. 18. March: The Siamsa. 19. Jigs: The Fly in the Porter / Burning Brakes
Con Curtin & Edmond Murphy, fiddles; Reg Hall, piano. 20. Reels: The Pride of Rathmore / The Girls of Farranfore. 21. Reels: The Derrycrag / Tie the Bonnet / The Abbey Reel
Tommy Maguire, accordeon; Father O’Keefe, mandolin; Reg Hall, piano. 22. Jigs: Strike the Gay Harp / Brendan Tonroe’s. 23. Reels: The Stoney Steps / The Hare’s Paw
Martin Byrnes, fiddle; Reg Hall, piano. 24. Reel: The Carracastle Lasses. 25. Jig: The Frieze Britches
Sean O’Shea, fiddle; Bobby Casey, fiddle; Reg Hall, piano. 26. Reel: The Heathery Breeze
Con Curtin, Denis McMahon & Julia Clifford, fiddles; Reg Hall, piano. 27. Reels: O’Callaghan’s / The Hare’s Foot
John Whelan, accordeon; Jimmy Power, fiddle; Tommy Healy, flute; Frank Blaney, banjo; Big John Gray, bodhran; Reg Hall, piano. 28. Reels: Cooley’s / O’Rourke’s / The Pigeon on the Gate.
The Thatch Ceili Band: Bobby Casey, Brendan Mulkere & Adrian Bourke, fiddles; Roger Sherlock & Paul Gallagher, flutes; Tommy Keane, uilleann pipes; John Bowe, accordeon; Mick O’Connor, banjo; Kevin Taylor, piano; Mick Whelan, drums. 1. Jigs: The Rakes of Clonmel / The Humours of Drimnagh / Castleconnor
Maureen Minogue, fiddle. 2. Reels: The Four Courts / The New Copperplate. 3. Jig: The Knocknagow
Julia Clifford, fiddle; Billy Clifford, flute. 4. Hornpipe: The Harlequin. 5. Jigs: John Mahinney’s No. 1 / Sligo Bay
Jack Heffernan, accordeon; Mary Heffernan, bodhran. 6. Jig: Paddy in London
Danny Meehan, fiddle. 7. Jig: Australian Waters
Marcus Hernon, flute; Martin McMahon, accordeon; Teresa McMahon, keyboard. 8. Reels: Farewell to Ireland / The Maid of Mount Cisco / Come West along the Road
Lucy Farr, fiddle. 9. Single Jigs: un-titled / Royal Charlie. 10. Reel: Anderson’s. 11. Single Jig: The Long Note
Gabe O’Sullivan, flute. 12. Reel: Jack Coughlin’s Favourite. 13. Jig: The Green Blanket
Brian Rooney, fiddle. 14. Reel: The Green Mountain. 15. Reel: Rolling in the Barrel
Tom O’Connell, accordeon; Mick O’Connor, banjo. 16 Jigs: McHugh’s / The American Jig
Jacqueline McCarthy, concertina; Tommy Keane, uilleann pipes. 17. Hornpipes: The Honeysuckle / The Frisco
Tommy McGowan, fiddle. 18. Jig: The Castlepollard Lass. 19. Jig: Tommy McGowan’s
Eddie Corcoran, tin whistle; Seamus Tansey, tambourine. 20. Reel: The Maid behind the Bar
Henry Dwyer, fiddle. 21. Reel: Rakish Pat
Vince O’Halloran, accordeon; Reg Hall, piano. 22. Jigs: Pat Burke’s / Fraher’s
Jack Dolan, three-quarter flute. 23. Reels: Touch Me If You Dare / The Flowers of Redhill
Maureen Minogue, fiddle; Tom Cussen, banjo. 24. Jigs: Nora Crionna / The Banks of Newfoundland. 25. Reels: Scotch Mary / Ships Are Sailing
Selina Munnelly, accordeon. 26. Reels: The Thatched Cabin / The Skylark
Bill Glasheen, fiddle; Selina Munnelly, accordeon; John Blout, banjo. 27. Reels: The Eel in the Sink / The Ivy Leaf
Billy Clifford, flute. 28. Jig: The Humours of Lisheen
Julia Clifford, fiddle. 29. Slide: The Humours of Glenflesk
Amby Whyms, fiddle. 30. Reel: Sergeant Carey’s Dream. 31. Reel: Paddy O’Brien’s
Amby Whyms, fiddle; Mary Bowe, concertina. 32. Reel: Maud Miller
John Carty, banjo; Marcus Hernon, flute; unidentified, bodhran; Paddy Gallagher, bouzouki. 33. Jigs: Munster Buttermilk / Jim Ward’s / The Old Favourite
Bobby Casey & Andy Boyle, fiddles; Paddy Breen, flute. 34. Reels: The Jolly Tinker / The Pretty Girls of Mayo The Thatch Ceili Band: As track 1. 35. Reels: The Banks of the Ilen / Cronin’s.
Sinead Linane, fiddle; James Carty, flute; Reg Hall, keyboard. 1. Reels: Lad O’Beirne’s / Fionn O’Donal’s
The Auld Triangle Ceili Band: Teresa Heanue & Sinead Linane, fiddles; James Carty, Mick Mulvey & John Murphy, flutes, Gary Connolly & Maureen Linane, accordeons; Karen Ryan, banjo; Reg Hall, piano; Pat McNamee, drums. 2. Reels: The Concert Reel / The Corpus Reel
Lamond Gillespie, fiddle; John Blake, flute. 3. Jigs: Up Sligo / The Shoemaker’s Fancy
Lamond Gillespie, fiddle; John Blake, flute; Eamon Burke, flute; Tommy Maree, accordeon; Reg Hall, piano. 4. Reels: Lady Gordon / Johnny Henry’s
Sean Casey, fiddle; Bernadette McCarthy, fiddle; Dermot Kearney, banjo; Reg Hall, piano. 5. Reels: The Mullingar Races / Music in the Glen
Brian Rooney, fiddle; Mick Mulvey, flute; Reg Hall, keyboard. 6. Reels: The Primrose Lass / Cregg’s Pipes / Tom Ward’s Downfall
Dermot Burke, fiddle; Mick Mulvey, flute. 7. Jigs: The Mill Pond / Statia Donnelly’s
Brian Rooney, fiddle. 8. Reel: Grandpa Tommy’s Ceili Band. 9. Jig: The Knocknagow
Mick Linane & Sinead Linane, fiddles; James Carty, flute; Gary Connolly & Maureen Linane, accordeons; Reg Hall, keyboard. 10. Reels: Devaney’s Goat / The Dairymaid
Brendan Mulkere, fiddle; Paul Gallagher, flute. 11. Reels: The Salmanca / The Crooked Road
Joe Whelan, accordeon; Liam Farrell, banjo. 12. Slow Air: Blackbirds and Thrushes
Joe Whelan, accordeon; Liam Farrell, banjo; Reg Hall, piano. 13. Reels: Collier’s / The Doone Austin Dawes, fiddle; Seanin McDonagh, accordeon; Bobby Ramsey, guitar. 14. Jigs: The Telegraph / Out on the Ocean
Joe Cahill & Mary Bowe, fiddles; Reg Hall, piano. 15. Reel: The Morning Dew
Sheena Vallely, flute. 16. Jigs: Pat Mahon’s / The Fox and the Thatch. 17. Reels: Dan Breen’s / The Road to Monalea
Sean Casey, fiddle; Reg Hall, piano. 18. Reels: The Musical Priest / Jenny’s Chickens
Tom O’Connell, accordeon; Mick O’Connor, banjo. 19. Hornpipes: Cronin’s / The Western
Eamon Burke, flute; Reg Hall, piano. 20. Reel: Fred Finn’s
Rosie O’Leary, fiddle; Clare O’Leary, fiddle; Alan O’Leary, flute. 21. Slip-Jig: Marie Rua (Red Haired Mary) / Jig: The Visit to Ireland
Lamond Gillespie & Jimmy Murphy, fiddles; John Blake, James Carty, Eamon Burke & John MacLeod, flutes; Mick Leahy, bazouki; Reg Hall, piano. 22. Reels: The Boys of the Lough / The Devils of Dublin
Karen Ryan, fiddle. 23. Reels: Farrell Gara / Christmas Eve / The Sligo Maid
Mick Linane & Sinead Linane, fiddles; Gary Connolly & Maureen Linane, accordeons; Reg Hall, keyboard. 24. Jig: The Coolai
John Blake, flute; Eamon Burke, flute; Tommy Maree, bodhran; Reg Hall, piano. 25. Reels: The Laurel Tree / King of the Clans
Gary Connolly, accordeon; James Carty, flute; Reg Hall, keyboard; Francis Gaffney, guitar. 26. Reels: P Flanagan’s / The Corpus Reel.
In exporting, almost as a matter of course, its surplus labour down the centuries, Ireland has incidentally sent forth its unique rural music, the period during and immediately after the Second World War being exceptional in sheer numbers but also in the prowess and diversity of the musicians, the bulk of whom made for London. The stream of musical migrants stepping onto the platform at Euston, worthy ambassadors if only the host populace had had ears to hear them, could have had no inkling that a handful of natives would fall under the spell of their music, and at length chronicle and package a part of it. Prominent among these incurable ersophiles is Reg Hall, accompanist and apologist since the mid-1950s, whose association with Topic Records, under the enlightened direction of Tony Engle, has been notably productive in promoting the subject over many decades. This latest issue of six highly documented CDs, in conjunction with the modified thesis A Few Tunes of Good Music also now accessible through the Topic site, stands as the long coming to pass of this immersion in the migrants' music. Yet, from another angle, this very saturation is the problem. Presenting subject matter of this degree of obscurity necessarily assumes the form of an exercise in fiddling to the faithful, with the occasional accidental convert. The devil might instructively elect one of her advocates to this club of the like-minded.
The root disjunction of chroniclers and chronicled is thus structural rather than circumstantial. Michael Gorman had no need to join the quest for the grail of authentic tradition because, like Python's insult-hurling Frenchman, he already had one. (It's very nice.) In England, Bob Copper was both bona fide tribesman and distinguished documenter, but exceptions of this kind are few. This compilation draws on field recordings extensively made by Michael Daly, an authentic aboriginal and musician, but even so it is left to the Sassenachs to assemble, sift and ruminate in writing, mediation in the highly intentional sense virtually never carried out by insiders. This inescapably means that a foreign gloss is placed on the subject matter, such that there cannot be absolute equivalence of value systems. (Are values ever systematic?)
These principles are worth restating in that the conspicuously tendentious introductory blurb (page four in the booklet to both sets) is to an extent at odds with them. The series aims 'to present traditional music in its own right, reflecting its history, its functions and social contexts and the values its practitioners have placed upon it. The final selection in each issue has been governed by the producers' subjective view of good performance and good material, an equally subjective belief in the aesthetic merit and historical value of each track and an eye to fairness of representation.' Can you at once transparently relay, plead subjectivity (what would constitute 'objective' presentation?), and attain fairness? What reads suspiciously like a manoeuvre to forestall objection provides a clutch of touchstones by which to measure the results. Are the practitioners really presented 'in their own right'? How are the 'people' recruited, and whose 'voice' do we hear in these slick historical syntheses and niftily turned mini-biographies? How disinterested is the hand that presumes to guide us round the wealth of recordings? The protagonists do not so much speak as find themselves fondly ventriloquised by an admiring guest at their marginal musical feast. By extension, whose version of 'value' (a stock criterion) informs what is so unhesitatingly placed before the listener? An instructive comparison is provided by a rare production from within the tribe.
On 12 June 1985, an event was held in the Victoria Tavern, Holloway, to launch fiddle player Jimmy Power's final LP, Fifty-Odd Years. Clad in his best suit and within a month of his death, he sat at a table before the stage signing copies among the following he had built up over many decades as one of the anchormen of Irish pub music in London. This is a 'context' if ever there was one; a poignant occasion. The disc, a one-off issue as Tompo TP 0001, had been produced over the previous winter by his son, Tom, a Wen-born entrepreneur of cosmopolitan tastes with a lot of emerald blood flowing in his veins. For the recording session he had brought in Josephine Keegan as piano accompanist and hired a commercial studio. There is a definite garishness about the end product. The sound has an edge of reverb, Keegan's backing is intrusive and melodramatic, and close mic-ing of the fiddle accentuates Power's infelicitous asperity of tone. (As a youth in County Waterford, he was enjoined by his grandmother to "lean on the bow!", so that for the rest of his life he exerted excessive pressure on the strings. A small instance of the evils of mantras in musical instruction.) All this stands in marked contrast to the tastefulness of Topic's LP of 1976 (Jimmy Power, Irish Fiddle-Player, 12TS306), two tracks from which appear here (680/1/3-4). Yet Tompo is of moment in exemplifying the way the tribe presents itself, its own values as much sentimental as material: a second-generation Irishman pays tribute to his immigrant father made good, who was understandably chuffed. Although technically a commercial issue, Tom Power would surely have been happy to make available the material for this series as a counterweight to the work of outsiders. This is not so much a matter of subjectivity of judgement as a due sense of the contingencies contained in, and concealed by, essentialisms like 'values'.
'Irish Music in London.' If all pursuit supposes a quarry, what is gestured at but not codified by the dangling pronoun in the title of both these sets ('it')? As weighted here, this is preponderantly a music of (voluntary) exile, five sixths of it being performed by natives of Ireland venturing abroad. The first half of the rubric amounts to a stalking through the city of non-mercantile, raw-but-sophisticated dance music from country districts, a highly restrictive reading of what 'Irish music' might be taken to embrace with only a nod to more commercialised forms in order to dismiss them (680 p.6). The filtering is severe even by its own remit: Martin and Teresa McMahon at home in Ireland but not the Hibernicised Country & Western by which they earned their living in London; early Sean Maguire (before he fetched up in London) but not the later recordings which many found so attractive; and, among the London generations, Sinead Linane but not best-selling super star Kevin Burke. (The proviso being that recordings may not have been available in all cases.) A very definite agenda is at work here, the terms of which are never set forth let alone examined, and which in some respects collides with the predilections of those on the inside. The second component, 'London', is in practice a figure for a shifting string of shabby strongholds which haphazardly sprang up across the city from the late 1940s to provide a public outlet which had not previously existed for this emigré music-making.
The most pregnant element in the formula is the preposition 'in', which loosely conjoins without specifying a relation, thereby obscuring a whole array of types: those who stayed until death (Jimmy Power); those who passed all their working lives in London and retired to Ireland (Tommy McCarthy); and those who merely passed through. An example of these many birds of passage is Vincent Griffin (679/3/6-7; p.73), a fiddle player of high inventiveness and gusto who dwelt awhile in London before being called home to Feakle in remote eastern County Clare, where Capt O'Neill himself noted four tunes for inclusion in his great collection. This in all essentials is the music of Ireland formed, performed and recorded (1976) in Ireland, with an interlude in a foreign city of no musical moment other than the pleasure of transient association with Raymond Roland and Co (1959-65). In all this, the sprawling metropolis has very little determining force on the music and the manner of its performing. The best that may be said is that convergence on London gave rise to some famous partnerships - Gorman (Sligo) and Barry (Cork) or Roland (Galway) and Farrell (Tyrone); it fostered exchange of tunes; and it increased the scope for documenting (as in this series). Extraordinary is the way these country people carved themselves a small world out of the big city, many of them beating a path to Chiswick to lodge with the redoubtable Honora Taylor, mother of flute player Paddy.
How, in more detail, is this wealth of material marshalled? On the premise that there is no detectable shift in the music as performed during the mid-1960s, the division of these discs into two sets at that point must be purely expedient. The results, in a series intended as tour d'horizon, are uneconomical. Some individuals are arguably over-represented, possibly through the need to include them in both sets (Bobby Casey, Tommy McCarthy). For all the interest of the masterful fiddler Bryan (mis-rendered as Brian) Rooney, why is it necessary to have four tracks of him on the second issue split across two discs? (680/2/14-15 and 680/3/8-9) The six CDs could have been pruned without significant loss to make room for a disc of extracts from interviews: the people-musicians in their own voice. Similarly with the booklets, the proud owner of both sets finds herself fed a lot of duplicate information, for example the background piece on Paddy Malynn (679 pp.42-3 and 680 pp.31-2). A single package of discs with an integrated booklet containing biographies separate from the track listing would have offered a neater format.
Adding to the vagaries of programming is the scatter of recording dates and locations. There are, as an example, thirty-five recordings on 680/2 embodying three permutations of time (floruit / post-floruit) and place of performing (London / Ireland): floruit, in London (the Thatch Ceili Band, 1986); post-floruit, in London (Amby Whyms, 1998); post-floruit, back in Ireland (Henry Dwyer, 1988). There is even a tenuous instance of the fourth permutation which strictly speaking does not obtain (floruit, in Ireland, i.e. no residential connection to London) in the form of Seamus Tansey as tambourine player - and what a terrific percussionist he proved to be (680/2/20). And what determines the ordering of the tracks? The last seven on this disc jump from 1964 to 1998 to 1990, then back to 1967 before ending where the disc begins in 1986. If this is a pattern designed to sustain a thesis it escapes me. It certainly does not describe a rigorous chronological development. Here most clearly is the underlying discrepancy between pleasure for the listener - programming to achieve variety of styles and instruments and time signatures - and more conceptualised exposition.
In the light of these elaborations, the shorthand rubric 'Irish Music in London' would have to be considerably stretched to cover all the permutations represented. 'Any Irish born musician (of the type expediently dubbed 'traditional') who spent any time in London between circa 1950 and the date of issue, recorded at the time or at any time since, either in London or back in Ireland'. Recasting in this way reveals the project to be less focused than it might be. It also offers a means of identifying omissions. If the birds of passage count, for example, they should surely extend to the seminal accordeon player Joe Cooley, who was in at the start of pub sessions in the late 1940s before taking ship for the States (679 p.13).
Up to this point (disc 5), the protean construct 'London' hosts a hooley not of its making and is thus circumstantial more than determinant in the saga. Hall's prodigious scholarly effort at contextualising is, in that sense, something of a false trail. It is only with the offspring of migrants that London acquires a potentially constitutive role in the process, at which point Mrs Flaherty's dictum comes into play: can the music of the bog meaningfully be performed by those who have not been formed within it? Paradoxically, this possibility depends on resistance to the melting pot effect. Where some strange, intoxicating Sino-Bangladeshi-Hibernian amalgam might have been expected to arise from the jostle of nations in the playgrounds of the city's less-than-affluent quarters, the reverse obtains. Descendants start to melt as people but remain within the inherited citadel as musicians, which of course is the whole attraction for the tourist-enthusiast. What does not integrate. The key to this, usefully sketched here, is a mixture of the nuclear family and nurseries run by evangelists, which works to sustain ethnic identity by remaining beneath the fray.
The second generation Kilkenny-Linane family furnishes a perfect illustration of these mechanisms through third generation fiddle player Sinead Linane, their daughter (680 p.78). Ensconced in London, the family has sustained ties with Glenfarne, County Leitrim, through the teaching of the late Tommy Maguire (a fellow native) and visits back to the home village. This demonstrates as much va-et-vient as neat segregation along the axis London-Irish / Irish in London, further exemplified by the number of London-born musicians featured here who have reverse-migrated: all four of Tommy McCarthy's children, John Carty, Mick Mulvey, John Blake. Do they thereby become London-Irish in Ireland, the bog children's children restored to the bog?
This object lesson in how to turn a corner of the Wen into your musical breeding ground will account for numbers but leaves open the qualitative question of idiom of performance. On this point, a heading like continuity (as in 'continuing tradition') is too crude a tool to be useful. At the stylistic level, there is effectively no intersection between Sean Casey's brashness (680/3/18) and his father's sophisticated west Clare idiom; still less between Karen Ryan (680/3/23) and Julia Clifford (passim). But a broader continuity obtains, through kinship, of repertory and ethos. Most remarkable, beyond wrangles over points of style, is the way the Irish music network in exile has unlocked the notable potential of its youth, Londoners who might otherwise never have taken up music.
Ultimately, any appraisal of the status of native London music-making would require a wider range of matter than is found here. As represented on the final disc, these generations after the flood reduce to a handful of performers of the accompanist-compiler's direct acquaintance: essentially the talented gang in degrees of middle age who accreted round The Auld Triangle sessions. Even as a proportion of the total of postdiluvian Irish musicians in London, this is minuscule. Where is the current cohort of twelve year olds savouring the novelty of competition before they lapse into boozy maturity and become in their turn, as they must, old-timers? As presented, this more recent phase has the character of a coda, an engaging snapshot rather than the survey of a flourishing new musical London-Irish which might feasibly have been carried out. It is in effect a retrophile stance - what is deemed of worth in so far as it resembles the 'old' stuff - giving off a whiff of nostalgia for the lost paradise of The Favourite, which now lies beneath the Emirates Stadium awaiting excavation by some ethnic music archæologist of the future.
All this points to a number of failings of conception: lack of clarity in the terms of reference of a project based largely on passive - a gathering up of recordings already non-programmatically made - rather than active documenting; a limiting of perspective through immersion in one end of the musical pool; and falling short of the 'fairness of representation' proclaimed in the introduction. The impression remains of a partisan but less than entirely focused colonising by the forces of apologia, in which the conceptual apparatus is lacking to tie in recorded performance to the impressive corpus of historical research set forth here and in the associated book. To what extent can a specifically musical object be elucidated in extra-musical terms? In presuming to rescue this topic from the extractors, the historians have succeeded merely in burying its music(ologic)al crux beneath a mound of wittery interviews and inconsequential press cuttings. Who now will rescue it from the rescuers? Bring on the unreconstructed twitching ethnomusicologists …
The rest is music. Each recording invites a lengthy commentary, but the convert will know how to rejoice for herself. So here is a purely personal miscellany of delights. Bobby Casey is hardly an unknown, but it is illuminating to have several items from Peter Kennedy's recordings of late 1956 when he was just thirty, a few years before the domestic tapes issued as Casey in the Cowhouse and thus possibly the earliest known recordings. They show how his mastery was in place at an early age, perhaps especially in The Beauty Spot (679/1/15): the notes flow out of him as the birds sing in the trees. For sheer excitement, it is hard to match the immortal trio of Sherlock, Roland and Farrell doing a pair of classic reels, The Old Bush and The Galty, in the Camden Stores in 1959: the unalloyed idiom of the period, captured in situ (679/3/9). In a more ad hoc combination, there is some grand stuff from Lucy Farr (as above) and Tommy Healy (flute, Sligo), with Reg at the piano, clearly responding to an appreciative club audience. The recording (1985) by the late Keith Summers is notably well balanced, allowing each player to be distinctly made out (680/1/14-15).
Surprises are created by hearing familiar performers in unfamiliar guise. Martin McMahon is best known as a guv'nor of the chromatic button accordeon, to some 'the daddy of them all' (679 p.77), accompanied by his wife Teresa on keyboard and vocals. In a neat bit of programming, a track in this form is preceded by two tracks of Martin knocking out reels on the fiddle at home for fun with Teresa providing a lifting guitar vamp! (679/3/10-12) The effect is of assuming a distinct musical persona by adopting inhabitual instruments. A variant on this comes from the matchless Galway fiddle player Máirtin Byrnes, whose performance of a lifetime made such an impact on Leader's 1969 LP (LEA 2004). Over the years the dozen tracks come to take on, from repeated listening without a shuffle button, the character of an immutable canon. So a jolt is produced here by supplementary material from the session, a pair of standard tunes, The Carracastle Lasses and The Frieze Breeches, rendered as magical as anything on the LP (680/1/24-5). Beneath the infectious, foot-tapping surface - as if that were not enough - lie phenomenal articulatory subtleties if you can get close enough to hear them.
By contrast, a number of musicians of great interest are rescued from obscurity. Tommy McGowan, a Sligo fiddle player, was a key figure with a low recording profile - and thus almost lost to posterity (680/2/18-19). The delightfully named Amby Whyms (fiddle) was a veteran of the fabled Aughrim Slopes Ceilidh Band in Galway who lived in relative obscurity in London and was only recorded in later life by Tommy Maree. He has the highly contained, distinctively spiccato, singing idiom characteristic of the legendary Paddy Fahy, the sound of old Galway now effectively lost. A particular revelation is accordeon player Gerry Clancy from County Leitrim. His playing is uninhibitedly fluent without being merely flash, laced with a grand bit of banter (679/3/23).
Finally, two examples from the later generations. Perhaps the pick of a fine bunch, Sinead Linane on fiddle attacks, lifts and blithely brings off all the technical tricks like a past master (680/3/1). In a fitting climax, the final track of the whole series presents a couple of reels performed in 2007 by Gary Connolly on accordeon and James Carty Jnr on flute, backed by Francis Gaffney on guitar and Reg on keyboard (680/3/26). This is an inspiriting performance, with terrific swing and a hint of syncopation redolent of James Morrison's 1936 recording with Tom Banks (piano) and Martin Christi (guitar). So perhaps Mrs Flaherty was wrong all those years ago, or only half right. Perhaps a patch of the bog can prosper in the midst of a teeming multi-ethnic cityscape? The performances presented here certainly point to that possibility.
At the end of a listening journey lasting more than seven hours, the aficionado is left with a renewed appreciation of how special this music was, and in necessarily modified guise continues to be: the enigmatic artistry of those insulated from formal (institutional) musical instruction. The minstrels of rural Ireland and their posterity find themselves and each other in the labyrinth of an alien megalopolis but the craic is inimitably their own, their fiddles and flutes a joyous instrument (sic) of reverse colonising. Production standards are high in both sets, there is scarcely a dud track, and the price is modest. They can be wholeheartedly recommended.
Andrew Bathe - 26.8.16
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