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Comment - No 14

Matt Molloy - Musician of the Year

This most prestigious award in Irish traditional music has this year been awarded to Roscommon flute player, Matt Molloy.  He will be presented with his award at a gala concert at the Town Hall Theatre, in Galway City on October 25th.   The star-studded event will be filmed by Teilifis Na Gaeilge and screened at a later date.

Bodleian Broadside Ballads Online

Thanks to funding from the Higher Education Funding Councils via the JISC Committee on Electronic Information, the 30,000 broadside ballads in the Bodleian Library are now available online.  There is background information on the collections, a catalogue with indexes of the titles, first lines, authors, performers, subjects and printers and an iconographic index of the 17,000 illustrations; all linked to an image database of the ballad sheets themselves.  Where a score is given on the sheet, a rendition is provided.

Visit the ballads website at http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ballads/

For the next few weeks the database and interface will remain in the final stages of construction -- please be patient if you encounter problems in the meantime.

Mike Heaney
Bodleian Broadside Ballads Project
e-mail: michael.heaney@ulib.ox.ac.uk

Cyril Poacher dies aged 89

It was both sad and ironic that, within a week of our release of his CD, I should get the news that the renowned Suffolk traditional singer, Cyril Poacher, died peacefully on Tuesday 21st September.  By way of an obituary, I would direct readers to Keith Summers' and Ursula Hixson's personal accounts of the man, contained in the booklet accompanying the CD - in the Articles pages.

I hope that the CD will stand as a fitting reminder of a wonderful singer " ... a charismatic, forceful performer in the classic declamatory Blaxhall style that drew out all the drama of those great old songs.  There was nothing flippant, nothing playful about his singing.  This was his legacy, he knew it and he meant it."

Cyril Poacher CD now available:

Our second CD publication - Cyril Poacher: Plenty of Thyme (MT CD303) is now in production and available.  This new record contains 31 tracks - pretty well every song he is ever known to have recorded - and the A5 booklet is very comprehensive, including song notes this time.  I think the whole thing is at least as good as our Bob Hart publication from last year.

The Booklet notes are now available as an Article and further details can be found on our Records page.

New from the EFDSS - Root & Branch

Root & Branch is a new publication from the English Folk and and Song Society, exploring the diversity and richness of English roots and traditional music.  It is quite unlike anything published by EFDSS in the past, and is produced for the EFDSS by Unknown Public, the company behind the award-winning creative music journal on CD.  Root & Branch is published twice a year and comes in a handsomely designed package that includes full length CD, articles and essays, facsimiles and photographs.  A thematic thread links the text, graphics and music.

Root & Branch 1 / A New World - available October 1999

The first issue of Root & Branch is built around songs that tell of the experiences and emotions of people when they are uprooted geographically, spiritually and musically.  The 20-track CD includes songs that have famously travelled the English-speaking world, such as The Unfortunate Rake, and some that are less well-known, such as I Been A Swede From North Dakota.  Traditional singers include Frank Hinchliffe, Walter Pardon and Evelyn Ramsay, with contemporary interpretations by Doc Watson, Cara Dillon, Paul Brady, Cathal McConnell and Helen Chadwick.

Written contributions include an article by Mike Yates on his Appalachian collecting experiences; a short essay on A L Lloyd by Dave Arthur; an extract from Shirley Collins's forthcoming autobiography; Andrew Cronshaw's insights into the music that came out of Nordic emigrations to North America in the nineteenth century; and a Song Trail in poster form, created by David Atkinson, on the roots and branches of the song The Unfortunate Rake.  Vic Gammon provides an introduction and overview of the issue theme.

A facsimile of Kate Lee's 'Notes to Collectors dating from 1898, is also included in the package, together with two examples of a series of 55 collector cards entitled 'Images of Tradition'.

Root & Branch 2 - available March 2000

The second issue explores aspects of the folk movement in the decades after the Second World War. Contributors include Billy Bragg, Rod Stradling, John Kirkpatrick, Reg Hall, Ron Smedley and Nibs Matthews.

Root & Branch is sold on subscription, by mail order, at folk festivals and in selected record and book stores.  It is not available in conventional record stores.  The first two issues are available on subscription at the special price of £32.00 inc. p&p.

Further details and subscription form from EFDSS, Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regents Park Road, London NW1 7AY, UK.  Tel: 0171 485 2206.  Web site: www.efdss.org

Baring-Gould Folk Festival

A new festival combined with a study week is being organised by The Wren Trust in west Devon this Autumn.

The Festval runs on the weekend of the 22nd - 24th October, and the Study Week follows from the 25th to the 29th.

Festival guests include Norma Waterson, Anita Best and Jim Payne (from Newfoundland), Cyril Tawney, Mark Bazely & Jason Rice, Marilyn Tucker, Paul Wilson, Chris Bartram, The Eelgrinders, Martin Graebe, Chris Foster and others.

Basic prices: Festival £30, Study Week £120, Both £130. Concessions available.

Further details from: The Wren Trust, 1 St James Street, Okehampton, Devon EX20 1DW, UK.  Tel: 01837 53754

Club Dates:

Some gigs of interest to MT readers?

Musical Traditions Club - King & Queen, Foley St, London W1

Hale End Folk Club - County Arms, Hale End Rd, London E4


MT contributor and reviewer, Fred McCormick again presents two 10 week courses at Liverpool University's Continuing Education Centre, 126 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, at 7-9pm.

Ireland's History in Music and Song starts on Monday October 4 and will trace the history of all aspects of Irish music. It will also discuss the importance of song in understanding some of the most important aspects of Irish history; EG emigration and the potato famine.

The Roots of Country Music starts on Tuesday October 5, traces the early history of American country music, from the earliest days of recording up to the time of the Wall St crash. It will also look at some of the background influences, EG., folk, religion, blackface minstrelsy, plantation melodies etc.

Both courses are open to all and no musical knowledge or special qualifications are required.

Further details on courses are obtainable from 0151 794 6900

Events at Cecil Sharp House

A couple of lectures at the EFDSS headquarters should interest readers with access to London. Also, a new Storytelling club, Rambling at the House starts every second Wednesday of the month at around 8:00.  Guests so far are:
Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regents Park Road, London NW1 7AY.  Tel: 020 7485 2206

Death of Andy Conroy

It is my sad duty to report the death of Andy Conroy, master piper, teacher and raconteur.  He was buried in his native Roscommon soil, in the graveyard at Loughlynn on Monday 26th of July 1999.

Andy Conroy was born in Loughlynn in 1911.  He was related to the famous Roscommon piper, Johnny Gorman.  He started playing in his youth on the whistle and flute, but when he heard the piping of Galway man Patsy Touhey, on 78 records sent home from the States, the die was cast.  Andy left Ireland to work in England in 29, and while there he purchased a practice set made by Crowley of Cork.

He returned home in 39 and after a short stay relocated to Belfast where work was plentiful for the war effort.  While in Belfast he met R L Mealy, piper, and Frank McFadden, pipemaker.  He also established a lifelong friendship with a very young fiddler, Sean Maguire.  In '44 Andy came to Dublin, and soon became acquainted with pipers, Seamus Ennis, Willie Clancy, Tommy Reck and Old John Potts.  He also had some lessons from the maestro, Leo Rowsome, occasionally playing with Leo in his famous piping quartet.

At the Oireachtas piping competition in '49 Andy won the gold medal, (in later life he signed his letters Andy Conroy O.G.M).  Two days later he was off on his travels again, this time to the USA, where he met and played with most of the well known musicians of the day.  When Andy heard a record of Touhey, he was completely fascinated and set out to emulate him, applying himself single-mindedly to this ambition.  His musical partner John Kelly, RIP, recalled how while driving he would practice on the steering wheel, or while waiting for his meals, on the table.  It is also true that he was not above taking the chanter to bed with him.  This may have had a bearing of his remaining a bachelor all his life.

On my last meeting with Andy he recounted his meeting in the States with legendary flute player, Galwayman, Tom Morrison.  Ladd O'Beirne, the legendary Sligo Fiddler, was so taken with Andy's piping that he contacted his own brother in Florida and insisted he travel to New York to hear him play.  Andy also travelled to Philadelphia to meet the famous fiddler/composer, Ed Reavy.  He was very proud of being chosen to play at New York's Carnegie Hall at a St Patrick's Day concert

Andy finally returned to Ireland in '73.  Sadly, soon after his return he took an advert out in the evening papers announcing "Piper Conroy has retired from public performance" - which was a tragedy as he was at the height of his piping prowess.  He had perfected the art of 'tight piping' to the extent that he famously once said "It's a pity the chanter had any holes in it at all".  Famous music collector Brendan Breathnach commented of his playing that "There is no way of indicating in ordinary notation the popping and tipping, the tight and open playing, the stopping and the slurring which characterise his playing."

Andy still played at small gatherings and functions and went on to develop his own unique ornamentation skills.  He was a patron of Na Piobairi Uilleann for a number of years and was an inspiration to many young and not so young student pipers for over a quarter of a century.  Fortunately, he passed on his knowledge to the following generation, and was very proud of his latest pupil, 17 year old Dubliner Mikie Smyth, who can be heard on newly released CD from Na Piobairi Uilleann, 'Uilleann Piping, A New Dawn'.

At the age of 83, Andy was awarded his Black Belt in Judo and to celebrate invited two of Dublin's top pipers to perform an evening of his musical 'works'.  He wanted the lads to dress in Judo uniforms which they refused to do, but they did commence the concert with a Judo style bow to each other and the audience.

After a very full and interesting life and aged 88 he began to pay the toll of his years, and after a fire damaged his Capel Street home, he returned to his home in County Roscommon where he passed away on Friday 23rd July 1999.

Personally, I must add that a visit to Dublin without meeting 'The Master' was considered unfulfilled.  I shall miss his razor-sharp wit, as will musicians everywhere ... to paraphrase his own favourite colloquialism; "He was the Joe Louis of pipers."

Alan O'Leary - 7.9.99

Club Dates:

The Royal Oak, Station Street, Lewes, Sussex - Thursdays

Programme for the rest of this year:

Contact: Vic Smith   Tel & Fax: (01273) 478124  E-mail: tinvic@globalnet.co.uk

Performing Ecstasies: Dance, Music, and Ritual in the Mediterranean

(An International and Interdisciplinary Symposium) Los Angeles, October 11 - 15, 2000

Call for Papers:

This symposium will explore the various forms of ritualized music and dance in historic and contemporary contexts, both as expressions of traditional cultures and as vehicles of revival movements. Ecstatic dance, movement, and music, have long formed an integral part of religious and cultural experiences in the Mediterranean. What are their unique features, and which instead are shared among Mediterranean cultures in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Southern Europe? Which of these musical forms are being revived and why'? To what degree can or do such contemporary phenomena accommodate trans-ethnic expressions? What degree of continuity or rupture exists between historic and contemporary forms? What are their various meanings, uses, and performative parameters, in contemporary contexts? How do such phenomena interact with the cultural ecology movement, with economic development strategies, and with political ideology?

Questions such as these will be explored in a 3-4 day symposium on music, dance, and ritual, in the "performed ecstasies" of Mediterranean cultures. The diverse perspectives of folklorists, dance ethnologists, ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, archeologists, classicists, scholars of religion and of psychology, are encouraged to explore such questions, and bring these phenomena into focus. The symposium will be accompanied by a concert series, film festival, as well as dance and music workshops, and is sponsored by: Istituto Italiano di Cultura of Los Angeles, Provincia di Lecce; Ethnomusicology Department, UCLA; Claremont Graduate School; Cultural Affairs Department, City of Los Angeles.

Send a title, one-page abstract, and brief bio-bibliography, to conference organizer by October 1,1999:

Luisa Del Giudice, Department of Italian, 212 Royce Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095, U.S.A.
Tel: (310) 474-1408.  Fax: (310) 474-3188.  e-mail: luisadg@ucla.edu

Roy Harris Folk Day

October 30th 1999 at Beeston Youth & Community Centre, West End, Beeston, Nr. Nottingham

Following Roy's recent forced retirement from professional touring, a number of Folk artistes expressed their wish to show appreciation for his life in, and influence on, both folk music and on themselves.  As a consequence it was decided to arrange a day of Folk Music to celebrate his career.  The basic details, together with the list (so far!) of artistes who are giving their services - entirely free - are below.

Tickets £10 all day (£5 half day).  (Cheques to 'The Roy Harris Folk Day'):

Roy's new CD 'Roy Harris Live at The Lion' on Wildgoose Records will be on sale.

Contact: Doug Porter, 269 Birchover Way, Allestree, Derby DE22 2RS.  Tel: 01332 556705  e-mail: djp@freeuk.com

Craft Recordings:

Anyone having difficulty in getting any of the Craft releases: ... can contact Jerry O'Reilly at:

6 The Orchard, Palmerstown, Dublin 20, Ireland.   E-mail: orielly@club.ie

... who will send them.  Price £10 plus Postage.

The Folk Mag

The Folk Mag is a new web-based folk magazine for the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire.

Content will be lively, regularly updated and multi-media.

You'll find it at:


Contact: Bob Taberner: e-mail: Bob.Taberner@btinternet.com  tel: 0121-556-6219


Rod Stradling - e-mail: rod@mustrad.org.uk    Tel: 01453 759475
snail-mail: 1 Castle Street, Stroud, Glos GL5 2HP, UK

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