This virtual-performance project is a Covid-era response to the absence of live performance. It is a documentary-style movie of still images linked sequentially to performance of Traditional tunes named for each county on the island of Ireland and its Diaspora regions of England and the USA. The imagery and music embody hundreds of the key elements among the vast amount of information given in the book Companion to Irish Traditional Music. It will have a county-by-county tunes/song repertoire, with visual imagery linked to places. The music was established by a set group of performers – Fintan Vallely, Gerry O’Connor, Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn – a 100-minute performance with Irish-language singers Máire Ní Choilm and Róisín Chambers and sean-nós dancer Sibéal Davitt; some of it is new composition. The imagery is based in the music and scenery work of photographer Jacques Piraprez Nutan and the landscapes of Gareth McCormack. As a show, this has been performed live since 2013 as Compánach – Irish music in its places’, until health restrictions brought it to a halt.
To side-step verbal distraction, visual imagery has been chosen as the narrative for the music, avoiding language and translation issues. When done live, the images are projected on a large-scale, stage backdrop behind the players as a continuous stream of stills, each of them related to the music being played at that moment. The main photographic contributor to this was Jacques Piraprez Nutan, an artist who has contributed images for many Irish albums, and had worked with Fintan Vallely on other photographic/music projects, notably the 1998 music-interviews book Blooming Meadows, and the 2011 biography of Leitrim fiddler Ben Lennon, The Tailor’s Twist. Photographic royalties were agreed and paid on the same basis asUnder the title Compánach, and with support from Culture Ireland, this ‘illustrated concert’ has been progressively developed through performance at festivals and arts centres in Ireland, Britain, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Australia, latterly at Fleadh Ceoil na hÉireann in Drogheda, 2019. for musicians.
The project thus became both a comprehensive audio-visual parade and inventory of Irish Traditional music, song and dance in its places and communities. Its music covers all tune-types; its images demonstrate the artistic drive, achievement and contemporary and historical engagement among Irish Traditional music performers, facilitators, teachers and consumers. The 940 pictures denote performers, repertoire, social contexts, gender, age, historical era, political and religious partialities, organisations, regional topography, urban and rural, teaching, publication, promotion, celebration and honours. The artistic purpose of this is to culturally and geographically demonstrate the scale, open-ness, modernity and tribute to the past, and the emotional attraction of this music genre.
It is now planned as both a DVD and streaming video. All enquiries welcome; further information as it develops …
Topical tunes to while away the quarantine with sanguinity
Forty years ago on ‘dry’ Good Friday this small house in Dublin was christened with music and a party that was provisioned with alcohols from under the counter by the legendary Bertie McCormack’s Rathmines grocery shop. Since it was from before the age of photographic incontinence, no pictures are known to exist. These days, cameras are as numerous as flies, but in vastly greater measure is the worry and fear around what is now so terrible to think about; there is too much time to contemplate, but little that can be done in the short term other than try to stay calm. With such distraction, commemoration of the forty-odd books and albums that have come out of the house since, and of the wonderful journalists, musicians, writers and painters who have passed through it (many to eternity) is not an option, and it is hard to stay focused on one’s everyday mission.
So, my personal distraction is that while working through Irish-music tune-names for an article in the 3rd edition of Companion to Irish Traditional Music I was time-travelled back to the 1800s, conjured by those ‘handles’ into a vivid landscape of people, lives, places and the everyday. The titles from before the time of electricity grids and mass media have the most authentic stamp, and the trawl of the older Irish-music collection indexes led me into some esoteric, contemporary recontextualisation. The names that follow are mainly from Francis O’Neill’s 1903 and 1907 Chicago, collections, some are from James Goodman, pre-Famine Munster, collected in the 1860s, as published by the ITMA in Tunes of the Munster Pipers Vols. 1 & 2. Others are from UCC’s Aloys Fleischmann’s mammoth archive (covering 1600-1855) and from Limerick dance master Francis Roche’s 1912/1927 volumes; a sprinkle are from c. 1950s-1990s.
Essential work The Dairymaid; Buttermilk Mary; The Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow; Kitty Gone A Milkin’; The Maid at the Churn; The Threshers; The Mills are Grinding; The Cook in the Kitchen; The Baker’s Reel; Bruise the Pease; The Maid at the Well; The Irish Washerwoman; The Wash Woman; Jenny Picking Cockles; The Jolly Clamdiggers; Fishing for Eels, and, of course, The Woman of the House . . .
Keep active Going to the Well for Water; Give Us a Drink of Water; Wallop the Potlid; Molly Put the Kettle On; Come to Your Dinner; Tea in the Morning; Boil the Breakfast Early, and, an ideal occupation for piano players, Soda Bread Making, and (but via Skype) The Ladies’ Cup of Tea . . .
Stock up on Apples in Winter; Winter Apples; Gillan’s Apples; The flitch of Bacon; Jackson’s Bottle of Brandy; The Bottle of Porter; The Jug of Punch; A Draught of Ale; The Mug of Brown Ale; The Little Bag of Meal; Bannocks of Barley Meal; The Three Scones of Boxty; Sweeney’s Buttermilk; The Munster Buttermilk; Butter-Milk and Pratees; Boiled Goat’s Milk; The Bag of Spuds; The New Potatoes; Potatoes and Butter; The Little Bag of Potatoes; The Head of Cabbage; The Cock and the Hen; The Leg of the Duck; Roast Beef From London; The Bunch Of Currants; Lumps of Pudding; Puddings and Pies; The Creel of perches; The Fisherman’s Harvest; The Basket of Oysters, and, if you a true prepper, Salt Fish and Dumplins . . .
Chains of transmission Tabhair dom do Lámh; Maudabawn Chapel; The Little Grey Church; Have a Drink With Me; Come to the Bottle House; Come to Dinner; O’Rourke’s Feast; I Went to a Chinese Restaurant; Bímuid ag Ól is ag pógadh na mBan; Cherish the Ladies; Will You Come Home With Me?; Up against the Boughalauns; Come Under My Plaiddie; Come With Me Now; Behind the Bush in the Garden; Rolling on the Ryegrass; Kiss the Maid Behind the Barrel; Kiss Your Partner; The Highland Man who Kissed his Grannie; Dancing on the Green; Swinging Around the Circle; Round the House and Mind the Dresser; All Hands Around; The Waves of Torey; The Walls of Limerick; Out With the Boys; A Night at the Fair, and, regrettably, Finnegan’s Wake . . .
Prohibited travel A Trip to the Cottage; Over the Moor to Maggie; Over the Bridge to Peggy; Fr Grady’s Visit to Bockagh; Rick’s Rambles; The Gravel Walks; Around the World For Sport; Kitty Come Down to Limerick; Round the world for sport; The Connachtman’s Rambles; Going to the Fair; A Trip to Galway; A Night at the Fair; A Trip to Athlone; Follow me down to Carlow; Follow Her Over the Border; Return to Camden Town; Off to California, and, unless you’re a medic, A Visit to Ireland . . .
Cancelled events The Merry Days of Easter; Easter Sunday; The Sporting Days of Easter; The Maid Behind the Bar; Out on the Ocean; The Rathkeale Hunt; The Boyne Hunt; The Races at Carrick; The Castlebar Races; The Mullingar Races; The Curragh Races; The Piper’s Picnic; Donnybrook Fair; Killarney Fair; Lanigan’s Ball; The Dances at Kinvara; The Trip to Birmingham; The Trip to Durrow, and, mercifully, at least for a while, The Day We Paid the Rent . . .
Social distancing Stay away from: A Stranger From Limerick; The Cow That Ate the Blanket; The Green Fields of America; The Banks of the Nile; The Boys From the East; The Rakes of Kildare; The Rakes of Clonmel; The Rakes of Mallow; The Highway to Limerick; Kitty’s Wedding; The Rambler From Clare; The Sporting Bachelor; The Roving Bachelor; The Rambling Sailor; The Ranting Rake; Rakish Paddy; The Dandies Gone a Roaming; The Killarney Boys of Pleasure; The Back of the Haggard; Roarin’ Mary; Johnny With the Queer Thing; The Coughing Old Man, and, sadly for tourism, Our Own Little Isle . . .
Permitted activities The Cup of Tea; Cheese It!; Kiss Your Partner; Kiss Me Sweetheart; Courting in the Kitchen; Come Upstairs With Me; Take Her Out and Air Her; Within a Mile of Clonbur, but, considering everything, don’t go Within a Mile of Dublin . . .
Contact tracing Last Night’s Fun; Kissing and Drinking; The Friendly Visit; Happy to Meet Sorry to Part; Take a Kiss or Let it Alone; The Unfortunate Cup of Tea; Coming From the Wedding; Molly What Ails You?; What Ails You?; Peggy is Your Head Sick? And, what the medics need to know, such as “I Met Her In The Garden Where the Praties Grow” . . .
Contagion reporting Tell Her I Am; Go home go home dear cousin; An Ugly Customer; The Expensive Sneeze; Take Your Hand Away; Cuz’s Concoctions for the Throat; When Sick is it Tea You Want?; Is it the Priest You Want?; The Pretty Girl in Danger; A Short Way to Heaven; What the Devil Ails You?; The Perfect Cure, and if you think you’ve identified the culprit, resist shouting “You Thief who Stole my Health From Me” . . .
Isolation Farewell to Liberty; Lock the Door; The Lonesome Jig; Splendid Isolation; The Lonely Fireside; Take It Easy; The Pleasures of Home; Our House At Home; Tá Mé ‘mo Chodhladh ’s Ná Dúisigh mé; Snug in the Blanket; Advice to the Soupers; Banish Misfortune; We’ll Drink Good Health, and, there being nothing else for it, Erin’s Hope . . .
Consequences The Pleasures of Hope; The Lonesome Wedding; My Love is in America; My Love is on the Ocean; Pay the Reckoning; Níl Aon Airgead Agam; The Little Pig Lamenting the Empty Trough; The Smiles and Tears of Erin; The Parting Glass, and, if you’re post-seventy and thinking about going for a walk disguised as a teenager, remember the words of Lone Shanakyle
Fintan Vallely, © 10th April 2020
With a substantial text by Fintan Vallely, this book marks 50 years of painting by piper JB Vallely, one of Ireland’s leading contemporary artists. A limited edition, the large-format, full-colour publication in 342 pages and 150 images details the painter’s life and interpretations of rural Ireland, its music, traditions and sports; many previously unseen works are included.
The book was launched in 2008 along with a retrospective exhibition at the former Northern Bank Building, North Street Belfast, the venue which in 1792 had hosted the pivotal Belfast Harpers’ Assembly. Available from Crow Valley Music.
Voices from the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention conference held in Derry City, 2012
Edited by Liz Doherty and Fintan Vallely
303 pages, ISBN 978-0-9511569-9-5
Available from March 1st, 2020
Traditional music has moved from a primary purpose of servicing dance, to expressing artistic preference. Further, the outer fringes of traditional melody-making now shade into other forms – jazz, contemporary classical, rock and pop – and indeed towards the antithesis of genre, so-called ‘world’ music. The chapters in this volume reflect on this visible re-orientation, exploring North Atlantic musics in terms of the shift of folk cultures’ interest from social process to aesthetic product.
Ón gCos go Cluas heard the voices of more than a hundred speakers from all regions of the North Atlantic, each of them a musician or music teacher; they covered many aspects of Traditional music in addition to the fiddle. Thirty two of their voices are published here.
Work has already begun on the third edition of the encyclopedia Companion to Irish Traditional Music, due to come out end of 2020.
Any suggestions, ideas welcome; all previous contributors will be contacted where possible.
Further information in due course.
Compánach – Music from all the counties of Ireland
Irish-traditional tunes, song and dance performed on acoustic instruments, with Gaelic songs, ballads in English, and old-style percussive step-dance.
Two hours of music, song and dance named for each of the counties of nineteenth-century Ireland, music of the island from the pre-electric age. Fifteen different tune-types are played in thirty sets of solos, duets and trios, built out to tremendous richness by uilleann pipes drones, with rhythm marked in dance steps and historic tambourine. Older song-airs and laments are set alongside local jigs, reels and hornpipes, popular dance-forms like quickstep and barndance, continental rhythms polka and mazurka, and Scottish ‘highlands’. The performers are Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn on uilleann pipes; Gerry O’Connor, fiddle; Fintan Vallely, concert flute; Sibéal Davitt, old-style, hard-shoe step dance; and singers Karan Casey, Máire Ní Choilm, Róisín Chambers, Maurice Leyden, Stephanie Makem, and Roisín White …
A fast-moving, audio-visual recital of Traditional Irish music, song and dance by Gerry O’Connor, Roisín Chambers, Fintan Vallely, Sibéal Davitt and Tiarnán Ó Duinnchín who perform in front of a changing, narrative backdrop of large-screen photographs by Jacques Nutan. The 120-minute show expresses the artistic depth, finesse and variety of the music as described in the new encyclopedia Companion to Irish Traditional Music. Based on the format of the book, the concert covers all Irish counties and regions, demonstrating hallmark styles and repertoire. For students of the music and of Irish culture this is a wonderful melodic display of information; for aficionados it is an exceptionally vibrant presentation of solo and group playing, sean-nós step-dance and singing. (more…)