The Humours of Cocoon – 4 decades of music and writing under the one roof

Topical tunes to while away the quarantine with sanguinity

Forty years ago on ‘dry’ Good Friday myself and the writer Evelyn Conlon moved into this small house in Dublin, celebrating the relocation 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, 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

Grace Kelly Irish-American Song-sheet catalogue (2020)

This is an archive of 1,099 printed Irish-American song-lyrics and music sheets from the years c. 1840-1940. The music they contain is not ‘Traditional’ as such, but has a strong Irish stamp and idiom, with c. 33% of lyrics by Irish-named writers, a tenth of this by Thomas Moore. Much of the rest of the material is comic, love and Irish-nostalgia songs by Tin Pan Alley writers, composers and publishers. The collection was built up by Michael E. O’Donnell of Philadelphia in the early-to-mid twentieth century, and purchased by Grace Kelly in 1977. Since these were songs to be performed by a singer and/or a pianist, the sheets have the music notation for both piano and voice, with lyrics printed below the music, matched to it. The covers on the earlier sheets are typically black on white, but on the late 1800s and 1900s material many are multi-coloured, often with striking text or graphics. These were catalogued and digitised by Fintan Vallely in early 2019, and the catalogue, of thumbnail images with all lyricist, composer and publisher information, was printed in late March, 2020. For research purposes, seventeen other individual indexes have been generated, which order the song-sheets in different ways to highlight data such as gender and nationality of the lyricist and composer deduced from their names, song style and subject, and publisher information. Other categories will be added so that the material can be analysed in different ways, such as by cover image, key words in the song titles, first lines of songs, etc. The Collection is held at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco. It will be kept intact, as it is, and there is no plan to expand it.

JB Vallely Retrospective by Fintan Vallely

Retrospective · The Works of JB Vallely 1958-2008

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.

Ón gCos go Cluas – From Dancing to Listening

Ón gCos go Cluas 2020 COVERVoices 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.

Read More…

Companion to Irish Traditional Music 3rd edition

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 … (more…)

Companach CD Cover

Double CD of Compánach Concert Released

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 … (more…)

The Compánach Concert

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…)