Compánach – Music from all the counties of Ireland
Irish-traditional tunes, song and dance performed on authentic 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.
In Ireland, old music is regarded by its players as ‘traditional’ rather than ‘folk’, as it has had an ongoing use-value among the greater number of people over several centuries, and also because it takes in melodies and practices from a variety of aspects of cultural life on the island. It includes high-status or Court music of the old Gaelic ascendancy, recreational music of the poorer classes, some music of the Anglo Irish Ascendancy, and music of Irish-nationalism and Imperial loyalism. It also includes song and music shared with and borrowed from Scotland, England, the USA and Canada; and it has much emigrant-era song dating to the mid-1800s. Yet it is a contemporary music, with many modern-day melodies in addition to old harp tunes, ballads and sean-nós song.
This album takes its music cues from the fabulous, 1832 Daniel Maclise painting Snap Apple Night, the earliest picture of group music-making in Ireland which has fiddle, flute, pipes, tambourine and dance. It presents tunes named for towns and places in each one of the thirty two counties of the island of Ireland – as it was before the present-day states were formed in 1921, a time when all social classes indulged to some extent in indigenous music.
All Traditional tunes arrangement © Fintan Vallely, Gerry O’Connor & Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn; all new tunes are © their composers – Josephine Keegan, Brendan McGlinchey, Ritchie Dwyer, Paddy Fahy, Martin Crehan, Ed Reavey, Martin Wynne, Arthur Kearney, Seán Ó Riada, Paddy O’Brien & Sean Ryan as acknowledged in the notes.
This is an independent project developed and financed by the work of the artistes, without State Arts funding. It has been aided considerably by the support of concert-goers in Ireland, Europe and Australia. The contribution by Culture Ireland to certain public performances abroad is gratefully acknowledged as part of development, as are the advice and artwork by Martin Gaffney, and the initiative of Cork University Press, publishers of Companion to Irish Traditional Music. Full information on all aspects of the project on comitm.com.
WHN 1801. Recorded in April, 2017 by Donal O’Connor at Red Box Studios, Belfast (redboxrecording.com); engineering and mastering by Donal O’Connor; dance recording by Brian at the Irish Traditional Music Archive, Dublin; Recording of Karan Casey by Crow Valley Music, Cork; Recording of Roisín White by John Howson, Veteran Records; produced by Compánach; sleeve-notes by Fintan Vallely; CD duplication by AxisPPM, Dublin, (axisppm.ie). Released by Whinstone, Dublin (whinstone.net) 2018.
© Whinstone 2018 & the artistes. All rights reserved. Unauthorised copying, hiring, public broadcasting and reproduction prohibited. www.comitm.com
(To purchase CD – Available online here)
The music and song on Compánach
Compánach follows the A-Z route of the encyclopedia Companion to Irish Traditional Music. It goes alphabetically through the counties to create a musical gazetteer of the entire island of Ireland, showing that music-making has been a universal in all parts – not just in the perceived ‘big’ tourist-savvy regions such as Galway, Clare and Kerry which have a long-established experience of presenting local culture as an attraction for visitors. But those counties are, of course, deservedly well represented too, reflecting the scale of their present-day public respect for Traditional music. We divide the island in two, running in Disc 1 from Antrim to Fermanagh, and in Disc 2 from Galway to Wexford. Each one of the 32 counties of historic Ireland – covering Northern Ireland and the Republic – are visited in tunes. Several are indicated in songs, and the old-style step dance reflects pre-20th century practices in all counties and communities regardless of religion or politics. Yet all of this is just is a tiny sample of the still-tangible fruits of not only the last two centuries of music revival, but the previous millennium of artistic exploration in the music of Ireland.
Compánach – The Performers
Gerry O’Connor is a Dundalk fiddle player, a versatile figure in Irish music who is solidly ‘of his place’ in the music’s traditions. He has toured Ireland and Europe solo, with the bands Skylark and Oirialla and with Breton guitarist Giles Le Bigot. He plays also in the USA and Canada, and has many recordings, among them the seminal albums of Lá Lugh with Eithne Ní Uallacháin (Bilingua, 2016). His solo albums are Journeyman (2003) and Last Night’s Joy (2018), and he teaches fiddle internationally.
Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn is an award winning Uilleann Piper from Monaghan who began playing uilleann pipes at the age of nine with The Armagh Pipers Club. Holder of four Fleadh Ceoil All-Ireland titles and two Oireachtas titles he has toured widely in Europe and has recorded widely, both solo (Reggish Paddy, 2017) and with Máire Ní Bhraonáin of Clannad, Stephanie Makem and harper Laoise Kelly (Ar Lorg na Laochra, 2016).
Fintan Vallely is a flute player and is director of Compánach and editor of Companion to Irish Traditional Music. From Armagh, he has performed and taught throughout the world, was a critic and lectured for many years on Traditional music. He has written and edited several books, and has recorded solo (Merrijig Creek, 2018) and with singer Tim Lyons and guitarist Mark Simos (The Starry Lane to Monaghan, 1992).
Sibéal Davitt is a sean-nós dancer with a deep knowledge of ballet, jazz and contemporary since the age of five. She has achieved numerous awards including TG4’s ‘Glas Vegas’, and has performed nationally and internationally at such as Electric Picnic and Celtic Connections, and with bands such as The Chieftains. A student of film, she has produced shorts on dance; she teaches sean-nós, and creates and performs collaborations of Irish traditional and contemporary dance.
Karan Casey is a Co. Waterford singer who learned both local Traditional and Classical repertoires and techniques, and had a particular interest in Jazz. While studying this in New York she sang with the band Atlantic Bridge, then became a founder member of Solas in 1994, subsequently performing solo and recording and touring with concertina player and composer Niall Vallely. She has numerous solo and other recordings, bookended by Songlines (1997) and Two More Hours (2014).
Máire Ní Choilm is a Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Donegal singer in Gaelic. Her distinctive voice and interpretation of local songs have gained her National awards at An tOireachtas, the Fleadh Cheoil and the Pan Celtic Festival. She has performed at Celtic Connections and Festival Interceltique de Lorient, and recorded Nuair a théid sé fán chroí in 2010.
Roisín Chambers is a sean-nós, Connemara-style, Irish-language singer and fiddle player from Dublin. She has performed with Salsa Celtica and The Bonnymen, and has won the highest honours in Oireachtas, Fleadh Cheoil and Siansa competitions. She has played in Celtic Connections and has recorded
Stéphanie Makem is the great-granddaughter of the celebrated Ulster folksinger Sarah Makem and grand-niece of ballad singer Tommy Makem. She sings a South East Ulster repertoire in English and Gaelic which includes many of Sarah’s songs, and recorded on Ceol is Píob with Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn in 2008.
Róisín White is a singer from the Mourne Mountains in south County Down who learned from her mother in an environment of Irish language, song and story. Influenced in later years by Joe Holmes, Len Graham and Sarah Anne O’Neill, she went on to record a solo alum The First of My Rambles in 2001, has been a guest and tutor at song festivals in Ireland and Britain, and was awarded the TG4 Gradam Amhránaí in 2015.
Maurice Leyden is a Belfast based folk-song collector, singer and broadcaster specialising in Ulster folk-song. He has written on urban traditional songs in his book Belfast, City of Song, and on children’s singing games in Ireland in ‘Boys and Girls Come out to Play’, and is recorded on The Tern and the Swallow. A lecturer on song too, he has performed in Britain, Europe, America and Canada, and teaches Ulster singing style with Belfast Trad.