Recent Projects
Beating Time by Fintan Vallely book cover
Beating Time – The Story of the Irish Bodhrán: Spring 2024
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Companion to Irish Traditional Music 3rd Edition, 2023
Merrijig Creek by Fintan Vallely
Merrijig Creek – New Tunes and Arrangements
back-to-the-starry-lane-cover-800sq
Back to the Starry Lane – Fintan Vallely & Mark Simos
Turas CD cover FRont onlyWEB
Turas – Éire Fhíorúil sa Cheoil / Virtual Ireland in Music
Princess Grace Irish Library: Irish-American Song Sheet Collection Catalogue - Finatn Vallely
Irish-American Song Sheet Collection Catalogue

Beating Time – The Story of the Irish Bodhrán: Spring 2024

Beating Time by Fintan Vallely book cover

A unique, newly-researched, full history of the tambourine and bodhrán in Ireland.

The bodhrán drum has become a symbol of Ireland, as well known by now as the classic harp. Remarkably, it became visible only in the mid-1900s, but rapidly achieved a tremendous popularity. It is typically assumed to be the ancient, Irish percussion, but investigation of museum objects, images, fiction and history, newspaper reports, advertising and folklore shows that there is no historic, percussion dimension to Irish music at all: it is demonstrably melodic. There was, however, since the ancient past, a well-documented (but now defunct) device called bodhrán that was a subsistence-era, household container and winnowing tool that came to be improvised as a drum on rituals like the Wren each winter. But in the mid-1700s the European tambourine was introduced to Ireland by the music trade and popular stage-shows, was copied by rural artisan sieve-makers, and took over as the Wren’s symbolic percussion. Development of the Wren as a cultural festival in the 1950s led not only to the tambourine being adopted into revived Traditional music, but to the old term ‘bodhrán’ being reclaimed to describe it, a re-branding that took hold after 1960. Today the bodhrán has been hugely developed through interaction between the expanding expertise of its most virtuosic players and the innovations of its makers in Ireland and abroad, and is played widely in not only traditional Irish music, but in other genres as well. All of this marks the bodhran as not the oldest Irish-music instrument, but the newest, in such recent time that, remarkably, most of those who created its styles and forms are still part of today’s Irish music scene.

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TG4 2023 Gradam Saol / Lifetime Achievement Award

TG4 Gradam Ceoil 2023

Fintan Vallely is the recipient of this year’s TG4 Gradam Saol award. This is in recognition of his writing, teaching and performance work over the years since the early 1960s.  The award was presented at a night of music in the University of Limerick Concert Hall on Sunday, April 23rd, 2023. The concert was broadcast live on television at 9.30pm. Now in its 26th year, the Gradam Ceoil has been dubbed ‘the Oscars of traditional music’, and pays homage to musicians who have advanced, strengthened, and preserved traditional music in Ireland.

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Companion to Irish Traditional Music 3rd Edition, 2023

The ultimate reference for all players, devotees and students of Irish traditional music. An indispensable reference guide to Ireland’s internationally-celebrated and performed traditional music, song and dance.
This comprehensive resource—substantially revised, expanded and re-focused on contemporary issues and practices—is the largest single collection of such diverse, essential data. It brings together the knowledge of 200 contributors in an easy-to-use A—Z format with 600,000 words, 250 images and 100 music transcriptions in 1800 entries covering:
• All Tune Types
• Style and Ornamentation
• Composition and arrangement
• Ballads, Sean-Nós and Irish-language song
• Dance—Step & Sean-Nós dance, Céilí and Sets
• Solo Playing and Sessions
• Competitions and Awards
• Céılí bands, Groups and Professionalism
• Storytelling
• Instruments and Technology
• Organisations, Media & Promotion
• Teaching and Learning
• Education and Transmission
• Collectors and Archives
• History and Revival
• Performers, Stylists, Commentators
• Broadcasting and Recording
• Women in Traditional Music
• Irish Music in all Irish Counties, Europe, USA, Australia, Canada & worldwide
• Bibliography of Irish music, song and dance literature and tutors
• All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil Analysis and Winners 1952-2023
• Companion Music & Song CD & DVD available

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Merrijig Creek – New Tunes and Arrangements

Merrijig Creek by Fintan Vallely

A new album with 28 new tunes and arrangements on concert flute marking Fintan Vallely’s fifty-seventh year playing music.

With him is his sister Sheena Vallely, also on flute, who as a painter and musician has lived much of her working and playing life in London and Bristol. Framing and highlighting the music with piano melody and accompaniment is their cousin Caoimhín Vallely, a founder-member of the bands North Cregg and Buille. On bodhrán and percussion is Tipperary-born Brian Morrissey, and on fiddle is Donegal player Liz Doherty, of Nomos, Fiddlesticks, The Bumblebees and the international String Sisters. Also on fiddle is Gerry O’Connor from Dundalk, of the band Skylark and, with Eithne Ní Uallacháin, Lá Lugh; with Fintan he also performs the audiovisual concert shows Compánach and Turas. Guitarist Dáithí Sproule, both a soloist and singer, as well as having been member of Skara Brae, has toured and recorded with Altan and Liz Carroll.

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Turas – Éire Fhíorúil sa Cheoil / Virtual Ireland in Music

This DVD and movie is a Covid-era response to the absence of live performance. It is a  TV-style documentary of still images with music, linked sequentially in 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 with which Irish music engages, as found among the data in the encyclopedia Companion to Irish Traditional Music . These are presented as a county-by-county, old and new, tunes/song repertoire linked to places by visual images.

The music is played by Fintan Vallely, Gerry O’Connor and Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn – a 100-minute performance, with sean-nós and Irish-language song by Máire Ní Choilm, Róisín Chambers and Karan Casey, and ballads in English by Karan, by Stépahie Makem, Maurice Leyden and Róisín White. Sean-nós step dance by Sibéal Davitt powerfully accents the music with percussive rhythm, as does 19th-century tambourine played, and made, by bodhrán pioneer Seamus O’Kane.

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Back to the Starry Lane – Fintan Vallely & Mark Simos

Very old and very new selections of music from, and in, the Irish and Scottish traditions, promenaded in vibrant, eclectic humour on flute and guitar. New remastered edition.

This is a collection of very old and quite new, Irish and Scottish Traditional music, a personal selection of Fintan’s which arose out of his playing in Scotland with singer Tim Lyons in the 1980s. The music looks both backwards and forwards – beginning in the 18th century Scottish composition period which had tunes that we still play as Traditional music today. Included too are items of the more standard twentieth century Irish piping repertoire, some from Co. Clare, branching into 1950s-onward new composition. The old Scottish material comes from the 1765 Neil Stewart Collection of Scottish Music. Fintan had a privileged glimpse of Sutherland fiddler Charlie Menzies’ copy of the manuscript – the only one in existence outside of the George V Library in Edinburgh – while on tour with Daithí Sproule in 1989. These tunes were chosen for their similarity in style and ‘feel’ to Irish music, something which suggests that older Irish and Scottish music were once stylistically closer than they are today.

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Turas – Éire Fhíorúil sa Cheoil / Virtual Ireland in Music

This virtual-performance DVD and movie is a Covid-era response to the absence of live performance. It is a  TV-style documentary of still images with music, linked sequentially in 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 with which Irish music engages, as found among the data in the encyclopedia Companion to Irish Traditional Music . These are presented as a county-by-county, old and new, tunes/song repertoire linked to places by visual images.

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Irish-American Song Sheet Collection Catalogue

Princess Grace Irish Library: Irish-American Song Sheet Collection Catalogue - Finatn Vallely

The Princess Grace Song-Sheet Collection in Monaco
This is an archive of 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. These were designed for home and public entertainment in the era before the advent of radio and recordings, a time when all music was necessarily ‘live’. Song-sheets were to music then as records and CDs became later. As a trend, however, the song-sheet persisted well into the era of public broadcast music and easily-available, ’78 rpm disc ‘records’, dying out only after WWII; tens of thousands of titles covering all styles of music were issued over the course of a century. The Monaco 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. It has 1,099 discrete song-sheets, but many of them have multiple copies, making the Collection up to 1,682 sheets in total.

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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 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.

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Ón gCos go Cluas – From Dancing to Listening

Ón gCos go Cluas 2020 COVER

Voices from the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention conference held in Derry City, 2012. Edited by Liz Doherty and Fintan Vallely.

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.

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Retrospective · The Works of JB Vallely

JB Vallely Retrospective by Fintan Vallely

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.

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A Complete Guide to Learning the Irish Flute

Guide to the Irish Flute by Fintan Vallely

Flute tutor by Fintan Vallely

Music and tunes for the wooden concert flute · Including the basics of playing traditional music and a selection of over 100 tunes for all instruments.

A unique visual and descriptive ‘method’ for all levels of learning and playing on the keyed and unkeyed ‘Irish’ wooden flutes. Tried and tested, this is a greatly expanded and improved update of the very first Irish flute tutor which was published in 1986. Its 136 pages are packed with background information and suitable for all from the most basic to the most advanced levels.

The book covers breathing and ornamentation techniques, has a hundred and five notated tunes and a companion CDs with 180 tracks of tuition, ornamentation and music examples. This ‘method’ is perfectly suited too to the tin whistle.

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Release of Companion as an eBook

The Companion to Irish Traditional Music is now available in digital formats. On February 1st 2013 it was released as an ebook on Kindle and on iBooks. It is also available to libraries on-line through the Project Muse UPCC collection, as part of a greater collection, or, later in 2013 as an individual title; libraries can also get access from CHOICE website by subscription.

This is a landmark for a reference publication dedicated to Irish music, and opens up a huge new potential for the encyclopedia’s use in education in particular. The online formats make it possible for schools and colleges to economically manage productive access to the book’s huge volume of data: searches for places, names, music or instrument references, quoting information or gathering together linked but diffuse information on such as dance or song – as part of project and music programme research.

Each of these digital versions also has the terrific ability to not only find a term or name within the book itself, but will also do a search on the web for the same term. A wonderful way to save time and to broaden knowledge, this ties the data from the book into the huge resources on the internet.This revolutionises the Companion’s potential, making it a highly convenient, valuable, everyday resource for any musician, music lover, music student or researcher.

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