Merrijig Creek – New Tunes and Arrangements

New tunes and arrangements by Fintan Vallely, with Caoimhín Vallely, piano; Sheena Vallely, flute; Brian Morrissey, percussion; Liz Doherty, fiddle; Dáithí Sproule, guitar; Gerry O’Connor, fiddle.

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.

Fintan is privileged to be buoyed along by the enervating nerve of this company: Sheena’s sympathetic flute pulse, Caomhín’s lift on piano, with Brian accenting moods on bodhráns and shakers. Dáithí is on guitar on track five, Liz is on several sets, and Gerry joins on the finale tunes. The intuitive production and direction input of Niall Vallely (a composer himself, of the bands Nomos and Buille), is greatly appreciated for his patient shepherding of balance, character and vitality in the album.

The music

Some of the new tunes here emerged out of the headiness of days-long session immersions in counties Dublin, Sligo and Clare. Others came while touring, on long road trips on the neighbouring island. Eighteen of the twenty-eight pieces were made by me between the years 1977 and 2017; the other ten are favoured, complementary pieces that came out of travel, session playing and listening.

The few older tunes and Lucy Farr’s pieces are felt as a leavening matrix for the newer material which has been re-worked and honed over years, and was eventually coaxed to finality in the head-space freed up by a Deis grant from An Comhairle Ealaíon / The Arts Council of Ireland.

A couple of the new tunes were recorded with Mark Simos in 1992, but most have not been played in music circles before. They were played, however, at literary events, from the mid 1990s though to 2007 in Ireland and Scotland with the poet Dermot Healy as part of the spoken-word presentations The Ballyconnell Colours and Fool’s Errand for which familiar tunes were just not appropriate.

The naming of the new tunes follows the convention in Irish Traditional music: their titles indicate stories, history, places, significant events and people over the course of my performing life. So too with the group-titling of the ‘sets’, which is related to personal and circumstantial associations, a practice that has been with us since the advent of the CD in the eighties.

The Sets

PREVIEW OF THE TRACKS - Click below this list

Set 1: The Three Sisters (5’53”).
Set 2: From Ballinakill to Ballinascreen (3’59”).
Set 3: Emilia Romagna redoubt (4’31”).
Set 4: Roving Rhythm (4’32”).
Set 5: The Humours of Blundell’s Grange (5’00”).
Set 6: Gregorium Uproarium (5’01”).
Set 7: Homage to Brian Keenan (4’23”).
Set 8: The Maid of Annaghmakerrig (4’04”).
Set 9: The Rambles of Grappa (5’25”).
Set 10: The Ballyconnell Colours (6’40”).

Hear the tunes on Bandcamp, and download


The Tunes

Set 1: The Three Sisters (5’53”). `An Grianán Feasa’ (2’08”; Fintan Vallely), ‘Merrijig Creek’ (1’44”, Fintan Vallely), ‘The Clonakilla Reel’ (1’58”; Fintan Vallely).
Set 2: From Ballinakill to Ballinascreen (3’59”). ‘The Shoemaker’ (1’04”; Lucy Farr), ‘Music on the Wind’ (1’04”; Lucy Farr), ‘The Banba’ (1’49”; Fintan Vallely).
Set 3: Emilia Romagna redoubt (4’31”). ‘Per i Morti di Reggio Emilia’ (1’55”; Fausto Amodei), ‘The Reggio Jig’ (2’35”; Fintan Vallely).
Set 4: Roving rhythm (4’32”). ‘The Wounded Huzzar’ (2’02”; Trad. Arr. Fintan Vallely), ‘Captain O’Kane’ (1’13”; Turloch Carolan), ‘The Crosses of Annagh’ (1’20”; Trad. Arr. Fintan Vallely).
Set 5: The Humours of Blundell’s Grange (5’00”). ‘The Dark Loanen’ (1’33”; Niall Vallely), . ‘The Miltown Collector’ (1’11”; Fintan Vallely), ’Maisie Friel’s (2’20”; Fintan Vallely).
Set 6: Gregorium uproarium (5’01”). ‘Ómos Tadhg MacSweeney’ (2’01”; Fintan Vallely), ‘Raithneach a Bhean Bheag’ (0’46”; Trad. Arr. Fintan Vallely), ‘The Musical Priest’ (2’14; trad. Arr. Fintan Vallely).
Set 7: Homage to Brian Keenan (4’23”). ‘Syrian Sky’ ( 0’42”; Fintan Vallely), ’Trip to Damascus’ (1’52”; Fintan Vallely), ’Farewell to Lebanon’ (1’50”; Fintan Vallely)
Set 8: The maid of Annaghmakerrig (4’04”). ‘Fool’s Errand’ (0’44”; Fintan Vallely), ‘Judith Guthrie’s Jig’ (3’26”; Fintan Vallely)
Set 9: The rambles of grappa (5’25”). ‘Valentia Regatta’ (1’33”; Seán Ó Riada & John Kelly), ‘Garvey in the Sea’ (1’57”; Fintan Vallely), ‘The Verona reel’ (1’54”; Fintan Vallely)
Set 10: The Ballyconnell Colours (6’40”). ’ ‘Five Women and a Fiddle’ (1’45”; Fintan Vallely), ‘The Rockforest Reel’ (2’14”; Fintan Vallely), ’The Wild Goose Chase’ (2’42”; Fintan Vallely)