Les droits d'auteurs pour cet album sont offerts chaque année à l'association irlandaise "LES AMIS DES ENFANTS DE TCHERNOBYL"

The copyrights for this album are offered each year to the Irish Association "FRIENDS OF THE CHILDREN OF CHERNOBYL


   Ces enregistrements n'ont pas pour but de faire étalage de prouesses techniques de musiciens professionnels, mais simplement de démontrer l'importance de la musique jouée par des amateurs dans la vie quotidienne du sud ouest de l'Irlande. Merci de bien vouloir les considérer sous cet angle.

   These recordings do not aim at displaying the technical expertise of professional musicians, but merely to prove the importance of amateur playing as part of everyday life in the South West of Ireland. Please consider them as such.


Originalement conçu comme une illustration musicale de ma thèse, ce CD (Arfolk 439) est disponible chez COOP BREIZH, BP 1, F-29540 Spézet - il a obtenu le DIAPASON D'OR en avril 1996

Originally a simple musical illustration of my thesis, this CD is now available through COOP BREIZH, BP 1, F-29540 Spézet - It was awarded the DIAPASON D'OR (distinction of the French magazine Diapason) in April 1996.


You will need RealPlayer to listen to the music on this page    

1 - The Leg of the Duck / The Stick across the Hob. (1'49) 2 Jixgs.

Fiddle (Tim Kearns) and guitar (Tomás O'Sullivan).

The first jig is not particularly common, but the second one is a great classic, better known as " Morrison's Jig " ; according to Tim, the great fiddler James Morrison is supposed to have learnt it from a North-Kerryman, and to have renamed it on the recording day because he had forgotten the original title.

2 - The Mountain Top / The Dublin Reel. 2 Reels (1'39).

Tin whistle (Tom Connor) & Bodhrán (Tomás O'Sullivan).

Two very common reels played by Tom on the most famous of all Irish instruments, the tin-whistle. Tomás is here on the bodhrán, a drum whose origins are still not clear, played without excessive virtuosity but with great sensitivity and precision.

3 - Na Connerys. Slow Air (2'02).

Uilleann pipes (Tomás O'Sullivan).

Slow airs are generally songs interpreted as instrumental pieces, mostly on the uilleann pipes or on the fiddle. The first uilleann pipes date back to the end of the XVIII century and differ from other bagpipes in that they have 'regulators' which enable the musician to stress the rhythm or to play harmonies to his own melody.

4 - Three Kerry Polkas. 3 Polkas (2'35).

Accordion (Mike Dowd) & Mandola (Donal Moroney).

Polkas, which originated in Bohemia and arrived in Ireland around 1840, took to Kerry quite well ; three of them, nameless as is often the case, are accompanied by Donal on a sort of large flat-back mandolin, the Mandola.

5 - Airde Cuan. Song (3'39)

(Áine Moriarty).

A song in Irish Gaelic from Co. Antrim, but that Áine particularly likes. Although not of the sean-nós (literally 'old style') category, an extremely ornamented type of singing in Gaelic, this form is representative of what some Irish men and women can sing with all their heart, as here.

6 - The All-Star Barn Dances / The Ballroom Favourite. 2 Barn dances (3'27).

Wooden side-flute (Tom Connor).

Tom plays here a type of melody he believes originated in Donegal, in the North West of Ireland ; Joe Donovan, 90 years of age, is the last of the dancing masters, and remembers that these barndances were quite common in the whole of Ireland at the beginning of the century.

7 - Kathleen O'Hehir. Jig (1'10).

Bouzouki (Kieran Griffin).

The adaptation of the Greek bouzouki in the seventies proves beyond any doubt the ability of traditional Irish music to adopt, and then adapt to its repertoire an instrument from another tradition. With a different tuning, another shape and a flat back, the bouzouki and its cousins (Cittern, Mandola) is fast becoming a traditional Irish instrument. Kieran plays a traditional round-backed bouzouki bought in Athens, on which the only modification was the tuning.

8 - The Harvest Suite : The Stack of Barley / The Stack of Wheat. Slow Air & 2 Hornpipes (3'04).

Uilleann pipes (Tomás O'Sullivan) & Fiddle (Tim Kearns).

Another improvisation by Tomás and Tim : the first melody is first played as a slow air, then played in its common form, as a hornpipe. These are originally English country-dances whose name derives from a medieval woodwind instrument. The present day Irish hornpipe is however quite different from its medieval English counterpart, with a rather bouncy binary beat.

9 - Tom Billy's. Reel (1'55).

Banjo (Terry Matthews).

Invented in Africa, the banjo arrived in Ireland after the second world war and enjoyed a great popularity from the fifties onwards, thanks to the Success of the Clancy Brothers in the USA. There are two different types of banjo, the 'tenor' one, as played here by Terry, and the 'great Appalachian banjo' with five strings, less popular among Irish musicians.

10 - Sidh Beag agus Sidh Mór / The Drunken Landlady. O'Carolan / Reel (3'01).

Accordion (Mike Dowd) & Mandola (Donal Moroney).

The first melody, by the blind harper Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738), is usually associated with the 'good people' living under the surface of the earth and who, legend has it, were defeated during the last mythical invasion of Ireland, and were then given the underworld to live in, by order of the poet-judge Amerghin.

11 - Caoineadh Uí Domhnaill. Slow Air (1'46).

Fiddle (Tim Kearns).

This splendid lament for O'Donnell is played here in a very personal manner by Tim. This way each musician can make an air his/her own, can modify it, enrich it, ornament it differently every time he/she plays it, is one of the main features of any traditional music.

12 - The Downfall of Paris. Set Dance (2'03).

Uilleann pipes (Tomás O'Sullivan) .

Set dances date back to the middle of the XIXth century and are generally 'suites' (anglicised 'set') of dances for four couples, which came from continental Europe and were based on quadrilles. When only two couples dance, you'll speak of a 'half-set'.

13 - Kitty's Favourite / The Morning Mist. 2 Reels (1'56).

Concertina (Muirrean Clifford).

Muirrean is 13 years old and plays an 'Anglo' concertina, a variant of the instrument invented in 1829 by Charles Wheatstone, a sort of small accordion with an octogonal or hexagonal section.

14 - Sliabh na mBan. Slow Air (3'42).

Wooden side-flute (Tom Connor).

A slow air from a song in Gaelic, 'The Hill (or Mount) of the Women', played by Tom on the flute. Not to be confused with the ballad of the same name which is more recent and probably dates from the XVIIIth century.

15 - The Boys of Ballyconnell. Reel (52'').

Mandolin (Donal Moroney).

The Mandolin, if not the most popular instrument in Ireland, is still appreciated by musicians for its discreet character and also because it allows them either to play the melody or to accompany other musicians.

16 - Kitty Lie Over Next to the Wall / Water from the Well. 2 Slides (2'43).

Accordion (Mike Dowd) & Mandole (Donal Moroney).

Two slides, a dance particularly common in Kerry as part of the 'Polka Set', a 'suite' of dances for couples. The first one also offers us an excellent example of the technique by which you memorise the rhythm through a meaningless sentence.

17 - The Hills of Kilderry / Bold Teddy Quill's Jig. Slow Air / Jig (2'09)

Low Whistle (Tomás O'Sullivan).

This slow air bearing the name of a place near Killorglin has, as far as we know, never been recorded before ; it is played on a long metal flute, the low whistle, invented in the sixties by the flute-maker Bernard Overton for Finbar Furey. The second melody is generally played as a reel.

18 - The Jug of Brown Ale / The Fair Haired Boy. 2 Jigs (2'26).

Banjo (Terry Matthews).

Still on the tenor banjo, two jigs played quite steadily by Terry, who was also the All Ireland Mandolin champion a few years ago.

19 - Whelan's Sow / The House in the Glen. 2 Jigs (2'02).

Fife (Bb) (Tom Connor) & Bodhrán (Tomás O'Sullivan).

The fife (a small wooden side-flute) is generally associated with military 'fife and drum bands' ; but nobody says you can't play it like this.

20 - The Belfast Hornpipe / The Galway Hornpipe. 2 Hornpipes (2'50).

Accordion (Mike Dowd).

The accordion is one of the most popular instruments in Ireland today, despite having a bad reputation due to its tendency to drown out the instruments in a session ; used in a subtle manner as here, it can certainly produce all the ornamentations peculiar to traditional Irish music.

21 - Garrett Barry's Jig / The Rambling Pitchfork / The Kesh Jig. 3 Jigs (3'03).

Uilleann pipes (Tomás O'Sullivan) & Fiddle (Tim Kearns ).

The first melody is, without any doubt, Tomás' favourite ; all three are very common in the repertoire of session musicians.

22 - An Mhaighdean Mhara. Chant (2'04)

(Carrie O'Sullivan).

This song in Gaelic deals with a very common theme, that of the 'Sea Woman' who has come to marry a human being ; it is sung by Carrie who is only nineteen and was also brought up in a family where music is very important.

23 - Kerry Polka (58'').

Mandola (Donal Moroney).

Another polka played by Donal on the mandola which can, along with its cousins, the mandolin, the cittern, the bouzouki, etc. play solo ; it is however largely considered as a backing instrument since a certain number of Irish musicians have admitted that their music is not damaged when accompanied. Donal's almost unique style combines both techniques.

24 - Michael Coleman's / Paddy from Portlaw. 2 Jigs. (1'34)

Concertina (Muirrean Clifford).

Michael Coleman was one of the most famous Irish fiddlers at the beginning of the century, but had to emigrate to the USA. There, he recorded a great number of melodies which still form the basis for the repertoire of many fiddlers.

25 - Táim Breoite go Leor / Pretty Maggie Morrissey.Slow Air & Jig (2'48).

Uilleann pipes (Tomás O'Sullivan).

A slow air called 'I am very sick'. It is well know around Miltown but rarely recorded, and played here on the uilleann pipes by Tomás who then concludes our journey with a more joyful melody.

I have been haunted by the idea of compiling such an album for a long time. Irish traditional music has become, since the seventies, one of the hallmarks of Ireland, making its way onto the stages of the world, drinking from every source, seducing more and more musicians and music lovers. And if it is considered, at the end of this XXth century, that so many musical traditions have disappeared in an apparent total indifference, Irish traditional music seems to be a survivor.

Still, it would be too easy to blame anyone : Irish traditional music, unlike many of its counterparts, simply faced up to the challenges of urbanisation and emigration, to tourism, to the multiplication of outside influences (" World Music "), and even to the technological revolution brought about by recordings, from wax cylinders to our present-day compact-discs.

It is however, above all, one of the most important aspects of everyday life in Ireland, particularly appreciated among friends at home, or in pubs since the sixties.

This album is entirely dedicated to solos and duets since Irish traditional music is, to a large extent, a solo art. However, we did not record professional musicians, but excellent amateurs constantly in touch with a musical atmosphere and tradition, that of Kerry, in the south-west of Ireland. These anonymous people have for a long time been perpetuating this music as a natural part of their world, and not as a museum-like idea of tradition. For all the huge repertoire they have accumulated, they seek neither competition success nor musical perfection, but merely the pleasure of playing.

Few albums have tried to evoke what this music represents for amateur Irish musicians, those who day in day out create and recreate this music for our delighted ears. Those who pass on this music to their family or between friends, those you will meet in pubs, whether in winter or in summer. It was therefore important that their role be recognised one day and that a tribute, however simple, be paid to them. This is what we are doing here with the help of just a few of them, regular contributors to the musical refuges around Killorglin, Co. Kerry, who will help you (re)discover the popular instruments of Ireland.

Listen to these tracks of pure bliss brought about by the instruments at their simplest, savour all the subtlety and the pleasure involved... and may one wish of mine be granted : forget these eternal and occidental quarrels between tradition and modernity. Traditional music can only be modern, or else it vanishes away naturally.


The recording accompanying this research is the result of many years spent in the company of friends and musicians in Co. Kerry. Music is not their main professional occupation, but who better than amateurs could have paid a tribute to the countless anonymous musicians who fashion the real strength of Traditional Irish Music. Such is, apart from proposing a wide panorama of the most popular instruments played in Ireland today, the main aim of this record. The harp will not be found here, since it has kept its non-popular character.

Achieved over a period of three days at the end of October 1995 in Donal Moroney's living-room with very simple technical equipment (a DAT tape-recorder and 4 microphones), we had agreed that musicians from around Killorglin and Miltown would drop in according to their possibilities : before going shopping, after leaving the children at school, before milking the cows... Most of them were used to microphones and recordings, and some came several times, sometimes staying for long hours and enjoying the music and the tea. Others only stayed for 10 minutes. But each one of them was glad to embody here for us the music that they love and pass on.

It would, of course, be quite fanciful to suggest that a handful of musicians, be they excellent, could represent the sum total of Irish musical styles. A compilation of several dozens of similar records would not have been sufficient, and we are thus far from deploring the complete disappearance of local styles. The present day evolution tends, due to the influence of the media, to a combination of styles. The musicians presented here are therefore only representative of themselves, which is already quite an achievement.

Erick Falc'her-Poyroux