Sunday, 14 February 2016

Apples in Winter (jig): Brendan (eile)

Apples in Winter (jig)

This is a lively, old jig! I say old because according to Chief O'Neill (Irish Minstrels & Musicians, 1913) it was one of the first jigs learned by the Kerry fiddler/piper William F. Hanafin, who was born in 1875. The tune featured in O'Neill's 1907 collection (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems).

William F. Hanafin (1875-1924). Source: ITMA
The Sligo fiddler Michael Coleman recorded Apples in Winter (Úlla sa Gheimhreadh, más fearr leat) in the early 1920s and there have been dozens of versions produced over the last century. I'm particularly fond of Kevin Griffin's banjo version from Live at the Burren Centre, Kilfenora (2009), which someone has kindly added to YouTube at 70% speed with notation from the Dusty Banjo's tune book: Ten Years of Tunes (available HERE).

And here is my version based on Kevin's Griffin's (and at about 70% speed).

The Crosses of Annagh (reel): Brendan (eile)

The Crosses of Annagh (reel)

The Crosses of Annagh (pub and village), West Clare.
 The Crosses of Annagh (Crosbhóithre an Eanaigh, más fearr leat) was composed by Galway's Tommy Coen (1910-1974), who is perhaps best remembered for another of his compositions: Christmas Eve (reel). Coen was born in the townland of Urraghry, a mile or so east of Aughrim, but moved with his family to Salthill in the late 1920s and worked as a conductor on Connemara buses. Coen began his musical career on the accordion but switched to the fiddle; when his health failed in his later years he returned to the accordion “putting his fiddle playing into the box" (Miller & Perron, 2006, Irish Traditional Fiddle Music).
Eddie Moloney (flute) & Tommy Coen (fiddle) & Eddie Moloney. Source: ITMA
As is the case with many traditional tunes, this reel goes by many names but the influential Matt Molloy named it the Crosses of Annagh on Matt Molloy, Paul Brady, Tommy Peoples (1977).

I have been at this tune a while and it seemed much faster when I was playing it but when played alongside the Molloy, Brady and People's version it is SLOW! More practice needed ...

Monday, 8 February 2016

Caisleán an Óir (hornpipe): Breandan (eile)

Caisleán an Óir (hornpipe)

Caisleán an Óir ('Golden Castle' or 'Castle of Gold' in Irish) is a beautiful hornpipe composed by the West Clare fiddler Martin 'Junior' Crehan (1908-1998). In 1978, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann released an album entitled Ceol an Chláir, compiled from recordings made between 1966 and 1978, which featured Crehan playing Caisleán an Óir. That same year, the tune was also recorded (and popularised) by fiddler Kevin Burke on his first solo album If the Cap Fits (1978):

The tune features on Matt Molloy and Sean Keane's Contentment Is Wealth (1985), Martin Hayes's Martin Hayes (1992) and Kevin Crehan's An Bhábóg sa Bhádóg. Music from West Clare; Kevin is Junior's grandson. Angelina Carberry has a lovely banjo version (in a different key) on her 2014 album Pluckin' Mad but I've based my attempt on Crehan's original and Burke's version.

Next up is Tommy Coen's Crosses of Annagh!

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Stack of Rye (hornpipe): Brendan (eile)

The Stack of Rye (hornpipe)

I was first drawn to this lovely hornpipe when listening to an album entitled So There You Go (2012) by Cork banjoist Seán O'Driscoll. He named it the Clare Hornpipe, but I eventually figured out that it was, in fact, the Stack of Rye, composed by the fiddler Junior Crehan from West Clare. Junior's grandson, fiddler Kevin Crehan, has a beautiful recording of this tune (along with the Stacks of Barley, Wheat and Oats) on his 2001 album: An Bhábóg sa Bhádóg.

Rakes of Clonmel (jig): Brendan (eile)

Rakes of Clonmel (jig)

The Rakes of Clonmel is a fantastic jig which appears in O'Neill's Music of Ireland (1903) and The Dance Music Of Ireland (1907) so it it around a while.

There are quite a few traditional tunes with word 'rakes' in their title, usually followed by the name of an Irish town or county: the Rakes of Mallow; the Rakes of Cashel and The Rakes of Kildare. The 'rake' in question is not the gardening implement but an abbreviation of 'rakehall', an archaic word for 'a fashionable or wealthy man of immoral or promiscuous habits'. 

I was first drawn to the tune after coming across this lovely live performance by Angelina Carberry on YouTube that was recorded at the 2012 O'Flaherty Irish Music Retreat in Waxahachie, Texas.

It is interesting to compare her version to another recorded in the early 1920s by the Flanagan Brothers (a New York trio with Waterford origins) featuring Mike Flanagan on banjo. 

 I've based my version on Angelina's (which she mistakenly calls the Rakes of Kildare): 


Thursday, 28 January 2016

Far From Home & Battering Ram

I've decided to post two together here... just to keep up a little with my massively advancing banjo compatriot Brendan.

I decided to play The Battering Ram slowly in order to improve my technique.  However,what you will hear is a bag of cats being strangled slowly.  Sorry about that.

Secondly, here's my version of Far From Home.  A lovely hornpipe... my father does a great version of this one...

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Maid of Mount Cisco...

This is a real session standard, though people really struggle with the name... is it 'Maids of Mount Cisco',  'The Maid of Monsisco', or the 'Maid of Mount Kisco'?
There is a town just north of New York City called Mount Kisco, and most of the stories about the origin of this tune seem to point directly to that.  Of all of these, I think the most likely to be true is that the great Sligo fiddle player, James Morrison (the professor) called the tune 'The Maid of Mount Kisco', in honour of his wife, who was from... you guessed it, Mount Kisco.

Here's a great version of this tune being played on the 'Hammered Dulcimer' - a distinctive and very rare-to-be-seen instrument!  The musician in this case is Karen Ashbrook (

And here's my own learner's version...