30 November 2021
If you don’t wish to read through the notes below, you can go straight to playlist F, part 2 on YouTube here.
Feargus McDonnell joins Aidan Crossey to help create another of our collaborative playlists of Irish traditional music.
Feargus has been a great support to me in my “mission” of spreading the word about Irish traditional music played on mandolin. He connected with me very soon after I created a Twitter account and he’s very diligent about liking and retweeting my various soundbites there. I’m very grateful to Feargus for his support over the past few years and delighted to have the chance to swap some tunes with him.
The theme of this playlist is favourites. Feargus sent me the name of 5 of his favourite tunes from the Irish musical tradition and I have supplemented (and hopefully complemented) his selection with 5 of my current favourites. I use the word current advisedly, on any given day my 5 favourites might be completely different!
On with the show!
Feargus’ first pick is The March Of The King Of Laois. I have selected a version by Seán Ó Riada’s Ceoltóirí Chualann. This outfit effectively established the sort of approach to Irish music which was subsequently taken further by The Chieftains. Seán Ó Riada agus Ceoltóirí Chuallan – The March Of The King Of Laois
Aidan’s first pick is a reel called The New Found Out. I’ve always loved this reel since I first heard it played by The Mulcahy Family on their album Notes From The Heart. The playing of Mick, Louise and Michelle Mulcahy brims with that sense of perfect musical understanding which comes from having played music together from the cradle. Played here with two other fine reels in a stirring set. Mick, Louise and Michelle Mulcahy – The New Found Out/The Drunken Landlady/The Thrush In The Storm
Feargus’ next selection is the reel Toss The Feathers. This reel is played in a number of keys and in a number of subtly different settings. One of the finest renditions is Kevin Burke’s playing of 2 different settings of the reel on his Sweeney’s Dream album. Kevin Burke – Toss The Feathers
Aidan was determined to learn Willie Clancy’s Secret Jig when he first heard it on an album by Cran. This version, a spot of solo piping, shows the tune in all its exciting glory. Naomi Nakahara – Willie Clancy’s Secret Jig
From a relatively obscure jig to one of the best-known in the Irish tradition, another of Feargus’ favourite tunes, a four-parter, The Lark In The Morning. The version here is by Fergal Scahill on fiddle and Máirtín O’Connor on accordion. And great crack it is, too! Fergal Scahill and Máirtín O’Connor – The Lark In The Morning
Aidan says that for many years the charms of hornpipes were lost on him. But that’s no longer the case and one of his favourites is Father Dollard’s Hornpipe (although he’s yet to work up a mandolin version which he’d be happy to share with the wider world!). The version here is by the very talented group Providence whose concertina player, Micheál Ó Raghallaigh is an exceptional musician and whose solo album The Nervous Man is a must-listen. Providence – The Curlew Hills/Father Dollard’s Hornpipe
One of Feargus’ favourite tunes by the legendary harpist and composer Turlough O’Carolan is reputedly the first tune that O’Carolan wrote, Sí Beag, Sí Mór – literally Little Fairy, Big Fairy but apparently named after two hills in County Leitrim haunted by the spirits of ancient warriors whose mortal bodies lie entombed within. From time to time these spirits revive their quarrel… A gory tale associated with a delicate, pastoral tune. The version here is by the evergreen Planxty. Planxty – Sí Beag, Sí Mór
One of Aidan’s favourite barndances, Lucy Farr’s Barndance, is a tune which for much of his musical life he had scant regard for. It seemed too simple to hold any interest. And then – one day – he suddenly cottoned on to its beauty. This version has travelled a long way from its place of birth. Baron Collins-Hill and Owen Marshall are American musicians and this set combines a recently composed march by Bob McQuillen with the barndance. Owen Marshall and Baron Collins-Hill – The Multnomah March/Lucy Farr’s Barndance
Feargus’ final favourite tune in this playlist is the cracking “big” reel – The Bucks Of Oranmore. Finbar Furey’s version has become legendary. The tune is traditionally played “single”, i.e. none of the 5 eight-bar parts repeat. However Finbar plays the reel “double”, i.e. each of the parts is repeated. It’s a goose-bump listen! Finbar Furey – The Bucks Of Oranmore
Finally we can’t have a playlist composed of favourites without featuring The Old Favourite. This tune is played either as a slide or a jig – depending on whose company it’s keeping in a given set! One of Aidan’s favourite renditions of The Old Favourite (how’s that for a bit of meta?!) is by brother and sister Joe (pipes) and Antoinette (harp) McKenna. In this set, listen out for Joe’s playing of the final slide on the regulators… Joe and Antoinette McKenna – The Travelling Slide/The Old Favourite/Johnny Mickey’s
Many thanks to Feargus for his suggestions. Much appreciated, Feargus Please keep in touch and let’s do this again sometime!
Listen to the full “F”, part 2 playlist here.
All playlists on my channel here.
Return to the “A to Z” home page here.