29 July 2021
If you don’t wish to read through the notes below, you can go straight to playlist G/E on YouTube here.
Gerard O’Hare joins Aidan Crossey to help create another of our collaborative playlists of Irish traditional music.
I first met Gerard O’Hare back in the summer of 1985 when we were both members of The Ulster Youth Theatre, acting in a play – Ricochets – written by Belfast playwright Martin Lynch. Gerard had a combination of passion, ambition and talent which meant that he went on to pursue a successful career in acting, writing and directing. My life took me off in a different direction.
Fast forward to the late 1990s and a mutual friend organised a “blind date” for me with another musician to play a one-off Saint Patrick’s Day gig at The Royal Oak, a pub in Vauxhall in South London which was run at the time by the high king of curmudgeon, Tony Thornhill, originally from Skibereen. I was a tad nervous about the prospect but the hesitancy fell away when Gerard and I came to realise that we’d had the shared history of Ricochets. The gig was a blast and we kept in touch. (More so recently, given that we now live only around a mile from each other…)
Gerard is one of the best bodhrán players I’ve come across. He has a wonderful ability to maintain a volume which rides just a few decibels below the melody instruments and his timing is spot-on, rock-solid and never “flashy”. Oh, and he’s a damn fine chanter to boot.
It’s always a pleasure for me to spend a few hours in Gerard’s company, whether that’s a case of playing tunes or simply having a few pints in a local pub.
It was while pursuing the latter course of enquiry I suggested to Gerard he might want to join me in this playlist (ad)venture. Having given it a bit of thought, he said. “My favourite name I love to be referred to is Ger (Dublin girl I fell in love with used to call me) so, I propose any Reels in the key of G and E.”
That sent my mind whirring… on with the show!
G is for G MAJOR. One of my all-time favourite reels which is normally played in G Major is Craig’s Pipes (or Gregg’s or Greig’s or Greg’s or however else it’s referred to!). And this is one of the most stirring recordings of said tune, following Triona’s great rendition of “Pretty Peg”. The Bothy Band – Pretty Peg/Craig’s Pipes
E is for E MINOR. Tunes in “classical” minor keys are not as common as those in Dorian or Mixolydian modes. Please don’t ask me to explain the difference – a friend once sat down at a piano to talk me through the details one evening. A certain amount of drink had been had and his meticulous explanation went in one ear and departed with some haste through the other. (In fairness, musical theory isn’t really my thing. I’m all about just trying to put my fingers in the right place on the fretboard at the right time…) Anyway, Kevin Burke calls this set of reels The E Minor Set and I’m not going to split hairs with one of the finest fiddlers of his generation. The sound clips quite a bit on this home recording at a house concert in California in 2010. I hope it doesn’t detract from your enjoyment of some masterful musicianship. Kevin Burke – The Pigeon On The Gate/Lafferty’s/The Morning Dew
G is for G MAJOR. Swinging On The Gate (or “A Gate” – depending of course on the musician’s need to be specific about which gate exactly!) is a great reel in G which Seamus Quinn (fiddle) and Gary Hastings (flute) partner with one of my go-to reels… Seamus Quinn and Gary Hastings – The Humours Of Ballyconnell/Swinging On The Gate
E is for E DORIAN. The New-Mown Meadow is one of those reels that is often played in either A Dorian or E Dorian (and sometimes D Dorian…). I prefer the setting in E. Whatever the key, this is a ripping version by Noel Hill and Tony MacMahon from the album “I gCnoc na Grai”. Noel Hill & Tony MacMahon – Up Against The Buachalawns/The New Mown Meadow
G is for G MIXOLYDIAN. An unusual key in Irish trad. Here Paul O’Shaughnessy plays one of the few reels which is usually played in GMix, “The Girl That Broke My Heart”. Paul O’Shaughnessy – The Girl That Broke My Heart/Eileen Curran
E is for E DORIAN. The Roscommon Reel – a 3-parter which is a blinder of a tune. I know nothing about the musicians (and dancer) that appear in the next video on the playlist. Other than that I was captivated straightaway by the sheer honesty and lack of ego in this fine bit of playing, singing and hoofing. The Haypark Sessions – Bold Doherty/The Roscommon Reel
G is for G MAJOR. The Sally Gardens is probably the most well-known reel in G in the Irish trad repertoire. This next selection may not be everyone’s cup of tea and not just because of the tune selection; punk rock and trad (yes, you heard me right!) can be uncomfortable bedfellows. I knew this crew of upstarts and upsetters when they were first starting out and saw them many times in a session setting as well as in full band mode at various establishments around Camden Town and Kentish Town. (Auntie Annie’s Porter House – the scene of many’s a misdemeanour.). Nights in their company did my liver and my brain very little good (but surprisingly little harm either!). It always amazed me how Leeson O’Keeffe – the band’s front man – managed to play this set of reels so fast. If I remember rightly at the time he was playing a 5-string banjo with the chanter string removed and tuned GDAE. Big stretch! Anyway, give it a listen. If you don’t like, fair enough. Take it away Leeson and co! Neck – The Maid Behind The Bar/The Sally Gardens
E is for E DORIAN. After all that rowdiness from North London, time to take things down a bit. The Killarney Boys Of Pleasure is one of those reels that can handle being driven in first gear. And no-one better able to take it down a notch than Cran. Cran – The Killarney Boys Of Pleasure
G is for G MAJOR. The Milliner’s Daughter is a reel in G which I picked up from sessions at The White Horse in Bethnal Green. (Ah, The White Horse! Forgive me for a moment while I wallow in a wave of nostalgia.) I’ve included this set because in the conversation which sparked this playlist off, Gerard was mentioning a gig by Liam O’Flynn which is one which will always stick in his memory. Liam O’Flynn – WIllie Clancy’s/The Milliner’s Daughter
E is for E DORIAN. A set of reels to close off this playlist which features another well-known E Dorian tune – The Drunken Landlady. Na Connerys – The Drunken Landlady/Hand Me Down The Tackle
Many thanks to Gerard for inspiring this playlist. Much appreciated… and let’s have another jar or two soon!
Listen to the full “G/E” playlist here.
All playlists on my channel here.
Return to the “A to Z” home page here.