2 July 2021
If you don’t wish to read through the notes below, you can go straight to playlist M (part 2) on YouTube here.
Jill McAuley joins Aidan Crossey to help create another of our collaborative playlists of Irish traditional music.
I first started to hear a buzz about Jill’s playing a few years ago and decided to check out why various of my acquaintances were so excited. The reason for the buzz became obvious from the moment I heard Jill play the first few bars. Her playing has it all. A wonderful left hand and a keen musical intelligence that allows her to conjure up subtle and uplifting variations are part of the story, for sure. But capping her mastery of technique is a right hand which seeks out triplets at will and introduces them judiciously to underline passages in her tunes. Mandolin, banjo or tenor guitar – Jill uses the particular tonal qualities of each to maximum advantage. And she makes it all look so GDAEasy! (Spoiler alert – it isn’t easy! Not without a combination of talent and many hours of practice…)
But don’t take my word for it. Check out Jill’s work at her YouTube channel here.
Now, on with the music!
M is for McCARTHY’S/ANDY MCGANN’S/THE STROKESTOWN. Jill says: This set can also be found on the self-titled album they released. Angelina was my very first tenor banjo teacher and a huge influence on my playing. The lift Angelina puts in McCarthy’s never fails to get my foot tapping in that kind of loud enthusiastic way that annoys some people… Angelina Carberry and Martin Quinn – McCarthy’s/Andy McGann’s/The Strokestown
M is for JOE AND ANTOINETTE McKENNA. Aidan says: I think brother and sister Joe and Antoinette McKenna are very underrated. The combination of instruments – Joe on pipes and Antoinette (mostly) providing backing on harp – is quite unusual. But it really delivers. This set of slides is one of my favourites of their tunes. Note how Joe plays Johnny Mickey’s all they way through on one of the repeats on his regulators. I can’t say I’ve heard that too often! Joe and Antoinette McKenna – The Travelling Slide/The Old Favourite/Johnny Mickey’s
M is for MARLA FIBISH. Jill says: I have a feeling I was at this performance as I was living in Oakland at the time and went to see Marla play a number of times at Julie’s Coffee & Tea Shop. Another one to add to the “teachers I’ve been lucky to work with” list: When I moved to the States I was able to take some lessons from Marla as she’s based in the SF Bay Area where I was living. I was also able attend two of her Winter Mandolin Intensive weekends, which were great craic altogether. A twofer here as the other “M” is The Maple Leaf – I love how the tune builds from the A part into the B part. Marla Fibish, Dave Cory and George Grasso – The Maple Leaf (by Darach de Brún)/Ovet The Moor To Maggie/Good Morning To Your Nightcap
M is for MARY MACNAMARA. Aidan says: Mary’s album “The Blackberry Blossom” was the soundtrack to a few weeks of my life when it first saw the light of day. There’s something very pure and uncluttered about Mary’s playing, nowhere more so on this song air which she plays through slowly a few times before eventually settling into jig rhythm and tempo. Just lovely! Mary MacNamara – An Paistin Fionn
M is for THE MILKY WAY. Jill says: A tune by Vincent Broderick. Here’s Theresa O’Grady, one of my favourite musicians (tenor banjo, mandolin and tenor guitar), playing it on a tenor guitar. (And here‘s a link to her Blarney Pilgrim’s episode, where she plays the tune @ 6:53.. I’m a big fan of Vincent Broderick compositions and this one is one of me favourites. This entire episode is a great listen, great stories and insights from Theresa.) Theresa O’Grady and Muireann Banks – The Stack Of Barley/The Milky Way
M is for MARCHES. Aidan says: Marches occur in all sorts of time signatures in Irish music – 3/4, 6/8, 4/4, 9/8… I’m a big fan. In this next selection Seán McGuire – the celebrated Belfast fiddler – plays a set of 4/4 marches in his usual incendiary style, with stylistic flourishes that definitely are not “pure drop”. Seán McGuire – The Centenary March/The Triumphal March/O’Neill’s March
M is for THE MARINO WALTZ. Jill says: I’ve always loved this tune, though it will forever remind me of the old Bord na Móna peat briquette ads on telly from back in the late 80’s. My mum was a massive Dubliners fan and they were probably my first exposure to folk music and traditional music. Nice to see Banjo Barney from Donnycarney playing the mandolin here and a reminder of the often told story that as a young lad he wanted a mandolin but his dad couldn’t find one so got him a tenor banjo instead. And of course it let’s me sneak another M in – Barney McKenna. John Sheahan (of The Dubliners) – The Marino Waltz
M is for MANDOCELLO. Aidan says: Garry O’Briain is one of the very few Irish musicians who has specialised in playing the mandocello. Here he is accompanying the legendary Mary Bergin on a set of reels. A masterclass in restrained, lyrical backing. Garry O’Briain and Mary Bergin – The Bellharbour Reel/The Maid Of Mount Cisco
M is for MAZURKAS. Jill says: I’d never played a mazurka in me life, and then I took lessons with Angela Usher for several months in early 2019 and at the very first lesson she taught me “Fowley’s Mazurka”, now I’m a huge fan of them. Two “M”’s here of course as we’ve also got Shane Mulchrone, great tenor banjo player from Ballina (Up Mayo!). Shane Mulchrone – Fowley’s Mazurka/Billy’s Boffin Waltz
M is for JOHN McGANN. Aidan says: From the early 2000s until around 2008 or so, I ran a website (Pay The Reckoning) devoted to various aspects of Irish Traditional Music. One page within the site was dedicated to showcasing mandolinists who played Irish music – some of whom I shamelessly cajoled into giving me permission to share their music – and I was fortunate that John McGann specially recorded this outstanding set of hornpipes for inclusion in that showcase. Just to put this in context, Pay The Reckoning was a no-budget, low-profile website with a tiny audience. John was one of the world’s most highly regarded mandolinists (and guitarists – as both backer and lead instrumentalist), with an interest in a number of musical genres apart from Irish traditional music – including bluegrass and jazz. At the time he was Professor of Strings at Berklee University. So it’s a measure of John’s humanity, his generosity and his humility that he was prepared to set aside time to make this truly lovely recording for someone he’d never met and was never likely to. The Stage/The Western is a classic set of hornpipes. The Stage is fiendishly difficult – not that it’s remotely obvious from John’s playing! It was recorded by Michael Coleman way back in the “golden era” and later James Kelly made these two hornpipes one of his signature sets. I was saddened to hear in April 2012 that John had passed away at only 52 years of age. And yet I also felt honoured to have been given a very special gift by him in the form of this unique and treasured recording. I’ve shared the recording on YouTube in the hope that those listening will recognise in every note the warmth and generosity of the legend playing the tune and, like me, will wish John the timeless “rest in peace”. John McGann (RIP) – The Stage/The Western
M is for PÁRAIC MAC DONNCHADHA. Jill says: Páraic Mac Donnchadha is one of my favourite tenor banjo players so I was delighted when watching the Co. Clare episode of TG4’s excellent “Slí na Beaglaoich” series to see Páraic playing this set with Cormac Begley at Pepper’s Bar in Feakle. Páraic Mac Donnchadha and Cormac Begley – The Coalminer’s/My Love Is In America/John McIljohn’s
M Is for MAEVE DONNELLY, PEADAR O’LOUGHLIN AND JOSEPHINE KEEGAN. Aidan says: Maeve Donnelly and Peadar O’Loughlin made an album called “The Thing Itself” which was truly remarkable. Stately, “serious” music from the pair of them. The next clip in the playlist sees them play one of the sets of reels from the album, with Josephine Keegan providing piano accompaniment. Maeve Donnelly, Peadar O’Loughlin and Josephine Keegan – Jack Rowe’s/Sailing Into Walpole’s Marsh
M is for BRÍAN AND DIARMUID MAC GLOINN (YE VAGABONDS). Jill says: I’m a big Ye Vagabonds fan – songs sung in Irish, mandolin family instruments, what more could ye want? Here they’re playing “The Humours of Glynn”. Ye Vagabonds – The Humours Of Glynn
M is for MISS MONAGHAN. Aidan says: One of my favourite tunes is the reel, Miss Monaghan. Here it is, preceded by Joe Cooley’s Hornpipe, from one of my all-time favourite albums by Noel Hill (concertina) and Tony Linnane (fiddle). Noel Hill and Tony Linnane – Joe Cooley’s Hornpipe/Miss Monaghan
Many thanks to Jill for some superb suggestions. She missed the target of 5 selections but sure when the music’s as good as this, who’s counting anyways! Much appreciated, Jill. Blindingly good stuff!
Listen to the full “M” playlist, part 2 here.
All playlists on my channel here.
Return to the “A to Z” home page here.