Sample Tune Descriptions

Just to give you an idea about what's inside the booklet that comes with each Tune Collection...

Volume One

Disc 1 / Reels: 1 to 57

1.    Toss the Feathers (No. 1)

The old Dublin accordion player Sonny Brogan composed this version of “Toss the Feathers” and took great pride in playing it on selected occasions.

2.    Toss the Feathers (No. 2)

This is the standard version of the reel, as collected by Captain Francis O’Neill.

3.    The Union Reel

The Union Reel was named after the Irish uilleann pipes, or union pipes. The tune disappeared from the repertoire of Irish traditional musicians around the turn of the century, and emerged again through a 78 rpm recording of a 10-key melodeon player, Frank Quinn, during the 1920s. Other 78 recording artists chose it for several recordings in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. It was made popular in the United States by Joe Derrane and later Gerry O'Brien, both accordion players. The tune made its way back to Ireland because of the 78 records being sought after by Irish musicians. It’s a unique story of a reel that left Ireland and later returned. This reel has always been played with two parts. The version on this recording has a extra part inserted between the original two, which means it is now a three-part reel.

4.    The Boys of Tulla

I first heard this reel in the back room of O'Donoghue's bar in Merrion Row, Dublin in 1969. It was a popular session tune in those days and played often by fiddler Hughie McCormack and company.

5.    The Lord of Ballinaleck

This is a four-part reel which I composed on a very hot summer’s day in Houston, Texas in 1986. I was trying to stay cool in an air-conditioned motel, and the tune came to me in bits and pieces. I named it in honor of flute player Cathal McConnell, who is a well-known member of the Boys of the Lough. Cathal is from Ballinaleck in south Co. Fermanagh.

6.    The Maid in the Cherry Tree

I’ve known this reel for many years and played it often as a member of the Castle Ceili Band. The late piper Willie Clancy played it with tasty variations that I grew fond of and incorporated into this setting.

7.    The Flower of Munster

This is my name for an old west Limerick reel. I first heard it played by Seán Keane on fiddle, and later by the tune's original source, flute player Paddy Taylor.

8.    The Old Torn Petticoat

This reel is well known in east and west Co. Clare, and a popular choice for the old Clare set dancing.

9.    The West Clare Reel

This reel is from flute player Micho Russell. I imagine from its style that it was composed by a musical lilter who could not afford a flute or fiddle.

10.   The West Cork Reel

This is a simple but catchy reel from the well-known Gaelic-speaking Coolea region of Co. Cork. The old dancing masters would surely have liked it.

11.   Micho Russell's Reel

Micho preferred to play this reel on the flute instead of on his penny whistle. He was the first person I heard play it, and later it became part of my own repertoire.

12.   The Golden Wedding

This reel is originally from French Quebec. While living in Toronto, Jamie Gans learned it from a visiting musician. Jamie is a fiddler who lived in Saint Paul, Minnesota, which means he was a neighbor of mine.

13.   The Hut in the Bog

This tune has been associated with flute playing in east Co. Galway, where it was usually played with two parts. I learned it as a three-part reel from Galway accordion player Joe Burke. Back in the days when turf was harvested by hand, small shelters were built on the large bogs, where workmen could take refuge from heavy rains. There have been a few men known to go mad for want of a cigarette out in the hut in the middle of the bog in the rain.

14.   The Dawn (1st version)

This reel is from north Co. Antrim. It was popularized by fiddle maestro Seán Maguire during the 1950s.

15.   The Templehouse Reel

This reel is one of many old fiddle tunes whose original composer remains a mystery.

16.   Sheehan’s Reel

This is a tune that has long been somewhat neglected. Fiddle player Hughie Gillespie played an interesting version of it on one of his early 78 rpm recordings. The first part of the reel, as played here, is from the common version, and the second part is from Hughie.

17.   The Doon Reel

This is another tune seldom included in sessions. I first heard it played in Lee’s Bar in Geashill, Co. Offaly around 1965. Dan Cleary and Sergeant John Rice played it together on their fiddles. I remember Sergeant Rice poking his right foot outwards as he neared the end of the tune. This was his humorous way of indicating that it was time to put the brakes on.

18.   Sailing into Walpole’s Marsh

This reel is from Co. Kerry. Denis Murphy is credited with telling this story of how the tune got its name: Two lads in a boat were fishing on a lake adjacent to a marsh, the marsh being part of a local landlord’s estate. So engrossed were they with their fishing, they never noticed the gentle breeze that ushered their craft right into the marshy area. When they realized where they were, one of the fellows said, “Well now, just think of the predicament we’ll be in if we’re seen on Walpole’s water.” Without another word, they rowed their way out of the marsh. In those days a heavy fine or even transportation was the price of such carelessness. One of the two fishermen was a fiddler and the other was a lilter. Earlier in the evening they had been lilting this reel but had no name for it. The two lads did avoid detection and later they christened their nameless reel “Sailing into Walpole’s Marsh.”

19.   Turnpike Gate

Fiddler Joe Ryan from Inagh, Co. Clare introduced this reel into the Dublin music scene during the early 1960s. It became a big favorite among the members of the Castle Ceili Band, of which Joe was one of four fiddlers.

20.   The Dunmore Lassies

Dunmore is a town in Co. Galway; the beauty of its women is acclaimed by the name of this melodic reel.

21.   Scotch Mary

Retired policeman and accordion player Bill Harte was known for his three-part setting of this reel. After I sat in with him at O'Donoghue’s bar, Bill told me a few yarns and then unbuttoned his gray accordion. He told me “Scotch Mary” was originally an old Scottish walking march favored by highland pipers.

22.   The Dark Haired Lass

This was another tune from Bill Harte’s repertoire. He mentioned that this reel was brought to Ireland after a hundred years of holidaying in Scotland.

23.   The Wild Irishman (1st version)

This reel is strongly associated with Sligo fiddle music because of its treatment by the wonderful musicianship of Michael Coleman.

24.   The Wild Irishman (2nd version)

This is a Donegal setting of the reel. It came from the fiddle playing of Francie Dearg O’Byrne and his brother, Mickey Bán.