Home, Jeeves!




by David James




This is a short list. Many items are available from your local alternative music store. Please patronize them first. If you cannot find books and recordings there, try Elderly Instruments, Lansing, MI; Andy's Front Hall, N.Y.; House of Musical Traditions, Silver Springs, MD; Lark-In-The Morning in Mendocino, CA; or consult many of the fine people who advertise in Irish Music Magazine or Dulcimer Players' News. My advice is to get these books and the rarer recordings as soon as you can, when you see them available, and hound the stores for them.


O'Neill, Francis, O'Neill's Music of Ireland, 1850 Melodies, (1903) currently published in facsimile by Mel Bay, Pacific, MO. ISBN 0-7866-2498-1.

O'Neill, Francis, O'Neill's Dance Music of Ireland, l001 Gems, (1907) currently published in facsimile by Walton's, Dublin, Ireland (I have no ISBN)

O'Neill, Francis, O'Neill's Music of Ireland, new and revised by Miles Krassen (1976), Oak Publications & Music Sales Co., N.Y. ISBN 0-8256-0173-8


When Irish musicians say, "It's in the book." they refer to O'Neill's. Chicago's former Chief of Police (!), Francis O'Neill(1848-1936). A native of County Cork, he collected these tunes during his lifetime. Chicago at the time was (and still is) the home of Irish musicians from many parts of their native land, so his collection was/is a broad sweep of the music of many of Ireland's counties. If you get no other book, get one of these first. The Oak Publications/ Krassen version was an attempt to update the original, consulting with many players during the 1970's for their versions, rolls and ornaments included. This makes it a great book for the person new to Irish ornament style.


The other major 20th Century Collection:


Breathnach, Breandán, Ceol Rince na hÉireann, volumes 1 through 5 (1963 through 1999), vol. 4 & 5 edited by Jackie Small, An Gúm Publishers, Dublin, Ireland. I have ISBN's for #4, 1-85791-143-1, and #5, 1-85791-278-0, but my numbers 1, 2, and 3 list no ISBN's, being older editions. All the volumes in newer, and nicer, printings are currently available, and are they monsters! There are so many wonderful tunes in these books, each lovingly collected by Breathnach from a particular player in his or her style, or from recordings and rare manuscripts. Good notes, too. They are in Irish Gaelic, but look on the Ceolas Archive on the Internet for good translations. Breathnách also lists the sources for tunes, recordings, books, and tune names in Irish and English.


Two other large tune collections, also in reprint facsimile editions:


Roche, Francis, The Roche Collection  Of Traditional Irish Music, (1912-1927), two ISBN's from different publishers: Ossian Publ., ISBN 0-946005-05-2, and Oak/Music Sales, ISBN 0-8256-0292-0

Sky, Patrick, Ed., Ryan's Mammoth Collection (1833) facsimile edition, Mel Bay, ISBN 0-7866-0300-3


Also from Mel Bay (long may he live!): Irish Session Tune Book, Complete Irish Fiddle Player (book and CD), A complete Guide to Learning the Irish Fiddle (book and tape), and many other tune and song collections too numerous to name. Complete catalog: Mel Bay Publications, #4 Industrial Drive, Pacific MO, 63069, 1-800-MEL BAY, and at www.melbay.com or email@melbay.com.


If you want to read some of the most sensitive writing on the roles of the traditional musician and the collector, beg and plead with your friend and borrow (but please return) his or her copy of

Feldman, Allen & O'Doherty, Eamonn, The Northern Fiddler, Music and Musicians of Donegal and Tyrone, (1979) ISBN 0-7119-0682-3, Music Sales Corp., N.Y. In my mind the writing and interviews with the many musicians whose tunes they collected is incomparable.


Special collections - a particular artist, composer or region (You never know where you're going to run into these books. Buy 'em when you find 'em):


?O'Sullivan, Donal, [Turlough O']Carolan, The Life and Times of all Irish Harper (1958) new addition, 2001 Ossian Publications, Ltd., Cork, Ireland, Ossian@iol.ie, www.ossian.ie. The best Carolan work with the best biography and notes. This new addition also contains some new tunes and facts about Carolan which have been unearthed since the original publication first appeared.

?Flaherty, Bernard, ed. Trip To Sligo (1990, 1998) Purcell Print, Boyle, Co. Eroscommon, Ireland, ISBN 0 9516407 0 4. this is a special book. Hard to find. Maybe the big mail-order music stores will have it. Or order it from the Coleman Heritage Center in Gurteen, Co. Sligo, http://www.colemanirishmusic.com/

     This is a GREAT book. Twenty Sligo traditional musicians pick their favorite ten or so tunes. They're brilliant. Highly recommended!

Ryan, Sean, Ryan, Brian, Ed., The Hidden Ireland, The First Selection of the Compositions of Seán Ryan, (fiddler, not to be confused with Sean Ryan, tin whistle) (1988) ISBN 0-9513415-0-2, Mountmellick, Co. Laois, Ireland; phone 010-353-502-24796 (Wow! A phone number!) 82 tunes, famous ones are the Reel of Rio, The Glen of Aherlow (reels), The Salmon Leap hornpipe.

Moylan, Terry, ed. Johnny O'Leary of Sliabh Luachra. (1994) Lilliput Press, Dublin ISBN 1-874675-42-2 Dance music from the Cork-Kerry border, with the life and times of this important luminary in an important traditional music area.

Mitchell, Pat & Small, Jackie, The Piping of Patsy Touhey, (1986) Publ. by Na Piobairi Uilleann, 15 Henrietta St., Dublin I, ISBN 0-9509743-2-3, companion recording also available. Touhey (1865-1923) was one of the most celebrated pipers ever known. 60 tunes, closely transcribed from Touhey's recordings, and vast discussion and tables of his ornamentation.

Mitchell, Pat, The Dance Music of Willie Clancy (1976), Mercier Press Ltd., Dublin and Cork, ISBN 0-85342-465-9, is in the same vein. Clancy (1918-1973) lived most of his life in Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare, now the site of a huge weeklong festival named in his honor. 152 tunes as played by Clancy are in this book, closely transcribed with all his ornaments and variations.

Lennon, Charlie, Musical Memories, Traditional Irish Music Vol. l (1993). This is a collection of the compositions of this noted contemporary fiddler and pianist, including piano accompaniment, together with the story behind each tune. Worldmusic Publications, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, ISBN 0-9521200-0-3. Many of Charlie's tunes are played the world over. Kilty Town alone is worth the price of the book.

Reavy, Joseph, Compositions of Ed Reavy (1971) Joseph Reavy, 73-14 Granite Road, Phila., PA 19126, contains many of his father's tunes, plus piano accompaniment, totally "in the tradition." His tunes have wide currency with trad musicians.

Broderick, Vincent, The Turoe Stone, Walton's, Dublin, ISBN 1-85720-061-6. Vincent Broderick (1920-) of Galway is a celebrated flutist, and many of his 68 compositions in this book are real gems.

Ó Canainn, Tomas, Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland, (1995), Ossian Publ., ISBN 0-946005-84-2 contains 118 airs. Ó Canainn is a piper/ teacher/ writer/ composer, now living in Cork. He attempts the impossible, the notation of slow airs with phrasing and ornaments, and pulls it off better than anyone so far. Get the companion cassettes to do the job right. Read also Ó Canainn's Traditional Music in Ireland, Ossian, ISBN 0-946005-73-7. He takes seán nos singer Diarmuid Ó Súilleabhán, piper Paddy Keenan, and fiddler Matt Cranitch and analyses their styles and how these relate to the practice of traditional music.

O'Brien, Paddy, The Paddy O'Brien Tune Collection (1995), printed by the author, 3441 23rd Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55407, (612) 721-7452 (you'll speak to Paddy). A bit pricey, but a must-have. 500 tunes recorded on 12 cassettes in a handsome box, together with a book of notes, lore and sources. On the cassette Paddy, a well-known two-row button box player from County Offaly, plays each tune twice, the first time simply, the second with ornaments. 500 tunes! What a project!

Joyce, P.W., Old Irish Folk Music and Song (1909) is now available in reprint.

Petrie, George, (1789-1866) The Complete Petrie Collection is also in reprint. I haven't a copy due to cost.


Smaller collections, with ISBN's where available:


McNulty, Pat, A collection of the Dance Music of Ireland (1965) Ossian

The Darley & McCall Collection of Traditional Irish Music (1984), reprint of a 1913 collection by Ossian Publ. ISBN 0-946-005-23-0. 85 tunes.

McKenna, Claire & others, 110 Ireland's Best series: Tin Whistle Tunes, Fiddle Tunes ISBN 1-85720-084-5, Session Tunes, Polkas and Slides, Slow Airs. Walton's Publishing. Also available from Walton's: Irish Tin Whistle Legends with 100 tunes and bios. Companion double CDs are available for each book. Yeah! Learn by listening (the old way).


Three "reads" in which Irish music and culture play a central part; all are enthusiastically recommended, all written by musician/ singers:

Keane, John B., The Bodhrán Makers. Novel. Insightful, barely fictional account of religion and class conflict, emigration and folk life in a little town land in Kerry in the '50's.

Carson, Ciaran, Last Night's Fun. A rollicking essay about sessions, life with Irish music and the search for the perfect breakfast "fry."

de Lint, Charles, The Little Country. Fantasy novel set in Cornwall wherein two traditional musicians discover the "other world" of music and life.


Highly recommended: J.C.'s Tune Finder, on the WEB, at: http://trillian.mit.edu/~jc/music/abc/FindTune.html - a vast collection of tunes in many versions. This one is on my menu bar and I use it every day.





I will not disparage the "groups." I listen to them when I want to be "charged up," and hear great song arrangements. When I want to hear and learn tunes and sheer artistry in ornaments, variations, regional style and repertoire, I go for the solo, or at the most, duet players. Most of these are very "traditional-sounding" recordings - these are the ones I like best; hard core, played at an even pace, and easy to listen to and learn from. There are dozens of players I've probably left out. My mistake. Many of these players have web sites. Do a Google search - it might be worth it!


Some highly recommended single and duet recording artists in no particular order:


Joe Burke (accordeon)

Josephine Marsh (accordeon)

Paddy O'Brien (accordeon)

Jackie Daly (accordeon & concertina)

Joe Derrane (accordeon)

Brendan Begley (accordeon)

Tony McMahon (accordeon)

Joe Cooley (accordeon)

Paul Brock (accordeon)

Jimmy Keane (piano accordeon)

Mick Moloney (banjo & mandolin)

Sean O'Driscoll (banjo & guitar)

John Carty (banjo & fiddle)

Noel Hill (concertina)

Mary MacNamara (concertina)

John Williams (concertina and accordeon)

Mrs. Crotty (concertina)

John Rea (dulcimer)

Barry Carroll (dulcimer)

Liz Carroll (fiddle)

Michael Coleman (fiddle)

Paddy Killoran (fiddle)

Padraig O'Keefe (fiddle)

Denis Murphy (fiddle)

Julia Clifford (fiddle)

James Byrne (fiddle)

Matt Cranitch (fiddle)

Joe Ryan (fiddle)

Séamus Connelly (fiddle)

Séamus Creagh (fiddle)

Tommy Peoples (fiddle)

Sean Ryan (fiddle)

Philip Duffy (fiddle)

Frankie Gavin (fiddle)

John Doherty (fiddle),

Fred Finn (fiddle)

Peter Horan (fiddle and flute)

Colm O'Donnell (flute)

Paddy Carty (flute)

Séamus Tansey (flute)

Kevin Crawford (flute)

Matt Molloy (flute)

Catherine McEvoy (flute)

Marcus Ó Murchú (flute)

Kevin Henry (flute)

Frank Claudy (flute & whistle)

Larry Nugent (flute & whistle)

Cathal McConnell (flute & whistle)

Sean Ryan (tin whistle)

Mary Bergin (tin whistle)

Vinnie Kilduff (tin whistle)

Willie Clancy (pipes and whistle)

Mícheál Ó Briain (Michael O'Brien) (pipes)

Leo Rowsome (pipes)

Robbie Hannan (pipes)

Gabriel McKeon (pipes)

Ronan Brown (pipes)

Sean Potts (pipes & whistle)

Séamus Ennis (pipes)

Ronan Browne & Peter O'Loughlin (flute, pipes & fiddle)

Paul McGrattan & Paul O'Shaughnessy (flute & fiddle)

Charlie Piggott & Gerry Harrington (fiddle & accordeon)

Francie and Mickie Byrne (fiddling brothers)

Frankie Gavin & Paul Brock (fiddle & accordeon)

Séamus & Manus McGuire (fiddling brothers)

Séamus McGuire & John Lee (fiddle & flute)

Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill (fiddle & guitar)

Declan Folin & Junior Davey (fiddle & bodhrán)

The Russell Family (whistle. concertina & fiddle)

P. J. & Marcus Hernon (flute & accordeon)

Jack & Charlie Coen (flute & concertina)

Trian (Liz Carroll, fiddle, Dáithí Sproule, guitar, Billy McComisky, accordeon)

Patrick Ourseau and Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin (fiddle & concertina)



Books are great reference tools, but nothing can compare to learning by ear from a recording or a teacher. You get it all - the tune, nuances, ornaments, variations and style. There are a few pieces of equipment on the market to aid the tune ear learner and transcriber. Marantz (and others, I am told) make CD players with speed controls which don't change the pitch, and have the ability to change the key of the tune if necessary. Incredible learning tools, but expensive. A great piece of gear: TR-IOOO Digital Music Study Recorder. Takes 100 seconds of any input and slows it down without changing pitch, and you can re-tune, etc. Get the "stomp-box" version, fast, portable anywhere and easy to use. Www.janetdavismusic.com, $160 and up. Highly recommended. I've tried it, and anyone can use it. A new piece of computer gear I've found is The Amazing Slow-Downer, from Roni Music. The Mac version is perfect.


A Few Song sources- recording artists and books:


On CD: Delores Keane; Cathal McConnell on his own and on Boys of the Lough records (over 20) always has great songs; Sean Tyrrell; Cathy Jordan (& Dervish); The Watersons (English a-cappella group); The Voice Squad (Irish a-cappella group); Margaret Barry (legendary Irish street singer); Lorena McKennitt (modern); Frank Harte (Irish); all Clancy's and Makems, including Sarah Makem; Mick Moloney, Archie Fisher, Dáithí Sproule, Tim Dennehy, Sean Keane, John Faulkner, Tony Holleran

Creighton, Helen, Songs and Ballads from Nova Scotia (1966) Dover Publications, NY Lib. Cong. Cat. # 66-26823

Huntington, Gale & Herrmann, Lani, eds., Sam Henry's Songs of the People (1990) University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA ISBN 0-8203-1258-4. 690 selections from this Ulster collector gleaned between 1917 and 1950 and deposited in Dublin, Belfast, and the Library of Congress.

Kennedy, Peter, Folksongs of Britain and Ireland (1975) Music Sales, ISBMO-7119-D283-6. 360 songs.

Sharp, Cecil, One Hundred English Folksongs (1916) Dover Publ., NY, ISBN 0-486-23192-5, only a fragment sampling of the huge work of this collector.

Warner, Anne, Traditional American Folk Songs from the Anne and Frank Warner Collection (1984) Syracuse University Press, NY, ISBN 0-8156-0185-9 "the richest single volume of folk songs and ballads to come from any American collector."


I've picked up songs and tunes by the ones and twos over thirty years of playing and performing. I keep notebooks. Don't forget the Internet. Devotees of ITM (as they call it) speak regularly to each other on all topics related to tunes, songs, style and controversy, exchange tunes and information. Put the keyword "Ceolas" in your search engine, and then watch out! There are also many tune and song sites well worth exploring


David James

Tiompán Alley Music


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