Checking In…

It’s been a while! We haven’t published any new posts since June and, during the months that have lapsed, Covid19 has ebbed and flowed. Pubs have reopened (and, in Dublin, closed again). While limited concerts and group performances have been staged, there has been no resurgence of open traditional music sessions in Ireland. 

Revisiting normal times – the Ballydehob Session in The Sandboat a few years ago

An interesting article appeared in The Corkman in early August. Since that time, the Coronavirus statistics have improved and then worsened again.

…The idea of a big group of musicians coming together in a socially-distanced way to play tunes is both technologically impossible and even if it could happen, it mightn’t be enjoyable, not in the same way sessions were before the virus… 

…It seems to be an accepted fact that loud music in a venue such a pub will lead to people speaking loudly – it’s an Irish tradition that people continue to talk during a music session whereas they stay quiet during a concert. Speaking loudly is held to be a factor in the spreading of the illness as it is transmitted via ‘aerosol’ from the mouth…

(The Corkman)

On Friday 18 September, Culture Night 2020, the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) and Clare Arts Office premiered a new film inspired by the music, song and dance of County Clare. This new work originated from a Creator-in-Residence scheme featuring Maurice Gunning and concertina player Jack Talty. It’s an elegiac film essay about Clare but includes some fascinating early footage of traditional music sessions – well worth a watch!

Hopefully we all continue to play in our homes and, when possible, in small Covid-safe groups elsewhere. To keep us going through these times I’m including a (fairly rough and ready!) recording of me playing two recently learned Swedish waltzes on the Dipper GD Anglo Concertina:  Orrängsvalsen and Johan Vals. I hope you enjoy them!

That’s me – but I want to hear from YOU! I’m hoping for some more sound files to come pouring in to celebrate this re-awakening… Keep well, everybody!

Fiddling Away!

Ballydehob Session member Robin Lewando is keeping busy sending in the music! Thanks, Robin. Others please take note: it’s relatively easy to get a few tunes recorded and sent through. Doesn’t matter if it’s repertoire that some of us already know: there are plenty who could be reminded or benefit from learning something new. It doesn’t matter either if you are not from the West of Ireland. In a normal summer we have visitors every week who swell our local group and bring in music from far, far away: it’s great! So please contribute, whoever or wherever you are – it could help us to get through these unprecedented times in good spirit…

Ballydehob, West Cork, under the Covid lockdown – April 2020. It’s a Saturday morning, and the streets would usually be buzzing!

First up from Robin is a tune that he plays by request: Up And About in the Morning. This is an unusual three part jig:


It is suggested that this tune was collected by Breandán Breathnach (1912 – 1985), a piper who learned from Leo Rowsome but also worked for the Department of Education, where he was responsible for collecting tunes from all around Ireland. In his lifetime he collected over 7,000 traditional tunes: many of these would probably not have survived if it was not for Breathnach’s work. Some are contained in the many volumes he published as Ceol Rince na hÉireann (Dance Music of Ireland). These volumes were among my earliest introductions to the Irish tradition way back in the 1970s. As a complete sidetrack, I’ll just direct you to this version of Up And About… played in 2011 by piper Mark Redmond:

And, while we are on Mark Redmond, I’ll also direct you to this post on our sister site Roaringwater Journal: in 2018 we had one of the great musical experiences of our lifetimes when we went to a concert at the National Concert Hall, Dublin (now closed because of the lockdown) and heard Mark Redmond leading the tribute to Liam O’Flynn in a performance of Shaun Davey’s The Brendan Voyage.

Sorry about those distractions, Robin! As you know, I always like to attach a story to a piece of music… Here is Robin again, playing a set of three tunes from County Cork – Ger the Rigger, a polka, and two hornpipes: one from the Johnny O’Leary book, number 17, and the last known as Walsh’s.


A great set, Robin, and a good challenge for us all to learn… I’m finishing off with a view of our village, Ballydehob, during last year’s Jazz Festival, just as a reminder of the way things should be!