Concert Programme

1.	   Sarah Jane - Jim MacFarland
2.	   John Adair - Rita Gallagher 
3.	   O'Reilly From The County Leitrim - Jackie Boyce
4.	   The Cry of the Curlew - Brigid Tunney
5.	   Faughanside - Maurice Leyden
6.	   The Joy of Living - Grace Toland   
7.	   Craigie Hill - John Tunney
8.	   Bonny Blue Eyed Lassie - Jackie Boyce
9.	   The Mountain Streams Where the Moorcocks Crow - Brigid Tunney
10.  The Tern and the Swallow – Maurice Leyden
11.  The Wild Colonial Boy - Grace Toland
12.   The Royal Blackbird - Jim MacFarland
13.   An Bonnán Buí - Rita Gallagher
14.  Ghlúin go Glúin - John Tunney

Concert Notes:

Sarah Jane - Jim MacFarland
Frank Harte's notes: “This is one of Eddie Butcher's lovely local ballads. I have never heard anybody else but Eddie singing it. It is very similar in character to the Coleraine Regatta or The Star of Moville. It was the strange meter of this song that first appealed to me as well as the inclusion of words that are not usual in such songs...'As the sun passed o'er the meridian' or 'The land-rail out from her grassy bed'; the land-rail, of course, being another name for the corncrake. I like too the way the bird tells the lover 'You might as well go home and sing your poem'. There is a line in the last verse that may confuse the listener. Liza Kealy's is a pub in the town of Myroe, County Derry.”
Brian Mullan took me to meet Eddie a few years before he died, the most generous of men.

John Adair – Rita Gallagher
The words of this great famine song were kindly given to me by Jimmy McHugh, Donegal/Glasgow fiddle player in 1992, and the air supplied by noting it down from his playing it on the fiddle! 

“The lark has risen from her nest and wild flowers scent the air
		While resting on this faithful breast, you’re free from John Adair”

John George Adair was a notorious landlord of Glenveagh estate in Donegal, who evicted fifty families in 1861 after the murder of one of his land stewards following disputes about missing sheep. The evictions went on for three days, amidst scenes of desolation, with some tenants ending up in the workhouse in Letterkenny and the remainder leaving Ireland to start a new life in Australia.

O'Reilly From The County Leitrim - Jackie Boyce
I recorded John Flanagan singing this at the 1976 All Ireland Fleadh in Buncrana, Co Donegal. This song is also known as O'Reilly from The County Cavan (also the County Wexford) - it seems O'Reilly got about a great deal! This is an emigration ballad. The man, an American sailor, comes to Ireland, falls in love, asks the lady to marry him but she has been promised to another in an arranged marriage by her father. Even though she doesn't want the arranged marriage she refuses him and obeys her father's wishes. The man compares her beauty to that of a graceful swan, rather than see her wed to another he decides to leave.

The Cry of the Curlew – Brigid Tunney     
This song was composed by Pete McAleer and won the Newly Composed Ballads at the 2003 All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in Clonmel. For second generation Irish people childhood memories of “home” are so vivid that there is an indescribable affinity with the land of their parents. Pete’s father came from Greencastle in Co. Tyrone. Every Summer the whole family returned to Greencastle in the shadow of the Sperrin mountains and settled into the old farmhouse for six weeks. Pete used to wade barefoot through the Owenkillew river with his father and help him to load turf. He recalls, “Once, as I was loading the turf – it seemed miles from anywhere in a perfect blue sky - I asked him if he could hear a strange sound in the air... he told me that it was the cry of the curlew. I remember that as being the happiest in my childhood and feeling a small part of the whole history of Ireland”. Both Pete’s grandfather and his uncle Malachy had been the Schoolmaster in the local school. Malachy died a short time before Pete wrote the song.   
The words are to the air of Éamon an Chnoic.

Faughanside – Maurice Leyden
This song was sung by Eddie Butcher but with a different tune to the one I use. I learned my version from the Sam Henry collection. This version was collected from D. Ellis of Langford Lodge Crumlin, County Antrim and published on 26 October 1935. Kevin Mitchell remembers hearing it sung when he was growing up in Derry. There is an underlying message in the song that Faughanside is a very contented place “where the shamrock, rose and the thistle the lily too beside, all flourish there together boys along the Faughanside.” It has all the characteristics of an emigration song: praise of the rural countryside in full bloom, the parting of friends and loved ones. It is where you can hear “the blackbird and the golden thrush they sing their notes so gay….in the blooming Spring the small birds sing along the Faughanside.” The song has an infectiously happy tune, which is unusual for an emigration song.

The Joy of Living – Grace Toland
This song written by Ewan McColl is one of the most beautiful affirmations of life I know and one I have loved from the minute I heard it. The song is filled with birds and flight as the verses pass through life's journey.  I urge anyone to learn it - there is always an occasion when this song is just the right thing to sing.

Craigie Hill – John Tunney
This song, which opens with the beautiful line ‘It being in spring and the small birds were singing’, needs very little introduction to anyone interested in Irish traditional singing, or indeed in folk song generally in Ireland and Britain. Having learned it from his mother, who in turn got it from earlier generations of her family, it was my father Paddy Tunney who brought it to the attention of the wider world on the album The Irish Edge. Though widely recorded since, it does not appear to be known from any other source. 

Bonny Blue Eyed Lassie - Jackie Boyce
I first learned this from a recording of Cathal McConnell in 1980 and sang it the same year to my wife on our wedding day. Possibly not the best choice of song to sing to her, as the chorus states 'she is very low in station'! It tells how quite a rich young man falls in love with a girl who is from a poor family, she is looked down upon by everyone around him and they try to persuade him to forget her. He feels the Nightingale sings so sweetly only because she is in its company and he is determined to marry her even if it means giving up all his wealth. 

The Mountain Streams Where the Moorcocks Crow - Brigid Tunney     
This song has come down to the Tunneys from Brigid’s Great-great-grandmother Biddy Travers, who lived on the shores of Lough Eske in the decades before the Famine. It is a classic ‘hero roves out with his dog and gun’ tale, meets and falls for a beautiful girl but she is not really available. It is one of the really big songs in the Tunney family repertoire and is most closely associated with Brigid’s father Paddy who moulded it into the wonderful song that it is today. For the Tunneys, the “Mountain Streams” is the “family song” holding many family experiences and memories, great emotions and family soul. 

The Tern and the Swallow – Maurice Leyden
This song came from the singing of Neilly Coney from Ardboe, County Tyrone. He was a spirited singer and spent his life as an eel fisherman on Lough Neagh. I suspect that he was the composer of this song. A lot of his songs were recorded by Sean McCann in the 1970’s. He was commissioned by Brendan Breathnach to carry out the recordings. I loved the imagery of the tern and the swallow migrating in their thousands back and forth across the Atlantic just like the many emigrants and immigrants; the birds with their songs and the exiles with theirs.

The Wild Colonial Boy - Grace Toland
I spent Christmas this year in Australia and got to hear a mockingbird. As well as being amazed by the sound of the bird, it reminded me of a night in the Goilín when Frank Harte sang the Wild Colonial Boy.  I've meant to learn it since that night and the Bird Song Project has given me the nudge I needed. 

The Royal Blackbird - Jim MacFarland
In the early half of the 19th century this song was known and sung all over Ireland. It was a particular favourite in Limerick and Cork. An abridged copy of the song is given in Duffy's Ballad Poetry: Duffy tells us that the song - i.e. the curtailed copy he has given - is found in a Scotch collection of Jacobite Relics. The words are Irish, as much so as the splendid air, which is found in many Irish musical collections, including Bunting's volume (1840), and which was, and still is, played everywhere by Irish pipers and fiddlers. The ‘Blackbird’ meant the ‘Young Pretender’, Prince Charles Edward Stuart. This custom of representing the Pretender - and much more often Ireland itself - under allegorical names was common in Ireland in the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century; the original object of which was concealment, so that the people might be able to sing their favourite Jacobite and political songs freely in the dangerous times of the Penal Laws.

An Bonnán Buí – Rita Gallagher
A classic poem in Gaelic by Cathal Bui Mac Giolla Ghunna, in the form of a lament for the yellow bittern that died of thirst, but is also rather tongue in cheek about the author’s own drinking habits! Several translations into English exist, including one by Padraigin Ni Uallachain, as sung by Len Graham. The version I sing is by Thomas MacDonagh, and I learned it from the great singing of Sean Cannon, via YouTube!

O Ghlúin go Glúin - John Tunney
Also known as The Grandparent’s Lullaby, this is a song I wrote while engaged as artist in residence in the Kilmaley Day Care Centre a couple of years ago. Ó ghlúin go glúin, literally means ‘from generation to generation’. I got the idea for the song on my very first day in the Centre, which is used mostly by people who are retired and elderly. As I was having coffee with them a member of staff, who had been away on maternity leave, brought in a new baby, who was passed around like the most precious object anyone there had ever seen. Face after face lit up as though a burnished golden salver were being passed around. I got to wondering what the wishes of these senior people were for the tiny infant; indeed what the hopes of any grandparent would be for a grandchild they held for the first time. Perhaps those wishes might include: ‘That you would hear the skylarks sing when May flowers scent the air’. The melody is one I composed myself. 

About the Singers:

John O’ Byrne
John O’Byrne developed an interest in traditional singing through involvement in Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann during the eighties and in particular a trip to the Fleadh Cheoil in Listowel in 1988. He is a founder member along with Phil Berry of Wexford Traditional Singers Club which first met in The Thomas Moore, Wexford in January 1991. He has been an organiser of Wexford Traditional Singers Weekend in Rosslare since its inception in February 1992. As part of the Wexford Song Project 2013/14 he researched the work of local songsmith the late Jack McCutcheon. He particularly likes comic songs, plays whistles with Wexford Folk Orchestra and enjoys set dancing.

Mary O’ Brien
Mary O’Brien developed an interest in traditional song on visits to the western Gaeltachts where she first heard singing in the sean nós style. She began to attend the monthly gatherings of Wexford Traditional Singers Club when it was first formed in 1991 in the Thomas Moore Tavern in Wexford town. Recently she was a participant in the Wexford Song Project which focused on researching and preserving the song tradition of County Wexford. Mary also enjoys playing guitar and singing with Wexford Folk Orchestra, plays tin whistle and is a latecomer to  the flute. 

Paddy Berry
Paddy was born in the Barony of Forth near Rosslare, Co. Wexford, sometime in the last century. He is a renowned singer and song collector and lifelong member of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, and a member of the Wexford singing circle since its inception. He won the all-Ireland senior ballad competition in 1970 and again in 1976, as well as becoming the senior all-Ireland whistling champion in 1975. Paddy has appeared on RTE 1 television traditional music programmes from 1963 to recent times.

Paddy has published two collections of ballads entitled Wexford Ballads (1982) and More Wexford Ballads (1984), and has more recently published a book of short stories entitled No doubt about it (2014). He has also recorded two albums of traditional ballads; Sing us a Song Paddy (2000), Sing again Paddy  (2001) and also features on the album The Cuckoos Note, an album by Whisht a group of traditional singers from Wexford. Paddy is currently researching the background stories of old Wexford ballads. 

Gerry Cullen
Gerry was born in Drogheda, and has been singing and collecting local songs for many years. He formed The Voice Squad with Phil Callery and Fran Mc Phail in 1983 and has released three CD's. Gerry has recorded with Elvis Costello, Sinead O’ Connor, The Chieftans and other renowned artists. He has released one solo CD The Blue Cuckoo and one CD of local songs with Donal Maguire and Sean Corcoran,  Louthmouths From Drogheda.

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin
Dr. Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin from Co. Louth has many aspects to her singing career as traditional singer, song writer, song restorer and researcher. She has recorded two albums of traditional song for children, A Stór is a Stóirín and Let the fairies in and two albums of Ulster traditional song, An Dara Craiceann and An Dealg Óir. Her own compositions are Áilleacht and Songs of the Scribe  - a collaboration on early Irish lyrics with Séamus Heaney and Ciaran Carson.  A recipient of many awards, including Gradam Sean Nós Cois Life, she was the first traditional singer in Queens University Belfast 2005-2013. Her research publication, A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel (2003) has been critically acclaimed. Her own compositions in the traditional style have been recorded by Dolores Keane, Danú, The Black Family, Eithne Ní Uallacháin, Helen Davies, Skylark, Boys of the Lough and Michael Black. 

Phil Berry 
Phil Berry comes from South Wexford and has been singing traditionally since the late sixties. This was a natural progression from listening to his brother Paddy sing the ‘old’ songs. He attended and competed in Fleadhanna all round the country and won the All Ireland Senior Singing in 1989 at the Sligo Fleadh Ceoil. His favourite songs are Wexford songs about the 1798 rebellion, songs of the sea and sports songs. He released a CD of traditional songs, also featuring his son Ronan, called A Father and Son.
Video Documentation of Concert
Recorded and Produced by Michael Fortune and Aileen Lambert

All images/design by Michael Fortune and Aileen Lambert unless otherwise stated.

The Ulster Concert

Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, Great James Street, Derry City.

Saturday 9th of May 2015

Jackie Boyce

Jackie is from Dromahair, Co Leitrim via Comber, Co Down. He first started into traditional music in 1967 playing the whistle at three local sessions a week and progressed to Uilleann pipes in 1975. In 1977, after hearing John Flanagan (Corroafin, Co Clare) singing, he became interested in collecting and singing ballads. Jackie formed The Down Singer's Circle in 1999, published a book 'Songs of the County Down' in 2004, made a CD with Derry singer Jim MacFarland in 2008. Moved to Co Leitrim in 2009, sang for President Mary McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin in 2010. Formed Leitrim Singer's Circle along with Newcastle upon Tyne singer Jim Bainbridge, and runs a monthly singing session on the first Sunday of every month at 5.00pm in Davitt's pub, Main Street, Drumkeeran. The singing circle is also connected to the annual John McKenna Traditional Music Festival held the first weekend in June in Drumkeeran, Co Leitrim.

Grace Toland

Born and reared in Inishowen, Co. Donegal, Grace is a passionate supporter of the rich singing tradition of the peninsula. Her songs and style come from time shared with older singers and friends such as Dan McGonigle, Jimmy Houten and the James Eoghain clan. She is married to Brian Doyle and lives in Wicklow (with a heart in Inishowen). Grace is one of the organisers of the Inishowen Traditional Singers' Circle and one of the driving forces behind the Inishowen Song Project. Grace will be taking on the role of director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive in July ‘15.

John Tunney 

John grew up in Donegal, the youngest in a family of six, and in a house filled with song and music. He sang from childhood but began taking it seriously in his teenage years.  The first event at which he performed was Féile na Bóinne, Drogheda in 1977. He has sung at festivals and taught workshops all over Ireland since then. John has appeared on television, radio, and on half a dozen CDs. He has composed many songs, in a variety of styles, though his preference is for the traditional genre.  He has previously taken part in the As I Roved Out and Man Woman and Child projects. He currently lectures in Heritage Studies – including Irish Music and Song – at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and is working on a biography of his father Paddy Tunney, The Man of Songs.  Since 2000 he has lived in Clare with his wife Mary. They have one son, Conall, who is also a singer. 

Rita Gallagher

Born and raised near Frosses in south-west Donegal, Rita now lives in Crossroads in east Donegal, and has been involved in traditional singing since the late 1970’s when she came to prominence by participating in an All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil competition, with some degree of success. She also travelled with Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann on tour groups. Both Rita’s parents sang so it was a given that she would get involved at some level. Rita’s influences in the traditional style are many, but  most notably the Tunney family, among others. Rita has made two recordings, Easter Snow, released in 1997, and The May Morning Dew in 2010 (which included a re-release of Easter Snow).  Rita says “It is a great joy and privilege to be able to sing, to lose myself in the story of a great song, with a beautiful and challenging air, always with the hope that it is also a joy for the listener.”

Maurice Leyden

Maurice Leyden has been collecting and singing songs for over thirty years.  His first book Belfast, City of Song was published in 1989 to celebrate the centenary of Belfast becoming a city.  His second book published in 1993 was a compilation of children’s singing games entitled Boys and Girls Come Out to Play.   He has completed a third book which is a social history of the Linen Industry in Ulster using the songs of the workers to tell their story.  It is currently with a publisher.

Maurice has delivered many ‘singing lectures’ about traditional songs from the Ulster.  The highlight was an invitation to the Library of Congress, Capitol Hill, Washington for a presentation on the songs of the Handloom Weavers.

For 14 years he presented and produced and presented a folk and traditional music and song programme for Downtown Radio. He is also a regular teacher of traditional singing under the auspices of the Belfast Traditional Music and Dance Society.

Jim MacFarland

Jim is one of Ireland’s finest traditional singers, with a voice and repertoire admired by many.  He has travelled extensively, guesting in Ireland, the UK, Europe, North America and Canada. His talent also lies in collecting and is no stranger to Inishowen, having co-produced My Parents Reared Me Tenderly a collection of Inishowen songs in the 1980s.  Jim runs a singing session in Derry and is a stalwart supporter of the Inishowen Traditional Singers’ Circle.  He has produced a solo CD, another CD with Jackie Boyce and has featured on a number of compilation CDs.

Brigid Tunney

Brigid Tunney, a daughter of Paddy Tunney, comes from a long line of traditional singers. From an early age Brigid was steeped in song and singing. She has given traditional singing workshops to Secondary school students and to the Secondary School Music Teachers’ Association of Ireland. She has also given workshops at the Scoil Eigse during All Ireland Fleadh week. She has sung on RTE Radió na Gaeltachta and can be heard on the Comhaltas production, Where The Linnets Sing – Three Generations of Tunney Singers. In 2007, Brigid recorded a solo CD, Hand in Hand.

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