MacDara Ó Raghallaigh’s fiddle playing is often described as ‘brilliant’, ‘amazing’, ‘top-class’. These accolades indeed fit well as MacDara has earned a reputation as one of Ireland’s outstanding fiddle players. His playing style is highly individual, personal and deeply rooted in the pure tradition. What strikes you is the personality and flair in the music and the driving rhythm and pulse that is delivered by a powerful fluid bowhand.
MacDara interprets and fashions each tune to his own liking, building in variation and ornamentation with a great sense of feeling to draw the most out of the tune. The result is an ear-catching performance full of energy, inventiveness and expression, delivered at a solid steady pace with great underlying rhythm and lift.
MacDara is the youngest of the musical Ó Raghallaigh family from Rathmolyon, Co.Meath and he was reared on music. Their home on the family farm was one filled with traditional music and song, and Irish was the everyday spoken tongue. His father Pádraig from Cill Chiaráin, Connamara, plays accordeon while his mother Máire, a fine singer, had been a member of Seán Óg Ó Tuama’s ‘Cantairí na Life’. As a child MacDara listened to the music of his older siblings before he got the chance to start on the fiddle himself - his late brother Félim on fiddle and flute, Nóra and Áine on fiddles, and Micheál on concertina. From an early age he took to the fiddle like a fish to water and developed his music skills playing at junior céilís, sessions and house dances in Co Meath.
MacDara achieved many All Ireland honours in solo, duet, trio, and céilí band competitions through all the age groups at the Fleadhanna Cheoil, including the All Ireland Senior Fiddle at Clonmel in 1992. He is also a winner of Oireachtas and Fiddler of Dooney fiddle competitions. He was a member of the Naomh Pádraig Céilí Band from its formation in the junior age groups right through to their becoming three in a row All Ireland Senior Céilí Band Champions in 2004/05/06. Nowadays he plays in local Meath sessions and shares his talent teaching young fiddlers around the Trim area.
This first anticipated and overdue recording of MacDara comes from two nights of playing before a live audience on 14th and 15th of January, 2011 in Newtown, Co Kildare, not far from his Meath home. It is just a sample of the enormous repertoire of tunes he possesses, and it will bring his music to a wider audience. The unaccompanied sound of the fiddle makes for clear listening and it will be of particular interest not just to followers of the music but to students of the fiddle everywhere. I was going to list my favourite tracks but decided I’d leave it to you – there’s a richness and inspiration in all of them!
Bain sult as.
Track Notes -
1. Reels - The Milky Way, The Ring Around the Moon, Peg McGrath's and The Mill of Kylemore
Chum beirt fliúiteadóir as Cúige Chonnacht, Vincent Broderick agus Josie Mc Dermot, na ríleanna seo.
Antóin MacGabhan (from here on referred to by first name only) has been largely responsible for bringing the music of Vincent Broderick to the masses. The first two tunes here are Vincent’s compositions. The second pair are Josie McDermott tunes I learned from the playing of my late brother Félim. His brother in law, well know piper (and owner of the best quiff in traditional music) Ivan Goff, got these from the Comhaltas magazine “Treoir” many moons ago. Paddy Ryan was responsible for the transcription. Confusing I know! Any deviations from the original score are purely my fault.
2. Jigs - The Haunted House, Whistler at the Wake and The Old Flail.
Trí phort anseo, arís, ó Vincent Broderick. Is dóigh gurb iad seo na chéad cinn leis a d’fhoghlaim mé.
Three more Vincent Broderick tunes here. They would probably be the first of his compositions I learned.
3. Hornpipes - The Home Ruler and Mulhaire’s
Is é an Home Ruler ceann de na cornphíopaí is aitheana sa gceol traidisiúnta. Casaim Mulhares i gcuimhne ar mo dheartháir Félim.
The Home Ruler would be one of the best known hornpipes in traditional music. I don’t know where I got Mulhaire’s but it stayed in my head after my brothers Mícheál and Félim played it at a Craobh Naithí concert shortly before Félim passed away.
4. Reels - Jenny's Welcome to Charlie and The College Groves
Chuala mé Jenny's Welcome to Charlie casta go minic sa mbaile agus mé i mo bhuachaill óg. D'fhoghlaim mé The College Groves ó Antóin blianta fada ó shin.
Jenny’s Welcome to Charlie has been recorded by too many fiddle players of note to start listing here. Fair play to Jenny says I. Charlie must have been some boy to deserve a welcome worthy of this mighty tune. The College Groves I battered regularly in fleadh competitions but fortunately it survived the repeated abuse and remains a great friend.
5. Jigs - The Humours of BallyLoughlin and Páidín Ó Raifeartaigh
Dhá phort iad seo atá mé ag casadh le blianta.
Like many of the tunes on this disc my first hearing of “Ballyloughlin” would have been from Félim playing it at home. I learned the second tune from Antóin.
6. Reels - Tommy Coens, The Glen of Aherlow, The Port Hole of the Kelp, Maid Behind the Bar in C
Casann m’athair an chéad dá ríl seo le chéile; chum Bobby Casey an tríú ríl, The Port Hole of the Kelp; fuair muid uilig an ríl deirneach ó Antóin.
The first two tunes would be favourites of my father Pádraig. He calls the first tune Skully Casey’s. Seán Ryan composed the second tune. The third is a Bobby Casey tune with a great story behind the title which I’ll save for the multitudes of gigs this CD will get me. The last tune we learned from Antóin and it does seem to be a version of the Maid Behind the bar.
7. Slow Air - Bruach na Carraige Báine
Fuair mé fonn an amhráin seo ó mo mháthair Máire, nuair a bhí mé óg.
I know a grand total of three slow airs. I learned this from the singing of my mother Máire when I was the cutest little blonde boy you could possibly imagine. I’m dedicating it to the memory of a great friend of mine, Danny O’ Brien, who left this life much too soon. This was a big favourite of his. I recorded a technically better version when the hall was empty but went with the rawness of this one. I think Danny would have preferred that.
8. Jigs - Trip to Athlone, Cailleach an Airgid and Leg of the Duck
Is ó m’athair Pádraig a fuair mé na poirt seo. Cuireann sé Trip to Athlone agus Cailleach an Airgid le chéile i gcónaí.
These jigs are all from my father’s playing. He plays the first two together generally. Simple old tunes but they’re usually the best kind.
9. Hornpipes - The Toss Pot and The Golden Eagle.
Is breá liom an ceol spraíúil atá sna cornphíopaí seo. Le Brendan McGlincy is mo a luaitear The Toss Pot. Is ó Antóin a fuair mé The Golden Eagle.
The Toss Pot (what a great name) will always be associated with the playing of the legendary Brendan McGlinchey. It lodged in my head when Joe Toolin from Dublin used to make a great job of it at fleadhs in days of yore. I learned The Golden Eagle from Antóin when I was two years and four months of age.
10. Reels - The Maids of Moncisco, Sporting Nell, The Flagstone of Memories and Rolling in the RyeGrass
Ní raibh sé i gceist agam na ríleanna seo uilig a chur le chéile ach sin an chaoi a thárla sé. Is é Vincent Broderick a chum The Flagstone of Memories.
The first couple of tunes are extremely well known and I’ve put them together plenty of times before. “Flagstone” is another Vincent Broderick tune. “Ryegrass” is probably one of the first reels we all learn and is still one of my favourites.
11. Slip Jigs - (Garykennedy Selection) Gan Ainm, The Humours of Derrykissane and Gan Anim
D’fhoghlaim Muintir Cinnsealaigh (Uíbh Fháilí) na poirt luascach seo ón mboscdóir cáiliúil Paddy O Brien. D’fhoghlaim muide ón gclann ceolmhar sin iad sna hochtóidí.
My family learned these tunes from, or because of the Kinsella clan of County Offaly back in the fabulous eighties. Quite my favourite family of lunatics. Paddy O’ Brien would have put them together originally.
12. Reels - Dwyer’s and Mick O Connor’s
Ríleanna iontach ceolmhara iad seo a chuala muid ó Mick O Connor é fhéin, ar thaifedadh a rinneadh i mBirmingham i lár na seachtóidí.
These tunes we got from a taped recording of banjo legend Mick O Connor some years ago. The first tune was composed by Michael Dwyer of the well known musical family from Cork originally. The second tune Mick himself composed. Pure gems.
13. Hornpipes and Reels - Sean Bhean Bhocht (Bantry Bay), The Rights of Man, Throw it Across the Road, Farewell to Connaught, Imelda Roland's, Last Night’s Fun, An Gliomach, Sean Bhean Bhocht (Tomeen O' Dea's)
Chuir mé an dreas seo le chéile le cornphíopaí agus ríleanna a d’fhoghlaim mé ó m’athair agus Antóin.
The hornpipe at the start and the reel at the end are once again from my father’s playing and Sean Bhean Bhocht was always our name for them. In between are just a heap of tunes that do me good!
This CD is dedicated to the memory of Félim Ó Raghallaigh - I gcuimhne ar Fhélim; mac, deartháir, fear chéile, athair agus cara dílis.
MacDara Ó Raghallaigh
released April 2, 2011
Produced by MacDara Ó Raghallaigh and Noiz Entertainment Ltd, Ireland - www.noizent.com
Arranged and performed by MacDara Ó Raghallaigh.
All tunes traditional except:
The Milky Way, The Ring Around the Moon, The Haunted House, Whistler at the Wake, The Old Flail, The Flagstone of Memories - composed by Vincent Broderick.
Peg McGrath’s, The Mill of Kylemore - composed by Josie McDermott.
Mulhaire’s - composed by Tom Mulhaire.
Tommy Coen’s - composed by Tommy Coen.
The Glen of Aherlow - composed by Seán Ryan.
The Porthole of the Kelp - composed by Bobby Casey.
Dwyer’s - composed by Michael Dwyer.
Mick O’Connor’s - composed by Mick O’Connor.
Imelda Roland’s - composed by Imelda Roland
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Shay Leon, Shay’s Studio, Kylebrack, Loughrea, Co.Galway - www.shaysstudio.ie
Photography: Robbie Clifford, Mark Ryan, Nóra Ní Raghallaigh, Paul Quin, Danny O’ Brien and Macdara O’Raghallaigh.