Concertina Music in a Church

Jack Talty and Cormac Begley.

February, 23, 2012

Let us all bow down and give thanks to Jack and Cormac. Let us give praise to their musical ingenuity, to their rhythm and their rolls. You will also need a pair of headphones as you follow me down the road to St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, Galway. The church is empty now but that doesn’t matter. Jack and Cormac have gone home. Just pick a pew and settle in anyway. You have your iPod. You have the music. Sit back and close your eyes and press play. Enjoy the moment.

You might wonder what I am giving thanks to. Well, in a roundabout way we are giving thanks to the tradition of Irish music itself, and to the men and women of this great little nation and all those across the globe who keep it alive. It is a music that has existed and survived through the harshest of times in our history. It found a new voice of expression and creativity in the hands of our emigrants after the birth of this state and though out the darker days in the 40’s and 50’s, when our parents, and their parents brought it with them to the construction sites of the world. Mine to the fields and towns of England and many more to the USA and beyond. They brought it in their heads and hearts and played it in the pubs and clubs and dance halls of a new and unknown land. When I listen to old recordings of Bobby Casey and many other great talents like him I think of what their contribution was, how they kept it going when it was just for their pleasure.

But the music must grow and develop and it is now up to a new generation. And so back to Jack and Cormac who are in fact Jack Talty and Cormac Begley We have singled them out because of an album they have just released called Na Fir Bolg.  Now I have always liked concertina music and the lonesome and evocative sound that can be achieved in the hands of a good player. While it was always there in the background and I had listened to Noel Hill and others it wasn’t until Mary McNamara in the early ’90’s that I really stood up and took notice . Her debut album was a treat. I used to take it out at three in the morning in London, when I had my friends visiting and with one too many beers would say, “Guys, you have got to hear this” They must have thought I was mad as some of them were not of the trad persuasion. Putting Mary McNamara tracks in between John Cale and My Bloody Valentine didn’t suit their taste, but fitted very well in my strange world. And now this, another addition to the traditional musicians list of albums you must have in your collection. Another album to take out late at night.

For this Jack and Cormac have recorded an album of duel concertinas, including a concert pitch C/G concertina, a Bb/F baritone concertina and others. The album has been recorded in a church and there is no editing or studio manipulation. So we need to celebrate individuals who add real quality to the music. People that take it to a different place and create a little bit of magic. For in their hands the future lies. They will inspire and set standards and young people across the country will follow in their footsteps. Across the world there are musicians sitting down right now to record albums as we speak. Among them, somewhere will be born another gem. That’s what makes this life so sweet.  ♦


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