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Derek McGinley & Tara Connaghan | Far Side of the Glen

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Folk: Irish Traditional World: Celtic Moods: Instrumental
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Far Side of the Glen

by Derek McGinley & Tara Connaghan

The Far Side of the Glen CD focuses solely on the fiddle music of south west Donegal in the north west of Ireland. The CD features just two fiddles - Derek McGinley from Glencolmcille (Co. Donegal) and Tara Connaghan from Glenties (Co. Donegal).
Genre: Folk: Irish Traditional
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. John Phadaí Chonchubhair's / The Nova Scotia Jig (Jigs)
Derek McGinley
4:39 $0.99
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2. Jimmy McNelis's Highland / Untitled Highland (Highlands)
Derek McGinley
3:42 $0.99
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3. Kelly's Fancy / Bun Atsrútháin (Hornpipes)
Derek McGinley
4:43 $0.99
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4. Patrick Doherty's Barndance / Patrick Doherty's Barndance / Patrick Dohertyis Barndance (Barndances)
Derek McGinley
7:29 $0.99
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5. Gealach An Fhómhair / The Old Wheel Of Fortune (Reels)
Derek McGinley
2:55 $0.99
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6. The Swallow's Tail / The Cameronian (reels)
Tara Connaghan
3:15 $0.99
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7. Untitled Highland / Untitled Highland (Highlands)
Derek McGinley
2:40 $0.99
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8. Francie Byrne's Mazurka / Untitled (Mazurkas)
Derek McGinley
3:50 FREE
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9. Maggie Pickie / Maggie Pickie (Specific Dance Tune)
Derek McGinley
2:38 $0.99
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10. Rocking the Cradle (Slow Air)
Derek McGinley
5:10 $0.99
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11. Untitled Barndance / Balkin Hills (Barndances)
Derek McGinley
4:59 $0.99
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12. Charlie McDevitt's / The Coillte Feannaid Reel (Reels)
Derek McGinley
3:42 $0.99
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13. Eddie O'Gara's Waltz / Untitled (Waltzes)
Tara Connaghan
4:58 $0.99
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14. More Untitled Highland / Untitled Highland (Highlands)
Derek McGinley
3:19 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
The tradition of two fiddles and the uniformity of just one instrument is an aesthetic that south west Donegal musicians’ ears are very familiar with. Archive recordings of two fiddles such as brothers Francie and Mickey Byrne are breathtaking and show a delicate and subtle style with a sweeping bow that is typical of the area. The late James Byrne was a huge influence on the music of the locality over the last 40 - 50 years and James was a mentor and teacher to both of us with Derek enjoying several years under his inspirational tutelage. James’ style has been a significant influence on us in our musical development.

We hope we have portrayed a sample of the fiddle music style and repertoire of south west Donegal, it is the music we have grown up with, the music we continue to play and the music we enjoy most. The recording features just two fiddles and was recorded in a cottage just outside Carrick, Co. Donegal.

We have played music together since the late 1990s, in sessions, on stage and in various projects, especially in more recent years and from these grew the idea to record together. The inspiration for the title, The Far Side of the Glen, comes from both of us living on either side of Glengesh Pass, between Ardara and Carrick. This would have been one of the main routes of access between Glenties and Glencolmcille where over the years many great musicians travelled.


Track 1: Untitled Jigs (John Phadaí Chonchubhair’s / The Nova Scotia Jig) (jigs)
Two jigs learned from James Byrne of Mín Na Croise, Glencolmcille, who sadly passed away in 2008. James Byrne and his music have had a profound effect on the music of south-west Donegal. His influence can be heard on many of the younger players of the area, including Derek McGinley.
James Byrne learned the first jig from his neighbour John McGinley (John Phadaí Chonchubhair, often referred to as simply “Conchubhair”). Tunes such as this, simple in structure, were very numerous in the past, as they were required for a part of the Lancers Set, one of the common dance figures danced in the country houses. The second jig was played by James Byrne’s father, John (John A’ Bheirnigh) and yet is found throughout the country. It may be a relatively recent arrival on these shores and is usually titled The Nova Scotia Jig, although John A’ Bheirnigh had no name for it.

Track 2: Jimmy McNelis’s Highland / Untitled (highlands)
Jimmy McNelis was a fondly remembered melodeon player from Straleel who died in 1996. The melodeon is believed to have made an appearance in Ireland some time in the 1890s. The instrument was common in south west Donegal in the early part of the 20th century, second only to the fiddle. With the decline in the occurrence of house dances in the area from the 1940s onwards the instrument itself was sadly heard less and less as the years went by.
Derek learned the first highland from his neighbour and uncle-in-law Padraig Molloy of Min A’ Chearrbhaigh, Glencolmcille. Padraig is steeped in the musical tradition of the area. His father Barnaí and grandfather Brianaí were noted fiddle players in their day. Padraig himself has many fine old dance tunes, which he has duly passed on to Derek and his sister Christina, also a fiddle player. The second highland can be heard in several settings all over Donegal and is often heard played as a reel elsewhere in the country.

Track 3: Kelly’s Fancy / Bun A’ tSrútháin (hornpipes) – Derek solo
The first of these hornpipes was learned from a recording of John Doherty. A version of the tune was played in the Glencolmcille area, with both parts in the key of D. John Doherty’s title for the tune was Kelly’s Fancy. The tune is also known as The Thames Hornpipe.
The second tune is a composition of Derek McGinley, the title commemorating a local spot visible from the front door of Derek’s house in Min A’ Chearrbhaigh.

Track 4: Patrick Doherty’s Barndances (barndances)
The first and third barndances in this set are associated with Patrick O’Gara (died 1994) from Mín Na bhFachrán, Glencolmcille who spent most of his life in Bolton, England. The second tune was widely played in the locality at one time but in more recent times has become associated with Joe Byrne of Glenmalin, Glencolmcille through the playing of his neighbour John Byrne.
Patrick O’Gara had an enormous repertoire of tunes and was particularly noted for his store of compositions of the great 19th century fiddle player John McGinley (John Mhósaí) – see track 5. Patrick learned many of his tunes from his first cousin, Patrick Doherty of Straleel North who in turn learned much of his music from O’Gara’s father Donnchadh Nedí and Johnny Boyle of Bráid, Glencolmcille.

Track 5: Gealach An Fhómhair / The Old Wheel Of Fortune (reels)
Two reels learned from James Byrne. The title of the first tune translates as The Harvest Moon and is believed to be a composition of the 19th century fiddle player and composer John Mhósaí McGinley of Loch Inseach, Glencolmcille. John Mhósaí was known far and wide as a fiddle player of some repute. A blacksmith, he also travelled widely through Ireland and perhaps England and Scotland also. He surely is responsible for many of the seemingly unique tunes found in the repertoire of the Glencolmcille and Kilcar area.
James Byrne learned the second reel from his great friend Danny Meehan of Drimalost, near Mountcharles. Danny spent a lot of his life to date in London, England, having first left in 1956 at the age of 16. Danny would return home occasionally on musical forays and the two spent many days and nights playing together and wandering here and there in search of music. Danny returned home to Donegal in 2007. The tune is possibly based on an old highland (perhaps even the second highland we play in track 7).

Track 6: The Swallow’s Tail / The Cameronian (reels) – Tara solo
The Swallow’s Tail was as widely played throughout Ireland as any reel, and although its origin is unclear, it seems that it may be a tune of Irish origin, even though it is not unknown in other traditions. Tara originally heard this tune from the cassette The Gravel Walks of fiddler Mickey Doherty, John Doherty’s brother.
The second reel was learned from James Byrne, who learned it from Con McGinley (Con Chondaí) of Mín Na Croise, Glencolmcille and Nantwich, England. Con was born in 1915 and is still playing the fiddle, he returns home annually to his native place to meet friends and relations. Con learned tunes from many of the fiddlers and melodeon players of his youth, for example Peter hIghne of Cionn Na Coilleadh and John Phadaí Chonchubhair. It was from John that Con learned this unusual version of the Cameronian with its extra bars in the second part. John Doherty played variants of the tune on a number of field recordings which echo the last bar of the second part. Such echoes often suggest a connection with John’s uncles, Alec and Mickey McConnell, both of whom had a strong influence on the fiddle players of Glencolmcille, including John McGinley.

Track 7: Untitled Highland / Untitled Highland (highlands)
Two highlands learned from James Byrne. The first tune is generally regarded as a Teelin tune and it is not known to date whether it existed anywhere else. Perhaps it is a composition of one of the Cassidy brothers but this is mere speculation. Certainly, both Johnny and Frank composed tunes, as is the case with the Teelin highland known as Tom Tailor’s which was composed by Johnny. However, Con Cassidy associated this tune with Frank. James’s version is based on Con’s version, with a slightly different ending. Another version can be heard commonly today with an ending transplanted from a Teelin version of the Moneymusk.
James had two versions of the second highland, one of which appears on The Brass Fiddle (Claddagh Records, 1987). It’s not clear where James learned this version, but he heard Frank Cassidy of Teelin play it and was much impressed with Frank’s variations on the opening phrase of the first part. John Doherty also played this version of the tune, and in terms of melody, it is broadly similar to its Scottish strathspey ancestor.

Track 8: Francie Byrne’s Mazurka / Untitled (mazurkas)
The mazurka was a popular dance at one time in Donegal and beyond. However there are not many mazurka tunes in circulation. Several of the mazurkas commonly played today throughout Donegal owe their survival to Danny O’Donnell of Mín Banaid, near Dungloe. Danny lived in Kilcar in the 1970s for some years, and during his stay there, learned much music from the great Kilcar fiddle playing brothers Francie and Mickey Byrne (Francie Dearg and Mickey Bán). The first tune is one such tune, acquired from Francie. The second tune is played far and wide these days and is particularly associated with James Byrne, who can be heard playing the tune on The Brass Fiddle (Claddagh Records, 1987).

Track 9: Maggie Pickie (specific dance tune)
The Maggie Pickie was a solo step dance and this is the tune associated with it. An iron tongs was usually laid out on the floor, over and around which the dancer would dance the steps. There are, however, very few people left who can dance the Maggie Pickie, also sometimes known as the Maggie Pickens. We play two versions here. The first version Derek learned from his uncle-in-law Padraig Molloy, the second version Tara learned from Vincent and Jimmy Campbell of Glenties. Danny O’Donnell believed that the Maggie Pickie was originally an Irish tune, a very old march, perhaps several hundred years old, that became associated with the Irish Volunteers of 1798. At some stage, according to Danny, the tune travelled to Scotland where it found a new life as the Scottish strathspey Whistle O’er The Lave O’t. It returned again to Ireland and became associated with the special dance mentioned above.

Track 10: Rocking The Cradle (slow air) – Derek solo
The well known song was a favourite of John Doherty and James Byrne among others, it is from James that Derek learned this version.

Track 11: Untitled Barndance / The Balkan Hills (barndances)
The first of these barndances was learned from James Byrne, who in turn learned it from Columba Ward of Carrick. Columba learned much music in his younger days from the Teelin fiddle players, especially Jimmy Lyons, as well as the Doherty brothers, John, Mickey and Simon. The second tune was learned from Falcarragh fiddler Aoife McLaughlin. Aoife learned the tune from her early mentor Francie Mooney of Gaoth Dobhair, who taught many young fiddle players in the north west of the county. The tune appears to be of French-Canadian origin and was intended as a pipe march by its composer, Pipe Major Corporal J. Gillan of the “Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders” - presumably the Canadian branch of that British Army infantry brigade. The tune works equally well as a barndance.

Track 12: Charlie McDevitt’s / The Coillte Feannaid Reel (reels)
Cavan fiddle player Ed Reavy was born in 1897 and emigrated to Philadelphia, USA, in 1912. He started composing tunes in his thirties and many of his compositions were absorbed into the Irish tradition relatively quickly. Many of his musical acquaintances in Philadelphia were from Donegal and one fiddle player who seemed to have a particular influence on Reavy was none other than the great Glencolmcille fiddler Patrick Boyle (Padaí Bhilí Na Rópaí), who spent some years in Philadelphia. Reavy composed a tune in his honour titled Pat Boyle Of Glencolumkill. A number of tunes were included in Reavy’s printed collection which are clearly not his own compositions but are perhaps tunes that interested him or perhaps his own settings of tunes he heard from other people. Several such tunes are very similar to Glencolmcille versions of tunes.
James Byrne always believed that Charlie McDevitt’s Reel was one such tune and was almost certain that he had heard a version of the tune years earlier played by fiddle player Johnny Lyons of An Curraoin, Glencolmcille. Johnny had learned his music mainly from his neighbours the Leslie brothers, Pat and John, and also from Padaí Bhilí Na Rópaí. Whether Padaí Bhilí is the connection to Ed Reavy and some of his transcriptions or not, we can only speculate at this stage. James Byrne asked far and wide as to who Charlie McDevitt might have been but to no avail. Perhaps he was a Glenties man - the surname is common around that locality.
Padaí Bhilí Na Rópaí was from the townland of Coillte Feannaid which gives its name to the second reel in this set, also learned from James Byrne. The tune was a great favourite of John Doherty, who knew Padaí well in his younger days, and regarded him very highly as a fiddle player. Padaí Bhilí is credited with introducing many tunes, particularly highlands, to the area. He spent time in Scotland where he is believed to have picked up many tunes. Padaí Bhilí married a lady named Bell Tully from Calhame, near Dunkineely. He settled there, and subsequently became known in those parts as “Padaí Bhell Tully”.

Track 13: Eddie O’Gara’s Waltz / Untitled (waltzes) – Tara solo
The first waltz was learned from Eddie O’Gara of Mín Na bhFachrán, who picked up the tune up in Teelin many years ago. It seems the tune would have slipped away unnoticed only for Eddie’s recalling of it. Tyrone fiddle player Declan McGrath was able to inform us that a version of the tune is found in the French Canadian tradition and is titled The Old Rose Waltz.
The second waltz was learned from a recording of John Doherty made in 1977 by Mícheál Mac Giolla Easbuic of Kilcar. The tune is surely not traditional to these islands, possessing a somewhat European or classically influenced melodic character. John Doherty was not unknown to learn complicated pieces of classical music from 78rpm records encountered in his travels. If John liked a melody, he would learn it, no matter from what source. For example, in his remarkable repertoire were several pieces derived from recordings of the renowned Austrian violinist Friedrich “Fritz” Kreisler. Perhaps this waltz owes its origins to a 78rpm disc, perhaps not. Whatever the case, some day, the truth may emerge.

Track 14: Untitled Highland / Untitled Highland (highlands)
Two highlands learned from James Byrne. James learned the version of the first tune from Con Cassidy of Teelin, who died in 1994. Con was almost single-handedly responsible for passing on the remarkable repertoire of the great Teelin players of his younger days, which included his cousins John, Frank and Paddy, as well as Connie Haughey (Connie Chon Beag) and Jimmy Lyons who played as a duo regularly for the house dances in Teelin, where Con picked up many of his tunes. Teelin fiddlers, lilters and melodeon players were noted in the locality for their approach to melodic variation. They consciously reworked many older dance tunes in a distinctive manner, sometimes for example by changing a key, or by introducing variant endings or other features to a formerly plain dance tune melody. Both these tunes were played in the key of G by fiddle and melodeon player Mick Carr of Mín An Aoire, Glencolmcille. The second tune was learned by James Byrne from Mick.

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