North Connacht musicians feature in TG4 show
Not only can Connacht claim Raftery an File as one of its natives, it has produced generations of exceptionally gifted musicians amongst them fiddlers like Michael Coleman, box players like PJ Conlon and his family, and flute players John McKenna, Seamus Tansey and Johnny Griffin.Joe Byrne comes from a long line of Mayo musicians, with his father, grandfather and great grandfather, Joe, Jim and Dominic Byrne all well-known flute players. In this weeks Cainiúntí Ceoil on TG4 on Sunday at 10 p.m., he explores the musical traditions of North Connacht and talks to some of the regions many gifted musicians about the music they play
One of those musicians is Maire Standúín, who like Joe Byrne sees a very clear connection between the music of the region, an area that spans Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim, and the Irish language.
"I think there was a very strong connection between the language and the music, especially in the songs,’ she says.
The fact that she learnt a lot of songs in Irish during her schooldays gave her, she believes, a much greater understanding of where the local music came from and what it grew out of.
The influence of several gifted musicians also played a large part in shaping North Connacht’s distinctive sound – a sound that doesn’t seem to recognise such things as county boundaries, no matter what limitations the map-makers may try to impose.
"I could sit in my own town hall and play a céilí and to the last mile the region would be in that hall. They’d come in from North Mayo, they’d come in from South Sligo and North Roscommon and even from South Leitrim - The people dictated that. The people will dictate in the end," flute player Seamus Tansey says. Tansey cites two of North Connacht’s late great musicians, travelling pipe player Johnny Gorman and master fiddler Michael Coleman as sources of some of the tunes he plays today.
"It’s not by chance people speak about Coleman," says musician John Carty. "He was just an extraordinary musician. He had all the technical qualities, but then he also had this creative genius where he could change the tune without taking from it."
John Carty himself was born in England after his father emigrated from Roscommon. Despite his birthplace, the local influences can be clearly heard in his playing. This fact alone suggests North Connacht’s regional music, and regional music in general, may be much more enduring than we sometimes think.
Cainiuntí Ceoil, Sunday at 10pm on TG4, November 4th, repeated the following Friday at 8pm.