Issue 25 5/2003

FolkWorld News

Folk musician protest successful
Ireland. FolkWorld reported in its last issue about the protest by Irish traditional musicians to the Arts Bill (see issue 24). Just a week after the issue had appeared, FolkWorld received a nore that it looks as if the Irish government willl change the wording of the law and now accept that to create a separate funding committee would \"isolate and ghettoise Irish traditional music\".(their words) So it looks as if people power has worked this time.


Paddy Tunney (1921-2002)
Northern Ireland. The celebrated singer Paddy Tunney died on 6 December 2002, following a brief illness. Paddy was one of the most important figures in traditional Irish music. Paddy Tunney, www.folktrax.freeserve.co.uk Through his unique, highly decorated style of singing, acquired from his mother Brigid, his collecting of songs, and his publishing - "Where Songs Do Thunder" and "The Stone Fiddle" (the Fiddler's Stone at the entrance of Castlecaldwell commemorates the 18th century fiddler Denis McCabe who fell out of a barge and drowned in Lough Erne -> FW#18) -, Paddy sustained and encouraged traditional song and singing in Ireland.
Paddy Tunney was born in Glasgow in 1921, shortly before his parents from Belleek, County Fermanagh, moved to Rusheen, County Donegal, on the border of the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. In 1943 he was imprisoned for four years for carrying explosives in the service of the IRA - it was quite normal in those days to be writing poetry and planting bombs. (P. Kennedy) A former forester, Paddy studied Irish and history while jailed in Belfast. It is said that he exchanged jigs and reels with fellow prisoners by tapping on the waterpipe in his cell.
After his release Paddy trained as a public health inspector, subsequently working at the Dingle peninsula and back in Donegal. In 1952 he was recorded with his mother and his uncle Mick Gallagher, still available as "The Mountain Streams," followed in the 1970's with some classic albums for the Topic label. Many of his songs were popularized by Andy Irvine (-> FW#23), Paul Brady and Dick Gaughan (-> see CD review in this issue). Paddy was very critical of the "ballad boom," writing to the Irish Press in 1965 to pardon Ireland's youth for mistaking the bellowing of bearded balladeers or the juggling and jingling of guitar-propped jokers for the genuine article. [wt]


Lucy Farr (1911-2003)
Ireland/England. Traditional Irish fiddler Lucy Farr passed away on January 7 in Berkshire, UK. Lucy Farr (ne Kirwan) was born in 1911 in the townland of Baunyknave, Ballinakill, East Galway. Her father's farm was one of the venues where people met to play music and dance. (A regular player was one Lucy Farr, www.mustrad.org.uk Tom `Barrel' Rafferty -> FW#4, FW#23.) Lucy eventually took up the fiddle. At the same time, the clergy raged about house-dancing being occasions of sin:

It was known that at the end of a dance a priest would go out with a walking stick looking for courting couples and put the fear of God into them if he could find them. -- The church took over. We weren't allowed to hold the house-dances anymore, and that was the most awful crime against the Irish music that anyone could do. The priests, you know, they were vicious then. Oh yes, they'd condemn the late nights for stopping people coming to mass on Sunday because they were up all night the night before playing this awful music. But it never stopped any of us coming to mass on a Sunday. In fact they wanted to open a parochial hall beside the local church and have everybody come there instead on a Saturday night to the dance and pay half a crown to come in!
Lucy felt that the music wasn't the same there as in a kitchen. She left for England in 1936, began work as a nurse in London, met Eric Farr and married him in 1940. It was only in the mid 50's that Lucy became involved in music again. When a Comhaltas Ceoltir ireann branch was formed in south London, she joined the committee. Lucy became a regular visitor in the emerging session scene in London pubs and eventually joined The Four Courts Ceilidh Band. The 1967 Topic album `Paddy in the Smoke' boasts of her fiddle. (The recording session attracted only fiddlers because the piano was flat; there is one accordeon player, the only track with no piano backing -> FW#3.)
Lucy was a spirit in traditional music who was fiercely aware of the invisibility of the female performer therein. She composed many tunes, some of them quite brilliant. One of them should end up as a Trad Arr. crediting Paul Brady as source, and calling it `Brady's'. Though Lucy was not, understandably, vociferous about the matter, or concerned about money which much-better-off others were getting in her stead, she was angry about herself being airbrushed out, both as a woman, and also in deference to big names. (Fintan Vallely)
For more details see: www.mustrad.org.uk. [wt]


Joe Strummer (1952-2002)
England. On December 23, 2002, Joe Strummer (John Graham Mellor) suffered a fatal heart attack. Inspired by The Sex Pistols, Strummer founded the punk rock band The Clash in 1976. The Clash sang militant songs about racism, police brutality and social alienation, infusing their music with ska, reggae and rockabilly. He was a folk writer who played punk rock. He was more true to his songs and their spirit in the 70s than many of the American folkies of the previous decade. (B. Hennon) Strummer played with The Pogues and occasionally replaced Shane MacGowan (-> FW#22) when indisposed. - "Future Forests", a charity that encourages people to plant trees to help compensate for the pollution that they cause to the environment, is planting a "Joe Strummer Memorial Forest" on the Isle of Skye. Joe helped get Future Forests started, said a spokesperson, Joe then decided that he would have his own forest planted, to offset the emissions from his CDs, and became the world's first Carbon Neutral artist. [wt]


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The Well Below the Valley-O
Ireland. A film about women being brutally punished for their sexuality in a savage institution which is run by another set of women has got to be either (a) a rather unimaginative work of pornography, or (b) Irish history. (A.M. Hourihane) So far, so bad. But where's the connection to folk music? There is. Peter Mullan's Magdalene Sisters kicks off with a priest beating the bodhran and chanting The Well Below the Valley at a wedding scene in rural Ireland in 1964. This eerie holdover from the Middle Ages (F. Keller) with its incestuous overtones is a clever introduction for the next two hours.
I would question if there was any bodhran at a 1960's wedding, but anyway, what about the song. The moral-carrying storyline seems to be of English origin, though ironically it survived only in Irish traveller culture and has been unearthed from the singing of John Reilly (1926-69) of Boyle, Co. Roscommon.
Early Scandinavian forms of the ballad tell the story of an encounter between Christ and Mary Magdalen. Despite her protestations of virginity, he reveals that she has borne three children by her father, her brother and the local priest. She begs forgiveness and after years of penance in the wilderness, she meets Christ again and is promised salvation. Child prints two texts, a fragmentary one from Scotland and a rather absurd English text from the Percy manuscript, which the noted Welsh poet and scholar Tony Conran has convincingly argued to be an Elizabethan anti-catholic burlesque of a lost earlier version. By one of those miracles of ballad survival, what looks like a true descendant of that hypothetical version turned up in the 1960s. Tom Munnelly collected it from John Reilly in Boyle, County Roscommon. The song is extraordinarily dark, despite its light and airy tune. As Conran noted, is hard to hear as anything other than a song about sexual abuse and one, moreover, where the victim is blamed. In this respect, it reflects contemporary reality only too well. Trapped between her brutal family and the uncompassionate man of noble fame, she has no hope in this world and little in the next. (F. Armstrong)
Christy Moore, who had met John Reilly in 1963, said: It is one of the basic source songs, the discovery of John singing this was the folklorist's equivalent of the discovery of the Rubik. Christy claims he had written new music to it and he recorded it on the second Planxty album in 1973. In recent live shows he was playing it only accompanied with - a bodhran. So here we are again.
     A gentleman was passing by
     He asked for a drink as he got dry
     "My cup is full up to the brim
     If I were to stoop I might fall in"
     "If your true lover was passing by
     You'd fill him a drink as he got dry"
     She swore by grass, she swore by corn
     That her true love had never been born
     "Young maid you're swearing wrong
     For six young children you had born"
     "If you be a man of noble fame
     You'll tell to me the father of them"
     "There's two of them by your Uncle Dan
     Another two by your brother John
     Another two by your father dear"
     "If you be a man of noble 'steem
     You'll tell me what did happen to them"
     "There's two buried 'neath the stable door
     Another two 'neath the kitchen door
     Another two buried beneath the wall"
     "If you be a man of noble fame
     You'll tell me what will happen myself"
     "You'll be seven years a-ringing the bell
     You'll be seven more burning in hell"
`The Well Below the Valley' is also featured on a recent album of Belfast singer/songwriter Pol MacAdaim (see CD review in this issue), who can be seen at the beginning of the film as well. I organised and played in the band at the start of the film, I was initially offered to play the part of a priest, but somehow couldn't see myself don the white collar! There are also two songs both called `Magdalene Laundry,' a great song by Mary Coughlan, another one written by Joni Mitchell (-> FW#8, FW#22). [wt]


More Irish News
Ireland. De Dannan have finally split up. After 27 years the two remaining members Alec Finn and Frankie Gavin (-> FW#23) will go separate ways. Guitarist and bouzouki player Alec Finn joined fiddler Frankie Gavin in sessions in Hughes Pub in Spiddal, Co. Galway, in the early 1970s. Banjo player Charlie Piggot (-> FW#14), bodhran player Johnny `Ringo' MacDonagh and singer Dolores Keane soon joined the pair. The group recorded versions of the Beatles' `Hey Jude' and Queen's `Bohemian Rhapsody', and later experimented with pieces by Handel and Bach. De Dannan has featured many talented singers, including Mary Black (-> FW#16) and Eleanor Shanley (-> FW#1, FW#19).
The legendary Lisdoonvarna Festival, celebrated by Christy Moore's song, is back. The festival is returning after a twenty-year absence, just in time for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first festival, which was held in 1978. Lisdoonvarna 2003 takes place on June 28th. The headliner is - Christy Moore! More festival dates on our FROG Site.
The Irish republican ballad `A Nation Once Again' was named as the world's favourite song, after a global poll by the BBC World Service. The poll attracted 150,000 votes from 153 countries. The rebel song, recorded by The Wolfe Tones in 1964, triumphed over the Indian patriotic song `Vande Mataram.' We're absolutely delighted that this song, which has become such an anthem for the Irish people, has got such recognition all over the world, group leader Brian Warfield said. The song was written to give the Irish people back a bit of spirit and support the fight to overturn British rule so I am very happy to see it is still giving us spirit the world over. `A Nation Once Again' was written by Thomas Davis (1814-45).
Irish singer Els Kennedy (-> FW#22) has moved from the An Chonair into the John Benny Moriarty's near the quay of Dingle town, Co. Kerry. Call in for singing and music with Els and guests on Wednesday nights, and sessions, dancing and live music throughout the week. But notice that a rather unthinkable change is coming soon: The pub (and its music) is going smoke-free. Health Minister Michael Martin announced that the government will ban smoking from all workplaces including pubs from January 1, 2004. Mandate, the union representing pub employees, supports a ban, claiming that an estimated 150 bar staff in Ireland die prematurely each year because of second-hand smoke. [wt]


Free Musical Expression in the USA
USA. `The fact is, there are many people in the world who will take advantage of something like music or performing and use it for their own sinister purpose. Arts and culture can be misused and it's our job to see if somebody is trying to do that. It's the new reality and the arts world has to adjust.' (The Philadelphia Inquirer quoting an US State Department official).
Freemuse, the World Forum on Music and Censorship, is concerned that `expression is not entirely free in the United States, and music is at risk'. Paul D. Fischer of Middle Tennessee State University argues that `a culture war has been declared in the United States on those whose expressions, often musical, don't fit with dominant notions of propriety, decency, and mainstream American-ness. As a nation, the United States has an uneasy relationship with its musical heritage. Despite global recognition of the originality of its musics, mainstream America chooses not to bask in this glory. Jazz, blues, r&b, rock'n'roll and hip-hop are suspect because they draw more on African sources than European ones for their spark. Second, these musics found their way to popularity in white culture primarily through working class channels, usurping presumed elites' role in taste-making. There are sincere, patriotic, mainstream Americans who believe the popularity of these musics signals the end of Western Civilization, not the apogee of America's cultural output thus far.' [wt]
Read "What If They Gave A Culture War And Nobody Came? - Prospects For Free Musical Expression In The United States" as PDF. See also: FW#23, FW#24.


God Save the Queen in the Isle of Man
Isle of Man. The Manx parliament announced that `Land of our Birth' would be the Island's official national anthem, with `God Save the Queen' referred to as the Royal Anthem. www.iomonline.co.im It followed from an online poll that 7 per cent didn't matter which song was used. `God Save the Queen' scored poorly, with just 11 per cent, followed close behind with the Bee Gees classic `Ellan Vannin' with 23 per cent. The clear winner was `Land of our Birth' with 59 per cent.
`Land of our Birth' was written by William Henry Gill (1839-1923) in 1907. It is sung to the traditional tune `Mylecharaine.' [wt]


30 Years of Musical Traditions...
England. For better or worse, FolkWorld is not the only folk and roots music magazine in the web. The entire output of Musical Traditions is now available on CD-ROM, from the articles in its first paper publications in 1983 right up to the last day of December 2002 for the Internet version. Priced GB10. [wt]
Check it out at: www.mustrad.org.uk.


... and 30 years Runrig
Scotland. This year Runrig are celebrating 30 years in the music business. From a ceilidh dance band on the Isle of Skye, in 1973, to being one of Scotland's most successful ever rock acts the Runrig story has been a remarkable one and one that defies categorisation. Deeply respected by those that have been touched by their music, they have survived through changing musical fashions and eras. Their fan base across the world is massive, and the most remarkable aspect of the story is that it shows no signs of drawing to a close. Runrig are still very much alive and strong, as reported in the live review of Runrig's concert in Ipswich in FolkWorld's last issue.
To celebrate and acknowledge 30 years of music making, the band are to perform at a special concert with special guests on the esplanade of Stirling Castle, on Saturday 23 August 2003. More infos at www.runrig.co.uk


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Gus O'Connor
Ireland. Gus O'Connor, former owner of the renowned pub in Doolin, passed away on April 8th. He had sold the pub some years ago. Thank you, Gus, for the hospitality you gave to music for many decades. [News item from Luigi Fazzo]


Blowzabella birthday reunion
England. Blowzabella, one of the very influential English folk bands of the last couple of decades, are getting together again for some special gigs in 2003 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the band. Gigs include Germany's biggest folk and worldmusic festival in Rudolstadt and selected places in England.
All the details are at www.blowzabella.com. or http://mysite.freeserve.com/davshepfiddle/Blowzabella.htm


In the German news you can find as additional news:


To the content of FolkWorld No. 25

© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 05/2003

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