Tag Archive | Sligo music

Top Class Flute Music from Leitrim and Roscommon

P1000232I got linked to this video, and just had to share it here. Fantastic flute music from Leitrim and Roscommon, filmed in 1981. Patsy Hanly and Packie Duignan on flute, backed by Martin Dolan on bodhran:

Click here for video at YouTube 

I met and played with Packie Duignan several times in the late 1980s/early1990s. He was a fantastic flute player, very strongly influenced by the John McKenna style of Leitrim flute playing, and a very humble and kind man. I once lent him my flute to play at a wedding, as his own was in quite bad shape. I always thought it sad that such an amazing musician had such a poor instrument, but I don’t think he was ever in a position to get a better one.

Packie passed away in 1992. Sometimes I look at my flute and remember he played it, and it makes me smile.

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Up Sligo!

It’s Paddy’s Day today, and due to a recent bout of ill-health I’m not heading out anywhere to play, but instead am happily browsing Irish music videos that friends are posting on Facebook and Twitter. I am having fits of nostalgia all over the place.

I’m also adding to the pot and sharing a few videos myself. Here is one that deserves its own post here: Peter Horan and Fred Finn, playing together in 1982. This is incomparable flute and fiddle music in the Sligo style.

I never met Fred, as he died before I started visiting Sligo regularly, but I got to know Peter well and played with him on many an occasion. As well as being a flute virtuoso, Peter was an excellent fiddle player. He told me he didn’t play fiddle much when Fred was alive, preferring to stick to flute back then (they were well known for their flute/fiddle duets), but he certainly did play it a lot afterwards, even more than the flute in the sessions I went to.

Peter had an amazing amount of stamina. I remember once staying up all night with him, playing tunes and drinking Guinness in Cawley’s in Tubbercurry. He had to go and teach the flute class the next morning at the South Sligo Summer School so, when 8.30 am am rolled around, he went off to the loo for a bit of a wash, combed his hair, had a swift cup of tea, and went off to teach his class. That night, he was back playing in the session again. He was in his seventies at the time.

Peter died in 2010, but in clips like the one above and in our memories, his music and that of his good friend Fred live on. I love that choppy South Sligo style of fiddle and flute playing, such a great emphasis on rhythm and phrasing, never allowing you to forget for one second that it is dance music. Peter and Fred epitomise, to me, the very best of traditional Irish music. It seems, to me, most fitting to listen to it on St Patrick’s Day.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

Music From Another Time

In September 1995, I was on a visit to South Leitrim. My partner and I got taken out by a musician friend to visit an old man he knew, so we could all play a few tunes together.

It was about three-thirty in the afternoon, and the rain had just stopped when we arrived at the end of a grassed-over lane in the middle of nowhere, somewhere on the edges of Roscommon and Leitrim. Leaving the car we went through the gate, and walked across two fields full of cattle to get to the cottage.

The old man we had gone to visit was Pa McCormack. His cottage had no electricity or piped water. He lived on his own, cooked over his open fire, and kept his bacon fresh by wrapping it in dock leaves.

Inside, the cottage was dimly lit by the fading daylight through the half-door, and the glow from the peat fire. Hospitality was offered, but Pa was a bit ashamed of his cracked cups, so instead of tea we drank Guinness out of the bottle. We talked for a while, then Pa reached down his fiddle from a shelf above the fire, and played a reel.

Michael and myself produced our flutes, and our friend Gene took out his fiddle, and the four of us played into the early evening. We paused now and then for a chat, and for Pa to open a fresh bottle of Guinness and put a bit more peat on the fire. The music Pa played on the fiddle was electrifying; mainly local Leitrim/Sligo tunes, many of which (so he told us) he learned from his father.

The whole experience, with flutes and fiddles pounding out fast Sligo reels, in a run-down cottage lit by the soft, rainy light and the warm peat glow, was really eerie. It was like we had been transported back in time one hundred years. Even now, seventeen years later, I still feel awed and moved when I think about it.

I heard, a few years back, that Pa had died. I also heard that he’d had a very healthy bank balance, but had not been interested in using any of it to change anything. He was more than content living the life of a hermit, alone in the house he’d been born in, quietly farming his land and playing music from another time.