Paddy Murphy: In Good Hands

Field recordings from a Pioneer of the Irish Concertina

Banner County Celebrates

Irish Voice Review
13 December 2007

ON Saturday night in Kilmaley, Co. Clare the Banner County “Guardians of the Spirit” turned out in force at the Kilmaley to launch a new CD recording titled Paddy Murphy: In Good Health [sic]: Field Recordings From a Pioneer of the Irish Concertina.

Turning up to pay homage to one of the seminal concertina players in the county famed for them were Joe Burke, Paddy Glackin, Tim Collins, Edel Fox, Eileen O’Brien, Maeve Donnelly, Manus McGuire, the Mulcahy Family, Meati Jo Sheamuis (Radio na Gaelige), Claire Keville and Joan Hanrahan of Clare FM, members of the Kilfenora Ceili Band along with Peadar O’Loughlin and Dr. Gearoid O’hAllmhurain who organized the night.

Paddy Murphy passed away in 1992, but before doing so the native of Bealcragga, Connolly in the parish of Kilmaley had left a vast impression on concertinas players within and beyond the borders of the Banner County.

He was the first concertina player to win an All-Ireland championship in 1954 in Cavan. This ambitious CD is a testament to that legacy and the formative environment in West Clare that made him stand out among the legions of Clare musicians over the years.

In particular, Murphy shared many a tune with fellow parishioner Peadar O’Loughlin (they appear in a video vignette on the Come West Along the Road 2 DVD as well) and he helped shape the young concertinist turned academic Dr. Gearoid O’hAllmhurain.

The two, in turn, helped lionize their friend and mentor as they produced this new recording shedding light on a humble and shy concertina player who wasn’t one for recording studios or devices much at all.

The 28 tracks feature well-known traditional tunes that were captured from existing reel to reel and cassette recordings, including some interviewing by the ethnomusicologist and Ennis native, O’hAllmhurain, whose keen knowledge, vision and dedication spills out across the 28-page booklet that accompanies this collection of field recordings.

It is no ordinary academic treatise but a rather a colorful contextual guide into why the concertina became so important in Clare and, in particular, the genius and craft of Paddy Murphy, seemingly an ordinary man who was both immersed and surrounded by the music.

The recordings may have an unvarnished quality which is not be mistaken with a lack of technique or talent. Rather they give a vivid picture of the exuberance and dexterity of a man who learned much of the music by candlelight or the fireside at places like Hughdie Doohan’s house nearby.

The recording puts Paddy Murphy in a class of musicians to whom it is pleasure to sit and listen to or get up and dance a proper set for relaxation rather than aerobics. The subtlety of his playing showed his own sophistication without sacrificing the important components of a dance musician “who was considered a good player if you could rap it out good and lively so the dancers could batter it out on the floor and the dancers could be comfortable.”

For 25 years, every Sunday night he helped create a “comfort zone” for those senior and very spry set dancers who took to the well-laid floor at a crossroads pub in Inagh where the Bitty Early Brew Pub now stands. While it is likely that I danced a set to his music there once or twice, I never did get to meet him, but thanks to this work of O’hAllmhurain and O’Loughlin, I feel that I know him very well now and that we will all share his wonderful gifts for many years to come courtesy of this effort.

The new recording can be ordered at operated by Celtic Crossings owned by Dr. Gearoid O’hAllmhurain and Cecilia McDonnell, who served as the executive producer of this valuable remembrance.

The CD:

In Good Hands

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