Music has always been a central part of my life from a very young age. Having spent many years playing, I eventually started to compose my own tunes a number of years ago. Since that time, tunes of mine have, now and then, been heard by musicians who have played them and made their own of them. Composing tunes is one thing, but without a listening audience and a community of musicians to ‘adopt’ the tunes the practice of composing is pointless.
I’ve always enjoyed meeting other musicians locally and around the country at festivals and events. Musicians have always shown a generous attitude towards me in sharing musical settings and information about tunes. As time has passed the number of my own compositions has grown steadily, but it can be a long process for those tunes to become part of the standard repertoire. It has taken years before some of my older compositions have found their way to being widely played. It was in an effort to make them accessible to other musicians that this project came into being.
I was very fortunate a few years ago to be awarded an artist’s bursary from Ealaín na Gaeltachta for the purpose of concentrating on new compositions. (This is an initiative established by Údarás na Gaeltachta and The Arts Council to develop arts activities in Gaeltacht areas.) This was the first time in my life that I was extended recognition from a public body, and it was a great source of encouragement to me in my abilities as a composer and it spurred me to devote more time to composing.
I am indebted to a number of people, without whom this project could not have been realised. I am grateful to An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council for considered my proposal for funding and providing financial assistance for this project through the DEIS scheme. I would particularly like to acknowledge Paul Flynn (Head of Traditional Arts) and his helpful staff, for their assistance and support.
I am delighted that Dr. Mel Mercier (Head of Music at University College Cork) saw merit in this initiative. Through hosting my work on the UCC website, I have the best possible opportunity to reach a wide audience for my tunes, and I will always be grateful for having been afforded this fantastic opportunity. I would particularly like to thank Mel for writing the Introduction to this collection and for his encouragement and guidance throughout the entire process. Without Mel’s support this project would never have been possible. Likewise, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Mary Mitchell-Ingoldsby (Music Lecturer, UCC) for her assistance with this project and indeed for her on-going co-operation and encouragement. I am also grateful to Dr. Aileen Dillane (University of Limerick) for her editorial support and guidance.
My own association with UCC goes back to the time when Dr Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin was a lecturer there. (Micheál was later to become the Founding Director and Professor of Music at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, where he remains to this day.) Mícheál invited me to give traditional fiddle workshops to students and I have been a fiddle tutor there since. I am honoured that Mícheál has taken an interest in my own compositional efforts and for his generosity and kindness in contributing to the Introduction. Sheila Randles, a young student in those early days, was referred to me by Micheál to attend my weekly fiddle classes. I have remained friends with Sheila since then and I am grateful to her for her generous contribution and kind words.
This project started off as an idea of mine to make my compositions as accessible as possible to traditional musicians. Once the project started to get off the ground, it took on a life of its own and I will be forever grateful and indebted to the many contributors and collaborators who assisted in making it a reality. From the beginning, I had the privilege of working with a younger generation of exceptional traditional musicians who are also extraordinarily talented in their respective fields of expertise. I would like to thank Seán Keegan for his patience and attention to detail as Sound Engineer. Seán’s wider understanding of multi-media platforms also proved crucial to the setting up of the website and his assistance in the editing of the music scores was invaluable. John Blake provided subtle yet highly effective accompaniment on piano, which enhanced the overall sound. Liam O’Connor’s writing of the Foreword shows him to be as accomplished a writer as he is a musician. I am grateful for his kind and generous contribution and for his patience throughout. Aoife Kelly, the designer of the website, is one of the most efficient people I have ever met and has diligently persevered on the various technical aspects of this project with understanding and creative skill.
It will be noticed that many tune titles refer to people and places from my own locality. Sometimes the local placename spelling varies slightly from the official version. Throughout this collection I have used names as they are listed in www.logainm.ie This website contains location maps and background information on placenames as they appear here.
A number of friends contributed to the completion of this project and to them I am very thankful: Seán Ó Muimhneacháin who kindly assisted with editing and correcting of tune descriptions and notes; Eibhlín de Paor who translated the tune descriptions and kindly provided the use of her house for the recording; and Colm and Kelly Gannon who provided on-going advice, support and encouragement throughout the whole process.
My family has always been very supportive of my musical endeavours and on this occasion I am indebted to my brother-in-law William Herlihy for the photographs of the area. These images inform the project by providing a visual context for many of the places mentioned in tune names. Thanks also to P.J. Corbett (photographer) from Askeaton, Co. Limerick for additional stills. My daughter Áine has contributed in a very special way to this project by being the first person to actually learn all of the compositions for the purpose of the recordings. I would like to particularly acknowledge the support of her husband Francis O’Connor in the entire process. Finally, I would like to especially thank my wife Annie for her continued patience, love and encouragement down through the years, and also to my sons Cathal and Colm, and my daughters in law Niamh and Leah for their continued support.
To all the musicians, singers, dancers and listeners who I met down through the years, this project is an appreciation of the time and music we shared.
Connie O’Connell, 2014