Traditional Irish Music
Award winning concertina player and innovator, Cormac Begley, has just released his debut solo album to critical acclaim. This is also the first solo concertina album in traditional Irish music to feature bass, baritone, treble and piccolo concertinas. Siobhain Long in her Irish Times review described the album as “a deliciously earthy collection, with Begley’s home place of west Kerry grounding him as he embarks on a picaresque adventure in the company of his four concertinas.” Legendary concertina player Noel Hill recently said that Cormac "has created a new, energetic and exciting style of music on the concertina. He injects his body and heart into his music in a way that enables us to experience it at a very deep level. This is the music of passion and optimism, a music that reverberates with the soul of an ancient place, with its geography, its history and its emotion." All of that and more is on display on this debut.
Cormac is from a well-known west Kerry musical family, and founder of the award winning ‘Tunes in the Church’ live concert series in Galway. In 2014, he was awarded the prestigious Sean O Riada Award for concertina playing. The Irish Times described his playing as ‘a masterclass in timeless musicianship’. To date, he has featured on two acclaimed recordings – the first with fellow concertina player, Jack Talty (‘Na Fir Bolg’) and the second, featuring his sister, Clíodhna (viola) and Páraic Mac Donnchadha (banjo) - ‘Tunes in the Church’.
For this recording he received funding from the Arts Council of Ireland, and speaking about his approach to recording the album, he says: ‘All of the pieces of music that feature on this album instantly struck a chord with me the first time I heard them. My approach here has been simply to connect as honestly as possible with them and to produce a solo concertina album that highlight some of the instrument’s possibilities spanning across seven octaves’.
This is the opening track from the album called ‘The Yellow Tinker/ Ríl Mhór Bhaile an Chalaidh’.
Regarding the above track Cormac says: “I was drawn to ‘The Yellow Tinker’ after hearing a house recording of Paddy Canny (1919-2008) from Feakle, Co. Clare. ‘Ríl Mhór Bhaile an Chalaidh’ was part-composed by Sean Ó Riada (1931-1971) and features on the album, O Riada sa Ghaeity, published by Gael Linn in 1970. Peadar Ó Riada explained that Seán had learned the first part from Nell Kane from Clochar, near Ballyferriter, west-Kerry and when she couldn’t remember the second part, he wrote one to fit.”
Each track is one take, recorded in St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, Galway, featuring one concertina and are all free from studio manipulation. ‘I have sourced previously unrecorded music, other tunes within the tradition and I have written some music that features on the album.’
The album also comes in a limited edition form that has been receiving high praise online! It is hexagonally shaped and designed to emulate the bellows of concertina. As you open the album you see the layers of the instrument and the mechanics of this complex instrument. This is detailed on the following launch video from The Cobblestone Pub in Dublin.
Cormac explains that “creating the limited edition was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process” and he is “delighted that everyone involved, from the photography, recording, mixing and mastering to album artwork, were concertina players!”
In addition to his solo work on this album Cormac also plays in a number of other duets including Liam Ó Maonlaí (Hothouse Flowers), Caoimhín O Raghallaigh (Hardanger D’Amore), Rushad Eggleston (Cello Goblin) and Libby McCrohan (bouzouki). He is a member of a trio (entitled ‘Concertina’) with Noel Hill and Jack Talty, and plays in the band Ré featuring Liam Ó Maonlaí, Maitiú Ó Casaide, Eithne Ní Chatháin (Inni-K) and Peter O Toole (Hothouse Flowers) and was also involved in the dance production by choreographer, Michael Keegan Dolan, entitled ‘Rian’.
This is his first solo recording and he will have a final launch before the summer on May 1st in St. James Church, Dingle (Féile na Bealtaine). Check his website and Facebook page for details.
The album is also available as a free download for broadcasters that are part of our Download Centre.
Photography: Sarah Flynn, Cillian Ó Mongain and Cormac Begley
Recording, Mixing and Mastering: Jack Talty
Album Artwork: Cillian Ó Mongáín
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