Traditional Irish Music
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dick Hogan recently to discuss his major new recording called The Hogan Collection. It has taken 6 years to complete and is a new collection of 200 traditional songs. They are largely unknown but "reflect the true Irish tradition like no other" he says. We sit down and talk as I flick through the 20 Cd's that it takes to house such a vast collection of songs. The collection is indeed rare and the majority of the songs would be unknown to me at least. So where did they all come from we ask? Dick explains "I have been singing all my life, since I was a child. The idea was to record everything from my childhood days up to the present time. People had been complimenting me over the years on the unusual songs that I sing. They had never heard them before and felt that if I didn't record them they would be lost. People were saying this to me for a long time and finally about 6 years ago the penny dropped. I realised I needed to do something about it and so the project began"
Over 40 of the songs are accompanied and feature Eileen O' Brien on piano as well Peter Eades and Noreen O'Donoghue. The logistics of getting such a vast collection down on record produced its own challenges with the purchase of some decent recording equipment being the first objective. This was done for a number of reasons. Yes it was cheaper than hiring a studio but more importantly it meant that Dick could sing when the circumstances were right. "If you book a studio to record unaccompanied singing you need to be in good form both mentally and physically," he explains. "The day you have the studio booked is the day you may not feel like singing at all. So I said to myself the only way this is ever going to get finished is by purchasing a good microphone and some good recording equipment, computer etc. It was a very big learning curve and I sought assistance and advice from sound engineers to get me started. Once I had truly mastered this I then started the recording process."
The collection is being released as a 20 CD Box Set that includes all 200 songs. Also included is a book with all the lyrics. To make the collection more accessible he then splits the collection into 25 individual Cd's grouped around themes. You therefore get albums such as "Rare Songs," "Songs Our Parents Loved," "Songs of Percy French," "Nationalistic Songs and Ballads," "Songs of Clare," "Humorous, Suggestive and Fantastical Songs" etc. Each of these albums comprise about 15-20 songs. Individual songs may appear in two categories so you could have a song that appears on the "Rare Songs" and "Nationalistic" albums. There will however be no duplication within a category. If this sounds confusing simply check the website www.tradirishsongs.com where it is all detailed.
The idea he says is that "people may like certain types of songs and thus they can buy them as a standalone album". Dick wants to demonstrate to the public at large the extent of the traditional repertoire, showing that it is "far broader than the public realise". He feels that "there is a very narrow view of what traditional singing is because of what you see on television." The collection does not include what you might typically consider traditional songs such as The Wild Rover or The Town I Love So Well. The majority of names are most definitely unfamiliar. Dick points out that the collection features "the great epic ballad of 1798, Sliabh Na mBan, regarded by many to be the greatest Sean-nos song ever written. Muldoon the Solid Man, regarded as the definitive version with an extra verse that was never recorded before. The Red Hats of Ireland, a massive song that has never ever been recorded before, and finally Amhran na bPratai Dubha which has incredibly, never been recorded in its entirety on LP or Disk even though it was written in 1850. The importance of this song cannot be underestimated as it is the ultimate and only "Real" Famine song.
To demonstrate the scope of the material Dick flicks through the book and picks a few songs at random. Nell Flahertys Drake pops up. He sings me a verse and explains some of its background. The next track he picks is called Market Day and it goes back to the 1920's, Another example is The Night The Goat Broke Loose which is from the 1930's. Dick says that "there is very little of this collection that would encroach much beyond the 1940's or 1950's. You might have one or two songs that comes up into the 70's but that's about it".
This collection really shows that there is a very rich and deeply rewarding repertoire of material that I would have previously been unaware of. Our tradition runs much deeper and The Hogan Collection is a magnificent snapshot of simply hundreds of songs that could have disappeared off the traditional song map. Dick's immense back catalogue, memory, and most of all passion for the tradition is awe inspiring. It comes across in the manner in which he lives, talks and sings the songs of his parents and even further back into our history. The Hogan Collection stands alone as one of the best reference guides to traditional singing and it will introduce a whole new generation to songs that will once again live, breath and no doubt emerge in session life. It is an incredible achievement that has taken many years of painstaking work to bring to fruition. As a nation we owe a debt of gratitude to Dick Hogan. His collection could and should become the nation’s reference guide to the best in authentic traditional song as handed down through the generations.
To Purchase the collection or individual CD's visit : www.tradirishsongs.com
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