Traditional Irish Music
Twenty years ago, I began recording as much of my repertoire as I could remember. Since I never learned to read music, I have to remember all the tunes. It helps to think about the person I learned from, or something about the circumstances surrounding my first experience of a tune.
A year ago, I received a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to record the tunes, and to work with 25 local apprentices, teaching them some rare and unusual tunes from my repertoire that they can pass along to other players. We had a concert on October 4 to celebrate all that we've accomplished over the past year.
The concert was also a launch party for the digital release of Volumes One and Two of the Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection, which contain the first 1,000 recorded pieces—including jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, and slip jigs, originally released on CD. Now, for the very first time, these 1,000 tunes are now available for download, either singly or by album. Learners can also purchase printed books or downloadable texts containing background information on each tune.
The Kickstarter campaign, which began October 1 and runs through November 30, 2013, will help cover costs for digitizing and CD production on Volume Three. Backers have the opportunity to become a part of Irish music history by supporting this unprecedented project. All investors' names will appear in the booklet for Volume Three; many of the other pledge rewards include Volume Three or other CDs, copies of my memoir, THE ROAD FROM CASTLEBARNAGH, about growing up in Irish music, and a very fine tee shirt!
You can find out more about the Tune Collection and the Kickstarter project here:
Background on the Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection
The Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection is an unprecedented and unique project in the world of Irish traditional music, as the ONLY recorded collection from the repertoire of a single musician. Not since Captain Francis O’Neill of the Chicago Police Department compiled The Music of Ireland in 1903 has a collection of this size and scope been made available to Irish music learners and to the general public. But whereas O’Neill’s collection was written music, O’Brien’s goal in recording these tunes has been to help players who learn in the traditional way, as he has, completely by ear.
As staggering as the first 500 tunes seemed at the time, Volume One of the Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection, released in 1995—containing 400 reels and 100 jigs—only scratched the surface. Volume Two, released in 2011, contained another 500 tunes (150 double jigs, 120 hornpipes, 100 polkas, 100 reels, and 30 slip jigs).
In 2013, O’Brien received a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to undertake recording ANOTHER 500 tunes from his repertoire, and to teach selections from the Tune Collection to two groups of apprentices. Recordings for the Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection, Volume Three are in progress, and will include unusual jigs and reels, and certain types of tunes O’Brien has yet to document: clan marches, slides, set dances, and harp tunes, among others.
In addition to his remarkable memory, Paddy O’Brien’s special gift is also that of a great ear, not only for variations and interpretation, but for techniques and even notes peculiar to certain regional styles, instruments, and players. His store of lesser-known regional versions of tunes includes three settings of “The Moving Cloud,” four of “Drowsy Maggie,” and three of “The Wild Irishman,” for example. Keeping the learner in mind, the written material also includes historical information, suggested keys, information on technique, and how tunes are arranged into selections. These things are as much a part of the tradition as the tunes themselves, and give the learner a depth of knowledge about Irish music and culture not available from commercial recordings.
Much of O’Brien’s own work as an artist is about finding and bringing greater recognition to some older (and perhaps somewhat obscure) but wonderful traditional tunes. With the Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection, he is helping to pass along the contributions of that older generation of musicians who were his teachers and mentors.
For more information about the Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection, visit: www.paddyobrien.net
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
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