Tonight - Play Michael Coleman's Fiddle at The Cobblestone Bar, Dublin, Feb 26th

Michael Coleman's fiddle will be in The Cobblestone Bar next Tuesday Feb 26th and will be available to play with care on the night. "Coleman's records were to have a major impact on musicians back in Ireland, and were to exercise an influence on traditional music which was to long outlast his own lifetime. He was certainly the most influential traditional musician of the twentieth century, his legacy extending far beyond his native South Sligo and indeed the country as a whole. Although he has had many imitators, Coleman's combination of superb technical ability and deeply expressive playing has had few, if any equals. On the 4th January 1945 Michael died in Knickerbocker Hospital, Manhattan aged 54 years. He was buried in St. Raymond's Cemetry, The Bronx, New York."

"The fiddle used by Michael Coleman to record some of his most famous sets including the Tarbolton, Longford Collector and Sailor's Bonnet is finding a new life in a type of ambassadorial role. The fiddle was purchased from a hock shop on 42nd Street 3rd Avenue New York around 1933 by Coleman and his friend Richard 'Dick' Cosgrove. Cosgrove, who was from Cork, heard of Michael Coleman only after emigrating to America himself where he heard his early records. Thinking that Coleman was likely to be 'a big shot', he was surprised to learn he lived just two blocks from him. They met one evening on the street and Coleman brought him up to his apartment where he proceeded to play numerous reels including Bonnie Kate, Trim the Velvet and Drowsy Maggie.

Coleman played a number of fiddles over the years including fiddles belonging to Hughie Gillespie, Stanley Parker and Lad O'Beirne but during the depression he went with Cosgrove to buy a fiddle between them. Five or six were produced by the store owner and Coleman chose one that at the time had only one string and was in need of a little work.  Following Coleman's death the fiddle ended up in the possession of one of his students, Hughie Gillespie who brought it home from America to Donegal. In the meantime Cosgrove married an aunt of Fr Pat Ahern from Moyvane in North Kerry who had also emigrated. Ahern was well known in Ireland in the late 1960s and early 1970s for initiatives that included the first Fleadh Nua and the first tour by a group representing Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann to tour to North America. He had also founded Siamsóirí na Ríochta which would become Siamsa Tíre, who themselves would perform on Broadway in 1976.  When Cosgrove became aware of Ahern's plans for the development of Irish traditional arts, he suggested that the fiddle should be part of what was happening and so, when home from America, he went with Ahern, Antóinn MacGabhann and Bill Collins to Gillespie's home in Donegal where the latter reluctantly parted with this prized instrument.

Himself a fine fiddle player, Ahern has played the instrument at various events since the 1970s but has maintained that it should not be in the possession of one person nor end up as a museum piece behind a glass wall. For this reason he entrusted the fiddle into the care of Tradconnect member Daithí Kearney at Dundalk Institute of Technology. For the first semester the fiddle became a very tangible part of teaching and learning activities in Irish traditional music at the college and was the focus of the first DkIT TradWeek in November 2012.  The fiddle has been played during the semester by students and staff at the Institute and guest tutors including John Carty and Jesse Smith, who themselves have a keen interest in the music of the Sligo-American tradition. It has also featured in sessions in Dundalk, including a memorable session with Alphie Ó Maolagáin playing Felix Doran's set of uilleann pipes." Source Cobblestone Bar


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