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Mayo Musicians and Music


One of the most tangible expressions of the culture of any people is through the medium of music. Musical expression can have many forms, traditional, classical, jazz, popular etc.

In an Irish context the most unique form of musical expression is traditional music. Ireland has one of the richest musical traditions as is evidenced by its huge rise in popularity in recent years, not just in Ireland but worldwide. Within Ireland itself various regional styles and traditions can be identified. One hears much of the Donegal, Sligo, Clare and Kerry (particularly Sliabh Luachra) traditions.

This does not mean that there is a dearth of traditional music in other counties, rather that they receive somewhat less publicity. The musical tradition has survived in Mayo since the harpists in the 18th century and is now in a very healthy state with a large number of talented young musicians. This happy situation would not have been possible however without the dedication of those musicians who kept the tradition alive in more difficult times when Irish traditional did not enjoy the widespread popularity it does today.

The samples of music from Mayo musicians presented here include excerpts from a series of recordings made by Joe Byrne, Aghamore, of singers and musicians from East Mayo and also three excerpts from commercial recordings from some of the most renowned performers in the traditional music field today.

To listen to any of the audio samples you may choose either the mp3 or Real Media version. If you have "Real Player" or "Real One Player" installed on your computer you may play either version. Windows Media Player, which comes as part of the Windows operating system will play mp3 but not Real Media. To download a free version of "Real One Player" click here.

Joe Byrne

Joe Byrne from Aghamore is one of the best known figures on the traditional music scene in Mayo, both as a musician and a broadcaster. A notable flute player he has graced traditional sessions for many years and more recently, has become one of the most distinctive voices on Mid-West Radio through his traditional music programme broadcast on Saturday nights. His knowledge and love of all aspects of Irish culture - music, language and literature - shine through his presentations and his facility to switch effortlessly between Irish and English would make Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh envious. A teacher by profession, he is very much involved in the local community particularly through his work on the historical magazine Glor Achadh Mor, with the Kenny/Naughton school which commemorates the literary works of Bill Naughtona and P.D. Kenny and the collecting of songs and music from the East Mayo area. Some of the material collected has been issued in a series of cassettes and booklets. Examples are included here featuring Joe himself, John and Kevin McHugh and John Kelly.

Click here to listen. 

This piece of music is taken from the album "Fíf agus Fideog", catalogue number Dreoilín 0011, and appears here courtesy of Joe Byrne, Dreoilín.

John Kelly

John Kelly is from Bekan, between Claremorris and Ballyhaunis and his singing was influenced by his father and uncle. When he was growing up, the Bekan area was noted for music and song. He has passed on the singing gift to his own family, one of whom, Anne Kelly-Skelton is a particularly fine exponent of unaccompanied singing. The ballad from which this excerpt is taken was written in honour of P.W. Nally, (1856-1891) from Balla. Nally was a prominent member of the Fenians, the I.R.B. and an activist in the Land League. The Nally Stand in Croke Park is named after him.

The ballad of P.W. Nally 
Windows Media Player

'The ballad of P.W. Nally is taken from the album "Songs of past and present 1", catalogue number Dreoilin 003 and appears here courtesy of Joe Byrne, Dreoilin .

Emer Mayock

Emer Mayock, the youngest of a family of five who are all musicians, is a native of Ross, Castlebar. She learned to play tin whistle at an early age and has since graduated to the flute, (her main instrument), fiddle and uilleann pipes. Her first album, "Merry Bits of Timber" was released in 1996 and her second, "Playground" in 2001 on her own label, Is Mise. In addition to traditional tunes, this album contains thirteen of her own compositions. She has also composed music for theatre shows and documentaries. Since 1999 she has played flute and uilleann pipes with the Afro Celt Sound System. She played on their Grammy-nominated album, "Volume 3" and has toured worldwide with the band.

The fickle lad  
Windows Media Player

'The fickle lad' is taken from the album "Playground" by Emer Mayock, catalogue number Is Mise 001, and appears here courtesy of Is Mise.

David Munnelly

David Munnelly is known in music circles as "The Bullet from Belmullet" (Mark 2, Willie Joe Padden is the original!), a comment on the drive and enthusiasm he brings to his music. He is one of Ireland's finest exponents of the accordion and has played with many of the top groups in the traditional music field including De Danann and The Chieftains. As his "title"suggests, he is a native of Belmullet and his early musical development was very much influenced by his grandparents. He also cites The Flanagan Brothers as a major influence. He released his first solo album "Swing" in 2001 and it contains a mixture of traditional tunes and some of his own compositions.. He has toured extensively with his band which includes his younger brother Kieran on flute and bodhrán, Daire Bracken on fiddle, Gavin Ralston on guitar and singer Andrew Murray. He plays regularly in Matt Molloy's pub in Westport where the patrons are treated to his special brand of high-octane music - no unleaded allowed!

Jock Cawley's jigs 
Windows Media Player

'Jock Cawley's' jigs is taken from the album "Swing" by David Munnelly, catalogue number DLCD002, and appears here courtesy of Hummingbird Records.

John & Kevin McHugh 

Kevin McHugh and his son John are natives of Foxford. Kevin inherited his music from his father and uncles and his mother and started playing at house dances from the age of fourteen. He played with numerous bands including the Foxford Ceili Band in the 1960s. With such a pedigree, John McHugh could hardly escape being a musician. He began with the banjo and subsequently took up the fiddle and has become well-known nationally as a player and teacher. He possesses such a remarkable repertoire of tunes that he rarely, if ever, has to sit idle at a traditional session. He too, like David Munnelly, is a regular performer in Matt Molloy's pub in Westport. He is a member of the group Ceide with Brian Lennon, Declan Askin and fellow Foxford natives Tom and Kevin Doherty, The group has one album "Like a Wild Thing" to its credit to date.

Adam & Eve jigs 
Windows Media Player

'Adam & Eve jigs' is taken from the album "Fidiléirí, catalogue number Dreoilín 005, and appears here courtesy of Joe Byrne, Dreoilín.

Sean Smyth

Sean Smyth was born in Straide near Foxford, birthplace of Michael Davitt. He comes from a very musical family, sisters Cora and Breda being also highly accomplished musicians. He was an All-Ireland champion on both whistle and fiddle. His first solo album, "The Blue Fiddle" was released to critical acclaim in 1993 and was named one of the ten best albums of the year by the Irish Echo. He is a founder member of the group Lunasa which includes Kevin Crawford on flute, Trevor Hutchinson on bass, Donagh Hennessy on guitar and Cillian Vallely on pipes. The group released its first album "Lunasa" in 1997, which was followed by "Otherworld" in 1999 and "The Merry Sisters of Fate" in 2001.

McKillops   
Windows Media Player

'Jim McKillop's Reel' is taken from the album "The Blue Fiddle" by Sean Smyth, catalogue number LUNCD060, and appears here courtesy of Mulligan Records.

Stephen Garvey

Representing quite a different musical genre, that of dance-band music, Stephen Garvey (1902 - 62), born in Castle Street, Castlebar, achieved prominence in the 1920s and 1930s with his own orchestra. He was particularly popular during the big band era of the 30s. One of his main claims to fame was that he led the first dance orchestra on Radio Eireann. Other popular Mayo dance bands were the bands of Tony Chambers, Brose Walsh and Jack Ruane.

The following clip is taken from "Back to Castlebar : a tribute to the late Stephen Garvey, and appears here courtesy of the Mayo Film & Video Club. Click on the relevant file below to download the video clip.

Back to Castlebar
Windows Media Player

Back to Castlebar
QuickTime Player

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