2011’s books on Traditional Irish Music

I am not sure what made 2011 such a prolific and significant year for books being published on Irish traditional music, but there have been several more that I thought were worthy of recommending to those with a serious bent on the music.

At this time of year they do make wonderful gifts for those on your list. While they appear expensive and not likely to be found discounted at Amazon.com, they will be appreciated for many years to come and provide valuable and authoritative insights into Irish music.

It has been 12 years since Armagh native and musician/journalist Fintan Vallely published his first Companion to Irish Tradition Music in 1999 which in 478 pages attempted to provide a comprehensive guide to traditional Irish music and musicians. 
It was an ambitious and successful effort, but there were some criticism that it wasn’t comprehensive enough and there was demand over the years for a revised edition.  

Vallely undertook the challenge and engaged a number of contributors to provide new and more detailed information for a second edition which he laboriously edited and published in November with the help of Cork University Press.

The new Companion will be 880 pages, and according to the publisher, “is the ultimate reference for all players, devotees and students of Irish traditional music. It is an indispensable reference guide to Ireland’s universally recognized traditional music, song and dance. 

“This comprehensive resource -- now revised and greatly expanded -- is the largest single collection of such diverse, essential data.” 

It will feature an easy to use A-Z guide to its collection of 1,750 articles by over 200 contributors known for their knowledge and contributions in the field of Irish music.

The book retails for around $80 plus shipping and can be ordered from Cork University Press. OssianUSA has ordered copies as well.  Check out www.companion.ie or www.corkuniversitypress.com.

The Irish Traditional Music Archive on Merrion Square in Dublin is not only is a marvelous repository for traditional Irish music, but also is an active proponent of advancing the study of Irish traditional music through the publications it releases.  

Earlier this year, they published a book on one of Northern Ireland’s great singers, Eddie Butcher from Magilligan, Co. Derry called All the Days of His Life: Eddie Butcher in His Own Words that also has a companion triple CD package including 67 songs for the transcripts in the main book.  

The research was conducted by singer and song-collector Hugh Shields and his wife Lisa and published posthumously three years after Shields himself passed away.  It has 216 fascinating pages for the lover of Irish song, especially with a Northern context exploring the life of a rural singer and the folk collector who befriended him. It’s $48 plus shipping.

Also released in 2011 was a re-mastered CD containing the concertina music of William Mullaly, who was born in 1884 near Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. Mullaly emigrated to the U.S. in 1910, and in 1926 he would record the earliest known records of concertina music in America and Ireland for Columbia Records on 10 tracks including the “Westmeath Hunt” for which this collection is named. 
The CD comes with an informative 60-page booklet with research from the respected Irish trad scholars Harry Bradshaw (who re-mastered the music from the early recordings), Nicholas Carolan (director of the ITMA) and recording historian Jackie Small.  

These last two items can be ordered through the www.itma.ie, but if you are looking to get them before Christmas you will need to hurry or else you may be grateful for the extended 12 Days of Christmas approach to gift giving.

By giving these gifts of knowledge and supporting these fine researchers and publishers, you will be advancing and supporting the study of Irish traditional music for future generations.  

These are wonderful times for scholarship and perfecting the tools that aid the gathering of information that inform us of the past as we look to the future.

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