Though the Internet may someday fail books never go out of style

Books - the new Internet
It is no secret that I’m old school enough to wonder at times how long this Internet fad is going to last, and how long the world wide web is going to satisfy all our curiosity online and allow us to download music through our fingertips.

For me I still like taking up a book in my hand in a comfortable chair, or looking over a CD chock full of liner notes.  I dare say a number of you out there share that feeling. 

The year 2011 has been another wonderful one for Irish music recordings, and even more satisfying a year for books being published on Irish traditional music.  

For the most devout fans of the genre on your gift-giving list (yourselves included) here are some choice recommendations for fine winter reading and all year long reference on your bookshelves.

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Three years ago I attended the Doran Tionol in Spanish Point organized by a Clareman from Doolin, Oliver O’Connell, whose son Michael -- or Blackie as he is more commonly known -- is well known among the crop of very fine young pipers in Ireland.

It was then I first realized the enormous impact of the traveling community on Irish music and on pipers, in particular as much light was shed on Johnny and Felix Doran that weekend as two of the leading exemplars.  Also participating that weekend were Mickey Dunne, Finbar Furey and Paddy Keenan, travelers all and in the piping pantheon of Irish musicians.

O’Connell was a zealous fount of knowledge and passionate advocate for the pavee way of life and its role in Irish history and society, so he followed that up with a kindred spirit from Dundalk, Tommy Fegan, an academic interested in the music also.


The result three years later is the publication of Free Spirits: Irish Travellers and Irish Traditional Music.  The tome is 194 pages organized into 19 chapters giving the musical history on the traveling people in Ireland most notably through the families like the Cashes, Dorans, Dunnes, Fureys and Keenans, Dohertys and Raineys.   

Over 150 photographs adorn the beautiful soft-cover book that includes a chapter of tune transcriptions from the Dorans, Ted and Finbar Furey and Paddy Keenan.  (Book is available only from Ireland at present through www.johnnydoran.com for $33 plus postage).

At the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in Cavan, I purchased a copy of a book that was launched earlier in the summer at various summer schools in Ireland celebrating the life and musical contributions of Leitrim fiddler Ben Lennon, the brother of Charlie and father of Maurice Lennon from Stockton’s Wing. 

Back in March Lennon was given a Gradam Cheoil award by TG4 for his lifetime achievements in Irish music, so fittingly this new publication Ben Lennon: The Tailor’s Twist, which profiles the extraordinary life of the musician born in 1928 in the small village of Kiltyclogher would appear to make the case for the honor ex post facto. 

Twinning with the Gradam, the new book sheds light on one of the most revered men in Irish music welcomed at any concert, house party, session or fleadh through a collaborative effort by three Friends of Ben Lennon aided by a DEIS grant from Ireland’s Arts Council. 
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READ MORE:
More news on Irish arts from IrishCentral


Will Newt Gingrich be the next Irish Catholic president?


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It includes text by Irish music journalist Fintan Vallely and many exceptional photos mainly from the famed photographer Nutan Jacques Pirapez all nicely laid out and designed by Martin Gaffney.

The 160-page coffee-table book will enlighten and entertain at the same time and bring you closer to the way of life that inspired the life-long Leitrim musician.

It also includes tune settings for Lennon and a number of other photos collected and associated with his life.  (Available at www.fobl.ie website for $48).

On the May Bank Holiday weekend in Carna, in the Conamara Gaelthacht the  Feile Joe Einniu (Joe Heaney Festival) is celebrated in honor of the Carna native so instrumental in bringing wider attention to sean nos (old style) of singing mostly in Irish. 

Last May marked the 25th anniversary of the festival and an auspicious time to introduce a new biography, Bright Star of the West: Joe Heaney, the Irish Song Man, written by Sean Williams and Lillis O’Laoire. 

Heaney’s life spanned 65 years from Galway to London to Scotland to the U.S. Along the way the tension that was unleashed by Irish emigrants forced from their native shores and culture as they sought to maintain their identity and heritage on distant shores would be a story worth exploring in Heaney’s life and travels. 

Heaney lived for a time in Brooklyn (where I first heard him sing “The Rocks of Bawn” at the end of Bar in Bay Ridge) while holding down a job as a doorman on Central Park West. 

His value as one of Ireland’s foremost unaccompanied singers in Irish was rising among folklorists in the U.S. and eventually Ireland as the language movement grew.  His last years were spent in academia out in Washington State where he worked with Sean Williams, one of the co-authors. 

O’Laoire is one of Ireland’s foremost sean nos and Irish language song enthusiasts and singers who was taken with the Heaney legacy as well.  Dense reading at times but highly informative on the man and his times. (264 pages available from Oxford University Press or Amazon.com).

The intersection of the artistry of Irish musicians and the photographers who capture images of them in musical and personal settings is a very welcome one and, thankfully, it has been invaluable in documenting the world of Irish music. 

There have been some wonderful collections over the years, and at the Ennis Trad Festival a few weeks ago another book entered the scene with the launch of Traditional Notes: A Celebration of Irish Music and Musicians by photographer Stephen Power.

With almost 30 years as a professional photographer, Power had developed a knowing affinity for his musical subjects and a knack for capturing their essence on and off stage.

The new publication organizes his mix of color photos and his own text around various instruments showing some of their most famous exponents and in some cases, makers and singers are also illustrated in the book. 

Power’s prose is more to provide context and anecdotes about many of his favorite artists chosen for this book. Among the musicians featured are Martin Hayes, Mary Bergin, Dennis Cahill, Alec Finn, Noel Hill, Joe Burke, Frankie Gavin, Noel Hill, Kevin Crawford, Iarla O’Lionaird, Karan Casey, John Spillane, Donal Lunny, Paul Brady and Micheal O’Suilleabhain and instrument makers Malachy Kearns, Michael Vignoles and Paddy Clancy. (Available via www.liffeypress.com for $27 plus postage.)

Next week I’ll have a few more suggestions for the fireside music readers that, like the suggestions above, will widen their appreciation and understanding of the music they follow so fervently.  Books at Christmas time are an old-fashioned custom that I would like to keep in style.
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READ MORE:
More news on Irish arts from IrishCentral


Will Newt Gingrich be the next Irish Catholic president?


Irish gangsters put a price of $27,000 on the head of Sunday World journalist, police and witness

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