With Audio: Hear Jack Coen talk about his musical life

Reverence for the ceoltóir dúchais--the source musician--is one of the reasons Ireland's ancient musical tradition is unbroken, despite the most fervent attempts at extermination. Jack Coen tells it straight.


He's a retired hurler, more famous for the holiness of his music, and the importance of his place in the reflowering of Irish American art in New York.

He is a flute player and leabharlann Gaelach of Irish music's treasured melody, often in settings with turns and thought patterns of great interest to excellent listeners and the scores of master musicians who claim Jack as their source.

His style of playing the music, began as the lilting of a three year old boy lán faoi cheoil--full with music, until he got his instruments.

Having defied doctors who told him he would never walk again, Jack Coen has comeback walking from two strokes, but he has lost the power of his flute. He plays whistle still, and he has the melodies. Talking to him shows how it must be the music that has kept him so sharp despite so much. He is invaluable, and sharp of mind, moreso maybe than people who go into old age without the training of musicianship. I couldn't do justice except to let him tell it himself.

The pictures were taken yesterday at his home in The Bronx with Mrs. Coen from Knock, County Mayo. Below you can listen in on our conversation about Irish music and the cultural history all Irish share, and Jack Coen's legacy in two segments below. Beneath the recordings are highlight summaries of the conversation as it progresses to help navigate through the material. It takes a few minutes for us to get going, but in the time we spent, there are great laughs and revelatory moments of precious information and philosophy. Well worth a listen or a visit yourself.

To hear Jack Coen's music, buy from the source the CD he and his son put out called Jack and Jimmy Coen, Traditional Irish Music on Flute and Guitar.

Jack Coen The Keane Edge Interview -- Eanáir 28, 2010 -- cuid #1 [download]

Jack Coen The Keane Edge Interview -- Eanáir 28, 2010 -- cuid #2 [download]

Mainpoints, Jack Coen Interview, part 1
Talk of East Galway while looking at a map. Accordionist Joe Madden, Fiddler B.Stanley, Stanley family, Flute player, Fiddle maker, Dick Stanley, Concertina, Ballinakill Céilí Band, Fiddler Tommy White, Fiddler Gerry Moloney, Piano Anna Rafferty, Flute players Steven Moloney, Flute Tommy Whelan, starting on tin whistle, learning to sing first, playing one octave, Fife and Drum Band, lilting, father playing concertina at night, 9 brothers and sisters, Father Charlie Coen, Paddy Coen England, 2 priests, Father Michael Coen, policeman youngest, Fiddler Anthony Tony Coen in Lurragh, Loch Dearg, Paddy O'Brien Neenah, working like hell before I left, grain mill, Drumnamuclan, 10 shillings for bread, concertina tuning all off, country house dances, discovering other octave, My father's father visits to him on a Sunday, lilting tunes for two black pennies, instruments in terrible condition and expensive, being in clover, World War II, end of concertina production, took in stride, everybody knew the tunes even though they couldn't play, lilting wrong, corrected immediately, Lawrence Egan lilting and singing all day long, playing with groups in Ireland, music very unpopular, no one learning, my father's generation everyone was trying the concertina, foxtrot, old jig, reel, and hornpipe, bartending, City Center, didn't want to be associated with it, bad attitude about it, laugh at you, very particular where you did play it, didn't want anyone making little of it, diddley music, 1949 emigrated, poverty, make your own entertainment, céilí music danced in the homes, sets, old time waltz, Sunday dances, class distinction, poor man's music, being a little smart, than everybody else, on the radio in Ireland, modern music they used to call it, Leo Rowesome Quartet, Irish and Irish Americans attitudes towards, I used to love to dance, follow the girls wherever they went, parochial hall, priests managing, priests didn't like house dances, didn't trust the people, being under 18, the snake dance, no more dances in private, charging at house, 2 shillings, half a crown, day you were leaving, cab to Cork, Cobh, small boat to big boat, leaving Ireland and docking at Manhattan

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