When I was in Dublin last month for the TradFest Temple Bar, a much-appreciated invitation simultaneously arrived to come to the Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar to view a new film about the late Chicago musician, Dennis Cahill, who passed away in June after a long illness.
Produced and directed by the multi-talented Donal O’Connor for ANIAR TV, the title "Dennis Cahill - Litir ó do Chara" is taken from a poignantly personal letter written by Martin Hayes shared in cyberspace after his musical partner of 35 years left us all in sadness.
The video production opens with Hayes touchingly bringing his words in his postmortem missive to life detailing the very close but unspoken affinity the kindred spirits shared over the many days, miles, and creative collaboration all around the world. It spoke volumes about their friendship and the well-matched quiet nature they exuded as two of the most well-known and appreciated artists in Irish traditional music for over three decades.
It was my good fortune to have followed the tandem closely over the length and breadth of that time in the spotlight even as they added on other sympathetic collaborators in the mega-group the Gloaming and the Martin Hayes Quartet which were featured on these pages as they evolved.
But it was our opportunities to work with Tulla Ceili Band of which Martin’s father P. Joe Hayes was a founding member and longtime leader as de facto roadies that Dennis and I bonded to on the road sharing laughs, politics, and American sports along with joyous camaraderie with the Tulla people. It was also a vivid observation to see how close he was with Peggy and P. Joe Hayes as an adopted son as comfortable in their home in East Clare and on the road with the band.
Cahill’s quiet unassuming persona was easy to like and is very well developed in the new biography which paints a thoughtful picture of the innovative guitarist who often appeared in the shadow of the six-time All-Ireland champion deemed to be at the heart of the traditional music world.
Featuring a number of interviews with many fellow musicians in his hometown of Chicago and around Ireland, we got a fuller picture of the artist who never had to tout his own horn, garnering respect for the masterful side-by-side performance reading the creative mind and emotive playing of the wildly exuberant Hayes as he shifted gears on the fiddle.
The biographical film will fill in the broader sense of who Cahill the man is and also his life off the road and at home with his wife Mary Joyce, a New Yorker.
"Dennis Cahill - Litir ó do Chara" will be broadcast on TG4 this Sunday, March 5 at 4:30 pm EST on TG4.ie and will also be viewable on its player for several weeks afterward. It will be a most revealing 52 minutes well spent.
*This column first appeared in the March 1 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.