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michael sam wild

Irish Music and Emigration

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After watching the Tommy McCarthy programme on TG4 I was reminded of the 'cultural cauldron' that occurred when lots of young men and women from various part of Ireland , and othe regions and countries, came together in pubs and clubs in London and other big towns in England in the post war years. As they settled down they formed communities which held on to traditions that were being threatened back home. Paddy Glackin said that a young fiddler was uncommon in his home town in the 60s. Reg hall and Martin Hayes pointed out the tolerant and exciting fusions that were taking place. This was before The chieftains and The Bothy Band etc had led to a new enthusiasm, and London was a receptive city for the new wave of folkies and the immigrant community to mix and rub shoulders..

 

The same thing happened in the 1920s around the world and the 78s from the States had a major impact back in Ireland .

 

 

Will the current wave of emigration from Ireland which is taking place have the same impact ?

 

What is the likely impact in Ireland as young people move for work? Who will occupy all those empty properties until people come home to retire?

Edited by michael sam wild

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Very interesting Michael. I suspect that history will repeat itself and another wave of quality Irish traditional musicians will reside in England or further a field where their music will be appreciated and they will earn a living too. I still feel Ireland does not appreciate its musical heritage sufficiently and that this problem is compounded by media interests and the continued rise of pop culture in all its vulgar forms. I grew up in England to Irish parents – consider myself to be Irish – and moved back to Ireland aged 18. It was a very good move in terms of meeting top quality musicians. I hope many of them (and younger workers who may be at a crossroads in life) stay in Ireland during this recession; however I think much of the talent will leave as our statistics are already demonstrating. I never thought I’d witness the pain that my grandparents suffered when my parents left Mayo and Cork to make a living in London. I have spoken with people who are considering leaving and to parents of young people who have left and they are broken.

 

So, many are leaving. In my experience, a lot of Irish trad musicians are attracted to teaching as a career given that they enjoy long summer holidays with opportunities to play music and attend festivals. It's a good balance. As the public sector in Ireland is further squeezed perhaps more of these musician-teachers will seek work abroad. Newly qualified teachers have been told that the schools that employ them during their mandatory practical training period need only pay them the dole. This is viewed by many as very insulting given the qualifications held. I wouldn't blame a young graduate for taking offence at this and seeking employment elsewhere.

 

There are positives though - One significant difference this time around is the internet where music is much more easliy shared and enjoyed. I hope that this will lessen the blow for musicians who find that they must emigrate to earn a living. I also think that musical communities in Ireland have very successfully differentiated their regional styles and that appreciation of same is much more sophisticated than a generation ago given the wealth of recordings. As such, a depletion of musicians in an area may wound the local music but I feel it is unlikely to quench it.

 

One final point that I would like to make – it may be slightly off the topic but I think its worth considering the effect that migration could have on English music (perhaps a case of the red and grey squirrels). I left England with very little regard for English folk music (I am ashamed to say). I remember meeting John Spiers in a music shop in Oxford as I made my way to Witney some 10 years ago. He was a very amiable and helpful fellow but I wasn’t impressed with the music he played. I simply didn’t understand it. Perhaps it was snobbery or my upbringing. 10 years later, I do understand it. I love and revere it and he (among others) has become a musical icon for me. And English Folk music is very obviously on the rise. I hope it continues to grow in popularity and that potential audiences/enthusiasts for English music do not turn their backs on this indigenous music as England (potentially) hosts a new revival of Irish music due to economic migrants.

 

 

Ciaran O’Grady, Kildare

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thanks Ciaran , that's an interesting perspective. My family settled here and few ever got a chance to go back, even for holidays.

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I never thought when I responded to Michael Sam Wild in December 2010 that the emigrants that we spoke of would include myself. I suppose I thought that Ireland would be back on its feet by now. Emigrating always seemed to be something that other people had to do. Well, now its us. My wife and I and our 2 boys are moving to Melbourne, Australia in mid July. We'll be taking our instruments and maybe even a CD that we're finishing up. Looking forward to the opportunities ahead.

 

Ciaran O'Grady, Kildare (for now)

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When I visited Melbourne in 2006 I found a great group of concertina players there. I expect some of them will chime in here. Good luck.

 

Ken

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Both my parents had left Ireland for England before the war, in the search for work, as usual. After the war, England lost its attractions, and they thought to go to America, to Rhode Island (although why they had that particular place in mind I don't know). But emigrating to America at the time required sponsors, and they had none. Australia was less discerning - it had a "populate or perish" mentality, so Australia it was. Dad was a carpenter, so found plenty of work. I had been born in England and was two at the time. Apparently I only just survived whooping cough on the way over.

 

Dad used to tell of the day they went to Australia House in London to apply for "assisted passage". Mum's eyesight wasn't great, and they couldn't afford luxuries like glasses. So, as she's filling in the form, she's saying to Dad - what's this say, I can't read it. And dad's handwriting was pretty poor, so as he's filling in his form, she's saying - for God's sake, Ted, write properly or they won't be able to read it. So after a while, Dad, in a slightly-too-loud voice quips "Sure we make a great couple to be going to Australia, don't we. You can't read and I can't write." Then looked up to see a stern-looking immigration official bearing down on them to find out if this was true.

 

Dad's two brothers and their families followed us out over the next few years, and finally Dad's parents, all settling down in Ballarat, about 70 miles west of Melbourne, in Victoria. Dad had picked up the accordion, and all of them sang, so my young life was full of Irish music. Didn't stand a chance, really.

 

I hope the move goes well for you, Ciaran.

 

Terry

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Ciaran,

 

There are tons of good concertina players there. Here is an article that I wrote about the concertina players I met there on a trip three years ago:

http://angloconcertina.org/AustralianconcertinasPt1.html

 

Of the Irish style players in Melbourne, Mark McDonnell is a key contact and great guy. He runs an Irish session there in Melbourne with a good cross section of local concertina players in the mix: http://irishsession.net/

 

Since you like English music too, I would highly recommend that you meet the traditional Australian style (bush) players as well. There are a number of them mentioned in my article. In Melbourne I would recommend Ray Simpson (who also plays Irish style), and in Bendigo you surely should look up Peter Ellis, a concertina and accordion player (and all-round scholar) who organizes traditional dances Aussie style. Further afield, Ian SImpson (Ray's brother) and his wife Di are mainstays in preserving the music and dance of the Nariel Valley (Victoria). And there are others!

 

The Aussie style of concertina playing, as well as their dance music in general, is under some threat from the great popularity of modern Irish session music and concertina playing among the young. Good to be somewhat aware of that when you visit....jigs and reels are not the mainstays of their dance music that they are in modern Ireland. If you need any contact adresses, just send me a PM.

 

Above all, enjoy your time in Oz. It is a wonderful place, full of nice people.

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Ciaran,

 

There are tons of good concertina players there. Here is an article that I wrote about the concertina players I met there on a trip three years ago:

http://angloconcertina.org/AustralianconcertinasPt1.html

 

Of the Irish style players in Melbourne, Mark McDonnell is a key contact and great guy. He runs an Irish session there in Melbourne with a good cross section of local concertina players in the mix: http://irishsession.net/

 

Yes, Mark was a key contact for me on my visit in 2006. He had me to his session and organized another get-together (one of several times my Kensington was taken apart and inspected by folks interested in its design!). I must post a (now historical) article on that trip - somehow being admin for C.net leaves no time to write!

 

Ken

Edited by Ken_Coles
Edited for typo!

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Ken, Dan, Terry and the Blue Eyed Sailor

 

Thanks for the good wishes and the advice and the suggestions of the people to look up. Im very keen to look up the Australian style(s) of concertina music too and I have to say, Dan, your article was a great introduction to it and to the people. Thanks for the link - it makes great reading. The picture of the concertina caterpillar looks like something from an Escher drawing and I love the mob of Piano accordion players in Victoria. They must have enormous pouches! I'm really looking forward to seeing this other branch of concertina music and meeting the people keeping it going.

 

Thank you Terry for your lovely story.My parents emigrated to England from Ireland and met in London as thousands of other Irish couples did in the 1960's/70's. They had their own humble stories and funny observations. Dad was a carpenter too. I think mum is sometimes embarrassed about how naive they were but it reflects the simplicity of much of rural life in Ireland at that time. Many of us would covet some of the simpler ways now.

 

Really looking forward to our adventure. I'll drop a line on the forum when we're settled in

 

Kind regards to all

 

Ciarán

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All the best, nice being in contact again and keep up the music ! Since I wrote that original post I have met many young players who are over here. Many are more 'professional' than working class nowadays but they have picked up the tradition and are carrying it and it is in good hands, so I am optimistic.. Many play to a high standard and a lot too fast!. Not as many singers but that takes more experience of life I think.

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I was talking to John Howson of Veteran at English Country Music Weekend about Reg Hall's history of Irish Music in London in the 60s and 70s . Reg did a PhD on it but has not published . There will be Topic releases of vintage recordings from that fertile scene ( when Tommy McCarthy, Bobby Casey, Jimmy Power , Danny Meehan ete etc were in their prime) with extensive sleeve notes . Should be good

Edited by michael sam wild

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There will be Topic releases of vintage recordings from that fertile scene ( when Tommy McCarthy, Bobby Casey, Jimmy Power , Danny Meehan ete etc were in their prime) with extensive sleeve notes . Should be good

 

Should take me back to my mis-spent youth, in the Irish pubs and clubs of London... ;)

 

Edited to add: Sadly I went to the funerals of the first three you mention (Bobby Casey twice! - in Northamptonshire and then back in Clare), but I'm glad to say Danny Meehan was still hale and hearty last time I saw him.

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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