Tony MacMahon on the playing of Peter Carberry

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So enthusiastic is Tony MacMahon for the playing of Peter Carberry and the “marriage of accordion and pipes” on the new CD from Peter and Padraig McGovern (which was, amazingly, played by John Kelly today on his usually trad-free programme on Lyric FM), that he wants to put on record some of his thoughts on the work (which he already shared verbally with those at the launch of the CD):

“Peter comes from a piping family but he has made two innovations in accordion playing: firstly adapting the accordion to the pipers’ repertoire, which has never been done before, and secondly, adapting the fingering of the accordion to the detailed variations used by pipers, which has also never before done. The result is quite extraordinary. He has broken the shackles of the accordion handcuffs, which have been put … or rather self-imposed, may I say … on accordion players over the past fifty years. And it is a perfect marriage between two instruments which should not be together, namely accordion and pipes. That this has been done is a major achievement.

It is such an important recording that I believe it should be in the hands of every single person learning to play or indeed listening to Irish traditional music, and I include myself in that. Every single track on this CD is worth listening to.

It illustrates a very important aspect of traditional music, which has been vanishing, and that is, what Seamus Ennis used to call comfort. It’s a particular rhythm which is in perfect harmony with the Irish spirit. And this has nothing to do with speed or acceleration. It’s relaxed playing.

If one listens to this without distraction, in bed, it shines a light on the essence of our music. When you listen to it it induces a sense of meditation because of the rhythm, slow and very very beautiful. And the harmony: Normally to accompany Irish music we’re using guitars and bouzoukis and bodhráns. In this recording, the use of the regulators of the pipes is complemented by the use of Carberry’s specially tuned accordion bass. It produces a combination of harmonies which melt into you as you listen. It is not percussive or “in time”, but a natural harmony, as harmonious as a tender kiss. (This might be by way of a little atonement for all the harsh things I’ve said about other accompanists over the years.)

I’ll be taking this with me [on my travels] and I shall be learning from it and I am happy at the age of 74 to be learning from a younger man. I was moved deeply on hearing it.”

They are playing the Knocklishen House Concerts on Saturday, 7 December in Knocklishen Beg, Rathvilly, Co Carlow. Tickets are €15 and can be bought by emailing

This album, as the per the sleeve notes, is “the product of recent research into local music. Many old tunes are resurrected and played in the piping spirit. We are delighted to have been joined on the album by Séamus O’Kane (Bodhrán) Brian Mooney (Bouzouki) and Sabina McGovern (Harp).”

The tunes on the CD (along with a note on each) are as follows:

1.    Joe Kilmurray’s / Furnill’s Frolic (Slip Jigs)

Peter came across these slip jigs on a recording of Joe Kilmurray made by Master Green. The name of the first slip jig is unknown. However Furnill’s Frolic is documented in P.W. Joyce’s Old Irish Folk Music and Songs collection.

2.    The Blackbird / The Chorus Reel (Hornpipe / Reel)

The blackbird came from big John McManus from Fermanagh. This version of the chorus reel was learnt from the playing of Peters’ uncle piper Peter Carberry.

3.    Moll Roe / Seamus Ennis lark in the morning (Slip Jig / Jig)

Moll Roe is also called Máire Rua. This version of Moll Roe was recorded by The McNamara family on Leitrim’s’ hidden Treasure. Séamus Ennis played this version of the Lark in the Morning. It is also known as Dominick Rooney’s.

4.    The Road to Town / Patsy Touheys’ Rip the Calico / Joe Kilmurray’s (Reels)

Pádraig heard this first tune on an old céilí house recording of Denis Murphy. The second tune is Patsy Touheys’ version of rip the Calico whilst the third reel was also found on the aforementioned Kilmurray recording.

5.    Uirchill a Chreagain / Youghal Harbour (Air / Setdance)

Peter learned ‘Uirchill a Chreagain’ from an old recording of Séamus Ennis.  Youghal Harbour was recorded on a TV programme by flute player Tara Bingham/Diamond who in turn learned it from Fermanagh flute player and singer Cathal McConnell.

6.    Byrnes Mill / Lough key / Gift from the fairies (Slip Jigs)

The first slip jig is a composition of fiddler and composer Joe Liddy from Killargue, Co. Leitrim. The second is a composition of Larry Redican and was published in Treoir in 1970. Gift from the Fairies also known as The Fairy Jig was recorded by fiddler James Kelly.

7.    Last night’s Joy / The Ladies cup of tea (Reels)

Last nights’ joy came from Cathal McConnell who in turn learned it from Donegal fiddler Mickey Doherty. The ladies cup of tea appeared in the publication Tunes of the Munster pipers.

8.    The Fourth Dragoon (March)

Pádraig learnt this march from the playing of the Ceolas céilí band which is led by Fr. John Quinn (PP Gortlettragh). This particular march was found in the Stephen Grier collection.

9.    Alec McConnell’s reel / The Strokestown Reel (Reels)

The first reel was learnt from the playing of fiddler Mickey Doherty. The strokestown reel is a tune which is often heard in the local traditional scene.

10.  The faithful friend / O’Mealys’ Hornpipe (Hornpipes)

The faithful friend was played by Willie Clancy and is no. 1763 in O’Neills Music of Ireland. O’Mealy was a piper originally from Westmeath but spent most of his life in Belfast.

11.  The Squirrel’s nest / Slip Jig Munster pipers nr 160 (Jig / Slip Jig)

The Squirrel’s nest is a relatively new composition of Roscommon fiddler John Mc Evoy. The second piece was found in the Tunes of the Munster pipers publication.

12.  The Merry Gardener / Ballymanus Fair (Hornpipes)

The Merry Gardener is in O’Neill’s collection of music and was learnt from the playing of Séamus Ennis. Ballymanus fair was recorded by Séamus Ennis on the The return from Fingal album.

13.  Boy in the Boat / Ballymagovern Fair / Éines fancy (Reels)

The Boy in the boat was made popular by a recording of Leo Rowsome in 1948. Ballymagovern Fair is a composition of Pádraigs’ and the title refers to an old fair that was held in Ballymagovern in the early 1900’s. Éine’s fancy is a composition of Co. Leitrim flute player Seán Gilrane.

14.  Jimmy Dolans / John Joe Gannons (Flings)

These flings were popular dance tunes in the Longford area in the early 1900’s. The first possibly known as Shady lane and an audio clip of Jimmy Dolan playing this is available on you tube.

15.  The Morning Star / Cleaning the henhouse (Reels)

The Morning Star comes from the playing of the East Clare piper/fiddler Martin Rochford. Cleaning the henhouse was published in Treoir in 1970.

16.  Strike the gay harp / Will you come down to Limerick / Bumper Squire Jones (Jigs)

This version of Strike the gay harp was found on the aforementioned tapes of Joe Kilmurray. Will you come down to Limerick was played by Willie Clancy. Bumper Squire Jones is from the McGahon Collection published in A Hidden Ulster.

17.  The west wind / Molly Maguire (Reels)

The west wind is a well-known piping tune. Molly Maguire comes from Michael Walsh from Strokestown in Co.Roscommon and was published in P.W Joyces’ Old Irish Folk Music and Songs.

18.  The stray away child (Jig)

This jig was written by Margaret Barry and made popular by the Bothy band.


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