brendan begley + caoimhín ó raghallaigh

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There are some tunes that you just want to play over and over and over again. Again and again and again. That's the P&O Polka for you. It was Cormac Begley (Breanndán's son) that put this tune our way. He played it over the phone for Breanndán. Breanndán played it over the phone for me. Now you can play it over the phone for your granny.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there used to be 60 naomhógs working out of Brandon Creek. Now there's only one, and it belongs to Breanndán Begley. A naomhóg is the traditional fishing boat of the West of Ireland, while Brandon Creek is on the north edge of the Dingle Peninsula, a very short distance from where Breanndán lives. Breanndán is at home on the sea, you see. For him, it's a natural habitat. But one that you should be wary of always. Tonn Cliodhna is a tune of three parts, the first being calm, all is well, you're in the safety of the harbour; the second is choppy, in the mouth of the bay; third part and you're at the mercy of the ocean, out at sea, and you are powerless in the face of its fury. Cliodhna is also the name of Breanndán's daughter, and Tonn Cliodhna is the name of one of Ireland's three mythological waves...

Follow your heart: a moment of madness is better than a life of logic. So says Breanndán Begley. Logic didn't help me to learn this tune, that's for sure. It's nearly a slip jig, you could say. But it goes astray, and beautifully so. A single extra beat. A slippery and elegant beast. But what else would one expect from the bow of Paddy Cronin, master of the slippery and elegant, the beautiful and improbable underlying logic?

Three polkas played on the hardanger fiddle. I love playing with drones and cross-tunings, so I was very happy indeed to find the hardanger, a native of Norway possessed of 9 strings in total. In addition to the four upper strings, it has five understrings which resonate in sympathy, giving a natural reverb.

Breanndán had just remembered this beautiful old version of O'Sullivan's March. I pressed record and we gave it a good rattle. Then all of a sudden he was out the front door and waiting for me to join the escapade. I have a vivid memory of marching through the Begley house, following him into every single room, bathrooms and all, all the while giving this tune welly. A moment of madness, and no logic in sight!

It was Sean Ó Riada who put these two airs together, and they can be found on the recently re-issued Ó Riada sa Gaiety. Breanndán had remembered an accordion that belongs to his brother, Séamus. He ran next door to grab it and arrived back with an old Double Ray Deluxe Hohner, a black-dotted instrument pitch in the deep dark keys of A and Bb. I felt so priveleged to be in the presence of this music and the man who was making it, to be alive, and to be in the right place at the right time.

We toured Ireland in May/June of 2007, and our final concert was in Airfield House in Dundrum. And what a night it was! Friends, family, followers and foreigners all lifted our spirits, and vice versa. A night to remember, and we finished it off with a set of polkas.

That our music may lift your spirits!

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh
September 2007

"the most maddeningly nourishing, elevating, and
mesmerizing Irish traditional music you'll hear today."

Earle Hitchner. September 26th, 2007, IRISH ECHO

(read the full review here)

brendan begley: accordion, melodeon and vocals
caoimhín ó raghallaigh: fiddle and hardanger fiddle

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photo copyright © 2010 con kelleher