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The notes on this tune in CRÉ vol. 4 are translated by Paul de Grae as:

"25. An Fhliúit Eabhair: The Ivory Flute (Donnelly II). Composed by James McMahon, County Fermanagh."

It's a pleasant jig to play on the flute.

I didn't have and ivory one to hand, so I lashed it out on a wooden E flat, just for a change.

 

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This is the first tune from James McMahon that was collected from Liam Donnelly and appears in Breathnach/Small's 'Ceol Rince na hÉireann, volume 4'.

The notes, as kindly translated from the Gaelic by Paul De Grae, read:

James McMahon, a musician [flute] from County Fermanagh, composed this. Liam Donnelly was the scribe, a fiddler born in County Tyrone who greatly helped Breandán Breathnach in his work collecting dance music. Donnelly spent his life working in Belfast, and was living in County Antrim at the time of his death in 1992.

...it's an elegant 'notey' jig that just keeps moving.

One wonders if James actually played the low C# (not to mention the first note, the low A, which is well beyond the flute's range!) as it appears in the transcription. It would have been unusual enough for a traditional player to use the low C# key (we more often just bump up to the C# an octave up as this is much handier): The transcription may reflect the fact that the tune was collected from Donnelly, a fiddler, who would have found the low C# much more accessible.

...In the rendition below I add in a few minor variations such as cuts and the odd triplet.

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Well, Irish music wouldn't be what it is if we errant practitioners were not prepared to follow the byways and grassy boreens of what its multifarious selection box puts up to us...

For that reason, and in celebration of one of our largely unsung pioneers and heroes (he composed 'The Banshee' reel, for jaysus sake!), I'll be doing a short series of posts on the tunes of Fermanagh-born, Belfast-based fluter James McMahon (1893-1977). James played music in Belfast before the era of the popular resurgence of traditional music in the city, and across Ireland.

A number of James' compositions and tune versions were collected by Brendán Breathnach and are included in Breathnach's posthumous collection 'Ceol Rince na hÉireann 4', as compiled by Jackie Small. The tunes were collected indirectly by Breathnach from fiddler Liam Donnelly. The translated notes of CRÉ IV state this of Donnelly:

Liam Donnelly was the scribe, a fiddler born in County Tyrone who greatly helped Breandán Breathnach in his work collecting dance music. Donnelly spent his life working in Belfast, and was living in County Antrim at the time of his death in 1992.

Over the next few weeks I'll record some of these collected tunes and post them up here with notes from CRÉ. There are, as of yet, no known recordings of James' flute playing; so my recordings of his tunes will just be interpretations from the Breathnach/Donnelly transcriptions.

If you have any info on James McMahon that you'd like to share you can join a Facebook group set up for this purpose:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/451200488390889/

... Here we go on another wee adventure now. ;-)

Regards,

H.

 

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