In the weekend of the 23rd of January, I travelled all the way to Scartaglen, Co. Kerry, to attend an unique event! As part of the excellent “Handed Down“-series, fiddle player Matt Cranitch presented something what can best be described as “part-lecture, part-interview and part-concert” about the esteemed button-accordeon player Jackie Daly.
Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly have been playing together for many years now – they were part of an irishtradmusic concert series in 2014 – culminating in two CDs: ‘The Living Stream’ in 2010 and ‘Rolling On’ in 2014. Their musical experience and friendship together made Matt a great candidate to honour Jackie’s place in the history of Irish traditional music!
TV material available: IRISHTV.ie has made a TV programme about the music of Scartaglen which also reports on this event. It can be access at http://www.irishtv.ie/kerry-matters-70 and starts in ‘part 2’.
The format for the Handed Down sessions is usually part live music performances from musicians both in and outside the region combined with an invited speaker who dives deeper into an aspect of the music from the region. This session was started by the two very young musicians Caoimhe Flannery (fiddle) and Eimhear Flannery (concertina and tin whistle), who are award winners of the Sligo Fleadh Ceoil. They decided to play a wonderful rendition of two slides, the Brosna slide and the appropriately named Scartaglen slide, which captivated the audience immediately
After the initial tune, they both played a lovely solo on their respective instruments, including a slow air played on the tin whistle!
After that, Matt and Jackie took the stage. Whereas Matt was armed with a laptop, a fiddle and a beamer for the presentation, Jackie brought several different instruments with him. What followed were two hours of very unique material, from never-before-seen photographs to rare recordings of Jackies work. Much to everyone’s delight, Jackie was not just the passive subject of the night – instead, he often took the microphone in order to tell the stories about the photos or recordings.
The audience got to hear the story from the start of Jackie’s musical career – playing for dancers at the ‘Dance platforms’ – his various travels, group formations and many other life events. For Dutch people it was nice to hear that Jackie used to live in The Netherlands for a short while in the 60s/70s while working in the shipping industry. Rumour has it that he still speaks a word or two in that language as well!
In between the historical journey, Jackie and Matt played several sets of tunes that had a connection with a particular event or anecdote. Occasionally they were joined by other musicians like Paul de Grae, Geraldine O’Callaghan and Tim Browne.
Of special interest to the audience was the amount of technical knowledge Jackie has about the instrument. It turns out that he is not only an exceptional player, but also learned how to tune, adjust, improve and create button-accordeons! Highlight was his display of an accordeon that he had built himself from scratch which mimicked the sound of the ’20s accordeons. It can be heard on one of De Dannan’s CDs, but for this occasion he played it for the audience live! It turned out that it not only sounded great, but it looked fantastic as well as he did all the carvings and inlays himself!
It was also impressive to see Jackies long list of collaborations with various musicians and bands. Of course his collaborations with fiddle players Seamus Creagh, Kevin Burke and Matt Cranitch are well known and highly regarded. He was also part of many bands including De Dannan, Patrick Street and Buttons & Bows, the last of which released a new album last year after decades since their last album.
That Matt is quite the archeologist when it comes to Irish traditional music, proved his finding of this track from Thin Lizzy called ‘Beat of the Drum’. Scoring highly in the ranks of ‘places least likely to find traditional Irish music’, you will discover a recognisable snippet of music playing at the 1:20 mark:
The whole evening went by so fast and the audience, including myself, was amazed by the amount of information that had been displayed during the evening. Everybody concluded that Jackie Daly indeed deserved this tribute as he is undoubtedly a great influencer and idol for many musicians – especially the C#/D players!
I would like to acknowledge the following people:
Matt Cranitch for his permission on writing this article based on some of his work.
PJ Teahan & the team of Handed Down for organising these events.
Liz Galwey for the photographs of the night.