The Supporting Musicians on the Whispering Door

Monica Naughton, Mike Fitzpatrick, Kevin Rohan and Gabriel DonahueGabriel and I talked about the ceili band track (The Dunclarin Dozen Ceili
) and decided the track should include our friends Kevin Rohan and Monica Naughton who are always there at the DunClarin Hotel to host the seisuns and always give us such a warm west of Ireland welcome whenever we are home. When we realized recording live at the Dunclarin would not be ideal due to background noise, etc., the recording session moved back to my house in Athenry for the eve of New Year's Eve. Having wrapped up that session and just sitting down for a meal, Kevin Rohan comes up with the idea that we really need a solid ceili drummer to give this track just the right sound. He highly recommended his former bandmate with The Shaskeen Ceili Band, Benny O'Connor, but he was at a loss at how to contact him. Realizing that myself and Gabriel were on the flight back to the States the next morning, my wife, Marjie, starts calling every O'Connor listed in the Galway City telephone directory. In a matter of minutes, she had the man located, and was sending her brother Danny Delaney in to pick him and his drum kit up. Benny arrived at the house, set up his kit, listened to the track once, and proceeded to record his drum track in one take!!!! While we couldn't believe our luck at having Benny O'Connor playing drums on the track, we really couldn't believe his efficiency once he arrived on the scene. I dropped Benny back to his home at 3 AM, went back to Athenry, packed my bags and went back to Boston that afternoon.

There were additional times where we really thought about the instrumentation and sounds we would like as accompaniment that we felt we needed to select our musicians wisely. The first musician we sought out was an authentic African percussionist. Realizing indigenous African rhythms are comparable to Irish dance rhythms, I wondered would a new friend and Berklee School of Music professor, Joe Galeota, be interested in playing on an Irish CD. I rang Joe, and he immediately said he'd love to join me. Before you knew it, I had given him a study tape, and it seemed we were loading up his van and my car with literally a huge room's worth of native African instruments for the trip to the studio in New Jersey. Joe spent two days with us, and laid down some very interesting rhythms that even Gabriel and I at first had trouble wrapping our minds around. Joe kept reminding us that African rhythms are a mosaic of sounds, and he was right, because when it was all recorded, the rhythms were absolutely beautiful. Joe is sprinkled throughout the recording, but is featured particularly in My Compass Rose and The Whispering Door Hornpipe track.

As My Compass Rose and the Reel tracks (Full Cry and The Dog in the Bushes) started to come together, I wanted a little bit of Rock and Roll, with some swing and even some ragtime to spice up the tracks. Recently, Gabriel had a true Rock and Roll drummer, Steve Holly, in the studio, and he suggested perhaps Steve might be interested. We sent Steve the original tracks, and soon we had Steve, who has recorded with both Sir Paul McCartney of Beatle fame and Sir Elton John, in the studio laying down different grooves for each tune we asked him to perform on. Not only did he play some amazing drum kit, Steve also provided some solid percussion to enhance tunes like The Swingtime Slide to complement Gabriel's ragtime piano, and an African styled Rock and Roll groove to Chart The Course and The Donegal Traveller. I was both honored and delighted to have Steve appear on this project, and his talents were greatly appreciated, and the rollicking rhythms he provided are unmistakable as you listen.

Once we had the African rhythms along with the backbone of drums and percussion in place, it seemed the rest of the ideas started to take shape quickly, and luckily, we were always able to find the right person for our wish list of instrumentation. When The Lady Day Waltz needed an upright bass to give it some swing, Tom Wise of "Blue Plate Special" fame stopped by the studio to share his talents. Joanie Madden took the time from her busy schedule with the internationally renowned group "Cherish The Ladies" to join Gabriel and myself on the ceili band track as well as a number of other tracks. Her flute and tin whistle performances are extraordinary, as are Patrick Mangan's violin parts, played to perfection, just as he does every night when on stage with "Riverdance". Patrick's solo part in Share The Gift is a both beautiful and a touching gem of a performance. My father, who both used that expression and for whom I wrote this tune, would have been pleased with the sharing. Anna Colliton, who is a seisiun favorite on the New York traditional music scene, joined us in the studio to play Bodhran on multiple tracks. While not a typical ceili band instrument, we featured Anna in The DunClarin Dozen track which really gives the whole ceili band some rhythmical movement. Amazingly, she too played the whole fourteen plus minutes of reels in one take, delivering a stellar Bodhran performance. Completing that ceili band sound, was none other than good friend, B.I.C., ceili band enthusiast, and fellow feis musician Billy Furlong, who graced us with his smooth and silky style of fiddle playing. Once Billy had finished playing on The DunClarin Dozen, I truly felt I had the ultimate virtual ceili band: all great musicians in their own right who, even though they never actually sat and played together for this recording, were a digital match in the recording studio, creating a ceili band sound that any music teacher would have been proud to enter into a Fleadh Cheol Na hEireann.

When I had completed the My Compass Rose narration, I had envisioned the dance and had envisioned the scenery and background against which this drama would play out. I also knew there was only one West of Ireland voice that could bring those words to life. Dermot Henry had worked with me more than two decades earlier on Dance Dramas and voiceovers, and as this story takes place on an island off the coast of Galway, his Sligo accent made him enough of an outsider to fit the part and yet be familiar enough to be welcomed by the Island folk in the story. Dermot arrived at the studio, and after a bit of a reunion and some tea, he delivered a beautiful rendition of the narrative. He even acted as an Irish language consultant as we toyed with the translation of the phrase "Oh my Lord" when the Seafarer finds Compass Rose adrift at sea clutching his old compass. A special thanks to Dermot for joining me and lending his time, talent, and the timber of his unique voice to my narration. In an ironic twist to this story, wasn't I invited to perform out on the island of Inishbofin off the coast of Galway during the summer of 2008 after the tracks were near completion. Gabriel was home at the time and he joined me playing at the new Day's Hotel for an impromptu birthday party for musician great Des O'Halloran. That single event confirmed all I had imagined for both the story and the narration and made the entire scenario all the more real for me.

You will notice there is some background conversation between a man and a woman nearing the end of the My Compass Rose narration.  I had written some prose/poetry to sum up all the unanswered questions that were adrift in the maritime relationship between the Seafarer and The Compass Rose. I wanted the conversation to be subliminal but evident enough to play into the mood of a rescue at sea. The conversation is panned to the left in this recording, and if you would like to isolate the conversation to listen to just the Irish language, just pan your stereo speakers to the left. While I am an Irish language enthusiast, I would never have had the skills to translate the English into the Irish prose it deserved. I contacted my niece and nephew in Waterford (Valerie and Padraig Kirwin) who both have excellent Irish, and they in turn looked at it and thought it should be translated by a higher authority, (Bronagh Ni Chonaill) who in turn also thought it should be referred to an even higher authority. I would like to thank Professor Roibeard O’ Maolalaigh for doing a beautiful job with the translation and for his Gaeilge expertise, as well as Padraig and Valerie for their excellent coaching to make sure we got the blas (pronunciation) just right for the recording. The Irish and English translations are part of the Digipak sleeve that the CDs are packaged in for you to enjoy. Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Marjorie Delaney, whose singing career with Brendan Boyer and The Royal Showband is legendary, for lending her voice on this recording to the spoken Irish as My Compass Rose.

Return to the Story of the Making of the Whispering Door, or go back to the The Whispering Door track listings.