The Whispering Door - Behind the Music

Disc 1

1. Full Cry: This was the first traditional dance tune I had ever written in the summer of 2007. I took the name from the expression "Full Cry", describing The Galway Blazers when they are in full stride on their horses and the dogs are running and barking wildly alongside during "The Hunt".

Up At The Counter: An expression used to describe someone sitting up at the bar waiting to or having a drink. It was an expression I heard often but always had a funny twist, as does the tune.

The Swingtime Slide: named after the era of music I wrote it to resemble, it is always nice to hear great piano accompaniment. When you combine that with a solid rhythm, this tune does come to life... with plenty of swing!

Flames of Perdition: A Shakespearean term, one I've used often to describe the afterlife that I tease awaits me, for having laughed too much, too often, and too loud. (I do hope I’m wrong... :-) )
2. My Love is But a Lassie, The Foyne, Shepherd’s Lamb, The Drunken Piper: These were all tunes I learned to dance to while a beginner with Cyril McNiff (TCRG/ADCRG). While simple, they have a great cadence that makes you want to learn to dance!

3. Sail The Stars: This was the original title I came up with for this CD. I likened it in the sense that just as a Mariner used celestial navigation in days of old to get from point A to point B, I still sail the stars in a 21st century sense... flying in an airplane going from feis to feis via satellites and GPS.

Dancing with Granny: Written for my mother-in-law, Alice Delaney, who on the Sunday before she died at age 90, danced a slip jig for me in her kitchen. I was playing the tune The Butterfly on an old accordion found that very morning in her son's attic and after doing a couple of steps, she looked at me and quipped "the hips are not what they used to be." Five days after that dance, she unexpectedly passed away while picking flowers in her back garden.

Up in the High Garden: In the back garden was a high field that Dada (Alice's husband) used for growing his special vegetables. Once he passed on at age 96, the garden was never sewn again. This tune is a tribute to him, his special garden, and my hope that he has passed the pearly gates and is really "Up in the High Garden."

Slip Beneath The Waves: I wrote this tune for my sister, Theresa, whose favorite dance was the slip jig. Her body was pulled from the Hudson River in New York in the August of 2006. While no one will ever know the exact circumstances of how she got there, all I could think about for the longest time was the storm of emotions that surely encompassed her as she "slipped beneath the waves."

4. Ask Me Father, Kiss Me Sweetheart, Child of My Heart, Get Up Early: These are all single jigs that I learned from O'Neil's 1001 Gems, a collection of traditional Irish music. Their titles, as well as their key signatures, seemed to follow a natural progression to tell a complete story. It is nice to hear old traditional single jigs that aren't played anymore. Hopefully, this will give these tunes new life.

5. Down The Hill: This was the first Set Dance I learned to play on the accordion. Cyril McNiff's top Senior Dancer at the time was a young man named Roger Casey (who is now an adjudicator), and I learned it to play for the occasion of Roger presenting Cyril's mother at the Peter McNiff Memorial Belt. Peter McNiff was Cyril's older brother, who died unexpectedly at a young age in New York. The Belt was a perpetual award created as a tribute to Peter's memory, but in order to keep the belt, you had to win it three times. Roger Casey did just that, and in a beautiful presentation ceremony, I, along with John Glynn and my brother Eamon, played while Roger danced "Down The Hill" and then in a moving and emotional moment immediately after, Roger presented the belt to Mrs. McNiff. Someday, it might be nice to see this tune re-introduced to the official list of Set Dances. It is most unique at 8/24 bars for a jig and a beautiful melody to keep you interested.

6. Brogan's Jig, Bush On The Hill, Second Victory, Woods of Old Limerick: The first two jigs were tunes I learned from John Glynn from Roscommon. The third tune is a three part tune I learned from accordion great and Comhaltas Hall of Famer John Nolan. I always thought it would be a great feis jig. The Woods of Old Limerick is a great tune in an unusual key (F) I learned from Martin Connolly and Maureen Glynn.

7. The Little Heather Hill: I learned this tune from an old Gael Linn record featuring Tommy Delaney and May Keogh. It is an unusually pretty piece in an unusual key (B flat minor). It is also another Set Dance that might be nice to re-introduce to the Official List.

8. The Whispering Door, Tap The Teapot, The Three Throat Whistle, Rainbow Room "Mahoshkers": Each of these original compositions has a story. The Whispering Door is a tune I wrote thinking about my summers in Offaly and dance competitions on the back of a lorry in BallyDuff. Tap The Teapot is a cousin Nial O’Reilly "ism" for seeing is she full... :-)   The Three Throat Whistle is a tribute to all 23 button keys on the old Paolo Soprani accordions. John Nolan told me that the newer accordions have only 21 buttons. I wanted to give those two low notes some air play, hence I wrote this tune including them in it. The low note reminds me of the ship's whistle when I worked on the boats as a tankerman. Rainbow Room "Mahoshkers" is a tribute both to John Glynn and my eldest brother, Eamon. When Mr. Glynn heard you play a couple of stray notes in a tune, he would gently inform you that he heard a couple of "Mahoshkers." My brother Eamon was a devil for sneaking in a few grace notes here and there, and he was often at the center of many a "Mahoshker." While I could not find an actual Irish word that was close to this in the Irish dictionary, I still think it was a fun word and one that should be perpetuated. The Rainbow Room was a hall in Brooklyn, NY, where John Glynn taught music, and the air was filled with "Mahoshkers" at these music lessons. In this tune, I have included Eamon's favorite stuttering note "Mahoshker."

9. and 10. My Compass Rose (Narration and Soundtrack): I always enjoyed watching Cyril and his sister Joan put together dance dramas and choreography. While it seemed like the ideas just flowed from their minds, I imagine they must have spent lots of time thinking about them. Having been involved in live theater, I have always found this competition category most intriguing and interesting. Apparently many others agree, hence the separate seating for the Dance Drama competitions at The All-Worlds. I thought it might be unique to create an original storyline and original musical score and record it on a dancing CD. While the dance remains to be seen, I hope you will enjoy both the storyline and the music.

Also check out the Story Behind the Making of the Whispering Door, and more about the supporting musicians.

For more Irish set dancing tunes, be sure to check The Official List (30 tunes) and The Official List II (8 tunes). Or return to the track list for The Whispering Door.