The Whispering Door - Behind the Music

Disc 2

1. The Dog in the Bushes, The Yellow Tinker, The Drunken Rambler, The Donegal Traveler: This selection of reels are all Fleadh Cheol favorites. The first tune is very different for a traditional tune as it is written in the key of E. The Yellow Tinker was a favorite of my mother and father (Agnes and Eamon), while the last two tunes I learned from Joe (Accordion) Burke when he was on tour with Comhaltas many many years ago.

2. A Whack At The Wigs, The Butterfly, Kitty Come Down to Limerick, Arragh Mountain, and Father Kelly's: The first tune I learned from O'Neil's Book of Music simply because I liked the title and it turned out to be a fine tune.  The Butterfly was "granny's" last dance and I just had to include it. Kitty Come Down to Limerick I learned from Kevin and Monica in Athenry. When I started playing it at the feis, John O'Keefe (ADCRG) told me he loved it and I should record it, so this one is for you, John. Arragh Mountain and Father Kelly's I also learned from Kevin and Monica as well as from fellow feis musician AnnMarie Acosta.

3. A Day At The Races, Whelan's Auld Sow, Paddy's Trip To Scotland, and New House: The first two tunes I learned from Planxty Rourke, and the second two tunes I learned from an Olive Hurley instructional video. I liked the way these tunes flowed for ceili dancing as well as for the beginner's light Jig.

4. The Seafarer: I wrote this Set Dance for my own personal dance performance on Holland-America's Irish All-Star Caribbean cruise in January 2008. As I wanted to feature a new dance, I wanted the music to be as original and unique as the steps, and if I was going to train that hard to get back into dancing shape, I wanted the music and the performance to be, if anything, original. Perhaps, someday, it too could be an Official List candidate.

5. Pension Friday... (The Cow has Calved), The Flittering Monarch, Share The Gift, First of the Day... (and Badly Needed): These are all original compositions, with each name reflecting who or what I was thinking of as I wrote the tune. Pension Friday was the day to go to the Post Office to pick up the pension. Granny would always add that "The Cow has calved" meaning like in the old days, you have come into money. As I was writing the second tune over Christmas 2007, a Monarch butterfly had come into the music room from the cold Irish winter. That butterfly flittered its way around the room while I worked on that tune. I couldn't help but think about my playing The Butterfly for granny's last dance just the year before. When I finished the tune, I noticed that the Monarch had stopped flittering for the last time. Share the Gift was a credo of my father. He thought if you had a talent you should share it. I thought of him as I wrote this piece, and Patrick Mangan was brilliant completing the wish in sharing this tune with me by way of his beautiful violin solo. First of The Day... (and badly needed) was a nod to the expression of a working man's first drink after a hard day.

6. The Moonless Sea: This slow air was written several months after the loss of my youngest sister Theresa. As difficult as her passing was on myself, my brothers and sister, I kept reflecting on what it must be like for a mother to lose a child. I thought of the incredible faith my mother Agnes displayed in the midst of this tragedy and how she held her composure in the most tender of moments. If I could relive that funeral again, I wanted a tune I could play for my mother, written just for her and her heartbreak. While the air is mournful, I could not let it end that way, hence the transition to a tango. It was my father's favorite dance, and as they both liked to dance, I would like to imagine Dad taking Theresa for a tango spin around heaven when she got there.

7. The Dublin Hornpipe, The Trumpet, The Wooden Gate, The Quarrelsome Piper: These again were all tunes I remember hearing as a boy in dancing class. They are very traditional tunes and very easy for beginner dancers of the hornpipe to start with.

8. The Lady Day Waltz: Lady Day in Athenry, Co. Galway has been a holy day as well as a festival day for many, many years. Its origin dates back to the year 1249, when a soldier retreating from The Battle of Athenry saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, who gave him a drink of water from a nearby well. Today there is a grotto and a millennium park to mark the place and the event, and each year, there is an outdoor mass and festival to mark the occasion. It is a true place of religious pilgrimage in Ireland. On Lady Day Night, there is always music in the Square and it was here that I first realized how important it is that young people learn how to dance a basic waltz. What a beautiful site it was to see hundreds of people waltzing, young and old alike. It is such a great way to meet people and better yet to meet a partner. I have written this waltz to pay tribute to the dance and to commemorate this special day.

9. The DunClarin Dozen: I named this track after the Hotel in Athenry where traditional musicians still go on Monday and Thursday Nights to get together and play tunes. These are fabulous sessions, and the music played there is always lively and upbeat. Sometimes, the tunes just seem to roll one into the other, so I wanted this track to reflect the marathon playing that sometimes occurs at these gatherings. The tunes selected for this set are true old time traditional favorites that are very recognizable, easy for the beginner to start with, and make you want to just get up and dance. There is one tune in the middle, Joe Cooley's Morning Dew, that I must thank John Nolan for both the tune and the idea of using it to give the band a small breather. The metronomic speed is lively at 115, but it is steady for ceili dancing and can accommodate over 50 treble reel dancers. Having played in Ceili bands as a youngster, I sometimes feel it is hard to beat the traditional sound it lends to good old fashioned traditional Irish music. While this is a virtual ceili band, it is one I am very proud to be a part of. I think you will like this track... alot!!!!

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.