The Story Behind the Making of the Whispering Door

I began working on this project in the fall of 2006, as I realized it had been four years since I released my last CD. I came up with the notion that it was time to make a CD for people of all dance levels - from solo to ceili, from beginners to opens - that would be simple, and yet pleasant to both dance to and listen to. I spent several months listening to tunes from many different traditional backgrounds and eras, and found many, many wonderful tunes. However, as my search progressed, I realized there were certain dancing categories for which it was proving somewhat difficult to find tunes that were new or unique or simply different.

As I thought about this small dilemma while flying to Ireland for my summer holidays, I decided I would try my hand at writing just a couple of dance tunes, something I had never attempted before. While I had written other types of music and songs, I had never given any thought to writing traditional Irish music. That summer holiday was particularly rainy, so as I looked out my music room window at the fields and the mist, I started to work on writing new tunes. I committed myself to go into the music room every evening for a couple of hours and I experimented with every aspect of dance music. There were nights that it was hard to put the fiddle or the accordion down, as I would be so intent on finishing whatever tune I had started writing. After a few weeks, with my summer holidays in Ireland over, I was ready to head back to Boston to start rehearsing the couple of tunes I had written to see if they were CD worthy. As my rehearsals progressed, I was finding my simple CD project was evolving, and as it did, so did the number of tracks with it. With more ideas and the emotions that come with life, came the thoughts of writing more tunes to express those moods. Soon I found myself heading back to Ireland for another weekend and sure wasn’t I lucky again... there was more rain!!! So there again I sat, looking out the window, and sure enough didn’t more tunes come and find me.  Happy enough with these additional tunes, I headed back to Boston ready to start recording.

Next, I had to find the right studio to record in. I was hoping to find a studio that had strong ties to the traditional Irish music scene, where they would not only appreciate the art form that it is, but would also have a recording engineer who would understand my musical perspective and could help me piece the project together while letting it breathe. It seemed everyone I mentioned this to, recommended the same studio, that of a well known musician friend from my cabaret days in New York City.  After looking at the volume of featured acts and musicians he had recorded to date, I wasn't quite sure at first if he would take on an Irish Dancing project such as this. However, thinking that we had become neighbors in a real sense with my having built a house across the fields from his home house in Athenry, Co. Galway, and that he too was staring out at the very same fields and the very same mist I was infatuated with when home, I figured it couldn't hurt to ask.

I approached Gabriel Donohue about recording when we were both home on holidays in the summer of 2007. We were both sitting in with Rodney's Glory (Kevin Rohan and Monica Naughton) to play a few tunes at our local Athenry hotel, The Dunclarin. Gabriel seemed very interested in the idea, and although his studio was in New Jersey, and I lived in Boston, for some reason, I could tell this was the right person and the right studio to embark on this adventure with. We talked on the phone in September and set up a single recording date in November of 2007 to get a feeling for the process and for what I was contemplating as far as sound and style. After laying out all my initial ideas for my simple CD, it was clear to Gabriel that this was a double CD. Then, after explaining the ideas of a ceili band, a dance drama orchestration, and a narration, along with some original tunes, he looked at me and said, "you need to go home, write some more tunes to make the tracks complete, and really put your own stamp on this project".

So I did... and back to Ireland for Christmas I went, and so did Gabriel with his computer and mobile recording equipment. On the flight there, I worked on the narration of My Compass Rose, and once there, I sat and pieced together the notes that would eventually become The Moonless Sea. The recording sessions started in earnest in January 2008. I dedicated every Tuesday and the odd weekend to going to New Jersey to continue on with the project, and with each week, came more ideas and hence, the need for more musicians to help us make those ideas a reality. As the tunes and tracks started to take shape, Gabriel and I would ask each other what we could hear in our minds for the accompaniment of each track. Many times, the idea would no sooner leave my lips, and there was Gabriel with an instrument in his hand and playing it along with the track, sometimes recording it without even writing out the chords or charts. It was truly phenomenal at times what this man could play and how perfectly he could play it as well as capture the essence of the idea of the tunes. I quickly realized his musicianship had no boundaries, and there was no idea that was too crazy or irreverent when it came to recording. Gabriel Donohue is truly a gentle man of limitless creativity and talent, and I appreciated the creative license he would extend to me throughout the project. I in turn, returned the favor, and between us, we used that license extensively throughout this project. Gabriel, having toured with the Chieftains, Michael Flatley, and Cherish The Ladies amongst many, many other prominent entertainers and dancers, was truly the perfect partner with which to record this project. A true friend, Gabriel welcomed the challenge and appreciated the adventure, which will continue beyond this recording into the years ahead. While I know in my mind, this man belongs playing with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, I am hoping he'll still be available to work with me on many more projects in the years ahead!!!!
There were many individuals who over the years played a role in the development of this CD. In my own way, I have tried to pay tribute to them, either through the traditional tunes I have selected, or in the tunes I wrote specifically for this recording. Read more about the musicians who helped create this recording.

I hope you will enjoy the music in this Double CD set, for both listening pleasure and for dancing! I also hope it will be a great resource for practicing your steps both at dance class and at home. You might even teach or learn to waltz, which might come in handy someday when you are looking for just the right partner. In any case, I hope the music will keep you dancing, and I look forward to seeing you in the future at the feis.

Michael Fitzpatrick, TCRG/ADCRG

Return to The Whispering Door track listing, or read on about the supporting musicians.