Trebling Tracks Liner Notes

1) Trebling Tracks / O’Festival da Dansa : Treble Reels – The Title Track was written listening to and thinking about the train tracks that were being laid down for the new Tuam-Limerick Railway Line across the fields from me in Athenry, Co. Galway. The second tune’s arrangement was inspired by a dance drama team from Brazil who were competing at the 2013 Boston Worlds. The Brazilian “a-go-go” instrumentation and rhythms give this new reel a sense of Festivale.

2) Lilting Eamon / Yard 401 (Trad on the Titanic): Slow Heavy Jigs – My father was always lilting or humming a happy tune. If we would ask him what tune it was, he would just laugh. I realize now that he was the tunesmith in our family. The second tune was written after I had finished playing my rotation at Worlds 2012 in Belfast. The Opening night of the Titanic Museum at Harland and Wolff was about to commence, and while I would have loved to have been there, I was scheduled to start recording sessions the next morning in Galway. While I missed the gala at the museum, as the revelers danced, I was back in Galway writing this tune. Yard 401 was where Titanic was built at H+W and rumor has it there was quite the spirited hooley (Trad on the Titanic?) on board before her launch. 

3) The Commander’s Cortege / I Certainly Will Be Back in the Springtime: Slow Heavy Hornpipes – I was watching the history channel and the funeral of the late US President, John F. Kennedy, was being aired. As I watched the funeral cortege pass down Pennsylvania Avenue, I could not help but notice that the rhythm of the horse hooves and the military drumming was in hornpipe time. I got out my metronome and the horses were moving at 111. Through the magic of digital sound, we were able to take the actual sound from the video footage, and speed it up to 113. I listened to the Rotunda Eulogy of JFK, to note that it was a man of Irish heritage, US House Speaker and Representative John W. McCormack who was one of the speakers. From his words, I found a single sentence that summed up a country’s loss. Those words and his voice begin this tribute. The second tune commemorates the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s trip to Ireland. Those three days in June of 1963 were magical. I have always been hauntingly moved by his parting last words in Ireland before boarding Air Force One:  “While not the land of my birth, it is the land for which I hold the greatest affection.  I certainly will come back in the springtime”.  Tragically, that was never to be. At the end of the medley, you will hear the voice of JFK as he says these words of farewell to Ireland. The arrangements of these tunes are intentionally brassy and military. JFK loved Ireland’s music, and was very much impressed by the Irish Military Band’s welcome and departure from Shannon, and had remarked that to Jackie. When state funeral arrangements were being made, at Jackie’s request, Irish Defense Force Cadets were commissioned to perform silent drill and charged with the placement of the eternal flame at JFK’s burial in Arlington National Cemetery.  Along with Pipers of the Scottish Black Watch, it is the one and only time a foreign military band has performed on US soil at the funeral of a US President.

4) The Golden Ghillies / Stirabout Smiles: Slip Jigs – Both of these tunes were written a few months prior to playing at the 2010 Worlds held in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall. While both tunes had made their feis debut months earlier, the first tune can be heard in the footage of the motion picture “Jig” which was filmed at those Glasgow Worlds. “Jig” went on to be seen by audiences worldwide.

5) The Gates of Knockmaroon: Hornpipe Set Dance – This tune is a tribute to my Auntie Moll and Uncle Frank McGuinness. Uncle Frank in his youth participated in the fight for Irish freedom. In his later years, he was the gatekeeper and lived in the gatelodge at Knockmaroon Gates, which are at the entrance of The Phoenix Park in Dublin. Often, the President of Ireland would pass through the gates travelling to and from his/her residence in the park, Áras an Uachtarán. As a respectful nod to the presidency, and to Uncle Frank, if you listen closely, you can hear the strains of Amhrán na bhFiann during the prelude.

6) The CharLady (Eamon’s Theme): Instrumental – Like “Whispering Door”, this collection features a dance drama as well, but not played out in soundtrack form. The storyline is about a young man who goes on to some personal success and self-esteem, after a very uncertain start in life. It reminded me very much of a parallel family story. The CharLady as a musical score has been transformed in this arrangement to a theatrical soundtrack-free rhythm instrumental and waltz, to reflect the inner beauty and soul of The CharLady.

7) Knock’in Sparks / The Right Thing: Reels – Back in my competitive dancing years, whenever we got new hard shoes with the hob nails on them, we would often dance on concrete to roughen the nail’s surface so they wouldn’t be so slippery on stage. The hobnails hitting the concrete would make sparks, and that was as much fun as getting the new shoes themselves. The second tune I named after guitar great Jimmy Conway of Brendan Boyer and the Royal ShowBand. My favorite of his Irish expressions is: “That would be the right thing to do”. While he was visiting us in Galway, I wrote this tune, and just had to call it The Right Thing Reel.

8) The Latin(esque) Lady / My First Song (Singing Agnes): Slow Heavy Jigs –The first tune was written thinking of a Brazilian friend of mine, and in conversation she used this term Latin-esque to describe herself, as they were really of Portuguese descent. I played the tune at the 2010 Worlds, and it was used along with a small film clip of me playing it in the movie “Jig”. After recording this tune, Gabriel donated the acoustic guitar he played on this track to an American Soldier being deployed overseas.  Sadly, he never got the chance to use it. This tune is dedicated to Lieutenant Colonel Todd Clark, United States Army, who gave all on a battlefield in Afghanistan.  The second tune evolved from thoughts of my mother. If Dad was the lilter, Mother was certainly the singer. I was always impressed with how many songs she knew all the words to. She taught me my first song at the age of 4 called “I Don’t Mind If I Do”. The tune itself has an I Don’t Mind If I Do swing to it, and a nice cadence to dance to.

9) The High Kings / Danny’s Christmas Suit: Slow Hornpipes – I was thinking of my elder brothers Eamon and Martin as this tune came to mind. They paved the way for me in so many ways throughout our childhood years. While Ireland had their High Kings, these were mine, hence the regal name. The second tune I was writing at Christmas time, when my brother-in-law Danny came by to show us his new suit. It was beautiful!  A true gentleman who is always there to help, and a bit of an accordion enthusiast and player himself, I thought it fitting to name this tune after him and the suit.  

10) The Glasgow Goddess / The Soprano’s Stiletto: Slip Jigs – These tunes were written specifically for Worlds 2010 in Glasgow. I was thinking of all who work so hard to qualify to reach the world stage. This is their time to shine, to become a goddess of the Glasgow Worlds. The second tune has 64 stuttering notes, which reminded me of an opera I had seen where the Soprano is doing a flamenco styled dance with these stuttering beats tapped out from her stiletto shoes. The shoe and soprano fit the tune, and as they say… if the shoe fits………!

11) The Cattle Jobber: Hornpipe Set Dance – This tune made its first appearance in The Marie Duffy Foundation Set Dance Composition Contest in the autumn of 2011. It went on to be a top ten finalist, and was favorably received by some who were in attendance on the night of the final competition at The University of Limerick. It was the hornpipe twin of my Jig Set Dance entry, The CharLady. The title describes a person who in rural Ireland would bring your cattle to market to sell them. Often times, a good farmer was not a good salesman, so he would hire The Cattle Jobber to bring the cattle to market to sell them at the highest price, and the Cattle Jobber, in return, would get a “luck penny” for handling the sale. I present the tune as it was originally recorded and presented to the Marie Duffy Foundation.

12) The Silent Sleepers: Air / Jig Instrumental – The first film I ever went to see in the theater was “The Godfather”. There was something about that musical score that I loved, as well as the language and the culture, and the women!!!!! Many have teased me about the big old cars I drive. I would laugh and reply “The trunk sleeps 4”,….a subtle reference to my first movie’s storyline. Then I got to thinking about that new railway line being built behind the house and the way the old wooden railway ties were torn up and the new concrete ones put down. When I asked my neighbor Pat Burke, who worked his entire life for Iarnród Éireann why that was being done, he simply said the concrete sleepers (railway ties) are a lot quieter. It dawned on me that they were “Silent Sleepers”, and that I felt was a great name for a “Godfather” inspired tune.

13) The HollyBirds / Smokey Quartz: Reels – Lately it seems, at  Christmas, it is harder to find a holly bush with the red berries. Eugene McKenna says it is because the birds eat all the berries. I think that makes them HollyBirds! Smokey Quartz is a type of gemstone that I have never seen but only heard about. It supposedly has a mystical quality. I liked the name and attached it to this reel.

14) The Loitering Dog / The Waterfront Fish Market: Fast Heavy Jigs – The first tune was written in the key of “B” just because it sounded so traditional, but it wasn’t. It then modulates up to the key of “C” with a little more ornamentation. Have you ever noticed that many dogs in Ireland just hang around their front gate loitering? The second tune was written after playing for Worlds 2012 in Belfast. The ceilí competitions were held in Saint George’s Fish Market, and it was a unique experience for the dancers at a world event.  While the venue may not have been well received, the acoustics for a button accordion, banjo and a piano in there were excellent. I thought I would write a tune to commemorate the event even if there are many still trying to forget about it. This tune has a 3rd part that I only play live!

15) My Little Petal / Give Me The Flowers: Fast Heavy Jig – My Uncle Frank Fitzpatrick, and his wife, Auntie Phil would always use this term of endearment, sometimes shortened to just “Petal”. I also used it myself to address Marjie, who is still “My Little Petal”. This tune is for her! The second tune is dedicated to my most kindred spirit, Uncle Frank Fitzpatrick. God, I loved that man! He had great charisma, wit, charm, style, and a twinkle in his eye that was more than just a subtle hint of devilment. It suited him well throughout his lifetime career with Aer Lingus- the national airline of Ireland-where he served in Public Relations and later as managing director of Cara, the in-flight magazine. He would often say… “Give me the flowers while I can still smell them" other words...don’t wait until it is too late (as in being sickly, or worse...dead) to be doing them while you are still able (go while the going is good!). It is a great way to look at life. He lived his life that way, and I do my best every day to follow in those footsteps.

16) Down the Pound Road / Medals and Marks: Fast Hornpipes  –  Athenry is a market town, and the road that leads to the market has always been called by the locals (especially Josie Callanan) the pound road. I can still hear her giving me directions to go “Down the Pound Road”. I thought it would be a fun name for a tune. Medals and Marks are what happen at the end of your day when you are competing at the feis. Especially for beginners, this is a big deal, so they get a tune named for them.

17) The Blue Haven BellyDancer / Hopscotch: Slip Jigs – Many years ago, I went to visit a friend in Kinsale, Co. Cork. The meeting place was The Blue Haven and I was told there was entertainment. While I was expecting music, or singing, or perhaps a recitation, I was surprised that the performance was bellydancing! I would have never imagined that! The night…… and the performance…… was brilliant!   My sisters Mary and Theresa’s favorite dance was the Slip Jig. As kids, they used to play hopscotch and those hopscotch skills came in handy when it came to the Slip Jig. This tune is for them, and remembering when they were just kids playing Hopscotch and dancing their Slip Jig steps.

18) The CharLady: Jig Set Dance – This tune was originally written for The Marie Duffy Foundation Set Dance Competition Contest. I had the tune complete in my head, and had made a rough recording of it at The Pillar Box in Athenry, but really needed to lay it down properly with some accompaniment.  The tune was recorded in a mad dash and sent off to the Foundation as an entry along with The CattleJobber. The CharLady went on to win 1st runner-up, and was subsequently selected by An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha to be included on their official list of Set Dances. To me, this is the highest lifetime honor a former dancer, and active feis musician could ever achieve. I am forever grateful to The Marie Duffy Foundation, Marie Duffy, and her husband Mike Pask for hosting this event, and to the event’s adjudicators and subsequently members of An Coimisiún who felt The CharLady worthy enough to be included on this most exclusive list of tunes. Humbly, I say Thank You to all!

19) Red Rose Rinceorí / The Ural Hurdy Gurdy: Light Jigs – I wrote these two tunes specifically for my trip to Russia in February of 2013. I was honored to have been invited there to teach music, lilting, and Irish dancing, as well as to play music for the First Ural Mountain Feis. This is a tribute to the very pleasant and enthusiastic students I met there, as well as the event’s sponsor, Darya Markosyan.

20) A Mother’s Twilight: Air – After my youngest sister passed away in 2006, on a quiet night, I got to thinking about my mother, and the heartbreak she has experienced in the latter years of her life. With my father having gone on to his heavenly reward in 2001, my own heart was breaking knowing the loss she must have felt to see her husband of 49 years and now the youngest of her children pass on. I started to think about how often women outlive their husbands, and the years spent alone, watching those that they love go before them, and how the twilight years of their lives, which should be their happiest, are often times their darkest and loneliest hours. I played long into the night in that garage, and a few tears later, I had written this tune. I wanted to name it something special and appropriate, and after several months of reflection, I realized it was really about life’s twilight, A Mother’s Twilight, and the love and the loss that comes to so many women in those twilight years. While this tune goes out to all mothers everywhere, this one is most especially for my most beloved Mother, Agnes.

21) Caledonia Pottery: March – Marjie and I took a get-a-way trip out to Connemara and had decided to spend a night in Cashel House, a country home in Cashel, Co. Galway. On the staircase, was a corner dresser, and on the dresser, what appeared to be a moonshine jug. I gave the jug a couple of breathes and was amazed at how deep the bass tone was off of it. I have heard Cajun music with moonshine jugs playing bass and thought this would make a great instrument in a ceili band. The bottom of the jug said Caledonia Pottery. I wrote it down and thought I would be able to find more jugs just like it on the internet, etc., only to find out that the company closed down almost 100 years ago, and old jugs are hard, if not impossible to come by.  I kept thinking what a pity it was that I couldn’t find more Caledonia Pottery Jugs to create the bass sounds. We did our best to emulate and emphasize the bass in the studio when we created the virtual ceili band, and even though the sound was not quite jug –like, the tune could only be called one name, and that was Caledonia Pottery. We had so much fun recording and listening to the playback of this tune, that it already has a nickname. I hope you will hear the fun and like it too.


Return to Trebling Tracks track list and credits


See also the original Official List CD with 30 tunes, The Official List II, The Whispering Door, and Irish Set Dances: Anthology.