CD A0174: Fire Wire

FireWire by Máire Ní Chathasaigh & Chris Newman

CD Cover: FireWire by Máire Ní Chathasaigh & Chris NewmanA wide variety of music from a 17th century solo harp air to bass-drums-Stratocaster tracks. A couple of songs, a few sets of traditional dance tunes and guest appearances from Nollaig Casey (fiddle), Cathy Fink (banjo) and Roy Whyke (drums & percussion)

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Profile page & index of recordings & sheet music

Track Listing & Audio Samples

  1. Pheasant Feathers
  2. The Triplet Hornpipe
  3. Bright Falls the Air
  4. Pé in Éirinn
  5. John Potts' Jig/O'Callaghan's Jig
  6. Molly St George
  7. Big Sciota
  8. An Buachaillín Bán
  9. The Lost Summer
  10. Bruach na Carraige Báine
  11. Ginny's Waltz
  12. Slides
  13. Reel for a Water Diviner

CD Notes & Credits

Sleeve Notes

"The singing and playing are so moving, so wonderfully executed with such technical brilliance and beauty.. that they actually bring tears to one’s eyes"
Irish Music Magazine

"Music of fire and brilliance from the high-wire act in traditional music"
The Irish Times

1. Pheasant Feathers
We first heard this great tune on Scottish harper Wendy Stewart’s t 992 solo recording, About Time, It was composed in 1989 by Andy Hornby of Lancaster. We've had a lot of fun with this track and have used the tune as a basis for several solos - in Chris’s case improvised; in Máire's case not!
Chris: acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, electric bass Máire: harp Roy: drums

2. The Triplet Horn pipe
Composed by Scottish fiddle-player, composer and dancing-master James Scott Skinner (1843 1927). Máire found this delightful and surprisingly little-played tune in The Harp and Claymore, published by Skinner in 1904.
Máire: harp Chris: guitar, bouzouki, mandolins

3. Bright Falls the Air
Most musicians get a huge buzz when they get their hands on a new instrument. Having something with a different sound and feel is quite an exciting experience and can encourage the player to try something new. That was certainly the case for Chris a couple of years ago when he bought a brand new Collings guitar from our friends at Dusty Strings in Seattle: this composition was the result. Máire named the tune ‘Bright Falls the Air' as it reminds her of frosty mornings in early summer...
Chris: guitars Máire: harp

4. Pé in Éirinn (Whoe’er she be)
Composed by Liam Dall Ó hlfearnáin (1720 - 1760) of Shronehill, Co. Tipperary. It’s most probably an allegorical Jacobite aisling or vision poem (in which, typically, the poet faints or falls asleep in a wild, remote place and encounters a beautiful vision-woman with whom he falls instantly in love; she later reveals herself to be a personification of Ireland and foretells the coming of a Stuart savior). However, the poet’s use of the aisling genre may here simply be a device with which to conceal the deeply felt expression of a secret love. Caitlin Ní Uallacháin is Liam Dall's’s most famous Jacobite poem - due mainly to the popularity of J. C. Mangan’s translation, whose anglicised title Cathleen Ni Houlihan gained wide currency as a synonym for Ireland.
Please note that the translation provided does not pretend to be poetic! (It’s difficult accurately to convey a sense of the highly ornate nature of Liam Dall’s verse...)
Máire: vocals, harp Chris: acoustic guitars, electric bass

5. John Potts, Jig / O’Callaghan’s Jig
There are a number of versions of both of these tunes. The first jig is named after uilleann-piper John Potts, grandfather of whistle-player Seán Potts (formerly of The Chieftains) and great-grandfather of another Seán Potts, one of the best pipers of the current generation. The second tune is normally played as a slide - i.e., very fast - but we prefer to play it more like a double jig.
Máire: harp Chris: guitar, octave mandolin

6. Molly St George
This affecting air was composed by harper-composer Thomas Connellan, who was born c. 1640 in Cloonmahon, Co. Sligo and died some time after 1717. (He travelled widely in Scotland and was made a Burgess of the City of Edinburgh in 1717.1 ‘The Dawning of he Day’ is probably the most famous of his compositions. He and his brother William were celebrated and prolific composers. According to harper Denis Hempson, Molly was a Connacht heiress, daughter of a Colonel St George. She married a Captain Manshear, "a Munster man of good estate" towards the end of the seventeenth century.

Máire has created a new setting of the air - an amalgam of those versions published in John and William Neal’s Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes proper for the violin, German flute or hautboy (1726) and in Volume 1 of Edward Bunting's Ancient Music of Ireland (1796).
Maire: harp Nollaig: fiddle

7. Big Sciota
Chris learnt this pretty old-time tune (also called Big Scioty) at a session in Seattle a couple of years ago. It’s associated with the fiddle-playing of Burl Hammons and is named after the Scioto River, which runs south down the middle of the state of Ohio to join the Ohio River. We first met Cathy Fink in New Zealand in 1995 and have always wanted to feature her playing on one of our recordings, so we’re absolutely delighted to have managed it this time! She’s as good a frailing banjo player as you’ll ever hear.
Chris: acoustic guitars, mandolins, electric bass Máire: harp Cathy: banjo Roy: drums

8. An Buachaillin Bán (The Fair-haired Boy)
Máire’s setting of this evocative air is based on the version that she learnt as a child from her mother’s copy of Pádraig Breatnach’s Ceol ár Sinsear, a wonderful collection of songs published in 1913 and long out of print. Breatnach noted the tune from a Mrs Diarmuid O’Connor of Sunday’s Well in Cork City, who said she’d learnt it as a girl “from the old people" He chose to marry it to a poem entitled "An Buachaillin Bán" which was written by Éamonn Ó Donochadha, a contemporary of his own from Carrignavar, Co Cork. Máire used to play this tune a great deal in the 1970s and it became very popular among the Irish harpers of the time. She first recorded it on a compilation album made by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in the early 1980s and thought it was time to give it another airing.
Máire: harp

9. The Lost Summer
July 2006 brought a fantastic spell of warm sunshine. All we saw of it, though, was from the window of the studio, and by the time these recordings were completed the leaves were starting to fall and the barometer was dropping. This composition was Chris’s attempt to create a make-believe world of swimming pools and sun loungers. Maybe next year...
Chris: acoustic guitars, mandolins, electric bass Máire: harp Nollaig: fiddles Roy: drums

10. Bruach na Carraige Báine (The Brink of the White Rock)
This is one of a number of interesting songs collected in Munster by Liam de Noraidh of Kilworth, Co Cork in the 1940s and published by him in Ceol dn Mumhoin. Máire learnt it as a child: her mother has had the book (sow our of print) in her possession since its publication in 1965. De Noraidh noted the song in June 1942 from Dónal Harrington of Adrigole, a beautiful area of the Beara peninsula in Co Cork Macaronic song is a feature of societies that are on the point of becoming bilingual and this example, featuring verses in both Irish and English, probably dates from the nineteenth century. The verses in English are intended to provide a translation of the Irish, but in this instance the poet has an uncertain grasp of what is clearly a language new to him, so Máire has taken the liberty of partially re-writing them to reflect the meaning of the Irish words more closely. However, the last line of verse 1 has been toned down a little: what the girl actually says is “Where do you live’ which, as an opening gambit, is a little bald!

We first recorded a rather mournful version of the song for our 1991 album Out of Court, but it didn’t make it onto the final CD. This new interpretation has a contemporary feel more in keeping with the light- hearted nature of the words.
Máire: vocals Chris: acoustic guitars, octave mandolin, electric bass Nollaig: fiddle Roy: drums

11. Ginny’s Waltz
Composed in the 1 980s for his sister Ginny by Chris’s old friend and playing partner Paul Buckley. Formerly a stalwart of the Leeds music scene, Paul has been living in Rathmelton, Co Donegal for many years. We’ve always loved this wistful and haunting tune and are happy finally to have got around to recording it.
Máire: harp Chris: acoustic guitars, mandolin, fretless bass

12. Slides
Máire first heard these great tunes played at a session a few years ago in An Teach Beag, Clonakilty, Co. Cork by her fiddle-playing sister Mairéad and Mairéad’s regular session-mate, accordion-player Pat Murphy. Slides and polkas are regularly played for set-dancing and listening in Counties Cork and Kerry, but rarely elsewhere in Ireland.
Máire: harp Chris: mandolin Nollaig: fiddle

13. Reel for a Water-diviner
Máire wrote this tune in honour of her late father, who numbered the extraordinary ability to find water among his many talents. We wanted the arrangement to be light-hearted and full of fun - just as he was.
Máire: harp Chris: acoustic and electric guitars, mandolins, electric bass Ray: drums, percussion


Produced and arranged by Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman
Recorded at Old Bridge Music

Recording details:
Roy Whyke’s drums recorded by Rod Holt in Otley, West Yorkshire.
Cathy Fink’s banjo recorded at the Community Music Studio, Kensington, Maryland.
Everything else recorded and mixed by Chris Newman at Old Bridge Music, Ilkly.
Post production mastering by Warmick Pilmer at Clipstore, Leeds.
Sleeve design by John Hedgecock.
Photography by Simon Mayor and Hilary James.

Máire uses:
Aberdeen 36 string harps by William Bees, Rising Sun, Indiana.
Melusine 36 string electro-acoustic harp by Camac, France.
Chris uses:
OM-1E E acoustic guitar by Collings, Austin, Texas.
OM-18 & OM-42 acoustic guitars by Martin, Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
Octave mandolin by Davy Stuart, Christchurch, New Zealand.
MF-5 mandolin by Collings, Austin, Texas
Fender Stratocaster and Aria fretted and frettless basses.
John Pearse guitar & mandolin strings made by Breezy Ridge Instruments, Center Valley, Pennsylvania.
'Tortis' picks made by Dave Skowron at the Red Bear Trading Company, Henderson, Nevada.

Many thanks to Nollaig, Cathy and Roy for their contributions. Thanks also to Kevin Martin, Rosemary Snipe, Rainer Zellner of Music Contact, Dietmar Hasslinger of Weltenklang, Gigi Bresciasi of Frame Events and Nicholas Carolan and Maeve Gebruers of the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

Very special thanks to Simon Mayor for lending Nollaig his violin - the security situation at the time of the recording forbade the hand-carriage of items larger than 17 inches in length on any flight, so Nollaig was unable to bring her own instrument; to Máire’s sister Nollaig for valiantly coping with a violin of a different size an such short notice; to Simon Mayor (again!) and Hilary James for taking the photographs; to Pamela and William Rees for their beautiful harps, their support and hospitality; to John Pearse Strings and Tortis picks for their support; to Máire’s sister Mairéad and to Pat Murphy for the lovely slides; and to Máire's mother Úna whose knowledge of Irish songs and traditions is a constant inspiration.

© 2007 Old Bridge Music
® 2007 Old Bridge Music

Album Information

Instruments:     Harp, Guitar / Mandolin / fiddle / bass
Genre: Irish Traditional
Format: CD
Our Ref: A0174
Label: Old Bridge Music
Year: 2007
Origin: UK