By Paul Keating
This week the town of Tullamore will be abuzz with traditional Irish music as one of the largest gathering of traditional Irish musicians and students descend upon the Offaly town.
With the convening of Scoil Eigse and Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann, the annual Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann event that may draw over 200,000 tradheads to the Midlands in one of the largest cultural displays in Ireland, the focus will be on the musicians living and deceased who are credited with making all this magic happen year after year.
One of the most storied musicians in the entire history of trad music, Paddy O’Brien, will certainly be remembered through many of his compositions as the tunes are taught, learned and shared over the week-long celebration.
And earlier this summer with the release of a new publication, The Definitive Collection of the Music of Paddy O’Brien 1922-1991, launched at both the Willie Clancy Summer School and the Catskills Irish Arts Week by his daughter Eileen O’Brien Minogue who edited it and compiled it, the importance of a musician like Paddy O’Brien was brought home anew to the Irish music community worldwide.
No ordinary compendium of tunes from the iconic box player from Newtown, Co. Tipperary is this 212-page opus produced by his fiddle-playing daughter, Eileen as a byproduct of her research in garnering a master’s degree at the Irish World Music Center at the University of Limerick.
Recognizing the extraordinary legacy of music she and her brother Donnchadh inherited through both the O’Brien and Seery families of their parents Paddy and Eileen, Eileen Og went well beyond the 1992 publication of the earlier collection of O’Brien compositions that came out a year after his death at the age of 69 in 1991. The Arts Council of Ireland helped to fund the new collection that was more than just a labor of love and precision.
The latest collection contains all 100 compositions of the master accordion player who revolutionized the B/C button box back in the 1950s and is generally considered one of the giants in Irish traditional music lore.
In addition, we are presented with a good number of arrangements and settings of popular Irish traditional music tunes that have come to be associated with Paddy O’Brien’s playing or given extra lift and drive through his talented hands.
Whether people heard his early 78 recordings, radio and television broadcasts, live performances at fleadhanna, feisianna, ceili dances, house parties or pub sessions and music classes, the reaction was always the same -- no one could bring as much to Irish music on the two-row B/C accordion like Paddy O’Brien from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.
As a highly regarded musician and teacher herself, Eileen Og O’Brien goes beyond just boasting about the family musical inheritance, and her father’s prowess in this work as its extra-added value is to see how so many others viewed the impact of Paddy O’Brien’s music on themselves and its overall evolution.
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