John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

This Leitrim- born musician was the inspiration for generations of flute players. He left the Arigna coal mines for New York and recorded 44 tracks of music in the 1920s and 30s. His 78 records trickled back to Ireland and are regarded as classics of their kind. The John McKenna Traditional Music Society of Drumkeeran, Co Leitrim is issuing ALL of these tracks, remastered with clarity acceptable to 21st century listeners, on a double CD very soon. It will be launched first at the John McKenna Traditional Music weekend in Drumkeeran on June 7th. Further launches are planned for Miltown Malbay at the Willie Clancy week, at Drumshanbo’s Joe Mooney weekend and at the All Ireland fleadh in Sligo..

McKenna’s tunes (or many of them) are well known to modern players, but this is the FIRST time his complete works have been available- a landmark in Irish traditional music

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

Wow, such timing - just the other day I made a CD with all of the McKenna I’ve come across, as a gift for a flute player who only knows about him via liner notes from later players like Eddie Cahill. I’ll have to let him know when this is in stores, will definitely snap up a copy myself of course. Thanks for finally getting around to a reissue +.

Is Gráinne Murphy still living in McKenna’s house? I told her to check behind walls for stray instruments - it does happen, you know. An old set of pipes was once found under some floorboards, for instance.

Info about the CD: http://www.johnmckenna.ie/irish-time/

McKenna’s flute: http://hammy-flutemaker.blogspot.com/2014/04/john-mckennas-flute.html

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

Hooray! Like Kevin I have a fascination(I almost said fetish) with players from previous generations, and I’ve scoured the net looking for every drop of McKenna’s playing I can find. Great to have it all in one place. I can’t wait.

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

It interesting to note he may have played an American made (possibly English) flute on some of his recordings. I assumed he played a German flute as he is pictured with one.

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/mckenna.htm

What did Tom Morrison play? An old band flute?

Is there any info on Morrison? Did he play pipes as well? I thought I heard his pipes are out there somewhere but I could be confusing things.

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Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

One of these guys- I can’t remember which one now- would do a sort of variation I’ve not heard any current player do, and that is to play a little phrase, perhaps a bar or so, with each note separately articulated (whether by tongue or diaphragm who can say).

This amazing little staccato phrase appears out of nowhere and give such excitement to the tune.

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

I think you mean The Dunmore Flash, Tom Morrison.

Love his bizarre energy, between octave tone and merry bits of fifing.

Have you heard the brilliant throated (or tongued) triplets of Willam Cummins? Not heard anything like it before.

Are there any tracks with McKenna on piccolo?

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Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

Morrison was a piper, yes. No recordings exist of him playing the pipes though. He taught Fermanagh/NYC piper Tom Busby after Busby’s first teacher, Mike Carney, died. A disc of Morrison and Michael Coleman is known only through catalog entries; one of the titles is "The Piper’s Backstitch." Backstitching is a staccato ornament, a triplet played with two fingers of one hand and one of the other, peculiar to Connaught pipers like Carney and Patsy Touhey,

Morrison mostly is in Eb. What instruments these guys played is hard to guess. Various players in old photos have flutes with ivory heads, which would likely be German or German style instruments, with smaller holes than the typical English models, and a quieter sound. I like telling people about how when he was learning the flute Matt Molloy says he was perfectly happy with the Wurlitzer flute his grandfather had brought back from America; but when he needed more volume, and picked up a Rudall Rose for that purpose. Those old continental and American flutes have a nice sound in their own regard. Also music making used to be solo or duet playing by and large, so a quieter instrument would have fit the bill just fine.

The puffy playing Morrison would use as a variation comes from fifing; also his broad trilling, eg the Maggie in the Woods set of polkas, which he recorded twice. Fife bands used to be quite a big deal in Ireland, indeed still are in the North. Note that those old Connaught pipers also made use of trills, along with various other ornaments that suggest a heritage from the piob mhor.

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

Wow - this is great.
Thanks for posting.

I’m a great fan of Mckennas playing.
I’m looking forward to hearing this. Thanks.

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

The double CD will not be in stores at first, probably only at launches or via www.johnmckenna.ie - the website is not great but the word will get through & it should be available from early June

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

The first launch of the McKenna double CD/book of 100+ pages will be this evening in Drumkeeran, Co Leitrim, the nearest village to his home at Tents, Tarmon, which is still maintained by the McKenna Society. A gathering was arranged on Wednesday June 4 in the house in honour of the 11/12 of McKenna’s American descendants who are around for the launch- turf fire, scones, soda bread & plenty of tea! (oh and a few tunes of course)
It will be available at the launches at 20 euro- after tonight, the launches will be at
Willie Clancy Summer School, Miltown Malbay, Co Clare Sunday 6 July 3pm
Joe Mooney summer School, Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim Wednesday 23 July 7.30pm
Sligo All-Ireland fleadh, Sligo Town Saturday August 16- time tbc
also by contacting www.johnmckenna.ie, and at some stage on general sale in shops
If you can’t make any of the launches I will be at the Fastnet festival in Ballydehob, West Cork next weekend, so anyone who wants a copy & will be there, just let me know by pm Thursday & will bring one…

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

The McKenna society website is now re-invigorated- the double CD (including 100 page booklet) is available NOW from www.johnmckenna.ie

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

someone asked if there were any tracks of him playing piccolo- no but he was pretty versatile- whistle and fiddle as well as flute. Also his accordion is held at the Drumshanbo Library…. another unique aspect of the CD is to hear McKenna singing the ‘Foggy Dew’ only a few years after the 1916 rebellion

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

Isn’t it a different song to the same tune ? Just one verse. "Where go ye fair maid, said I … … in the foggy dew "

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

Thanks for posting about this, jimfran. Another order placed.

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

For anyone who missed it, the double CD will of course be available at the forthcoming John McKenna Traditional Weekend in Drumkeeran, Co Leitrim (his home village) on June 5-7 2015.
More information on www.johnmckenna.ie if you miss the weekend.
The McKenna CD ‘The Buck from the Mountain’ is also now available in the shops but much cheaper at the festival at 20 euros (approx. £14 these days) or via the website

Re: John McKenna- master flute player 1880-1947

David50 yes you are right of course- McKenna’s vocal effort on the CD is not the ‘1916’ one nor is it the Burl Ives version!
Festival was sadly cancelled entirely in 2015 due to the untimely death of the chairman, Packie McPartlan, on the festival eve- it will be back in June 2016