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I’m originally from Derrymacash, a townland outside Lurgan in County Armagh. Now living in London. I play mandolin and octave mandola and - when a session demands somewhat heavier artillery - tenor banjo.
I come from a family who have music in their DNA. My maternal grandfather - Arthur John Donnelly - was (among other things) a dancer in his youth and I have a collection of medals he won back in the early 1900s for his efforts. My paternal grandfather - John Crossey - was a singer with a fine repertoire of come-all-ye’s and ballads. My father sang, too. A big, brawny, bearded man, he sang and "played" guitar (I’m being somewhat unkind, but he’d probably agree that his guitar playing was rudimentary at best) in a group called The Bordermen - a band in the vein of The Dubliners. My dad’s brother Patsy Crossey was into the tunes in a big way as an accompanist on guitar but - most importantly - as a catalyst and a source of encouragement to fellow musicians, young and old, in and around Lurgan.
My younger sister, Josie Crossey, is a singer and guitarist. Blessed with a rich and powerful, stunningly clear voice, she has a wide repertoire from traditional songs through to contemporary ballads. She’s the woman to do justice to all of them!
And yet despite all of the above, I came to playing the tunes rather late in life. My musical tastes took an altogether different direction during my teens and into my twenties. It was only during a month or so of bumming around in 1995 or 1996, when I had tipped into my thirties, that I spent time in the company of a number of great musicians. Days spent fishing or tramping through the mountains and nights spent listening to some fine sessions. On my return to London, my head full of pleasant memories and my liver less pleased, I bought a cheap mandolin, began to navigate some rudimentary tunes and after several more years had passed, sought out some local sessions…
And I was pretty well immersed from that point onwards. Became quite obsessed, even. Played the tunes, talked about the tunes to anyone who’d listen, read about the tunes, wrote about the tunes. Found this place. Fellow trad obsessives! Somewhere to nurture my obsession further. To read about the tunes more, to write about the tunes more, to argue about the tunes.
And then I took a break from The Session and indeed almost all web forums for several years. Like many of us, in the early days of the internet, I didn’t realise just how permanent our words would be and I began to feel very disenchanted by the lack of civility that I witnessed in so many places on the web (some of it emanating from myself). Having been away for a while, I’m rejoining The Session with a somewhat different attitude, hopefully refusing to be drawn into fractious debates and confining my comments to the positive!
I’ve also drifted in and out of the world of "meatspace" sessions over the course of the past few years. I used to be an avid "2 or 3 times a week" sessioneer. But a combination of age, overfamiliarity, a few changes of address, demands of work and - sadly - a form of social anxiety which has crept up on me have meant that I increasingly find sessions hard work. Particularly the high volume, high intensity, high velocity, competitive scrums that we come across from time to time.
That’s not to say that I have come to dislike playing music with others. Far from it! But these days I’m more likely to get a buzz from playing with one or two other players. In someone’s house, free from the distractions of the pub environment and free to go on playing until the pale light of dawn if the mood takes us.
Interestingly, I’ve had a few chats recently with friends of a similar vintage who have also drifted away from the tunes at various points in their lives. Some haven’t found their way back. But some have and, indeed, some have with renewed vigour. We’ve all held on to *something* about the music when we veered off-track for a while. In my case there were a handful of albums which I returned to again and again when I needed a quick fix of some authentic, tasteful, inspiring music. Among them:
Gerry Harrington, Eoghan O’Sullivan, Paul de Grae - The Smoky Chimney https://thesession.org/recordings/512
James Kelly - Capel Street https://thesession.org/recordings/1447
James Kelly, Paddy O’Brien, Daithi Sproule - Traditional Music Of Ireland https://thesession.org/recordings/630
Noel Hill and Tony Linnane https://thesession.org/recordings/27
Away from The Session, I run a mandolin website called The Irish Mandolin. I’ll bet you’re staggered by the originality of the name!! You can find it at www.theirishmandolin.com I have recently (30 August 2020) published the following update at The Mandolin Cafe:
I’ve just renewed my wordpress subscription to keep "The Irish Mandolin" up and running for another year. Many thanks to the very kind and generous souls out there who have made the occasional donation towards the running costs of the site. Your support is very much appreciated.
In the early stages of the virus situation I lost a good deal of interest in music. From conversations with musician friends it would appear that I wasn’t alone in that regard. However as time goes on, I find myself increasingly drawn back again to playing - and listening to - "the tunes" - as a recent rash of new additions to the "learn some tunes" bit of the site testifies. https://theirishmandolin.com/the-tunes/
This bit of the site continues to attract the most visitors and I hope that some of the tunes here have provided some inspiration to mandolin players who frequent the Mandolin Cafe…
Next in popularity is the bit of the site which showcases mandolin players "in the tradition". https://theirishmandolin.com/exponents-of-the-irish-mandolin/ Some glorious recordings here and again I hope they serve not only as delightful listening but as sources of inspiration. Please remember that I’d be delighted to showcase any other mandolinists who play trad Irish tunes (or other related "celtic" musical forms). Just get in touch with me and send an mp3 and I’ll take it from there.
However I appreciate that not everyone feels comfortable recording themselves. (I sympathise - I’m sure that I can play a tune 100 times without a fluff or a glitch but as soon as I hit the "record" button, my fingers tie up in knots!) And so I’ve created a new feature of the site to which I’d like to extend a very warm invitation to contribute. I’ve mentioned it before. https://theirishmandolin.com/mandolin-players-favourite-sets/ The idea is to allow fellow trad-players to suggest some of their favourite sets. When you pick up the mandolin - at home or in a session - what are the sets that you instinctively start to play? Those tunes that flow well into one another and whose fingering just feels "right", that get your head into exactly the right place. If you’d like to share these with your fellow mandolinists, please feel free to email me via the contact page on the site https://theirishmandolin.com/contact-me/ and I’ll be happy to give you an honorable mention. (And if you’d like to contribute the sets anonymously - or under a pseudonym/"handle" - I’ll be happy to oblige.) I’ve started the ball rolling with a few of my own favourite sets. But, frankly, I get a bit tired of the sound of my own voice sometimes, so I’d really appreciate featuring some of my fellow mandolinists’ suggestions.
Finally in this update, a big shout-out to Michael Gregory who many frequenters of the Mandolin Cafe will know well. Michael has been incrediby supportive of my website and has contributed material and ideas which have helped the site develop. I am deeply indebted to him for his generosity and his sage advice. As a tribute I named the following tune after him. It’s the most fitting tribute I can think of to a man who has devoted so much time and energy to promoting the cause of the mandolin in Irish music. https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/michael-gregorys.mp3 https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/michael-gregorys.pdf
As you were!
STOP PRESS: 6 November 2020
I have created a youtube channel where many of the tunes from my website are available to browse and - hopefully - learn. The videos are (deliberately) basic - just a soundtrack comprising myself playing the tune over a screenshot of the tune tabbed out for mandolin (often with sheet music included alongside the mandolin tablature). Both traditional tunes and some of my own compositions. Go to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVvlBAsMSlHMfjET8I2fQJg/videos to find out more.
I’ve posted quite a few tunes to The Session over the years. Several of these have been my own compositions. However I’ve noticed that many members post their own compositions in their "about me" section. That seems like a much more sensible, much less "look at me" way of adding tunes. So from this point on, I’ll share new compositions here rather than in the tunes section of The Session. (If you want to listen to the tunes being played, go to http://theirishmandolin.com/original-tunes-written-and-played-by-aidan-crossey/ I’ll do my best to ensure that this page and the link above are sync’d as far as possible.)
THE TINY BUTLER
My little nephew, Louis, now (i.e. November 2020) 6 years old, has always been very independently-minded and loves to be “busy”. To the extent that if there’s a job to be done, Louis is quick to volunteer. Anyone need a cup of tea? A few biscuits? Plates need clearing away and stacking in the dishwasher? Ferrying cooked food from the barbecue back into the house and raw food from the house out to the barbecue? Louis’s the man for the job. Hence the affectionate nickname, “The Tiny Butler”. This polka in D Major is a tribute to his energy, his competence beyond his years and his funny little ways!
T: The Tiny Butler
C: Aidan Crossey
|:Ad dc/d/|fd Ad|fg/a/ gf|e>f ec|
Ad dc/d/|fd Ad|fd ec|[1d2 d>B:|2d2 d>e||
|fa ab/a/|fd Ad|fg/a/ gf|e2 e>e|
fa ab/a/|fd Ad|fd ec|d2 d>e|
fa ab/a/|fd Ad|fg/a/ gf|e2 e2|
fd ge|af b>g|ed ce|d2 d2||
Listen to me playing the tune here: https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/tiny-butler.mp3
Sheet music and mandolin tablature available here: https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/tiny-butler.pdf
ONE TREE HILL
A single reel in D. The "nucleus" of this tune occurred to me after a damp, autumnal walk around One Tree Hill not far from where I live in South East London. Hence the name of this little reel. On a fine, sunny day the views across to the city are amazing.
T: One Tree Hill
C: Aidan Crossey
|dcAG FGAB|=cABG A2 A^c|dcAG FGAG|FDEF D2 AF|
dcAG FGAB|=cABG A2 A^c|dcAG FGAB|Addc d2 de||
|f2 fd efed|cAAB cdeg|f2fd efec|Addc d2 de|
f2 fd efed|cAAB cdeg|f2fd gfed|cdec d2 dc||
Listen to me playing the tune here. https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/one-tree-hill.mp3
Mandolin tablature available here. https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/one-tree-hill-tab.pdf
Sheet music available here. https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/one-tree-hill-sheet.pdf
THE PERILS OF WISDOM
A barndance in G. A little knowledge, they say, is a dangerous thing. Hence pearls of wisdom can become perils of wisdom.
T: The Perils Of Wisdom
C: Aidan Crossey
Bc|:d2 de dcBA|GABd g2 fg|a2 ab agfe|d2 ^ce d2 B=c|
d2 de dcBA|GABd g2 fg|agfe dcBA|G2 g2 g2 Bc:||
|:d2 g2 gdBc|d2 g2 g2 fg| a2 ab agfe|d2 ^ce d2 B=c|
d2 g2 gdBc|d2 g2 g2 fg|agfe dcBA|1G2 g2 g2 Bc:|2GABd g4||
Listen to me playing the tune here. https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/perils-of-wisdom.mp3
Mandolin tablature and sheet music available here. https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/perils-of-wisdom-sheet-and-tab.pdf
THE GIRLS OF HACKNEY
This jig is dedicated to Cathy (fiddle) and Mary (flute) Gillard, who I first met many years ago in the company of their brother John (fiddle) at the late-lamented sessions at The White Horse in Bethnal Green. Through the years we’ve shared many a tune and many an hour’s crack. When the world comes out of its current state of paralysis and we’ve managed to live more easily with the coronavirus pandemic, Cathy and Mary are among the first people I hanker to play a tune or two with.
T: The Girls Of Hackney
C: Aidan Crossey
|:G,B,D GBd|gdB GDB,|CEG cGE|CEG cGE|
DFA cBc|fed cAF|1 GFG BGE|DED CB,A,:|2 GFG BAF|G2G Bcd||
|gdB GBd|gdB GBd|ecA DFA|ecA DFA|
EFG ABc|def g2g|gba gfe|d2d Bcd|
gdB GBd|gdB GBd|ecA DFA|ecA DFA|
EFG ABc|def g2g|fed cAF|G2G D3||
Listen to me playing the tune here. https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/girls-of-hackney.mp3
Mandolin tablature available here. https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/the-girls-of-hackney-mandolin-tab.pdf
Sheet music available here. https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/girls-of-hackney-sheet-music.pdf
Parakeets are a common sight and sound in London. There’s an urban myth that they were introduced by Jimi Hendrix. A nice thought - but the rumour’s been scotched!
|G2BG dGBG|F2AF dFAF|E2cE dEcE|A2AB cBAB|
G2BG dGBG|F2AF dFAF|E2cE dEcE|A2AB cdef||
|g2dg Bgdg|f2df Afdf|g2dg ecAG|FGAB cdef|
g2dg Bgdg|f2df Afdf|e2ef gfef|dece BeAe||
Listen to me playing the tune on mandolin here https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/parakeet.mp3
Mandolin tablature and sheet music available here https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/parakeet-tab-pdf.pdf
Michael Gregory has been a big help to me in establishing my website. Not just encouragement, but he has provided me with material and inspiration! I was in the midst of an email exchange with Michael when the following tune occurred to me. I was fiddling about with "A Tune For Fee" (see below), moving the opening phrases from G to D when a new tune began to emerge and I named it in honour of Michael.
de|:fAdf eAce|defa g2 ag|fAdf eAce|dAFE D2 de|
fAdf eAce|defa g2 ag|fAdf eAce|d2 dc d2 de:||
|:fAaA bAaA|fAdf eAce|fAaA bAaA|fAdc eAde|
fAaA bAaA|fAdf eAce|fAdf eAce|1dAFE D2 de:|2d2 dc d2 de||
You can hear me playing the tune on octave mandola here: https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/michael-gregorys.mp3
Mandolin tab and "dots" here: https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/michael-gregorys-tab-new.pdf
And - for those who like that sort of thing! - a MIDI file here: https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/michael-gregorys-midi.mp3
JOE CRILLY’s JIG
Joe Crilly was a very good friend of mine. Hailing from Derryadd, about half a mile from where I grew up, Joe moved to London a few years before I did and we spent a lot of time in each other’s company. Joe was an actor and playwright - incredibly talented in both endeavours. Sadly he took his own life a few years ago and I continue to feel his loss deeply. I wrote the tune that follows in his honour.
T:Joe Crilly’s Jig
|:efg dBG|ABG EDB,|DEG AGA|BAG ABd|
efg dBG|ABG EDB,|DEG AGA|BGG G3:||
|:DEG ABc|dBG DB,G,|DEG ABc|dBG G3|
DEG ABc|dBG DB,G,|CEC DFA|GAG G3:||
I like to finish this off with a supplementary four bar phrase:
|CEC DFA|GBG Ace|dfa gdB|cAF G3||
If you’d like to see this tune written out in mandolin/banjo tablature, you can find a pdf at https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/joe-crillys-jig.pdf
You can listen to me playing the tune on mandolin at https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/joe-crillys-jig.mp3
Another tune written as a tribute to Joe Crilly. One of Joe’s most acclaimed plays was called "On McQuillan’s Hill". I wrote this tune shortly after Joe’s untimely death and the title simply leapt out at me. A jaunty little barndance which belies the sadness I was feeling at the time.
D2B2 cBAG|E2e2 e2fe|d2fe dcAF|GABc d2BG|
D2B2 cBAG|E2e2 e2fe|d2fe dcAF|1 G2GF G2GE:|2 G2GF GABd||
g2B2 B3d|cBcd e2fe|d2fe dcAF|GABc d2ef|
g2B2 B3d|cBcd e2fe|d2fe dcAF|1 G2GF GABd:|2 G2GF G2GE||
Mandolin/banjo tablature available at https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/mcquillans-hill.pdf
You can hear me playing the tune on mandolin at https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/mcquillans-hill.mp3
My mother owns a mobile home in Downings, County Donegal. The site commands great views but there’s a price to pay for those views in the form of a very steep section on the way in from Downings town. One of my relatives named this stretch of road "Cardiac Hill" and I thought the name was appropriate for this jig in A Major.
|:aec AEA|cea ecA|Bcf Bdf|Bcf Bdf|
aec AEA|cea ecA|Bcf Bdf|efg a3:||
|:cef ecA|cec c2A|Bcf Bdf|Bcf Bdf|
cef ecA|cec c2A|Bcf Bdf|efg a3:||
Mandolin/banjo tab here https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/cardiac-hill.pdf
You can hear me playing the tune on mandolin at https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/cardiac-hill.mp3
THE HOODED MAN
A tune written as a tribute to my uncle Gerry McKerr. A solid man.
T:The Hooded Man
|:GAB dge|dBG AGE|GAB dge|dBG A2D|
GAB dge|dBG AGE|gdB ecA|GAF G3:||
|:gdB ecA|dBG AGE|GAB dge|dBG A2e|
gdB ecA|dBG AGE|GAB dge|dBG G3:||
Mandolin/banjo tab here https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/hooded-man.pdf
You can hear me playing the tune on mandolin at https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/hooded-man-v2.mp3
A TUNE FOR FEE
This a slow reel, composed in honour of my partner, the eponymous Fee. Sometimes tunes arrive out of nowhere and perfectly formed. This was one such tune.
T:A Tune For Fee
GA|BDGB ADFA|GABG DG,B,D|CDEC B,CDB,|A,DAB c2dc|
BDGB ADFA|GABG DG,B,D|CDEC B,CDB,|A,DAB G2GA|
BDGB ADFA|GABG DG,B,D|CDEC B,CDB,|A,DAB c2dc|
BDGB ADFA|GABG DG,B,D|CDEC B,CDB,|A,DAB G2Bc||
d2Bd gabg|agfa g2dg|eAce dBGB|cBAG A2Bc|
dBGB cAFA|GABG DG,B,D|CDEC B,CDB,|A,DAB G2Bc|
d2Bd [Bg]2 [db]2| [ca]2 [Af]2 [Bg]2 dg|eAce dBGB|cBAG A2Bc|
dBGB cAFA|GABG DG,B,D|CDEC B,CDB,|A,DAB G4||
To listen to me playing the tune on octave mandola (which I quite like in the context of this tune because it allows notes to sustain for a little longer than my mandolin) click the link which follows. https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/a-tune-for-fee.mp3
Here’s a link to mandolin/banjo tablature. https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/a-tune-for-fee.pdf and here’s a link to a "Midi to mp3" version of the tune https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/a-tune-for-fee-midi-converted-to-mp3.mp3 (By the way, I know that these midis can sound horrible. However it’s another option for those who prefer to pick up a tune by ear.) And finally, for those, who prefer "the dots" to abc, here’s a link to the tune in sheet music format (thanks to www.mandolintab.net for the abc conversion facility!). https://crosseyirishmandolin.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/a-tune-for-fee-sheet-music.pdf