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’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.)
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