John Walsh’s aka Brogeen (comp. John F. Walsh)
This is probably the least played of John Walsh’s polkas (and actually the least liked by the author himself), and there’re at least five of them regularly played at the Scully’s Monday tune in Newmarket, Co. Cork. There are two reasons for it to be posted here, however: 1. It hasn’t been posted yet, I think 🙂) 2. It’s partly contributed to the confusion around John’s much better-known 3-part polka.
The story goes that for one reason or the other Terry Moylan got a ‘wrong’ version of John’s 3-part polka written down in his Johnny O’Leary of Sliabh Luachra (#261). Judging by Johnny’s own recording where he starts with the first part of ‘Brogeen’ and moves onto the second part of ‘Monvara Bridge’, it could’ve been him playing it this way on that particular occasion, or even repeatedly. You know how it happens with similar tunes. In any case, the end result was a 4-part polka with the ‘proper’ first part of ‘Monvara Bridge’ played last, and it could’ve stayed this way as polka #261 or Johnny’s own version of that polka with no bother at all… if it wasn’t for the popularity of both Johnny’s recordings and the book, which of course has become iconic and collector’s item, and has recently been reissued. And so instead it was destined to become a bit of a headache for John and everyone playing his 3-part version of the tune, the one you would most likely get at the Newmarket session.
Not until I actually had a chance to show the book – very kindly given to me in Sliabh Luachra – to John in Cork that he realised it was probably down to this very one notation / recording session that he had to submit to playing his own tune the ‘wrong way’ for so many times! Padraig O’Keeffe’s own student Paddy Jones had been asking John about this tune and he hadn’t a clue what Paddy was talking about until seeing it the way it was written. Now that’s a story worth adding to the Sliabh Luachra lore I believe!
You can hear ‘Brogeen’ on this recording of The Monks of the Screw:
John Walshe’s aka Brogeen (comp. John F. Walsh)
John Walsh is a fiddle player from Derrygallen near Kanturk, Co. Cork, also spelt as Derrygallon and Derrygalun, or Doire Ghealbhan in Irish – but he now lives in Cork anyway! He’s a quiet and unassuming man, who’s never thought highly of own compositions (preferring to say “I was messing with my fiddle”), but those nevertheless have been catching on like wildfire around the world, and many a times he’s been confronted with his tunes without anyone realising the author is alive and kicking, and standing right beside them. While John rarely visits any pub sessions in the city, he occasionally goes to play tunes in Newmarket and Blarney. For those interested in the music of Sliabh Luachra (and why else would you have read this far??), I highly recommend meeting John while you have a chance, for he’s one of the few living examples of the old, Padraig O’Keeffe’s way of bowing the tunes, which has since been much simplified (and sterilized). John didn’t learn from Padraig, but he played with a number of Padraig’s students for many years, including his own relation Sonny O’Riordan. John knows Padraig’s notation inside out and according to him, there’s more to it style-wise than you can possibly suspect. Did I mention he seems a bit quiet? Well, that’s until you get to know him, and when you do, John’s stories will be flowing till you’ve collapsed from exhaustion, for he’s a walking encyclopedia of local lore and the amount of tales he can tell are beyond counting.
John Walsh’s aka Derrygallen Bridge
John Walsh’s aka Monvara Bridge
John Walsh’s aka Daly’s Mill
John Walsh’s aka Goblachan
The tunes I post here were transcribed from John’s playing and were played through by him for verification. More so than in the notes, the difference is in the way he phrases and bows them, but for that you really have to listen to him live. One small hint lies in the laid back and “crisp” or “snappy” way he bows (not just slurs), which totally makes sense when you have a look at O’Keeffe’s notation. An example of a common difference that can be noted easily is the first line of the ubiquitous “No.1” that goes B,>D .E.D .B,.D .E.D (as opposed to ironed out pairs of BG-ED BD-ED). There’s more fascinating stuff about spacings and off-beat “grace notes,” but it’s too advanced for the comments. NB: Note that John never named or numbered his tunes, and the names have been all creatively made up by the likes of Jackie Daly using sites from the locale (which is around Kanturk). How they got them is a story of its own!