Insight provided into Mulvihill’s style

Brendan Mulvihill.

Traditional Music / By Daniel Neely

Folks, the sessions are slowly on their way back! I was chatting recently with the great Donie Carroll, who has a brand new session night going at the Grandstand Bar & Restaurant in Elmhurst, Queens. It’s in two parts, a tune session starts at 6:00 to accommodate younger musicians in the area (featured guests so far have included the likes of Cillian Vallely and Pat Mangan), and the ever-popular singers club starts around 8/8:30. The session happen on Thursday nights for the time being, but the plan is to shift to Wednesdays in the coming weeks. Make a note of it!

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Fans of the band We Banjo Three have reason to rejoice, as they’ve just announced a live streaming event on June 24. Yes, the “Kings of Celtgrass” will perform “We Banjo 3: Light of Summer” live from Fergal Scahill’s home studio. The show, just in time for the summer solstice and in anticipation of a hopeful return to touring in the late summer/fall, will feature great music and the kind of hijinks WB3 is known for. Tickets and merch bundles for the livestream are available through the group’s website,

By the way, in addition to a new season of their “Inside the Banjoverse” podcast that will launch shortly, WB3 has a new single out, a cover of Tom Petty’s song “Wildflowers,” featuring Kiana June & Steve Ferrone! Check it out!

Some unfortunate news to report: Patrick Sky, a folk singer and a latter-day pioneers of uilleann piping in the U.S., has passed away. Born in 1943, Sky was an important part of the vibrant Greenwich Village folk scene in the 1960s and recorded several well-regarded albums in the 1960s and 70s.

His impact on the world of Irish music was substantial. He took up the pipes in the early 1970s and learned from the likes of Liam O'Flynn, Seamus Ennis, Dan Dowd, Tom Busby, and others, but went on to become an important maker of uilleann pipes and helped revive the art. In 1973, he co-founded Green Linnet, the seminal record label that brought traditional Irish music to a much wider audience in the 1970s and 80s. In addition, he authored several noted books on uilleann piping, including “A Manual for the Irish Uilleann Pipes” and “The Insane Art of Reedmaking,” and published facsimiles and/or modern editions of several classic works, including “O'Farrell's Collection of National Irish Music for the Union Pipes,” “The Complete Tutor for the Pastoral or New Bagpipe and Also For the Union Pipes,” “Ryan’s Mammoth Collection,” and “Howe's 1,000 Jigs and Reels” Mr. Sky will be missed, but his legacy will live on.

Patrick and Cathy Sky.

Finally, the great fiddler Brendan Mulvihill has just released volume two of his “Irish Scroll” tune book, a clearly presented, carefully selected collection of tunes that gives musicians great insight into the man’s repertory, and if used with the CD, enables careful students terrific insight into Mulvihill’s magnificent style. Folks who play fiddle – especially advancing musicians – should consider this collection a must-have — it’s fabulous.

Mulvihill is one of the great fiddle players. He grew up throughly ensconced in the Irish tradition of music making in a family that was full of music, his father, the legendary player and teacher Martin Mulvihill, being the most recognizable. Brendan, however, forged his own path early on, both as an All-Ireland winning fiddle player and as a recording artist (solo and as a member of the group The Irish Tradition; the aforementioned label Green Linnet released several of his albums). In addition, Mulvihill has spent his adult live collecting tunes in a manner of which few others are capable. Here, he’s presented many brilliant rare and well-known tunes (albeit in the rarest of settings) learned on his journeys, as well as several newly-composed tunes taken directly from their composers. It’s spectacular stuff.

Volume One of the “Irish Scroll” came out in 2013 and this collection is very much its companion. The new book consists of four sections “Jigs and Slip Jigs,” “O’Carolan Tunes,” “Hornpipes,” and “Reels” and provides 236 tunes in total. The companion compact disc that is available with it includes 23 tracks that demonstrate some of the album’s tunes.
There is a great deal to take away from this collection. A listen through the CD yields some lovely settings, including “Drowsy Maggie” (which is really nice), the Carolan tunes “Tobias Peyton,” “Ode to Whiskey” and “Planxty Charles O’Connor” (Mulvihill is a exceptional interpreter of Carolan’s pieces), “Hangman's Rope / The Brigade,” and “Empty Creels / Bog Cotton,” to name a few, that reveal facets of Mulvihill’s more improvisational style with each pass. Track are played at a reasonably brisk but learner’s tempo, which makes the CD an especially good complement.

Looking around the non-recorded parts of this collection one finds lots of lovely tunes that recall some of the great players to which Mulvihill would have listened and learned from. Some, like “Pigeon on the Gate,” “The Merry Harriers,” and “Moving Bog,” come in different settings, which is nice. Some great composers are also represented, like Liam Donnelly, Frank McCollum, and the great Eugene O’Donnell whose work is represented several times, including “Carney the Poet” (which appears on the CD), “Celine Will Dance,” “The Hunger Strikers,” and the expansive “Drum Na Tinnead.” This is lovely to see and helps further develop O’Donnell’s legacy. The collection also includes “Sweet Glin Carberry,” a really nice Martin Mulvihill tune that I’m not sure I’d heard before.

Mulvihill has included 26 of his own tunes in this collection, which are great. Some, like “Carrigafoyle” (a big five-part jig) and maybe “The Postman” are somewhat challenging in nature, while others, like “Liam Donnelly’s,” “Abbie’s Hornpipe,” and “Limerick Hornpipe,” are more tidy yet no less memorable. Unfortunately, none of Mulvihill’s compositions are included on the instructional CD, but perhaps “Mulvihill playing Mulvihill” will be the basis for a future project.

“The Irish Scroll” is an excellent collection of tunes. Again, it’s recommended for serious fiddle students, but also for anyone interested in digging into the lived experience of musician of Mulvihill’s caliber. Great stuff all around. “The Irish Scroll” and its companion CD can both be purchased at