The real Done­gal deal

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music Reviews -

FRANK CAS­SIDY Níl Gar Ann! Caird­eas na bhFidiléirí If an in­stru­ment can be said to have a heart, then the car­diac mus­cle of the fid­dle is pump­ing healthily on this re­mark­able col­lec­tion. Frank Cas­sidy was a much-revered but lit­tle-recorded fid­dler from Teelin, Co Done­gal, born at the turn of the 20th cen­tury. His style was highly per­sonal and com­plex, the sub­tlest mu­si­cian­ship mar­ried with a char­ac­ter­is­tic mod­esty.

This col­lec­tion from Done­gal’s Caird­eas na bhFidiléirí is a labour of love: a painstak­ing gath­er­ing up of no less than 29 Cas­sidy record­ings, aug­mented by six spo­ken-word excerpts that il­lu­mi­nate the essence of the man’s ge­nius. Sea­mus En­nis is here, laud­ing the blind­ing orig­i­nal­ity of Cas­sidy’s idio­syn­cratic style. This style was born, ac­cord­ing to the evoca­tive sleeve notes by Rab Cherry and Der­mot McLaugh­lin, of the fid­dler’s per­sonal vir­tu­os­ity rather than of any­thing as lazily serendipi­dous as ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion.

Lis­ten to the aching pace of Tuam na Far­raige or the hop and skip of The Ja­panese Horn­pipe and you’ll hear some­thing al­to­gether dif­fer­ent from what we’ve boxed and berib­boned as “Done­gal mu­sic”. Cock an ear to Bon­nie Kate and won­der at the elu­sive ties that bind this mu­sic to that of Ye­hudi Menuhin, Mark O’Con­nor and Martin Hayes. Cas­sidy’s ge­nius rev­elled in the anatomy of a sin­gle tune, rather than a noisy set, just as Hayes and Cahill do to­day.

Is the past, af­ter all, an­other coun­try? Maybe not. Per­haps it’s the cra­dle that nur­tured so many gen­er­a­tions to­wards a civil­i­sa­tion of a mu­si­cal kind. www.claddagh records.com SIOB­HÁN LONG

A mod­est man, a bril­liant fid­dler: Frank Cas­sidy

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