The real Donegal deal
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