This photo of the Irish Music Club, Chicago, was taken sometime between 1901, when the club was formally established, and 1904, when Rogers O’Neill died. Front ro , l-r: Garrett Stack, James Kerwin. Second ro , l-r: John Conners, Barney Delaney, John Beatty, Tom Ennis, James Early, James Cahill, Adam Tobin. Third ro , l-r: John McElligott, M. G. Enright, John Duffy, John Ennis, Charles O’Gallaghe , William McCormack, Michael Dunlap, Thomas Dunphy, Fr. J. K. Fielding. Back ro , l-r: Fr. W. K. Dollard, Ed Cronin, Rog- ers O’Neill, Francis O’Neill, imothy Dillon, John McFadden, Michael Kissane, James Kennedy. (O’Neill, 1913: 479)
someone professionally,” he said. Stapleton contacted the American Folklife Center for assistance. The Center had digital copies made of all the cylinders, returned the cylinders and one set of digital copies to the Ward archive, and retained a set of digital copies for the AFC archive. The Ward archive’s plans include a CD release of the cylinders; AFC will make them avail- able to researchers, initially in the reading room, and eventually, perhaps, online.
both airy and graceful,” he remarked. “In fact he presented a distinct school in this respect, for among traditional Irish musicians nothing is so noticeable as the absence of uniformity of style or system.” Similarly, O’Neill (1910, 36) wrote of John McFadden: “everything connected with his playing was original and defiant of all rules of modern musical ethics; yet the crisp- ness of tone and rhythmic swing of his music were so thrilling that all other sentiments were stifled by admiration.”
“Paddy’s Resource”: The Collection’s Value
One of the primary reasons this collection is valuable con- cerns the particulars of Irish music. There are aspects of Irish musical performance that are difficult to capture on paper, and this makes the cylinder recording a much better document of how a tune was played than a transcription. O’Neill himself was aware of the imperfections of written notation for taking down Irish music. “[Patsy] Touhey’s and [Barney] Delaney’s graces, trills and deviations were endless in variety,” he wrote. “While their style and skill entranced the listener, both were the despair of the music writer” (O’Neill 1910, 96). He was equally impressed with Edward Cronin: “Long sweeping bowing with its attendant slurs gave marked individuality to his style which was
In discussing his greatest sources’ “rhythmic swing,” their “graces, trills and deviations,” and their “absence of unifor- mity,” O’Neill was getting to the heart of the problem for anyone who wishes to transcribe Irish tunes. In Irish tradition, each melody exists as a pattern to be reproduced, an abstraction that is only actualized by the playing of individual musicians. Each tune is a mere outline, to be filled out by the improvisation of the player. Players add their own touches to the tune by slightly altering the rhythm, lengthening some notes and shortening others, to create the “swing” that O’Neill noted in McFadden’s fiddling. They also add the “graces, trills and deviations,” today conventionally called “ornaments”: patterns of tones surround- ing the main notes of the musical outline. These ornaments are a well known aspect of the music employed by all Irish mu-