Gerry O'Connor (Fiddle)
Dónal O'Connor: fiddle, piano - Martin Quinn: accordion - Neil Martin: cello
Paul McSherry: guitar - Martin O'Hare: bodhran.
WWW.LiveIreland.com Awards 2006. Male Musician of the Year---Gerry O'Connor
"O'Connor lets the tunes speak for themselves, varying the arrangements with subtle verve", BBC I web Site.
unequivocally, the best Irish fiddle album for many a year. Miss this and your life might be poorer! Geoff Wallis, 5 Star review.
" Journeyman is a masterclass of poise, energy, and grace signifying all that is good about Irish traditional music". John O'Regan
"Gerry has with Journeyman brought us an album of considerable stature to add to our collection of classic Irish music CDs", David Kidman net.rhythms.com
"Sparkling" " Immaculate" and with "Dazzling Ability" were words used recently by the national Press to describe the music of Gerry O'Connor, one of Ireland's most outstanding fiddle players. His family has played fiddle for at least four generations and Gerry is able to draw on this wealth of music learned from his mother Rose O'Connor and also from hand-written manuscripts passed down through the family.
Later he came under the influence of Joe Gardiner the great Sligo fiddle player, who lived in Dundalk for many years. Gerry breathes new life and intensity into many long forgotten tunes from his home area in the North East of Ireland. His unique personal style and splendidly fluid bow-hand combined with technical virtuosity have brought him to concert stages throughout the world and have earned him international renown. He is a founding member of the band Skylark and recorded four albums with this highly respected band that had toured Europe for 10 years. The Brighid's Kiss album of his own band La Lúgh was voted album of the year 1996.
October 2004 sees the release of his new album entitled 'Journeyman' which traces Gerry's musical development and experiences as a skilled performer in the traditional art of fiddle playing. Each of the twelve carefully crafted tracks celebrate the rich musical heritage of the great master musicians of the last century.
Also available from Copperplate Gerry O'Connor & Giles le Bigot: In Concert
More info on Gerry O'Connor at www.gerryoconnor.net
Jig in A:
Uir Chnoic Cein Mhic Cainte:
- Jig in A / Dancing Eyes/Up and About in the Morning (Jigs)
- The Chickens Gone To Scotland / Kitty the Hare / Jim Erwin's / Drunken Maids of Ardnare
- Uir Chnoic Cein Mhic Cainte (air)
- Yellow Wattle / Pat McKenna's / Christy Barry's (jigs)
- The Maid Behind the Bar / Paddy Ryan's Dream / Music in the Glen (reels)
- Bidh Eoin/Casey's Pig / Rose Mooney (highlands)
- Bonny Anne / Traver's / Sporting Nell (reels)
- The Day the Ass Ran Away / Lancers / Tickle her Leg With the Barley Straw (single jigs)
- Star of Munster / Boys of the Lough (reels)
- Bessie the Beauty of Rossinare Hill (air)
- Hanley's / McGann's (reels)
- The Left Hand Reel / Lass of Ballintra / Rakes of Invercairn (reels)
WWW.LiveIreland.com Awards 2006. Male Musician of the Year---Gerry O'Connor
We first heard Gerry O'Connor's fiddle with one of our favorite groups of all time, Skylark. He comes from a long line of Irish musicians, and it all came together with his wonderful solo album, Journeyman. We loved every note. We still are amazed by the intensity and expression in his playing. Journeyman was actually released in October of 2004, but we didn't get to the review of it until 2005. Makes no difference. What matters is the recognition so richly deserved by this wonderful musician. There is such depth here. Not all flash and sturm and drang, as with others. This man understands Irish music--and in particular, he has mastered the fiddle. Bill Margeson
Folk World Web Site
It might come as a surpirse that this is only the first solo album of the well known Irish fiddler Gerry O'Connor (there is a banjo player with the same name, whose album is reviewed at another place of this issue). Gerry has been a guarant for highest quality Irish fiddle music for a long time, and became known internationally first through his work with Skylark, then with his own band Lá Lugh.
On this album Gerry stays in his selection of tunes true to Irish traditional music heritage, playing mainly tunes from the repertoire of the great master musicians of the last century.
While the fiddle always remains the centrepiece of the music, Gerry is accompanied for same tunes by his son Donal O'Connor (fiddle, piano), Paul McSherry (guitar), Martin O'Hare (bodhrán), Martin Quinn (accordion) and Neil Martin (Cello), Throughout the album Gerry's experience and skill on the fiddle shines. Michael Moll
The Irish World ****
The Journeyman is quite simply breath taking. Gerry 0' Connor, one of Ireland's most outstanding fiddle players, has created his first solo masterpiece in this delightful album. Gerry O'Connor is well-known within traditional music circles as a founding member of the band Skylark.
He was also a founding member of the band La Lugh and their album The Brighid's Kiss was voted album of the year in 1996.
Gerry has decided to entice his fans by allowing them to hear him play alone in this fabulous collection of traditional Irish music.
Playing since he was a child, Gerry grew up in a family of traditional musicians who have been playing in his hometown of Dundalk for at least four generations. This influence, and his knowledge of other incredible musicians around Ireland, makes it unsurprising that O'Connor has developed a musical style that is amazingly heart-felt and fabulously lively. He is a true genius on the fiddle, and with his unique and distinguished style of playing he rejuvenates some of the old forgotten classics.
This is evident in his rendition of 'The Star of Munster' so sublime in its rhythmic virtuosity it has established itself as a definite favourite of mine. O'Connor is accompanied by musicians including the guitarist Paul McSherry, bodhran player Martin O'Hare, cellist Neil Martin and accordionist
Collectively they have contributed to making the Journeyman CD a fine piece of evidence that the traditional Irish music scene is still going strong and producing an exceptionally high standard of talent.HELEN MULLEN
That outstanding fiddler from Dundalk in the north-east of Ireland Gerry O'Connor (not to be confused with the banjoist of the same name) comes from a family where at least four successive generations have mastered the instrument. He was founder (with his wife Eithne Ní Uallachaín) of La Lúgh, later forming respected band Skylark, but only now (after a sensible break to deal with the untimely death of Eithne) has he got round to producing a solo album in his own right - and it's a cracker.
It traces his musical development through the early influence of his mother Rose and subsequently that of the great Sligo fiddler John Joe Gardiner (see track 9, a set of reels that Gerry had often played together with John Joe) and on into the development of his own distinctive and wonderfully resonant playing style with its incredibly fluid bow-work (you wonder if he can ever stop!) allied to a wholly genuine technical virtuosity that's never offputtingly clever.
Backings often centre round a piano played extremely sympathetically by Gerry's son Dónal (fleet of foot, or should I say pedal, and thus never heavy-handed), although Dónal plays fiddle alongside his dad on the set of single jigs (track 8); there's also that fine Armagh accordionist Martin Quinn, not to omit mention of the rippling guitar of Paul McSherry, and occasional cello from Neil Hare or bodhrán from Martin O'Hare to flesh out the rich fiddle sound just a tad - not that Gerry's fiddle ever needs fleshing out as such, but the lads all do a grand job nonetheless and their contributions aren't ever superfluous.
The material Gerry has chosen to perform here derives from his travels all over Ireland - jigs and highlands, a couple of slow airs, reels from Cork, Roscommon and Longford alongside an interestingly Scottish-originated set consisting entirely of tunes from the ancient Oriel region (which includes parts of present-day counties Louth, Armagh and Monaghan).
The digipack contains some clearly-written and exceptionally informative notes on the tunes' origins too - another bonus.
The only query I have is with the unduly modest tag that Gerry's used for a title - the term "journeyman" implies someone who's merely competent rather than a master craftsman, and Gerry indisputably falls into the latter category.
The Left-Handed Reel, a virtuoso solo rendition of which opens the CD's closing set, is a mightily persuasive, impressive (and impeccable) demonstration of Gerry's craft.
Immensely assured yet perennially sensitive in his phrasing, Gerry has with Journeyman brought us an album of considerable stature to add to our collection of classic Irish music CDs. David Kidman
FROOTS May 2005
The debut solo album of Dundalk-born fiddler, instrument maker and teacher, Gerry O'Connor, has been a long time coming.
Since his last recordings, Raining Bicycles and Senex Puer, the tragic death of his musical and life partner Eithne Ni hUllachain some years ago has allowed for an understandably low profile. The release of Journeyman is therefore timely and increases his stature and importance in the traditional music community.
It has a pronounced local bent with much of the music coming from counties Monaghan and Louth with an occasional trip over the border into Ulster, as in the case of Bessie The Beauty Of Rossinure Hill learned from Mick Hoy in Derrylin Co. Fermanagh. O'Connor's assured sense of style and technique is evident, yet it is the sensitivity with which he imbues his craft that makes his music so personalised. Jig In A trips along briskly while The Chicken's Gone To Scotland briefly enters Alastair Fraser territory, but with a more pronounced lightness of touch.
Peadar Ó'Dubhda's air to Peadar Ó'Doirnin's poem Úr-Chnoc Chéin Mhic Cainte aches in a quietly touching manner with Niall Martin's drone-like cello adding extra poignancy.
Musically the accompaniments are supple, strong, and sufficiently understated. Martin Quinn, Paul McSherry, Martin O'Hare and Gerry's son Donal adding subtle accordeon, guitar, bodhran, fiddle and piano along the way.
However, the main attraction is Gerry O'Connor's fluid attractive fiddling, as it should be. Journeyman is a masterclass of poise, energy, and grace signifying all that is good about Irish traditional music. John O'Regan
BBCi WEB SITE
It's a sign of the wealth of talent within the Irish traditional music scene that someone who's relatively unknown outside it can come forward and make the kind of splash that this Dundalk fiddler has with his debut solo album. Gerry O'Connor's previous work with the bands Skylark and La Lúgh is hardly high-profile, but it's clear from the quality of the playing on Journeyman that he's among Ireland's finest traditional musicians.
Likewise, the fact that only aficionados are likely to hear any familiar tunes among these twelve tracks isn't because they weren't worthy of recording, but rather a reflection of the depth of Irish folklore. As the exemplary sleevenotes explain, this is an autobiographical selection, documenting not only nearly-forgotten melodies of his native North East Ireland passed down through his own family, but also those picked up from colleagues in other counties, in the time-honoured way that real folk musicians still do. In the process, he's added his own distinctively ornamented, fluid take on various regional traditions.
Mercifully, O'Connor has resisted the temptation to draft in gratuitous guest vocalists, as so many groups of this kind feel compelled to do these days. Instead, he lets the tunes speak for themselves, varying the arrangements with subtle verve over a pleasingly diverse selection of jigs, reels, highlands and airs. Of the latter, an early highlight is "Úr-Chnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte", which features gorgeously empathetic support from cellist Neil Martin, and Paul McSherry on guitar.
On some of the more upbeat material, the guitarist more or less constitutes the rhythm section, along with occasional touches of bodhrán by Martin O'Hare. Another star of this album is O'Connor's son Dónal, who contributes rollicking piano on about half the tracks, and shadows his father on second fiddle for the set jigs that kick off with "The Day The Ass Ran Away". In other places, there's fine support on accordion from Martin Quinn, who charges into the closing set of reels with the whole band in a fittingly exuberant finale.
Newcomers to Irish fiddle may find the all-instrumental approach a little monotonous and old-fashioned, but seasoned folkies will find much that delights. Jon Lusk
The Folk Diary April/May 05
Gerry has been the fiddler with La Lúgh and before that he was a member of the incomparable Skylark in the company of Len Graham. His fiddle playing has that wonderful fluidity that makes him out a master. In the twelve varied tune sets here, he carefully notes all his sources and tries to bring something of the playing of the musician that he has learned from into his interpretation.
Although it is very definitely Gerry's own record with the fiddle taking the lead all the time and sometimes solo, he is in very fine company in other
places getting solid support particularly from the firm guitar playing of Paul McSherry but also when he duets with accordionist, Martin Quinn.
Some of the playing is quite fast and furious but there is always the feeling that Gerry is playing well within himself. Vic Smith
Taplas , The Welsh Folk Magazine April/ May 05.
O'Connor's fiddle plaving reached a wide audience through two groups he helped found in the 1980s and 1990s, Skylark and La Lugh (with his wife, the late Eithhne ni Uallachain), but this is his first solo CD.
There's a varied choice of strong tunes with distinct personalities: jigs, reels and airs from all over Ireland, but always informed by O'Connor's Northern precision and edge.
His accompanists are, principally, his son Donal on piano and Paul McSherry on guitar, plus some judicious bodhran, accordion and cello here and there. The guitar ups the temperature in the now customary way, but is most interesting when stepping outside the predictable, as in the imaginative arrangement of the beautiful slow air Bessie the Beauty of Rossinure Hill.
This is a fine album: good tunes superbly played. 1 couldn't quite find that elusive magic that makes the whole more than the sum of its parts, but that's probably a matter of personal taste. John Neilson
The Stillwater Times
'Founder member of Skylark & La Lugh at last produces his solo album and it's aces all round!'.
* Gerry O'Connor's first solo album is a real gem ~ as you'd expect from such a master craftsman. Gerry's fiddle playing throughout this album is nothing short of exceptional, technically flawless and full of great passion