Saothar // new compositions for the tradition

A monthly series showcasing compositions of tunes by contemporary composers in the traditional idiom.

In January 2021 the series kicked off with a tune from Charlie Lennon.  Our featured composer for February 2021 is Zoe Conway.  

Charlie Lennon

Charlie Lennon 14231 Jpg
Charlie Lennon

A Tribute to Lad O'Beirne, reel / composed by Charlie Lennon


I composed this reel to honour the memory of Lad and to help spread his name through the world of traditional music. As a kid growing up I was well aware of the three Sligo fiddlers, Coleman, Morrison and Killoran and with some of their recordings, but not of Lad O’Beirne.  Later we heard some of his private recordings and realised that he was up with the best of them.

My first recollection of hearing of this man was probably in the early 1960s when I spent a week in the house of Frank Horan’s father in Gurteen. There I was introduced to many followers of the fiddle and flute tradition. All of them had a wonderful understanding of the music and told me many stories about South Sligo musicians past and present. That was the first time I became aware of the importance of Lad.

During the late 1970s Seamus Tansey organised a weekend of music in Gurteen each year to commemorating Michael Coleman’s contribution to the art of music. Each year I was invited to come and participate. One year Seamus asked me to adjudicate the Céilí Band competition, which was held in the open air on the side of a hill.

When I had finished a tall elderly man wearing glasses and American clothes approached me and asked if I would play him a tune on the fiddle. We moved away from the crowd to a quiet corner of the field where he requested Crowley’s Reels, two tunes that Coleman had recorded with the Decca label in the 1930s. When I had finished, he thanked me and moved away. Then a local man asked me how I got on with your man Lad. I said “Who is Lad”? "Oh! That’s Lad O’Beirne," he said.

James Lad Obeirne With Vincent Harrison
James 'Lad' O'Beirne with Vincent Harrison, courtesy Mick O'Connor
My jaw dropped. I had no idea that I was talking with and playing for one of the icons of the Irish music scene music.
Charlie Lennon, December 2020