ITMA Henebry Cylinder Recordings 2, c. 1905

ITMA Henebry Cylinder Recordings 2, c. 1905

Now playing: An maidrín rua, song / unidentified performer, singing in Irish
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  1. An maidrín rua, song / unidentified performer, singing in Irish
  2. Battle of Ross, song / Sylvester O’Murray, singing in Irish
  3. Pádraig Bán, song ; and jig / Labhrás Ó Cadhla, singing in Irish, lilting
  4. An gleann seo thíos, song / Labhrás Ó Cadhla, singing in Irish
  5. Caoineadh Dhiarmuid Stokes, song ; Untitled, air / Labhrás Ó Cadhla ; unidentified, whistle
  6. Caisleáin Uí Néill, song / William Power, singing in Irish
  7. Untitled song / [John O’Keane ?], singing in Irish
  8. Sliabh na mBan, song / [Mícheál Ó Catháin ?], singing in Irish
  9. Lament for Fr Maher of Dúngarbhán, recitation / unidentified, speech in Irish
  10. Cáit Ní Dhuibhir, song / [Nioclás Ua Tóibín ?], singing in Irish
  11. Na Connerys, song / [Mícheál Ó Catháin ?], singing in Irish
  12. Spailpín a rún 1, song / Pádraig Ó Néill, singing in Irish
  13. Spailpín a rún 2, song / Pádraig Ó Néill, singing in Irish
  14. Bean an fhir rua, song ; Untitled, reel / Maighréad Ní Néill ; [unidentified, fiddle]
  15. Untitled, song / unidentified performer, singing in Irish
  16. An rábaire bán, song ; and hornpipe / Pádraig Ó Néill, singing in Irish ; unidentified, fiddle
  17. The Fermoy lasses, reel ; and other reels / Seán de Henebry, fiddle
  18. My former wife, jig / unidentified performers, uilleann pipes, fiddle
  19. [The mouse in the cupboard, jig] / James Byrne, uilleann pipes
  20. The cook in the kitchen, jig / Bernard Delaney, uilleann pipes

ITMA Henebry Cylinder Recordings 2, c. 1905

This second tranche of copies of cylinder recordings of Irish-language singers made by Rev. Dr Richard Henebry in Co Waterford in the early 20th century, and presented here from its collections by the Irish Traditional Music Archive with some of his instrumental music cylinders, is not for the faint-hearted.

Although they have been expertly remastered for ITMA by Harry Bradshaw, who has recovered sound from them that is inaudible when they are played ‘flat’, they are nevertheless still indistinct and noisy. Not surprising, given that the original cylinders are now more than a century old, are of ‘wax’ composition and were only designed for a limited number of playings. They are now badly worn, and often scratched or cracked. The wonder is that they have survived and can be heard at all.

These recordings differ therefore from the first published tranche of ITMA Henebry cylinder recordings. Those were remade from copper cylinder moulds as the result of a cooperative project between ITMA and the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv and are of a better audio quality. These recordings differ also in containing some fiddle renditions of traditional tunes, some of which may be given by Richard Henebry himself using up unused space on cylinders, and in including some recordings from Irish America. The first tranche of Henebry cylinder recordings is available here, along with information on the whole ITMA Henebry project and links to copies of his books and other recordings.

These new recordings are undated but at least two were made in July 1905, when the first tranche was recorded, and the probability is that at least some of the others also were. Introduced by Henebry himself, two of the singers are the same, Pádraig Ó Néill and Maighréad Ní Néill, and second takes are given of some of the same songs. The uilleann piper James Byrne is playing here again. But there are also new singers to be found from An Rinn, some introducing themselves. A Seán de Henebry, probably Richard's brother, plays fiddle, and a whistle or piccolo player can also be heard. Among the new singers are William Power and Sylvester O’Murray, and two whose names will be familiar: Nioclás Ua Tóibín and Labhrás Ó Cadhla. But these latter are undoubtedly older relatives of the well-known Waterford singers of these names who were recorded by radio and record companies in the mid- and later 20th century. It is possible that some of these recordings were made by members of the Henebry family using his equipment after Richard’s death in 1916 as some written documentation found with these cylinders dates from 1929 and 1930 (however it is also possible that only the documentation and not the cylinders may be of those dates). Also to be heard here is the Chicago-based uilleann piper Bernard Delaney of Offaly, and an anonymous uilleann pipes and fiddle duet, on cylinders which had been sent to Henebry by Captain Francis O’Neill of Chicago (Delaney can be more audibly be heard on Milwaukee O’Neill cylinder copies available here).

In spite of their difficult audio quality, these Henebry recordings have a unique cultural value. They preserve traditional melodies, something not often found in early Irish-language song collections which typically print only verbal texts. They also preserve elements of traditional song style and instrumental style which are beyond the reach of music notation. A declamatory singing style is common in these recordings; it may have been influenced somewhat by the recording process. In the hope that singers and musicians of the present day will hear enough on them to be able to re-create the songs and music, and that people with local knowledge and interested scholars will be able to add information and make transcriptions, even the noisiest of the Henebry cylinders are presented here. Some identifications of songs and singers are tentative, as indicated; additional information would be very welcome.

With thanks to Professor Seóirse Bodley, donor of the original recordings to ITMA; to Henri Chamoux of the Archaeophone Company in France who digitised them; and to Harry Bradshaw who remastered the digitisations.

NC, ES & DD, 1 August 2015