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Harmonica Players in Co Clare, 2013

Harmonica Players in Co Clare, 2013

For such a small instrument, the mouth-organ is physically hard to play, especially for jigs and reels, and that may be one of the reasons it is not more commonly used in Irish traditional music. In the past it was often given as a Christmas present to children and the tuneless results did not add to its status. But in the right hands the mouth-organ is very compatible with the nature of the music, and it is particularly popular in Co Wexford, the county with which it is associated above all others. In recent years, the instrument has been enjoying a renaissance in traditional music circles, one driven by several virtuoso players, some of whom simultaneously play the concertina. The once universal term ‘mouth-organ’ has been disappearing to be replaced by ‘harmonica’, an indication that the favoured form of the instrument now is the uniquely reeded chromatic form.

 As a reflection of its rise in popularity, the harmonica has been taught in recent years at the annual Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare, and has been allocated its own annual concert at the venue of The Mill. The recordings presented here were filmed by Irish Traditional Music Archive staff at the second such concert, on 11 July 2013.

 With thanks to Padraig Enright, Rick Epping, Mick Kinsella, and John & Pip Murphy for permission to present these recordings, and to the organisers of the Willie Clancy Summer School for facilitating ITMA in making them.

NC, BD & TH, 1 October 2013