“Louise is one of the finest musicians of her generation. Her choice of material, her approach to the melodies coupled with tasteful inventiveness make this a very welcome entry to the growing catalogue of Traditional Irish flute music.”
These are words of Matt Molloy, one of the most brilliant Irish musicians and talented flautists of the Emerald Isle.
I think that it would be enough to draw our attention to this week’s guest of the Present and Future of Irish Music, a young but already well-established performer and tutor on both flute and uilleann pipes; Louise Mulcahy is the only person in the history of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann to have won 4 senior All Ireland titles on the same day. As usual, 7 questions 7 to know her better and to introduce her to our Italian readers.
1. Louise, Tuning the Road is your debut solo album; would you like to describe to our readers your music and the choices of tunes you included?
The material on the album is reflective of tunes I feel connected to and enjoy playing. The album represents my musical journey to date. A lot of time went into researching the album notes. I feel it’s important to document the tune history and give the listener insight into the origins of the music. Essentially the notes are intended to provide the listener with a musical map. I spent a lot of time listening to archival recordings at The Irish Traditional Music Archive and other online archival sources. A lot of the sources are pre 1960’s. I feel a strong connection with the music played at this time.
Influences include John McKenna, Tom Morrison, Paddy Taylor, Jim Donoghue, Willie Clancy, Pádraig O’ Keefe and Patsy Hanley. I particularly enjoy listening to archival recordings of music from the 20’s and 30’s. The music at this time was predominantly played for dancers and was filled with great lift and expression. I like to recreate this feeling when I play music. There are also some beautiful compositions on the album, some which have not been previously recorded.
Tunes from flute composers like John Brady (who sadly passed away recently), Vincent Broderick and Paddy O’ Donoghue feature on the album. Paddy O’ Donoghue is Cyril O’ Donoghue’s Father who has recorded with Michelle, Dad and I on our family albums. At one of our family cd launches Paddy gave me a present of his book of compositions titled Ceol an Chláir. The book features all of his compositions. There are also compositions by O’ Carolan, Peadar O’ Ríada and my sister Michelle.
My father has always been a true source of musical inspiration and there are versions of tunes I learned from him also. There are unusual versions of two well-known reels – The Green Mountain and The Temple house. The beautiful version of the Green Mountain comes from an archival recording of Joe Cooley, a musician much admired in our house and the Templehouse comes from the whistle playing of Jim Donoghue – both idols of mine with very unique musical styles. I am very grateful to be part of tradition that spans centuries. Remaining true to this tradition is something that is really important to me. I wanted to create the most natural feeling and sound on this album and provide listeners with a true representation of the music I like to play and my core traditional values.
This album is my own personal musical voice within the tradition. It is a musical snapshot of a moment in time. The accompaniment reflects my own personal musical taste. Michelle provided beautiful accompaniment on piano and harp. As sisters we have a very strong personal and musical bond and we have a great connection when we play music together. It was important to me to represent this on the album. Colm Murphy provides wonderful bodhrán accompaniment and his rhythm accentuates every note. I was lucky enough to perform with Colm at Cruinniú na bhfliúit (an annual flute festival in Cork) a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the dynamic. We all had a great connection in studio!
2. The Mulcahy’s of Abbeyfeale, West Limerick: you have played and recorded regularly with your father, Mick, and your sister, Michelle. Is your music an inheritance or this album tells us your desire to do things on your own?
Recording a solo album has always been an ambition of mine. My family has been a great source of encouragement and support throughout the whole process. I was delighted when the time was right to record last October. Michelle and I are very privileged to have grown up in a house steeped in music. Each night as a child, I can remember falling asleep listening to my Dad playing music. There was and still is always music in our house. My parents Mick and Cecilia have given Michelle and I every opportunity and I am very grateful for this. The music we play together as a family remains a source of true enjoyment and inspiration.
3. You are considered a talented musician, playing flute, whistle and uilleann pipes. Who do you consider the Teachers of these instruments and what do you think of the new generation of players?
My father has and continues to be a huge source of musical inspiration. Other influences include John McKenna, Tom Morrison, Paddy Taylor, Jim Donoghue, Willie Clancy, Pádraig O’ Keefe, Patsy Hanley, Matt Molloy. I particularly enjoy listening to archival recordings of music from the 20’s and 30’s. The music at this time was predominantly played for dancers and was filled with great lift and expression. I like to recreate this feeling when I play music. We are very fortunate to have performed all over the world and have met many wonderful and inspiring people. These experiences shape you as a person both musically and personally. I travelled to Vietnam last January with Michelle, Mick Moloney and Vincent Woods (poet and broadcaster) in collaboration with the Irish Embassy and Irish Aid. We had the most amazing trip. We performed in many different settings in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City including the Christina Noble Centre, The Peace Centre, Universities and Music Conservatories. It is always a pleasure to travel and play music with such inspirational people. The future of Irish Traditional Music is in safe hands. There has been a marked increase in music festivals throughout the world. This ensures that anybody interested in learning Irish Music has access to master workshops and performances by many highly skilled performers. There has also been an increase in the availability of online archival sources. It is important to listen to a wide variety of sources in order to gain a complete appreciation of the tradition. There are also many 3rd level institutions offering a wide variety of Irish Traditional Music courses. There are more people than ever playing Irish Traditional Music throughout the world and of all ages.
4. What kind of music does Louise like to hear (apart from “Tuning the Road”)? What is on your CD reader or MP3 player right now?
I listen to a wide variety of music. At the moment I am intrigued with archival recordings of Irish Traditional Music from the 1920’s to the 1980’s. I love the broadcasts from the archives of RTÉ featured on the Traditional Music Programme “Come West Along the Road”. They are an invaluable source of music and information. The DVD’s are available for purchase from www.itma.ie and also feature on the online archives of ITMA (Irish Traditional Music Archive).
5. We love to speak and write about Irish culture, generally speaking. Any suggestions about books or writers from the Emerald Island to help a foreigner to understand you, Irish people, better?
I would recommend Companion to Irish Traditional Music – Second Edition by Fintan Vallely. This publication is the ultimate reference for all players, devotees and students of Irish Traditional Music. It is an indispensable reference guide to Ireland’s universally recognised Traditional music, song and dance.
6. Italy – Ireland: it seems there is a special bond between these 2 countries (at least from our point of view), probably beginning with our forefathers who immigrated in America. Thinking of Italy, what does come to your mind? What do you know, like (or not) of this country?
I love your country. Like Ireland you have a wonderfully rich culture and this is something I identify with. I was lucky enough to perform in Italy with my sister Michelle and Cyril O’ Donoghue a few years ago. We performed in the most amazing places with such incredible scenery as a backdrop to our gigs. You have a great appreciation of Irish Traditional Music and culture. It is wonderful to perform in countries like yours where the music is so well received. Throughout history, Italy was considered as the central place of Western culture and the starting point of worldwide phenomena such as the Roman Empire, Roman Catholic Church, cultural and educational reform. Italy has given birth to many famous painters, sculptors, poets, musicians, mathematical and architects who have been documented in history. I look forward to returning to your beautiful country in the future!
7. Projects for your future?
At the end of May I will then embark on a music tour of New Zealand, Burma and Vietnam. I will be joined by my sister, dad and world renowned folklorist and musician Mick Moloney for a unique concert series. On return I will perform and tutor at the Willie Clancy Festival in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare. I will also perform and give master workshops at the South Sligo Summer Festival in Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo. Michelle and I will also teach at Scoil Cheoil Westport in July. August sees us heading to Seattle USA to perform and teach at the Cascadia Irish Music Festival. Tuning the Road will hit the road with a unique concert series in the Autunm. Updates for any upcoming tours and performances will be posted on my facebook page/ twitter – Louise Mulcahy. I am also completing my Masters Degree at Trinity College Dublin. The thesis will be submitted at the end of August. The past few months have been a very interesting journey. In 1952, Donnchadh Ó Braoin who was Head Organising Inspector of Music in primary schools from 1931-1947 highlighted that for most primary school children the only music instruction they would receive was in Primary School. For most this is still the case. Irish music is part of Ireland’s heritage and cultural roots and I feel it should be represented to a greater extent in education. As a musician and educator I feel it is important for children to leave the education system with an appreciation for Irish Music. I hope to continue with further research in this area.