In this the 12th Concert in memory of Jimmy McHugh it is extremely heart-warming to see all Jimmy’s friends, family and lovers of traditional music here to enjoy this weekend of great music. Jimmy would be surely proud and humbled to see the love and warmth shown in honour of his life and dedication of music.
Since Jimmy’s passing in 1999 many musicians and singers have come to Glasgow to commemorate and celebrate Jimmy’s life in music and some of the participating musicians and singers tonight are well known to many audiences throughout the world but perhaps not so well known here in Glasgow? Accordingly, we hope that they also enjoy the experience, particularly, the warm welcome and friendship that Glasgow audiences are famous for.
Jimmy came to Glasgow in 1946 and remained here for the rest of his life making Glasgow his home. Jimmy became one of the finest fiddlers of his generation, an accomplished five row accordion player, teacher and composer of renown. Jimmy brought up a whole generation of people, not only playing music but sharing his vast knowledge and love for all types of music, especially Irish and Scottish traditional music and many musicians playing today are always kind enough to express their gratitude to Jimmy for his encouragement, help and support.
We arrived Friday night after taking in the concert in the Concert Hall which was part of the Celtic Connections festival which was going on at the same time. There were two large sessions going on in the foyer of the hotel and another in the bar. One was hosted by Eileen O’Brien and several musicians from Tipperary. While another was full of musicians from Galway, the session in the bar seemed mostly be musicians from Leeds.
The Tipperary session was later joined by several members form The Greenfields of America who earlier had headlined the concert in the Concert Hall. It was lovely to meet up again with old friends, Billy McComiskey and Mick Moloney. There was mighty music going on well into the early morning.
Saturday saw the focal point of the weekend The 12th Jimmy McHugh Memorial Concert. With our legendary compere, Arthur Johnstone. The hall was full of music lovers, who were treated to a feast of brilliant music and dance. Opening act was accordionist Alan Costello, a member of one of Ireland’s prestigious musical families, Alan has been living in Glasgow for the last few years and his music lit up the place. He was accompanied by the legendary Dr. Reg Hall on keyboards, they opened up with Paddy Kelly’s 4 part reel and just got better. I had not heard Alan play before, and was amazed at his complete control of his instrument and the tightest triplets I have ever heard on the accordion. Alan was a pupil of the master of the two row accordion, the late great Paddy O’Brien. They played about 4 selections.
Jimmy’s sons Brendan and Martin were the mainstay of The Four Provinces Ceili Band who played some of Jimmy’s compositions ad were joined by dancers from Ann McHugh’s Shamrock Dance Academy in full colourful outfits
They were followed by the husband and wife fiddle duet of Dave and Michelle Sheridan who played beautifully together and featured several selection of recently composed instrumentals. Playing of the highest order.
Singer Niamh Parson, charmed the audience, singing accapella, she won them over with her beautiful singing and choice of song, a true highlight.
Closing the first half were Tom Cussens from Galway on banjo and Clare’s flute supremo Eamonn Cotter who these days are the heartbeat of The Shaskeen band. They were also accompanied the trusty Reg Hall. They treated us to several unfamiliar Barn dances and each played splendid solo spots. I would be failing in my duty if I didn’t pay the credit due to Eamonn whose playing was one of the many highlights.
The second half was much better paced with each act doing 2 numbers and all too soon it was over for another year. The full house did not want to let the musicians off the stage, they were so generous in their appreciation.
Back into the bus and back to the hotel where the music was reengaged, with our American musicians joining the frey again and again the music was of the highest standard. One of the sessions went on all through the night.
One of the most endearing ingredients of “The Jimmy” is that top flight musicians from all over the world come every year, even if they are not on the concert bill. Mention must be made for musicians like Eileen O’Brien and Deirdre McSherry who have come every year from Nenagh in Tipperary. They played music every spare minute and great music at that. Eileen and Billy McComiskey were incredible. Likewise the legendary Roscommon flute master Patsy Hanley, who when not playing music was entertaining us with is brilliant wit. Dick Joyce, and Martina were there from Galway along with 80 year old whistle maestro, Ned Coleman. London’s Liam Farrell and Bart Carty, and several unknown musicians from Leeds. Dundalk’s fiddler Gerry O’Connor also pulled his weight.
The singers must also be given credit, we had songs in the bar from Rita Gallagher, (Donegal), Deirdre Scanlon (Tipperary) and Niamh Parson among others.
Sunday saw us reconvening in Sharkey’s Bar in The Gorbals where we all played music until it was time for our flights home. There was no big goodbye scenes, because we know we will all be back for more next January for “The 13th Jimmy”!
So the legacy of Jimmy McHugh goes on, his sons still play and teach and indeed their children are embracing the music also. Jimmy was a musician who played for his community, playing at weddings, christenings, birthdays, teaching young people to play, and a big part of Jimmy’s life was playing for dancers at feisanna.
A special mention to Jimmy’s wife, Ann who, this year, has been elected President of the Irish Dance Organisation, An Comhdhail na Muinteoiri le Rinci Gaelacha, the first time this honour has been bestowed on anyone outside Ireland, many congratulations to Ann Me Hugh!.
So the work of Jimmy McHugh goes on. From starting CCE in Glasgow and keeping the flame alight, the music and the music lovers of Glasgow are still in the good hands of The McHugh Family, true patriots of our time.
I was left to think that after the much vaunted Celtic Connections has gone the way of The Glasgow Folk Festival and Edinburgh’s May Fest whose legacy will mean more to the music lovers of Glasgow.
Main title image: Finale – unknown Dancer, Brendan McHugh (fiddle), Alan Costello (accordion), Michelle Sheridan (fiddle)
Alan O’Leary© 2011