Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Manus McGuire - Fiddlewings

All text copyright Ita Kelly (c) 2006

One of the highlights of this years Fleadh na gCuach in Kinvara was the launch of fiddler Manus McGuire’s second solo album ‘Fiddlewings’. A beautiful play on the notion of musical flight, ‘Fiddlewings’ takes the listener on a journey to the hallowed musical grounds that are dear to Manus McGuire’s’ heart; from Ireland to Shetland to Cape Breton. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon and the Merriman Hotel was thronged by friends and well-wishers for the occasion.

Manus’ associations with the musical town that is Kinvara go back to the early 1980s when the group Buttons and Bows was formed. Jackie Daly was in residence at the time, Garry O’ Briain lived close by and Manus and his brother Séamus spent many’s a long day and night playing music in their company in the various musical haunts of the town. Buttons and Bows were reunited during the recording of ‘Fiddlewings’ last February when Manus came to Kinvara to record the last two album tracks with his brother Séamus and Garry O’ Briain. When Jackie joined them it naturally led to a terrific session at which they decided to do some concerts together again.

It’s been five years since they performed together and their concert later that evening in the sacred candlelit surrounds of St. Colman’s church – a rare occasion, was justly well attended.

Broadcaster and music journalist Ita Kelly, who officially launched ‘Fiddlewings’ spoke of her own personal admiration for Manus’ music having first encountered the fiddler and his music in the late 1970s in University College Galway. There they afforded Manus his first public performance in support to Paul Brady in 1974 – Manus quipped ‘didn’t Paul Brady do well for himself since then!” Manus’ own distinguished career has seen him perform all over the world with Buttons and Bows and later with Moving Cloud. Now he travels with the Brock McGuire band, an ensemble formed with his long time friend Paul Brock.

In the early days it was with his older brother Séamus that Manus first recorded and performed. Growing up in Sligo, most of the family played. Their parents Paddy and Jo were musicians and enthusiasts. ‘The Shelly River Waltz’, the opening track on ‘Fiddlewings’ refers to Sligo and the river that flows through the town. Waltzes always feature strongly in Manus’ music. In fact there was a time when Buttons and Bows were ‘blamed’ for bringing the waltz back into Irish traditional music. In doing so they returned one of the most beautiful musical forms and popular dances to the tradition. The new album opens with a waltz and ends with a waltz while featuring five new compositions from Manus. ‘Bodyke to Baddeck’ makes the link between his home in Co. Clare and Cape Breton where he wrote the tune. ‘Fort Dunree’ is a beautiful air dedicated to his brother Séamus, and ‘Marie Fielding's welcome to Co. Clare’ is dedicated to the eponymous Shetland fiddler who plays with Manus on the track along with her brother Owen on piano.

Piano accompaniment features strongly on this recording and the contributions of Denis Morrison and Denis Carey are exquisite, as is the guitar accompaniment from Garry O’Briain.

While Manus spends his daytimes healing the sick as a medical practitioner, his music provides another kind of healing, healing that nurtures the soul and the spirit, very powerful too in its own way. ‘Fiddlewings’ combines the spirit of the dance with the grace and elegance of airs and waltzes. The mood changes elegantly and seamlessly under Manus command. ‘A masterpiece’ says Séamus Connolly in the liner notes, ‘Listen to the wild beauty in his performance’. Wild and beautiful indeed.

Click here to buy Manus McGuire's 'Fiddlewings' at the .tradnet store on Amazon.