This DVD is the culmination of a residency in Leitrim over the last two years by musicians Eleanor Shanley, Dave Sheridan, Pádraig McGovern and John McCartin who researched and sourced Leitrim music and song, and together with Dónal Lunny they present beautiful arrangements of these tunes, some of which have not been played for over 200 years, in a cast completed by Leitrim poet, playwright and broadcaster Vincent Woods and the captivating sean nós dancer Edwina Guckian.
County Leitrim’s earliest entry in the transcribed history of Irish music is arguably that of the blind harper Turlough O’Carolan. One of his best-known compositions recalls two fairy hills in Leitrim, Sí Beag, Sí Mór. We possibly know this tune today because it has never ceased to be played, or perhaps because it was written down, collected and shared. While still the case today, before the advent of recorded sound, collecting music in this manner, as well as passing it on orally, was crucial. The collecting of Leitrim music by Stephen Grier and Alex Sutherland provides a rich and lasting archive and window into a history of Leitrim and its music. As neither the Sutherland and Grier collections were ever published, their work may never have received its due prominence were it not for Fr. John Quinn of Gortletteragh, in bringing the collections to light.
One of the most important developments in the history of music – the ability to record and play back sound – was perfected by Thomas Edison in 1877 and nine years later, recording on a flat disc revolving at 78 revolutions per minute, was developed by Emile Berliner. Among the earliest recordings of Irish traditional musicians were those of Chicago immigrants made by that city’s then Chief of Police, Francis O’Neill, and among those recordings are musicians and singers who left Leitrim seeking better fortunes and adventure in a new country.
This Leitrim Equation show looks to the long tradition of Leitrim music to trace a wider history full of colour, of love and loss, and of leaving and coming back. From the mythical hills of Sí Beag and Sí Mór and the pits of the Arigna mines to the music of the Irish communities of New York and London; the show describes how landscape shapes us, and the extent to which place, time and events influence who we are.