An Tobar Glé
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An Tobar Glé
Review by Paul Carr The Irish Herald (U.S.A.)
Many years ago, An Tobar Glé was the name on a club owned by the great musician, storyteller, singer, and collector Séamus Ennis, nach maireann. Séamus Ennis was also teacher, mentor, and friend to a young piper named Neil Mulligan. It was Séamus Ennis who put the nickname Néillidh on him, from Donegal fiddler Néillidh Boyle.
Now, An Tobar Glé (The Bright Well) is also the name on the third brilliant solo CD from Néillidh Mulligan, who has since become one of the greatest uilleann pipers of our time.
To say that Néillidh’s use of ornamentation or the drones or his phrasing is a marvel of invention and a testament to teaching only begins to express the true beauty and quality of his playing.
For example, if the faster jigs and reels are your favorite, his playing will enchant. The best example of this might be “The Morning Thrush” and “Colonel Frazer”, two reels that show off the crispness and clarity of his faster playing, not to mention the bright, innocent playfulness that runs through so many Irish tunes.
If it’s slow airs that you are wanting, you have in Néillidh a master of the slow air. A particularly lovely one is “Caitríona Rua”, an air that he made himself as a tribute to his late mother from Co. Kerry.
The CD ends with two sets of utterly thrilling tunes recorded from Néillidh’s late father’s playing in 1982. Starting off with the unforgettable “Fermoy Lasses”, these roughly-recorded tunes escape out the pipes with the kind of wild, wide-eyed sound that only the best pipers can create. It puts one in mind of the old recordings of Johnny Doran, who played a wild “Fermoy Lasses” himself.
Galánta ar fad.
The Irish Herald (U.S.A.)Available at http://celticgrooves.homestead.com/CG_Mulligan_Neil_Tobar.html.
CHANNEL 4 TV TELE TEXT
An Tobar Gle
CHANNEL 4 TV TELE TEXT
The Piper Calls the Tune.
A protege of greats like Leo Rowsome and Seamus Ennis, not to mention his own dad, Tom. Neillidh Mulligan is steeped in the greatest traditions of ulleann piping.
His third album, An Tobar Gle (The Bright Well) proudly maintains these rich traditions with a masterful display of top tunes.
In an age of hybrids and cultural crossover, it's also refreshing joy to hear the pure art of the musician.
Review of An Tobar Glé by Patrick D’Arcy in
This is essential piping faire for any traditional
Irish musician, be they pipers or not.
Neil’s playing is exactly as he wants it to be, passionate and
respectful. Everything is
bare and exposed, yet full and complete.
His airs being of great significance to me.
One in particular is a great monument to his mother, Caitríona
Rua. His influences shine through, be they Seámus Ennis or his
father Tom Mulligan.
One thing you don’t expect to see very often on
traditional recordings are the incorporation of new tunes. On this CD
there are a pleasantly surprising four new pieces of Néillidh’s own
distinction often encountered with more recent compositions is that they
are obviously new, but these tunes fit in so well with the older tunes
that one can picture them being taken from an old manuscript.
This I feel to be a great testament to his own intimate
understanding of the music with all it’s nuances and peculiarities.
He makes the pipes sound as old as they are, being custodian to a
wonderful collection of heirloom sets.
Néillidh rounds things off with a couple of sets
recorded by his brother Alphie in 1982.
Tom senior with Néillidh on the silver set Leo Rowsome made for
Felix Doran. Legendary in
appearance and legendary in tone..
One element of the overall effect I really enjoyed
was the inner cover and it’s selection of family photographs.
Among them, one with a very young Tommy Reck and one of a
devilish, grinning Seámus Ennis. Great
Folkworld Review 27/02/2004
Mulligan "An Tobar Glé"
“This is the pure drop from the well of tradition.”
Full review at: http://www.folkworld.de/27/e/cds2.html#mull
Only rarely does the idea of
reciprocation come into it, although we do stray into this territory
when we talk of being 'influenced by or 'following in the tradition
of”. Some musicians will create
These ways into the
transmission process are visible to a greater or lesser degree
throughout the entire practise of traditional music, song and dance, in
my view; they are especially prominent in a
ln this context, An Tobar Gle,
the new album from Neil Mulligan, presses many of the right, buttons for
me, nor least in the quality of the relaxed playing that Mulligan
First, the extent to which
Mulligan very comfortably inhibits what is an exclusive enough
territory, and not one into which any piper wisely strays either
unprepared or by chance - the Ennis school of piping. Choice of
repertoire is only one indicator of Mulligan's debt to Ennis. What makes
for much more interesting listening to my ear, is how Mulligan
interprets other tunes ('other” meaning not from the Ennis canon)
through the filter of Ennis's approach which is by far the strongest
influence on his playing here.
The second thing that struck
me was the graceful and respectful way in which Mulligan discloses his
relatively privileged access to all of the significant routes into the
transmission processes have made him the musician he is today.
The reason Mulligan is good
is not simply that he knew anybody in particular, it’s that he knows
exactly what it means to have known them and he has made musical sense
of all of this. Aside from the solo piping which acts as a musical
mirror Mulligan's development as a musician, there is a constant
grounding effect in the notes to the performances. Everything has come
to Mulligan from somebody somewhere and the way he sets about “owning
up” to this adds immeasurably to the sense of authenticity that pours
from his music.
Hence the inclusion of two
sonically difficult tracks derived from home recordings of Neil and his
father, Tom, which do jar on the ear on first hearing, but also explain
much of the rest of the music on the album. The visual material in the
liner notes are presented in a warmly conceived design by Edain
O'Donnell and they reinforce the importance of the people who make and
keep tradition alive and dynamic as any contemporary artform must be if
it is to make sense.
I was delighted to hear four
new compositions of Mulligan's on this album. These show another
dimension to his musicianship - he is well aware of both the tradition
and the limitations that go with the instrument, but he is game to
tackle these to good effect, particularly in the air 'Caitriona Rua' and
the reels An Tobar Gle' and 'Oilean na Meannain.
As an accurate musical
portrait of a man who has given so much to piping and who has so much
still to say, An Tobar Gle does the business. Dermot McLaughlin (Donegal
Neil (Neilidh) Mulligan - An Tobar Gle (Spring Records, SCD 1049)
Pipers are few and far between. The task of mastering the instrument's intricacies and idiosyncrasy is beyond most musicians and consequently only a few, a devoted and courageous few, stick the pace.
Thank God Mulligan didn't take the path of least resistance, because An Tobar Gle shows what a consummate musician he is. There are no niches and alleyways in which to lurk as a solo musician. The "line of sight" into the piper's heart and soul is perfectly clear. We feel every shift in mood, every doubt, every worry, every up-welling of joy. Because music played at the level at which Mulligan operates is nothing to do with "the dots". Instead it's about communicating the tune, or rather his version of the tune, with all of its humours and notions, to the listener.
Some fine dance sets such as "East Of Glendart/I Buried My Wife And Danced On Top Of Her", "The Morning Thrush/Colonel Frazer" and "An Fainne Oir/Airgead Realach" are interspersed with tremendous airs, such as his moving version of "A Stor Mo Chroi" and a jaw-droppingly fine rendition of "Taimse im' Chodladh".
Mulligan is as good a writer of tunes as he is a player. "An Tobar Gle", "The Dooneen Reel "and "Oilean Na Meannain" are as infectious and memorable as any of the traditional material on the album and warrant becoming part of anyone's repertoire.
However the most beautiful of Mulligan's self-composed tracks on the album is a slow air dedicated to the memory of his mother. "Caitriona Rua" is a fitting ode to a deeply loved and sorely missed mother.
Mulligan's love and respect for his family is demonstrated further. The album contains two tracks on which Mulligan duets with his late father, Tom Mulligan - "The Fermoy Lasses/The London Lasses/The Rose In The Garden" and "Chase Her Through The Garden/Kiss Her In The Furze". Although recorded on primitive domestic equipment, the quality of the playing and the very obvious musical bond between father and son overcome any doubts about the technical aspects of the recording process.
This shockingly good album is available from the increasingly influential and consistently discerning Copperplate at http://www.copperplatemailorder.comPay The Reckoning, October 2003
Taplas Oct/ Nov 2003
An Tobar Gle
Spring SCD 1049 (52m)
MULLIGAN is something of a purist's musician. His third CD of uilleann piping is, again, unencumbered by accompaniment.
Don't expect brazen virtuosity or fireworks either: Mulligan can rattle out the reels with the best of them, but his style remains measured and tasteful with a judicious use of ornamentation and variation that never draws attention to itself.
His three sets of pipes (including one made by Leo Rowsome for Felix Doran) are beautiful-sounding instruments and the varied choice of tunes is never arbitrary. As the sleeve notes explain, every tune, from well-known standards like The Gold Ring or Donal Óg to some
interesting ones of his own, is there because of some association or connection, sometimes to his late father, who as a musician was Mullligan's greatest influence, or one of the circle of players around Rowsome and Seamus Ennis.
tunes are not merely dots written on a page or a set of notes issuing
from a musical instrument. They
have a life of their own, independent of musicians and their
instruments. Some have long histories and have acquired new names and
variations as they travel from player to player in a musical version of
develop regional accents; others take on the character of individual
players. New tunes are
being made all the time, but only a few make it through the collective
quality control of the session. Like
all good musicians, Neil Mulligan, the Dublin Uilleann piper,
appreciates that the provenance of a tune is as essential an aspect as
the sequencxe of it’s notes.
Tobar Glé, the third album from the Dublin uilleann piper, confirms the
attitude set down in his previous collections, Barr na Cúille and The
every set is associated with some musician or singer.
Central to Mulligan’s musical philosophy is the respectful and
affectionate bond that he has created with players of the past.
His mentors form a distinguished group and include his father
Tom, a Leitrim Fiddle-player who came to Dublin from Leitrim in the
1930’s, and the piping icons Séamus Ennis, Willie Clancy, Leo Rowsome
and Tommy Reck. Taking
it’s name from a weekly traditional club run by Séamus Ennis in
Slattery’s of Dublin in the ‘70s, An Tobar Glé is a tour de force
of solo piping.
you hear is what you get. Most other musicians contemplating a
‘solo’ album will gather a team of like-minded players to provide
support and the occasional safety net.
Mulligan takes a different approach.
To him, the pipes are the complete instrument.
The chanter provides the melody; the drones supply the low
frequency foundation and the regulators add the harmony and other
decorations. What more
could a player need? The
piping standard The Gold Ring gets us going, steady and stately, set off
by some subtle regulator work. The
Morning Thrush – written by Séamus Ennis’s father Jim – is set
alongside that other standard, Colonel Frazer.
Bímis ag Ól, based on the song beloved of the Cúil Aodhas, is
played in Willie Clancy’s setting.
(sic) slow airs are included – A Stór mo Chroí, Dónal Óg and
Mulligan’s own Caitríona Rua, a beautiful lament written in memory of
his mother Catherine. Several
other tunes of his making are included elsewhere and, as one would
expect from a musician with such a solid foundation in the tradition,
each sits very comfortably with it’s more established neighbours.
An Tobar Glé closes with a pair of tracks from a home recording
featuring Néillidh in duet with his father Tom made by his brother
Alphie in the early ‘80s. The sound is hardly surprisingly rough but
the music is mighty.
overall package is rounded off by a fine set of sleeve notes by Mulligan
and a great design by Édaín O Donnell.
An Tobar Glé
Records SCD 1049; 53 minutes; 2003
Mulligan is a large man physically but cradles the uilleann pipes as
though nestling a newborn baby in his arms. That delicacy pervaded his
playing throughout his previous two albums (1991’s Barr na Cúille
and 1997’s The Leitrim Thrush) and continues on An Tobar Glé
(“The Clear/Bright Well”). The album takes its title from the name
of a traditional music club run by Séamus Ennis in Dublin during the
1970s, where the young Neil (or “Neillidh” as Ennis nicknamed him,
in honour of the Donegal fiddler Neillidh Boyle) and his father Tom, a
notable fiddler, were among the resident musicians.
born and raised in Dublin, Neil’s music has always been inspired by
the music of his father’s native County Leitrim, indeed he reckons
that Tom (who died in 1984) was the source for many of his tunes.
However, others on An Tobar Glé derive from musicians as varied
as Willie Clancy, the Roscommon flute-player Peg McGrath, the Dublin
piper Tommy Reck and, of course, Ennis himself, while Neil’s enduring
affection for the sean-nós song tradition is encapsulated by his
rendition of the slow air Táimse im’ Chodlach which he
associates with Seán ‘ac Dhonncha.
best of the airs on the album, however, is a tellingly understated
rendition of A Stór Mo Chroí while, contrastingly, the reel The
Morning Thrush demonstrates all Neil’s dexterity and mastery of
the subtle use of the pipes’ regulators. All tunes, it should be
noted, are played without any form of accompaniment.
its predecessor, An Tobar Glé ends with some archive recordings
of Tom Mulligan, recorded a couple of years before his death. This time
father and son duet on two sets of reels and, although the tape quality
is obviously far from ideal, both tracks demonstrate the perfect
congruence of their playing.
replete with informative notes on the tunes and plenty of archive
photographs, the album’s beautifully designed liner should serve as a
model for other small independent labels.
NEIL MULLIGAN: AN TOBAR GLE. Another excellent solo recording by the Dublin piper whose music, through his father fiddle player Tom Mulligan, is rooted in the Leitrim tradition. This is Neil Mulligan's third album, after "Barr na Cuille" and "The Leitrim Thrush," and like on those, the piping, on instruments pitched at C# and D, is unaccompanied. Mulligan tackles some of the great piping tunes, "The Gold Ring," "The Blackbird," "Colonel Frazer," the latter being preceded by a lovely rendition of the famous James Ennis reel "The Morning Thrush." Slow airs, including "A Stor Mo Chroi" and "Taimse im' Chodladh," are given a fair share as well. The last two tracks are home-made recordings of Mulligan playing with his late father Tom, and what they lack in sound quality is easily made up by how privileged one feels to be given a front-row seat to such an intimate moment.
Philippe Varlet Hard-to-find imported Irish CDs
Braon ón Tobar
Tobar Glé is teideal don tríú dlúthdhiosca atá díreach eisithe ag
an bpíobaire Neillidh Mulligan agus is oiriúnach an teideal é i mórán
slite. Ó thobar na máistrí,
Leo Rowsome, Tommy Reck, Séamus Ennis agus a athair féin, Tom
Mulligan, a d’fhoghlaim Neillidh ceird na píobaireachta agus an rian
sin le cloisint ar an dlúthdhiosca blasta seo.
“An Tobar Glé an t-ainm a bhí ar an gclub a bhíodh ag Séamus
Ennis san íoslach i dteach tábhairne Slatterys agus mar gheall air sin
agus mar gheall gur bhásaigh Ennis bliain is fiche ó shin a bhaist mé
an t-ainm sin air”, a dúirt sé liom.
Bhí an-tionchar ag Ennis ar an bpíobaire óg, “d’fhéadfá
a rá go raibh Séamus ina rí ar an gclub seo agus Máire Áine Nic
Dhonnchadha, amhránaí a raibh an-mheas agam uirthi, ina banríon aige,
is ansin a phioc mé suas go leor poirt.
Ní haon ionadh go bhfuil bá faoi leith ag an Maolagánach don
sean-nós mar is anseo agus i gConamara, áit a chaitheadh an chlann an
samhradh ar an mBóthar Buí in Indreabhán, a thug Neillidh grá don
amhránaíocht. Ceithre fhonn mhalla chomh maith le ceann a chum sé i
gcuimhne a mháthar féin, ‘Caitríona Rua’, atá ar an dlúthdhiosca.
stiúideo an amhránaí Frankie Lane i Ros Trevor a rinne Neillidh an
taifead agus an-sásta go deo atá sé leis an bhfuaim.
“Is breá liom an fhuaim atá ar sheantaifid Willie Clancy agus
rinne mé iarracht an rud céanna a fháil ar dlúthdhiosca seo.
Bhí cistin bheag ag Frankie le hurlár leice agus bhí sé díreach
i gceart don fhuaim a bhí uaim. Rogha
fairsing d’fhoinn atá ar an albam seo, ina measc ceithre phort a chum
sé féin agus seantaifead a rinne a dheartháir de Neillidh agus a
athair ag seinm i dteannta a chéile.
Ar shlí na fírinne atá Tom le cúpla bliain anuas rud a fhágann
gur rianta an-speisialta iad seo. Chaith Neillidh dua chomh maith leis na nótaí cuimsitheacha
atá ag gabháil leis an albam agus is cinnte go mbeidh siad mar áis
iontach d’fhoghlaimeoirí agus saineolaithe araon.
bhfaighfeá áit níos oiriúnaí ná The Cobblestone le halbam traidisiúnta
a sheoladh agus bhailigh slua mór de chairde agus comhcheoltóirí
Neillidh le chéile leis an ócáid a cheiliúradh sa teach tábhairne cáiliúil
seo an tseachtain seo caite. Mar
is eol do lucht leanta an cheoil, is le deartháir Neillidh, Tom, an pub
aitheanta seo atá suite i gceartlár cheann de na háiteanna is sine
agus is suimiúla san ardchathair, Smithfield.
Dar ndóigh is as Co. Liatroma do shliocht Uí Mhaolagáin agus
is é an file agus an scríbhneoir as an gcontae céanna, Vincent Woods
a sheol an Tobar Glé. Fear
den sloinne céanna, léiritheoir an chláir The Living Note, Peter
Woods a scríobh na nótaí agus bhí cúpla focal le rá aige siúd
chomh maith. Faoi mar a
bheifeá ag súil leis bhí an áit ag cur thar maoil le ceoltóirí
agus togha an cheoil le cloisteáil ó Neillidh agus a mhac óg, Fiachra
(8), Seán Ó Broin, Harry Bradley, Carmel Gunning agus Tommy agus
Jackie Martin agus go leor eile.
ar fad atá Neillidh idir thurasanna agus scoileanna samhraidh faoi láthair
ach tá an-fhonn air teacht anoir go Conamara, áit a chaitheadh sé
samhraí a óige. Seans,
roimh dheireadh an tsamhraidh, a dúirt sé liom go mblaisfidh muintir
Chonamara braon ón tobar (beo)!
An Tobar Glé le fáil ar Spring Records.
Tuilleadh eolais: www.neilmulligan.com
Tobar Glé (Spring Records)
third album by Dublin piper Neil Mulligan is as excellent as one would
expect from this master musician. There’s
a splendid solidity and authority to his playing, particularly on slow
airs like ‘ A Stór Mo Chroí’, ‘Dónal Óg’and the poignant
‘Caitríona Rua’, written by Mulligan after the death of his mother.
Other originals include the title track, a rollicking jig in
honour of a folk club run by Séamus Ennis at Slattery’s in the
1970’s. Like it’s predecessors, the CD features pure unadulterated
solo piping – which is just as well, as any accompaniment would have
been rendered superfluous by Mulligan’s adroit use of his
instrument’s full range, complete with drones and resonators.
Extensive notes on the jacket tell the stories behind the tunes
and reveal the writer’s affection for the music.
Síobhán Long of The Irish Times Thursday July 3rd 2003
Tobar Glé Spring Records ****
Neil Mulligan is back, as exuberant in his playing as ever. His taut rendition
of The Morning Thrush and Colonel
Frazer is a tribute to their original caretakers, Seamus Ennis and his
father Jim, and a fitting bedrock underpinning a rake of fine tunes that
shimmy between his armpit and dancing fingers. Rhythm masters of any hue would
do well to cock an ear to I Buried My Wife and Danced on Top of Her,
not for and Soprano-esque top tips, but for a taste of
how organic time-keeping can soar. Mulligan’s own jigs, including the
eponymous opener, are a shot in the arm for the pipes, with enough buoyant
optimism to carry them well into the belly of the 21st century
Neil Mulligan’s father Tom first came to Dublin in 1935. He’d left a job shoveling coal from the Arigna train – the last of Ireland’s narrow gauge railways – onto that bound for Dublin. He arrived into a city caught between the Great Depression and what became known as The Emergency. The first job Tom got barely covered his digs. Coming from a family of musicians Tom had a head full of music even if his pockets were empty and it was wondering the streets of Phibsborough one night that he first heard the music of the piper and pipe-maker, James Mulcrone, coming from an upstairs window. Through Mulcrone Tom Mulligan met other musicians, enduring friendships were formed with people like Tommy Reck and Séamus Ennis and Tom – a fiddle player – bought a set of Mulcrone pipes. He married Kitty McMahon from Beale in Kerry and they began a family.
The story of how Tom Mulligan met James Mulcrone and what followed is important. Important because Néillidh Mulligan’s music is very much steeped in what resulted from those associations. That and his father’s own musicianship. Every tune has a story, goes back to somebody who played it or composed it or remembered a snatch of it from somewhere else. Néillidh Mulligan’s music is unimaginable without his fierce knowledge of the tradition it springs form, whether that came from the playing of musicians like his first formal teacher, Leo Rowsome, or regular visitors to the Mulligan’s house like Tommy Reck and Paddy Bán Ó Broin, or guests who stayed longer like Séamus Ennis – already a legend, even then.
It was Ennis who insisted that a musician spend seven years learning, seven years practicing and seven years playing before he described himself as a piper. Who looked upon the playing of music as a journey and an obligation. Ennis too influenced Neil’s attitude to the playing of airs – his insistence that the true authority lay in the original Gaelic, in an understanding of the sean-nós songs they came from. The singing of Seosamh Ó hEanaí and Tom Pháidín Tom, amongst others, influences this piper’s music and those influences are fundamental.
This is Néillidh Mulligan’s third album. It builds on Barr na Cúille and The Leitrim Thrush. In a sense biographical details aren’t all that material; All-Ireland titles won, critical acclaim, plaudits gained, because the story of what’s truly behind the music on this CD is that of a world of music. What’s important is that this is an unusual work these days – work that is seldom heard – that of a solo musician playing with wit, great style and vivacity. A piper who is sure of his touch and for whom playing music is a lifelong preoccupation and who plays with warmth and emotion. Néillidh Mulligan’s music is imbedded in a great tradition – it honours that tradition and carries it forth. That world of music.
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