The House I was Reared In
I’m a photographer and a musician and composer of traditional Irish music. I play the button accordion and concertina. I divide time between County Clare Ireland and New York City.
Coming from a rich traditional heritage I grew up listening to the music and storytelling around me in County Clare. I observed early on that musicians became absorbed into the music and seemed to inhabit a world of their own when they played. I was captivated by this as a child, my father played for us as children at home other family members and musical acquaintances of his would all play together on visits to our home. As children we were their enraptured audience, this experience drew me in – it was like magic happening before me a feast for my eyes and ears. I learned how to listen, then I learned to play from listening and being around it. This is where I began my journey as a musician. My photography takes the viewer into this intimate space.
Traditional music is rooted in place—it was carried by families like mine who were musicians, singers, dancers and story tellers and in communities like County Clare are a stronghold and a cradle. The images here are used as a way of telling a personal story of home of family and community–its a beginning and also an end. A place and its music are, in some ways, inseparable.
My book “The Living Note”, with the writer Peter Woods, celebrates this. I began this work more than 20 years ago as a matter of urgency. This older way of life was still in existence when I began the work, wanting to document it before it disappeared . Many of the people captured here are now dead and gone. A Celtic tiger economy has come and gone and much change has happened in its wake.
Even so, the music is healthy and alive. The memory of those who carried the tunes, songs and stories all preserved with the music—passed on to the next generation. This is a view from within.