In response to Brendan Taaffe's email about the origins of Ceili bands.
The first ceili, I know of, took place in the Bloomsbury Hall near the
British Museum in London on 30th October 1897. It was organised by the
Gaelic League, which had a large support in London. The idea of large groups
of people dancing together may originally have come from the Scottish who
were in London at the time. 'Ceili' is of Scottish and Northern Irish origin
and means 'a visit and a chat'. To describe the dance as a ceili was first
used by the Gaelic league and served to emphasise the social nature of the
May 1901 saw a ceili in Athenaeum Enniscorty, Co. Wexford, organised by the
Gaelic League. 1909 saw the creation of 'The O' Carolan Orchestra'. The
Sarsfield Club in London regularly organised Ceili's and set up 'The Tara
Ceili Band'. This band performed in 1918 for Paddy's Day.
Playing which was appropriate for accompanying dancing was inadequate for a
large crowd. Middle-class social conventions required a paid professional
orchestra for a public dancing and so the ceili band came about.
America was doing the same with Irish music. The recording industry in the
early 1900 saw that there was a substantial amount of unrecorded music in
the country among the different immigrant groups, especially the Irish.
Piano accompaniment was common practice in record production in America. The
vamp piano style was used with Irish music in 1904 with recordings of John
Kinmel. The Flanagan brothers from New York are seen by many as the first
ceili band. They became popular in the 1920s. After the civil war in Ireland
many men went to American and fought out their difference at their ceili's,
one was even called the 'Tub of Blood'. In Boston the Shamrock Band were
recording around the 1920's. And we had O'Leary's Irish Minstrels from
The accordion and melodeon which were brought to America by the Italian and
German emigrants were greatly used when recording Irish music because of
their voicing. They therefore became popular in Ireland with Ceili bands.
The Jazz influence came from American as people began to hear music on the
radio (Dublin 2RN) and get these recordings from abroad. The gramophone had
emerged during the 1920's.
Many people were put off by ceili bands because they had been exposed to bad
ceili bands that only used the 'three chord trick' sometimes even on an out
of tune piano. Sometimes the drummer would even get carried away and
overshadow the music. When you have a well-balanced band it can sound nice.
Listen to any recordings by the Bridge, Tulla or Kilfanora Ceili bands. You
must remember that ceili bands play for the dancer, as did much Irish solo
music in the past. You can say therefore that ceili bands have helped to
revive Irish music and have saved many tunes from disappearing. Ceili Bands
have reflected the turbulent times of the 20th Century and are just another
spoke in the field of Irish music.
Hope that was of interest to some of you.
Evin O' Meara (B.Mus.Ed Dip.Mus)