Fortune Favours the Merry
Peter Horan (flute), Gerry Harrington (fidddle), & Olie Ross (piano)
The Irish Post
“This is an album of joyous, uncontrived music on flute, and fiddle from two musicians with both talent and experience”. Joe Mullarkey
Traditionalists play a merry tune going back to their roots
FORTUNE Favours The Merry is the new album from Peter Horan and Gerry Harrington. Peter and Gerry create a tight blend of wind and string in which neither instrument dominates. The music is played in a clean, spirited fashion without sacrificing any of their individual capacity to grace the music.
This is an album of joyous, uncontrived music on flute, and fiddle from two musicians with both talent and experience.
Peter Horan is from Killavil in Co. Sligo and is a veteran of Irish traditional music. Growing up in fiddle country meant that his flute style was largely free of the influence of other players and he is now the last exponent of a unique style of playing which is not unlike the local fiddle style. Gerry Harrington is from Kenmare in Co. Kerry and is now living in Lismore in Co. Waterford. His fiddle style is predominantly that of Sliabh Luchra. Gerry is a highly-respected musician who has made several other recordings.Ollie Ross brings a lovely touch to the album with lively, intuitive accompaniment on piano.
Although Gerry and Peter are from different generations and from musical backgrounds they blend beautifully. Like many older musicians Peter values expression within music far more than technicality.
The music on this album is full of feeling and comes from the very roots of the tradition. Tunes on the album include Tell Her I Am, Lord Gordon, Lad O’Beirne’s Hornpipe, The Skylark and the slow air She Sailed From Dublin. Joe Mullarkey
East Bay Express Best of 2005
Though they represent not only very different regional styles but different generations, flutist Horan and fiddler Harrington combine beautifully on this beguiling record. Nobody is trying to prove anything here, but like all great traditionalists, these guys know how to let a tune tell its own magical tale. They also know how to select a fine program. It really doesn’t get much better than this. Duck Baker
The Irish Echo 27.7.05 CEOL Column.
Give Kenmare, Kerry-born fiddler Gerry Harrington credit. It is not easy sliding into the fiddle chair beside 79-year-old Killavil, Sligo, flutist Peter Horan, whose nearly 30-year partnership with fellow Sligoman Fred Finn (1919-1986) on fiddle is the stuff of legend. Horan and Finn were a hand-in-glove duo, beautifully in sync with each other, so comfortable and capable that the music they made seemed effortless and was seamless.
Two years after Finn’s death in Jan. 1986, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann released the “Music of Sligo” LP. It comprised five tracks from a Dec. 1985 recording session by Horan and Finn in Dublin, four tracks from their 1976 session in Dublin, two tracks from a 1959 Radio Éireann recording of them made by Ciarán Mac Mathúna, and five tracks selected from their playing during the 1970s in South Sligo. Albums cobbled together in this fashion are often uneven, and the sonic quality of the LP was that. But the playing was extraordinary and has stood the test of time.
Gerry Harrington is from a younger generation and different regional style, Sliabh Luachra, so the match between him and Horan in their “Fortune Favours the Merry” CD on Cló Iar-Chonnachta may appear strange and improbable. But this album of more than an hour of music recorded at Doddy’s Pub in Ballymote, Sligo, largely works because these two instrumentalists start from a bond of respect and care for the tradition they serve. If speed in Irish traditional music is about ego and effect, then the more fluid, unhurried tempo heard on this CD is about melody and how to deepen its appeal without artifice.
Is Peter Horan on “Fortune Favours the Merry” the Peter Horan of “Music of Sligo”? No. But that doesn’t mean he still can’t put across a tune with all the soul and spirit for which he’s known.
The grace and lift Horan brings to his flute playing in “The Pigeon on the Gate/Trim the Velvet” reels dovetail expertly with Harrington’s steady, dance-inspired fiddling, backed by Ollie Ross on keyboards. The pace is exemplary, and the investment of feeling in every note played conveys a sincerity that’s nearly palpable.
In one sense, it’s hard to make “The Skylark/Roaring Mary” reels, “Tell Her I Am/Brennan’s Favourite” jigs, “The Foxhunter/Captain Rock” reels, “Lord Gordon” reel, and “Dowd’s No. 9/The Hunter’s House” reels sound new, given the countless times they’ve been recorded over the decades.
Horan and Harrington reinvigorate them not with machine-gun velocity, exotic ornamentation, or winking novelty in arrangement, but with sheer, expressive joy in playing them. This isn’t old wine in old or new bottles, but old wine allowed to breathe and spread its bouquet naturally. Not to strain the metaphor, but this is a sipping rather than a guzzling contest overseen by two sommeliers of impeccable taste.
Hornpipes such as “John J. Kimmel’s/O’Callaghan’s” from Harrington and “McDermott’s/The Flowers of Antrim” from Horan and Harrington, backed by
Ross, luxuriate in melodic texture, while “The Corkin Cross/The Lakes of Sligo/Memories of Ballymote” show Horan’s ability to match his Sliabh
Luachra partner in some polkas.
My sole, small complaint about the album is in the relationship between melody and rhythm instruments on occasion. In “Lad O’Beirne’s/Sault’s
Hornpipe,” for example, fairly inflexible dynamics and almost paint-by-numbers vamping on keyboards by Ross, an otherwise able player, distract from Horan’s lovely flute solo.
Accompanists must adjust to melody players, not vice versa, especially when the melody player is a flutist of Horan’s reputation. This has nothing to do with that silly saw, “A good backer is the one you don’t notice.” Listeners should notice–and appreciate–rhythmic accompaniment that sets into relief or elicits standout melody playing.
If fast and flashy Irish traditional music is what you’re seeking, then skip this CD. But if you’re looking for unslick, turf-scented instrumental music rooted in and drawing on the longstanding strength of the Irish tradition, “Fortune Favours the Merry” is for you.
Kudos to Cló Iar-Chonnachta (CIC), an independent recording label in Inverin, Connemara, Galway, for its commitment over the past 20 years to
preserve and present Irish traditional music as well as Irish-language and Gaeltacht culture of quality. Earle Hitchner
The Irish Echo
For anyone who loves Irish traditional music in its pure drop state, unvarnished and unflashily virtuosic, there are two new, can’t-miss albums from Galway’s Cló Iar-Chonnachta label: “Fortune Favours the Merry” by Sligo flutist Peter Horan and Kerry fiddler Gerry Harrington, with piano accompaniment from Ollie Ross (his father was Wexford’s 1956 All-Ireland senior button accordion champion George Ross), and “Within a Mile of Kilty” by John Gordon, Brian Rooney, Séamus Quinn, and Ben, Charlie, and Maurice Lennon, with backing from Altan’s Ciarán Curran on cittern, Beginish’s Noel O’Grady on bouzouki, Frank Kilkelly on guitar, and Gabriel McArdle on concertina.
Harrington has absurdly large musical shoes to fill, as the flute-fiddle duo of Horan and fellow Sligoman Fred Finn (1919-1986) is the stuff of legend. But the Sliabh Luachra fiddler acquits himself well beside Horan, who will only increase his reputation as one of Ireland’s finest flutists ever with this new CD. If you enjoyed Mike Rafferty’s exceptional “Speed 78” solo debut last year, you will also revel in this Horan-Harrington collaboration, recorded in Doddy’s Pub, Ballymote, Sligo. Earle Hitchner
Irish Music Magazine 8.05
Gerry Harrington told me that there were only two days of rehearsals allotted for this exceptional album. “Peter Horan reckoned that if I was good enough then I’d be able to get it all down in those two days, if not then I’d never be good enough to play with him” he told me. Well the judgement is that there really was some thermal chemistry going on when these two met and the combination of flute and fiddle resulted in an alloy of truly astounding properties.
The album opens with The Gold Ring/The Rambling Pitchfork with Ollie Ross adding the undertow of piano accompaniment. The tracks just gets better as the musicians settle into their playing, giving the album a really live sound.
Recorded by Bruno Staehlin in his Open Ear Studios in Galway, he has a great set of lugs and has recorded this album so that you can hear every nuance from the fiddle and flute. And you really have to hear this album, it’s simply not enough to passively listen to it; Peter Horan’s flute playing is so full of variety, little yelps and barks, unexpected trills and flourishes, and yet all the time Harrington matches these pyrotechnics with tight ensemble playing never once thrown off by the vibrancy of Horan’s work.
There are chances for solo performances too, with Harrington first out to bat with John J. Kimmel’s Hornpipe/ O’Callaghan’s both from the Sliabh Luachra tradition (attributed on the album liner notes to Julia Clifford and Dennis Murphy). Horan’s masterpiece is the slow air She Sailed from Dublin, he has an original method of playing slow airs, about as far from Keltic Muzak and all those wispy low whistle albums as you can imagine, slow the air may be, but is full of music. And a word about those liner notes, short perhaps but full of information on where their source recordings can be found.
One remarkable feature of the album is how well Horan and Harrington have gelled together, as they come from truly distinct Irish music traditions, did they really get on musically I asked Gerry Harrington, well he told me Peter is already keen to make another album. And if you need proof of the potential inspect track fifteen, Dowd’s No. 9 and The Hunter’s House, the latter taken at a handy pace, it’s composer Ed Reavy would surely be delighted by it’s treatment here.
For the time being you’ll have to do with Fortune Favours the Merry, and if you buy nothing else this year you wont be disappointed, perhaps as they say in crossword clues you’ll be blessed and delighted by your windfall! Sean Laffey
The Irish World 15.07.05
Peter Horan and Gerry Harrington are two musicians from very different traditional Irish musical backgrounds. With a large generation gap between them and different styles of playing, hailing from almost opposite ends of Ireland, Peter from Sligo and Gerry from Kerry, maybe you’d dismiss the thought of these two men putting together fiddle and flute to bring us a collection of ‘oh-I-recognise-that-one’ Irish tunes.
Well you’d be mistaken. Peter grew up in Killavil Co. Sligo, known as ‘fiddle country’, and he developed a style of playing which was very much his own. He has carried with him this unique style and is a veteran of traditional Irish music today, earning much respect over the years.
Gerry Harrington, despite being of a younger age is also a respected musician whose fiddle style is that of Sliabh Luachra, an area spanning the Cork, Kerry and Limerick borders, famous for its contribution to Gaelic cultural heritage.Gerry’s collaboration with Peter Horan in ‘Fortune Favours The Merry’ is the latest in a series of duets with other respected musicians, namely Charlie Piggott and Nancy Conescu.
For those of you who have remained in touch with the traditional Irish music scene I’m sure you’ll be delighted to hear such tunes as ‘The Skylark’, ‘She Sailed from Dublin’ and ‘Lad O’Brien’s Hornpipe’. For those who have perhaps lost touch a little there are, and I’ll say it again, ‘oh-I-recognise-that-one’ tunes which ring a bell and bring back memories of times spent in Ireland or with the relatives.
The fruit of this collaboration, with the lively accompaniment of Ollie Ross on the piano, brings you back to your roots. The fiddle and flute skilfully compli-ment each other and in the words of Peter Horan in reference to their music “You have to feel it”. PATRICK COYLE