Jacqueline & Jimmy McCarthy – Biographies (Courtesy of Maree Music site, 2007)
Jacqueline was born in London in 1957. Her parents had emigrated to England in the early 1950?s. She grew up to traditional music, her father Tommy McCarthy being a piper and concertina player from Kilmihil, Co. Clare. She played with all the legendary players from Ireland who were living in London. Musicians like M?irt?n Byrnes, Raymond Roland, Roger Sherlock, Danny Meehan, Paddy Taylor and Bobby Casey were all part of a thriving music scene that Jacqueline experienced first hand. She also recalls meeting John Kelly and Willie Clancy during frequent visits to Ireland.
With her father Tommy, sisters Marion and Bernadette and brother Tommy, Jacqueline performed throughout Ireland and the U.K. ? including The Royal Albert Hall, London. She was a member of The Sergeant Early Band who performed traditional music for a contemporary ballet production ?Sergeant Early?s Dream? by the London-based Rambert Dance Company. This association goes back to 1985 and has taken her to Poland, Egypt, Greece, Jordan, Zambia, and all over the U.K.. Since 1987 she has been living in Co. Galway where she teaches concertina. She is a regular performer at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Co. Clare and has toured the U.S. on several occasions with her husband Tommy Keane. In 1995 they released an album ? ?The Wind Among the Reeds?. She is a member of Maigh Se?la a group who specialise in songs collected in North County Galway at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1999 she released ?The Hidden Note? featuring the McCarthy family, Tommy Keane and Alec Finn.
Tommy McCarthy was born in 1929 in Shyan (Home of the Fairies) near Kilmihil in West Clare. When he was about nine years old he heard a group of wrenboys on St. Stephen?s Day play music when they came to his house. In a matter of a few days he managed to get an old wooden whistle and began to teach himself the tunes he had heard. A few years later he began to learn the concertina from a neighbour ? Mick ?Stack? Ryan. He recalled crossing the fields at night to visit his house at night to learn tunes along with Solus Lillis, a blacksmith who lived nearby. Kilmihil became noted for its concertina tradition and other fine players from the area include Sonny Murray, Bernard O?Sullivan, Tommy McMahon and Tom Carey. In 1950 Tommy travelled to Dublin where he acquired a set of uilleann pipes and had his first tuition from legendary piper and pipemaker Leo Rowsome. In 1952 he emigrated to London where he worked as a carpenter.
Among the musicians he played with over the years in London were fiddlers Bobby Casey and M?irt?n Byrnes, pipers Willie Clancy and S?amus Ennis, flute players Roger Sherlock and Paddy Taylor and accordion player Raymond Roland. In 1968 he attended the historic first meeting of Na P?obair? Uilleann (The Society of Uilleann Pipers) in Ireland and in 1980 he co-founded the London Pipers Club, which is now an important focal point for U.K. pipers to learn and play. In 1972 he performed throughout the U.S.A. on the first Comhaltas Ceolt?ir? ?ireann (Association of Irish Musicians) tour with musicians such as Paddy Glackin, S?amus Connolly and Joe Burke and was invited back again in 1982 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of that tour. He also performed in Brittany, Italy, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Australia.
Recording credits include contributions to albums by Kate Bush, John Anderson of Yes, Horslips and his whistle playing was featured on a song called ?The Lion Sleeps Tonight? by the group Tight Fit which occupied the No. 1 spot in the U.K. pop charts for seven weeks in the mid-1980?s. London theatre credits include music for a contemporary ballet ? ?Sergeant Early?s Dream? by Rambert Ballet Co. and ?The Playboy of the Western World? which ran for two years at the National Theatre. Other work includes the music for the films ?Three Wishes for Jamie? and ?Young Guns?. His friendship with Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains led to Tommy, along with his family, performing regularly with the Chieftains at their many London concerts. They can also be heard dancing a Clare set live on the Chieftains album ?Bonaparte?s Retreat!?
Tommy passed on his music in the West Clare style to each of his four children ? Jacqueline (concertina), Marion (uilleann pipes), Bernadette (fiddle) and Tommy Jnr. (fiddle). They performed regularly as a family group throughout the U.K. and returned to Ireland several times each year ? keeping in touch with musicians and friends there down through the years.
In 1991 Tommy returned to his native Co. Clare after spending 40 years in London and settled in Milltown Malbay ? birthplace of the great piper Willie Clancy. He taught concertina at the Summer School held each year in Willie?s honour and in 1996 Tommy played in three of the specialised music recitals at the school ? uilleann pipes, concertina and tin whistle. He was a regular performer at music events all over the country and at pipers gatherings in particular. He also played with his three daughters and extended family who now live in Co. Clare and neighbouring Co. Galway. He performed in the U.S.A. each year with his son Tommy Jnr. who now lives there. With former Chieftains member, Michael Tubridy, he recorded an album of music for the ?Set Dances of Ireland? series ? featuring music for Clare Sets. In 1997 he released a solo album ? ?Sporting Nell?._Tommy died on the 24th of September 2000.
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