Music IntReview: ‘The Anvil’ pays tribute to father’s memory

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How It’s New York: Marie Reilly is the Protocol Officer of the Irish Consulate in NYC.
How It’s Irish: Reilly is from County Longford, and the tunes on the CD are trad but relatively uncommon.

Dan Neely attended the launch of Marie Reilly’s CD The Anvil a few months ago, and reported on the launch and the very unusual and fascinating CD, which he calls a “delight”:

Comprised of tunes from South Leitrim and Longford, much of the music was taken from manuscript collections compiled in those areas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.   which captures tunes Marie learned from her father.

This article was originally published in Irish Echo, May 9th, 2012

Marie will be playing at the Concert for the Mercy Centre, which will now also benefit victims of Sandy in the Rockaways, on Monday, Nov. 19 at the Irish Arts Center.

In New York City, we’re privileged to have strong institutional support for traditional music.  Organizations like Irish Arts Center, Glucksman Ireland House and the New York Irish Center, for example, each do myriad things for the advancement of the traditional arts in New York City and their work is of great benefit to the community at large.  Another such entity doing great work is the Consulate General of Ireland in New York, led by Consul General Noel Kilkenny and his wife Hanora O’Dea Kilkenny Since arriving in New York in 2010, the Kilkennys have shown an unusual commitment to Irish music and dance by opening wide the Consulate’s doors to the community countless times.

One such moment occurred at the Consulate on April 25, when they hosted the launch of Consulate Protocol Officer Marie Reilly’s new CD,  The Anvil.  The launch drew people from all over the tri-state area, including Reilly’s friends and family and a phalanx of musicians.  People like Tom Dunne, Don Meade, Cillian Vallely, Marie Barrett, Desi Groarke, Marie Reilly (who also plays fiddle, and would be known for her work with her brother Martin and with Cherish the Ladies), Marian Makins, Donie Carroll, Niall O’Leary and Dan Milner (to name several, but not nearly all), proved an engaged audience and – after a few short speeches and a brief spotlight performance from Reilly and Gabriel Donohue – all took part in a lively session that lasted well into the evening.  The goodwill in the room was palpable.


I spoke with Reilly a few days after the event about her life in music, and her album.  Born into a musical family in County Longford, she began playing the fiddle at six years of age and learned from her father Michael, who in addition to being a musician (and the album’s dedicatee), was also a blacksmith.  His work is an important detail here: as a child, Reilly would spend time with her father as he worked at the forge.  There, they would “perform” together – he would whistle tunes and she would lilt along with them.  At the end of every tune, he’d tap the anvil with his hammer.  The sound of her father’s anvil is one of Reilly’s dear memories, and the inspiration behind her album’s title.

Unfortunately, her father died when she was a young woman, and in time she drifted away from her instrument.  She missed it, however, so once her family was grown she found her way back into playing – a process she found thrilling and immediately rewarding.  She credits her friends at the Doonbeg Social Club (a group of over 250 members that meets at the Kerry Hall in Yonkers, and which just celebrated its 50th anniversary) with providing the support and encouragement she needed to not only get back to the music, but to pay tribute to her father’s memory with an album.

The Anvil is a delight.  Comprised of tunes from South Leitrim and Longford, much of the music was taken from manuscript collections compiled in those areas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Although some of the tunes will be familiar to experienced listeners, Reilly’s versions all have delicate touches that many will find pleasantly surprising.  Several of the tunes, however, are rare and unusual, and will likely be unfamiliar to even experienced listeners!

Reilly’s playing on the album sensitively demonstrates the “slur-and-cut” style of bowing she inherited from her father.  In combination with Gabriel Donohue’s nuanced backing, Reilly has yielded an album of light, flowing music that bounces along with a pleasant gait.  The CD’s final three tracks – archival recordings of Reilly’s father Michael playing – complement the package perfectly and help make The Anvil a wonderful tribute.

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Copyright 2012 New York Irish Arts
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