How it’s (New York) New Jersey: Chief O’Neill’s Mixed Flock performs in New Jersey and was founded here.
How it’s Irish: It’s Irish trad and has been praised even before its first album by master Irish fiddler Tommy Peoples.

Chief O’Neill’s Mixed Flock is the brainchild of trad clarinetist Andy Lamy.

Trad clarinet?

That’s right. Lamy plays in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra– and he’s also a first-rate trad player. [pullquote]”The set just builds and builds. It starts as WQXR and ends as something that would blow the speakers at WFUV.”[/pullquote]Chief O’Neill’s Mixed Flock plays a concert tonight, Friday Jan. 23, at the First United Methodist Church of Westfield, NJ, 1 East Broad St.

Matt Mancuso, Lamy, John Walsh, Jerry O’Sullivan, John Nolan, Haley Richardson, Steve Holloway, Trent Johnson and Mike Stewart are all on the bill.

Expect to hear trad  and also, a kind of baroque sound, Andy said.

“It’s what I call ‘proto-trad-baroque music. If you take O’Carolan and don’t play it like modern Irish, but in style and voicing and even instrumentation, using recorder, viola, pipe organ… you get a late medieval, Renaissance kind of sound that you might have heard in a large castle on a pipe organ. We will transition from ‘Young Terence McDonough’ to ‘Madame Maxwell’ into ‘Charles O’Connor,’ then go into two Charlie Lennon jigs.

“The set just builds and builds. It starts as WQXR and ends as something that would blow the speakers at WFUV.”

mixedflockcompositeThat first tune, “Young Terence McDonough,” is one Andy knows from his O’Neill’s book.

“It’s in G Minor. I don’t think it gets played very often. I arranged to have baroque counterpoint. I don’t know if it’s fusion or not…”

And yes, there is an album in the works, titled “The New Blackthorn Stick.”

“It’s the world’s first Irish trad clarinet album,”

Andy said.

Tommy Peoples has endorsed it:

“The unique sound, the depth of tone and the ability in Andy’s hands give this clarinet indisputable claim to a warm embrace and welcome in that ancient, expressive, graceful and melodic genre that is Irish music,”

Peoples says on the album. Also playing on the album are Mary Bergin, Brian Conway, Patrick Mangan, John Walsh, Jerry O’Sullivan, Greg Anderson, Gabriel Donohue, John Whelan, John Nolan, Dylan Foley, Dermot Byrne, Floriane Blancke, Haley Richardson, Mike Stewart, Steve Holloway, Jimmy Musto, Jonathan Storck, and Donie Carroll.

We’ll have a review of that when it’s out, which should be soon.

A clip is here:

“I’m in the presence of these great players, listening, learning, phrase by phrase, slur by slur. The swing of this Clare musician is different from this Sligo musician.

“At tonight’s concert, they are allowed to run off leash.”

The name “Chief O’Neill’s Mixed Flock” is a pun, Andy said: his own ensemble is titled “Mixed Flock,” which focuses on African trad music, birdsong, classical chamber music and other fusions.

At the concert, the ensemble will play Chief O’Neill’s favorite hornpipe, as well as “The Cuckoo.” Keep abreast of it by following Andy on Facebook,

And Jersey: represent!

He moved to New Jersey 21 years ago from California to play in the New Jersey Symphony, which he described as a major orchestra (Editor’s note: I played in New Jersey Youth Symphony, principal second, back in the day. I feel a fondness for anything with “New Jersey” and “Symphony” in the title).

“They’ve allowed us to do Irish, and these proto-Irish-renaissance concerts and develop them in the crucible of their own outreach.”

Mike Stewart, who also plays in NJSO (fiddle), is a core member of the group.

“New Jersey is what brought me here. I played my first Irish session in New Jersey, at St. James’ Gate (in Maplewood), led by Mr. Wexford and Mr. Birmingham, Tom Dunne and Tony Horswill.”

And arguably without that NJ connection, Irish clarinet might still be waiting to happen. Soon the rest of the world will get to hear it too.


Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.