Dance Music of Ireland , Matt Cunningham
Measured in tunes to the pound, dollar or euro this book is an absolute bargain, it contains no less than 298 Irish dance tunes, with chords, transcribed from 10 albums (find them in Other Categories – CDs) by button accordion player Matt Cunningham. Reels, jigs, polkas, hornpipes, marches and waltzes all abound here.
Matt Cunningham is internationally recognised as one of Ireland’s finest exponents of Irish traditional music today. Born in Headford, County Galway, multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Matt’s reputation extends from Ireland across Europe to America and even to as far away as isolated parts of the Caribbean Islands.
Matt, whose traditional music is animated by a deep understanding of the dance, has championed the art of dance music. His recordings The Dance Music of Ireland series are an extensive and invaluable resource for dancers at home and abroad and in their own way have helped lead to the dissemination of Irish set and céilí dancing. This book offers you, the reader, the chance to become more intimate with the dance tunes. Each one has been transcribed exactly from The Dance Music of Ireland recordings, numbers 1 to 10 and has had chords added so that an accompanist can easily join in with the melody player.
From an early age Matt had a quest to play the accordion like many a child of that age might have to ride a bike. Matt always showed a capacity to take a tune from the radio (the greatest resource in those days) with a seemingly great ease and then regurgitate it by way of performing it on the accordion. At the humble age of 9 or 10, the fiddle became a vehicle for musical expression for Matt. At the age of 14, Matt sustained a broken wrist. The confinements and limitations of this steered him away temporarily from playing fiddle and accordeon and he began playing the tin whistle, this being as much a means of keeping his performance of the music alive as it was a form of exercise for his broken hand.
The biggest influences on Matt’s unusual life were his father and grandfather; in those days, music was not always a favoured pastime and especially not a considered option as a profession. For some time, Matt’s music was very much a closet thing, his grandfather often arriving with an accordion covered in a brown paper bag so as to avoid the risk of people noticing what unpopular pastimes the Cunningham family delved into. The legacy that Matt has gained is testimony to the great love his father and grandfather had for Irish music. This too is exemplified in the fact that the accordion most commonly being played at any night’s entertainment or on any album of matter is a Hohner ‘Club’ model II, (approximately 140 years old at the time of going to print) inherited by way of his father from Matt’s grandfather.
After a period in Matt’s life where music had been a much-loved pastime and a kind of pseudo profession as a backdrop to other interests, in 1965 Matt joined the Western Céilí Band, travelling Ireland extensively for 7 years. It was in 1972 though that Matt took music on board as a full-time profession, forming his own band and growing a reputation both at home and abroad. 1984 was in itself a very significant year for Matt, being the year he was to make his first recording and also the year that he begun teaching music.
With 14 albums and 3 videos to his credit, 16 years of teaching experience with many fine young musicians bearing the fruits of his talent, Matt has celebrated and surpassed his 25th year in the music business and having played in myriad parts of the world for thousands of enthusiasts — including Pope John Paul II and the illustrious Kennedy family — Matt Cunningham has passed all tests as a household name. He is a true ambassador of Irish traditional music.