Comhra Donn (Hornpipe)
Sonny (Patrick) Brogan (1906 – 1965) was an accordion player from Dublin, and he gave this tune to Brendan Breathnach for his ‘Ceol Rince na hÉireann‘ collections.
Sonny and John Kelly Senior were good friends and would spend a lot of time together playing tunes throughout the ’50s and ’60s in Dublin. Sonny lived beside Croke park which was not far from John’s home in Capel Street.
Sonny and John were both members of Seán Ó Riada ensemble Ceoltóirí Chualann.
Seán Ó Riada wrote a memorial for Sonny in the folk journal “Ceol” in Volume 2, Issue 1 when Sonny died in 1965
Credit: © Pipers.ie. Ceol – A Journal of Music. Link
IN MEMORIAM – SONNY BROGAN
It was in the autumn of 1960 that I first met Sonny Brogan. I had been asked to supply music for Bryan MacMahon’s play “The Song of the Anvil” at the Abbey Theatre, and had conceived the idea of using a group of traditional musicians for this purpose-the first time, as far as I am aware, that such a step had been taken. It was Éamonn De Buitlar who introduced me to Sonny, who was at first rather shy and reserved, until he realised what was wanted of him. The play went on and, though it did not find favour with the public which it more than merited, the music seemed to succeed with everyone, not least all the actors and backstage staff, who used to be entertained by impromptu concerts given by the musicians in the dressing-rooms. Sonny was, of course, a prime mover in all this and one of the reels which they used play most often backstage, commonly called “Redigan’s”, was re-christened by us privately “The Abbey Reel”.
When the run of the play was over I hated the idea of parting from the musicians and so formed “Ceoltoirí Chualann”, of which, during the few years we have been functioning Sonny was a mainstay. I would not suggest for a moment that our association was all sweetness and light. Many the argument we had-it is well known that musicians argue more fiercely about traditional music than about anything else. However, we always saw eye to eye in the finish and each argument served only to make us better friends.
Sonny’s qualities as a musician were rare. He had an astounding memory, so much so that I was inclined to regard him, with John Kelly, as our living reference library. He could recall three or four different versions of a tune going back through three or four layers of time and often through three or four changes of title. He had a passion for the pure, simple essence of tunes, uncluttered by mistaken ornamentation. He was also, of course, an outstanding accordion player, one of the very few who could make it sound suitable for playing Irish music.
As a person, Sonny was-well, he was contentious, convivial, argumentative, loyal, dogmatic, witty, utterly reliable, a tiger when his temper was roused (which was rare), and at the same time curiously gentle and courteous. He was a good friend. I shall miss him.
Beannacht Dé lena anam.
Seán Ó Riada
John Kelly playing An Comhra Donn on the fiddle.
Credit: “John Kelly Fiddle & Concertina Player”, Topic Records. Additional tracks recorded, 1974.
Notated from above recording.