Donnacha (D): “John Kelly and behalf of myself and Sheeba the cat, which is a male sheeba
where did you learn to play concertina?”
John Kelly (J): “A way back in the start, near the start of this century
19 maybe 18 or 19 from my uncle Tom Keane.”
D: “and twas all to do with this part of the country here.”
J: “Certainly, even in this very spot where we’re sitting tonight, we performed. When he was a young man courting girls and I was a little garsún (young boy) of maybe 12 or 13 year of age, we used to journ together. He brought me. Coz I loved him because he could play the concertina
My father was more of a working man he loved music, singing and all that, but he thought like that too much concertina playing or fiddle playing wouldn’t be good for farming.”
D: “What is clare music? What is the essence of Clare music for you?”
J: “The love of it by the people. In one sentence. Music I think means more to Clare people. That is going back to the 50 odd, I’d be nearly ashamed to say that I’d nearly go back as 60, but very near it.
I think it meant more to them than to any other race of people that I met in this country. I did meet people from Sligo and other parts of Ireland that music meant a lot but not as much as what i saw in the eyes of the playing that I got in the set in the our flag floor and a few pints the look in their eyes is something unique.”
D: “You’ve had a unique experience too John in that you brought Clare music to Dublin and now and again, you and your family bring Dublin Clare music back to Clare.”
J: “Yes, that is true too. Like I went to Dublin I was frustrated from many angles but I kept playing my fiddle and twas a great sólás (consolation) and comfort to me to play I was mad about…my sister Nora here will tell you that I played one time that I left a pair of horses outside in the field in front of the house and a plough, and mar a dhé (as if) that I was going for a drink of water and a sup of tea and what was it, to lift a fiddle and play a passage of a tune that I was trying to learn. And that was way back in 1928.”
D: “And the horses never told on you.”
J: “No the horses never told on us. But in Dublin I brought that love of music with me. And now we own a part of Dublin, it’s all Irish music. And they come from far and near. And it’s impromptu music. There is no cover charge, there’s no rise in the pint. The very minute you call for order, all the men of the bar, maybe 150 of them sometimes, men and women, will stop up will listen.”
D: “There is too a kindness and gentleness that goes with the music.”
J: “Yes, that is true. The finest men that I ever men. Genine they had something wonderful in their emeanor Sean O Reed of Ennis, Dennis Murphy, Willie Clancy a host of other people like that were all Joe Ryan, Andy Conroy the piper.
D: “There was another very unusual man you’d an association with, Seán O Riada.”
J; “Yes yes Seán was one of the greatest personality men that I ever met, I don’t know why he linked up with myself anyway, anyway, I was such an old fashioned musician, he though being from the cradle of music in my mind, the type of music I portray he thought that I could be a good help for him. But he in turn offered me some great things that I never thought existed and above all the man he was a great man. They always say separate the man from the music and the music from the man, there’s something wrong, the man and the music goes together. But he certainly had it.”
D: “Now John, we’re going to end the Travelling Roadshow with you playing Clare music on the fiddle. You know I often think that like fiddles they’re a bit like pipes like women, they have to be tuned.”
J: “Well Pádraig O’Keefe used to call his wife the mrs, but he wasn’t married at all.
the mrs is feeling very bad and it rained all night.”