''Sea, bail ó Dhia oraibh agus fáilte go Ceol Agus Ealaíon! Joe Byrne here once again until 1am or beyond .. three hours le ceol, spraoi, siamsa, seanchas agus spleodar and maybe small bits seafóid spliced in anseo agus ansiúd ... but always the finest of music, song and poetry, with news and reviews of the arts, history and lore ... so fan linne má thig libh, mar beidh sé in a chraic idir seo agus siúd ... cluas eile is the password''
Those same words have introduced the music and arts programme Ceol Agus Ealaíon on Midwest Radio for the past 25 years.
Achadh Mór, my own native area, has a strong flute, melodeon and song tradition and so it happens that I play a long loud flute myself and also sing and make up the odd song. In fact, my first efforts at recording began in 1972 involving old style accordion and flute players of the locality.
One such flute player, Tom Coen of Cúigiú (1893-1990), had links to the Knock Flute and Drum Band from the early 1900's, and he also had lore about Piper Caulfield that went back to the mid 1800's. As a young boy, Tom had heard early cylinder/phonograph recordings played by a traveller to the locality. Her recalled how he and other youngsters had traipsed round after the cart in which the phonograph was being transported from village to village 'in wonderment at the voice coming from inside the magic box'.
The radio programme, of course, brought further opportunities to meet, record and broadcast hundreds of other performers, historians and artists on a variety of recording machines. Since 1989 I've bought and used Morantz cassettes, DAT, mini discs and now digital discs. As the archive of recordings began to grow I decided to issue some regional collections of this material and to date 24 cd's, and 14 accompanying books have been brought out.
There have been many fine live studio programme performances, as well as magical field recording nights all over Mayo and beyond; day recording trips to the islands, schools, libraries, abbeys, arts and heritage centres, ... feiseanna, fleadhanna, summer schools and street busking.
Instrument makers, musicals artists, choirs, and orchestras, all have featured. There was a six week walking music collecting tour in 2004 through Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim. In the 25 years there has just been one expenses paid recording junket! That was to France at the invitation of Ragús, the Mayo based international trad show. Recordings were done on the tour bus and at Le Silo Theatre in Marseilles where Ragús starred before a packed house.
The recording discs turned full circle this Spring as I found myself back again recording old style melodeon. On Good Friday, April 18th, two lorras teenagers, Michael and Jason Keane, were introduced by sár ghaeilgeoir Pádraig S Ó Murchú in the Turas Siar Centre, and they went on to play beautiful gimpy music on a 100-year-old family melodeon.