A birthday celebration was held this past Sunday for button accordionist/fiddler Tom Dunne at the weekly Irish music session he and fiddler Tony Horswill have been co-hosting for several years at St. James Gate Publick House in Maplewood, New Jersey. A great time was had by all. Exceptional carrot cake. Flowing beverages. Appreciative listeners. It should happen every week!
The only thing I could think to bring to the festivities was a newly composed tune, a hornpipe. Tom has a very deft touch with hornpipes, and I’m hoping the tune sits well on his box or even the fiddle.
I called it “The Man from Bunclody”, this being the habitation in County Wexford from which Tom originally hails. Maybe if enough people play it here and there, it’ll someday meld into the tradition as “Tom Dunne’s Hornpipe”.
Tom Dunne is one of those traditional musicians you encounter who, within five seconds after they start playing — you know it’s the Real Deal. Because it just sounds right.
I realize that’s a shockingly non-objective way to describe his style. But it just is. Because he just does.
What I enjoy best about playing with Tom Dunne is knowing that whenever he plays, I’m hearing some part of the music I’ve never heard before … in a way I’ll likely never hear it again.
When we play a tune I’ve played a thousand times, I know his version is coming out through a convection of musical roots that twist down into the deepest, richest core of the tradition. A musical culture so far distant from our modern aural universe that the only way it can ever be heard even faintly is as an occasional echo through a player like Tom Dunne.
You can judge for yourself by listening to his two CDs to date: Musical Memories with the late Joe Banjo Burke and A Fiddle Tribute To Paddy Cronin. There are rumours of a third CD in the works produced by Hearts Content, Tom’s trio with Iris Nevins (guitar/harp) and Linda Hickman (flute/whistle).
Encourage these rumours and spur them into digital reality… Tom turned 65 yesterday, and with the shape he’s in, he might only be around for another 50 years.
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