About Kitty Hayes and Peter Laban
Extract from sleeve notes by Tom Munnelly
Kitty Smith was born in Fahanlunaghta, east of Moy, with Lahinch being the nearest sizable village. But it was not in the town but at her own hearthstone that she and her siblings and peers found their academy of music. Kitty got her first good concertina from her father and she was playing at house dances from her mid-teens. Like many of her generation and before, she met the boy who was to become her husband at one such country dance: Josie Hayes was then a member of the renowned Laichtín Naofa Céilí band, which had in its ranks such local luminaries as Willie Clancy (pipes and flute), Junior Crehan (fiddle), Martin Tatty (pipes and whistle), Paddy Joe Mac Mahon (accordion), J. C. Tatty (flute and whistle), Jimmy Ward (banjo), Angela Merry (double bass), Paddy Galvin (fiddle), Michael Sexton (accordion), and several more, all of whom were neighbours and friends. During the years they were on the road it was tough for the members of the band to integrate their travelling with their work at home—usually the back-breaking toil of running a small farm. But if it was tough on them it was no easier for those like Kitty, who had to take on extra tasks as well as rearing a family of seven in the home that she and Josie set up in Shanaway, on the other side of Miltown Malbay. Kitty had little social life beyond her home at the time, but this is not to say that she was deprived of music, for theirs was a welcoming home and a spot frequented by musicians who would call in to pass an evening. Among these was an American visitor, the illustrious fiddler Paddy Killoran (1905-1965), who was married to Josie's sister.
All centres of population have gathering points where the local 'parliament' convenes. In cities it might be the town hall but in rural areas it was more likely to be the grocery shop, the blacksmith's forge or, in more recent times, the pub—which with the dawning of sexual equality, some affluence, and even more importantly, lounge bars with toilets for the women, became socially accessible to both sexes. In Kitty's and Josie's case this pub was Gleeson's of Coore, which was also a grocery. Junior Crehan and Josie had played music there since they were twelve years old and altogether served seven decades there playing on Sunday nights. Sunday night was always a good night fora gathering of locals to sing, dance, and listen to the music of Junior, Josie, Patrick Galvin, Micheal Downes (fiddle), and the frenetic bodhrán playing and hilarious singing of Pat Kelly. Musicians from all over the country and from much farther afield came to play in this unspoiled traditional venue. As the older people moved on, their places were taken by others living locally such as Eamonn McGivney, Conor Keane, and Jackie Daly (accordions). Singing was always part of the night's proceedings and among the many performers, Kitty's singing ranked with the best (an aspect of her talents which could fruitfully be covered in a future CD). The Gleeson family ran this pub for five generations and it is no exaggeration to state that its closure in the year 2004 is still keenly felt by hundreds of people. Any musical history of the area will have to take into consideration the musical impact of this sanctuary for musicians for well over a century.
After the Josie's death 1992, encouraged by her son Joe who also died tragically a few years later), Kitty began playing the concertina again. Diffident at first, she would take it out for brief sorties into the music on Sunday nights. As time progressed she became more confident. Her self-assurance was helped in some measure by the musical rapport she had struck up with Peter Labor. Peter, an archivist, librarian, superb photographer, and musician from Rotterdam, had come to live in the area and also was taking part in the sessions on pipes and whistle. As well as playing with the general gathering, they began playing duets during lulls in the dancing and these soon became a very pleasant part of the evening's proceedings.
This CD catches the musical understanding that Kitty and Peter share with one another. The music is stately and relaxed at the same time. It eschews flashiness totally and gets
under the skin of the tunes, a conversation between friends, never an argument or a race. If you wish to hear Clare music as ít should be played, you will be hard-pressed to find a better example.
Undoubtedly this CD will gain Kitty and Peter an even larger audience when people hear this truly harmonious combination, played in a spirit which is rarely achieved: enjoyment in the sharing of the music.
List of Tracks
1. The Newport Lass, Mist on the Meadow, The Legacy (jigs) 3.38
2. The Concert Reel, The Hare's Paw, Garret Barry's Reel (reels) 4.04
3. The Humours of Tulla, Tear The Callico (reels) 2.19
4. The Girl that broke my Heart, The Sligo Maid (reels, concertina solo) 3.39
5. The Wandering Minstrel, Fasten the Leg in her (jigs) 3.40
6. Hills of Coore, The Stack of Oats (hornpipes) 3.23
7. The Pigeon on the Gate, The Drunken Landlady, Sporting Nell (reels) 4.02
8. Winnie Hayes', The Rose in the Heather (jigs) 3.38
9. Corney is coming, An Bhean Tincéara, The Collier's Reel (reels, pipes solo) 5.20
10. Na Ceannabháin Bhána, Hardiman the Fiddler (slip jigs) 2.48
11. Ar Éirinn Ni 'Neosfainn Ce Hi (slow air, concertina solo) 2.11
12. John Egan's 1 and John Egan's 2 (jigs) 3.12
13. The Porthole of the Kelp, The Maids of Mitchellstown (reels) 2.36
14. Lost and Found, The Haunted House, The Luthradán (jigs) 3.38
15. The Mountain Top, Tom Ward's Downfall, The Honeymoon Reel (reels) 4.02