Patrick Brogan - 1960s

1960s

Sonny was one of the original musicians selected by Seán Ó Riada in 1960 to perform music for the play The Song of the Anvil by Bryan MacMahon, and subsequently became one of the original members of Ceoltóirí Chualann.

In 1963, Sonny wrote an article for the folk music journal Ceol, in which he outlined his reaction to older melodeon style players and those of the current modern style. He showed his unease at the new modern style, while distancing himself from the intolerance of puristic commentators like Seán Ó Riada, who accused the modern style accordion of being an unworthy instrument for the rich melodic traditions of Ireland, and saw its characteristic melodic techniques as fundamentally alien to his conception of Irish dance music.

Even though he had some reservations about the style, Sonny pointed out the attractiveness of the "bright musical tone", which was drawing a new generation of highly skilled players to the instrument. He was also critical of "this triplet which throw in everywhere they can, especially in hornpipes...it has become very monotonous to listen to." Sonny also strongly disagreed with his friend Brendan Breathnach who saw the modern players as having no respect for tradition. In 1963, Brendan Breathnach was commissioned by the Educational Company of Ireland to produce an illustrated book on Irish Dance Music. Sonny provided much of the music, from his knowledge of tunes during the course of several visits to his house, and the Ceol article indicates that Sonny's was the largest individual contribution to this book, and described Sonny as "a man who knows everybody's music", and said that "a keen ear and a very retentive memory...enabled him to store up over the years hundreds and hundreds of tunes.". No 82 of the Reels, "Éilís Ní Bhrógáin", was dedicated to his daughter Éilís.

Seán Ó Riada wrote "One of the very few players who can make their music sound like Irish Music is Sonny Brogan of Dublin. He understands the limitations of his instrument but strives to counteract these, not by wrongly placed ornamentation but by emphasising the traditional elements. His ornamentation is usually confined to a single cut, or grace note, and the roll, as in these reels, where restrained ornamentation and subtle variation are far more telling and eloquent than the fashionable plethora of chromatics. We should always be able to hear the tune distinctly".

On 19 February 1963, Sonny made recordings at RTÉ Studios in Dublin, where he played "Gorman's Reel", "The Hut in the Bog", "Morrisson's Jig", "The Fourpenny Loaf", "Jenny Picking Cockles" and "Repeal of the Union". "Gorman's Reel" and "The Hut in the Bog" were released by RTÉ Funduireacht an Riadaigh, on the triple album Our Musical Heritage (FR003) in 1980.

Read more about this topic:  Patrick Brogan

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