Carberry and Quinn: In Concert at the Irish Center
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a few reels from Martin Quinn and Angelina Carberry’s eponymous CD and felt unusually relaxed. I couldn’t figure out why. I was heading off on vacation and I had a pile of laundry to do the size of Mount Agamenticus. I had a story to turn in virtually the minute we got back from Maine. I hadn’t even gotten the suitcases down from the attic.
It took me a while, but I figured it out: It’s the banjo (her) and the button accordian (him). Those are the instruments the anchor musicians play at my local session at Ambler’s Shanachie Pub. On the Tuesday nights that I’m there, I don’t have a care in the world. And one night, I even saw Angelina Carberry and Martin Quinn sitting in with Fintan Malone and Kevin McGillian.
Carberry and Quinn will be coming to the Irish Center this Friday night, July 10, for a concert sponsored by the Philadelphia Ceili Group.
Born in Manchester, England, Angelina Carberry came to Irish music naturally—her father, Peter, and her grandfather were both musicians. She gravitated to the tenor banjo as a child after a stint on the tin whistle. And Martin wasn’t the first accordian player she teamed with. In 1998, she released a CD called “Memories of the Holla” which she made with her father on accordian and John Blake on guitar. She has since released a solo album (though Quinn, now her husband, can be heard on a few tracks) called , “An Traidisiun Beo.”
Martin Quinn, a native of Armagh, comes from a long line of musicians and story tellers. He’s considered one of the finest exponents of the button box, which he teaches, and has toured Europe with the groups Dorsa and La Lugh.
I talked to Martin Quinn a couple of weeks ago by phone from his home in Longford, Ireland. Here’s what he had to say.
How did you and Angelina get together?
Well, we met in Milltown Malbay at the Willie Clancy Festival. We were both playing a session at Queally’s Pub, and ended up playing a few tunes together. So yes, the music brought us together and we’re playing together for nine years.
Do you play concerts all year?
Mostly during the summer. We’ll do occasional concerts on weekends during the year, but don’t go away for weeks at a time because Angelina teaches lot of music, and I tune and repair accordions.
What does that entail?
I get them, take them apart and put them back together. Hopefully. [Laughing]
In your bio, your family is described as. . .
Raconteurs, yes. I have uncle who’s quite a famous storyteller, a real character from Armagh, Michael Quinn, he’s 83 now, and he’s actually performing at the Catskills this year. He’s a great character, a carrier of old songs and local history. His father, my grandfather, was the same as well.
How about you?
I can tell the odd lie. But that would not have been my main pursuit.
Where did the music come from?
My mother plays the accordian. She wouldn’t play in public, but she taught me my first tunes. Both grandfathers played fiddle and melodeon, and both were singers. My mother can sing too. I have lots of cousins who play music and an auntie of mine plays banjo as well. And my sister plays the accordian too.
You apparently gravitated toward traditional music, but were you ever tempted to play more modern tunes?
When my mother played, it was usually a hornpipe or a jig. That’s what I learned first. I played with a few ballad bands when I was in my teens—people will ask you to fill in for somebody. But I always had jigs and reels ringing around inside me head.
One of the things I love about Irish traditional music is how musicians learn tunes not so much from recordings but from each other. I just heard Paddy O’Brien at a house concert and he not only remembers something like 3,000 tunes, but who he learned them from. Is that how you learned?
I probably learn tunes every week from someone. It’s inevitable that you’ll go to a session and hear something you haven’t heard before. Of course, they might have learned it off a CD themselves beforehand. You don’t know. [Laughing.} We moved away from Armagh when I was 12 to live in County Meath and we were quite close to an old fiddle player, Joe Ryan, from West Clare. I used to see him at music sessions every week, playing his unique style. It really inspired me. When he turned up it was very special and I looked forward to it. When I met Angelina I met her father and her uncle. I would sit and listen to them rather than play with them and picked up a lot. I was definitely inspired.
The other thing I really love about traditional music is that even the most famous players will take the time to pass along songs to whoever shows up at the session.
That’s beauty of traditional music. The most famous musicians will welcome you into their houses and sit down a play a tune with anybody. That’s the way the music is. It’s what we’ve all come from. If it goes any other way, it will be lost.
Carberry and Quinn will play on Friday night, July 10, at the Philadelphia Irish Center, Carpenter and Emlen Streets, starting at 8 PM. Tickets are available at the door or online.