Unfortunately I don’t get anywhere near enough time or opportunities to play music as I used to, or would like, but I still have a small bit of music that’s managed to find itself onto the net with a license that lets me include it here.

Midnight on the Water

This is an old Texas fiddle tune that I learned originally about 12 years ago from Liam “Bal” Kennedy. I’ve changed it around a bit, so that the chord progression resolves to a G, and I very very often refer to it mistakenly as “Moonlight on the River”. I’ve recorded it here using Garageband on my Mac. There are better combinations of instrument than guitar on guitar for this sort of thing, but I really like the deceptive simplicity of the tune. It’s actually pretty complex to play right, and I really like playing it. it’s easy to think of boats sailing calmly in the darkness, gently meandering down-stream.

Gráinne’s Set

About 3 years ago I sat down and recorded 3 tunes; Old John’s Jig, When Sick is it Tea You Want and The Cliffs of Moher. There was very little preparation, and if my memory is right, the microphone was a 5 euro packard-bell job. There’s noticable clipping, I even play the 2nd part of one the tunes too many times, if you listen carefully you can hear a TV in the background, and well – the playing could be a lot better – but I leave it up online. There arn’t many examples of guitarists playing tunes down in the lower range, so I like that part of it, but I also like how the accompaniment turned out. This is the one and only time I’ve managed to overdub myself and have it come out passable. Myself and Colin have been planning for some time to sit down and record a bunch of tunes properly, but we haven’t found the time yet.

The tunes and accompaniment were both played on a cheap Boorinwood guitar, in standard concert tuning. I learned the first from fellow Coláiste Chilliain alumnus Niamh NiBheoláin. The second I learned from Michael O’Raghallaigh – one of the great concertina players – and Ciarán O’Malley, the Achill piper (and former Coláiste Chilliain teacher), and the third came from Des Carty, my first music teacher and after whom a school of music is now named.

The set was named for Gráinne Sheerin, who incidentally the RedBrick machine Deathray was also named after. It’s a long story.

The Lakes of Ponchartrain

Ever since I first heard Liam O’Maonlaoi singing this song I really liked it, and so decided to learn it. I’m not a brilliant singer, by any stretch of the imagination, and for a time a good friend – Enda O’Reilly – usually sang this while I played. In 2000, when DCU tradsoc was recording its second album I got pressganged into putting a song on the album, and so I’m left with this recording. Listening to it is a bit weird for me, because I play it differently these days.

This song is played in a pretty unique tuning; the guitar is tuned to a drop-D tuning but then I capo the last 4 strings at the second fret and leave the top 2 strings un-capoed. Playing an open chord, it’s exactly like a DADGAD tuning 2 tones up, but keeping the top 2 strings in the standard tuning means complex bar chords work out well. It’s an interesting mix.

You can here how I play it these too, thanks to the live recording from Rich Bowen,

though this recoding is marred by the fact that I completely forget the words for most of it. I do not claim to be a singer! This second recording was playing in pure DADGAD, on my Larivee, which is my main guitar these days.

The Juniper Hornpipe

This is a hornpipe I came up with, based very loosely on the Japanese Hornpipe and with a few common structures found in Irish music. It was designed for modal tunings and is fun to play around with. The name however, is another matter. There’s an old Irish tune called the Cisco Hornpipe, which probably takes its name from San Francisco. Anyway, what with me being a network engineer and all, it seemd wrong that there could be a Cisco hornpipe, but not a Juniper one.

If you don’t get this, count yourself lucky; but basically Cisco and Juniper both make expensive toys for network engineers. Anyway, since many say the Juniper boxes are faster than Cisco, I refer to it as a “reel”, just to add insult to injury. It isn’t really a reel (though the line between Hornpipe and Reel can be very blurred at times), so here I’ll call it a hornpipe. Parts of the tune are a little too familiar, and it’s entirely possible I’ve stolen them, so if you recognise anything, tell me so that I can credit it!
The recording is another live one, courtesy of Rich Bowen, and is played on my Jimmy Moon Bouzouki, tuned ADAD, a tuning I picked up from staring intently at the fingering of Paul Humphries.

Duelling Accordians

This is another one of the sets we recorded for a TradSoc album, based around the excellent accordian playing of Séamus Breathnach and Monty Mooney. Osgur Ó Ciardha is there too with an enthusiastic djembe, and myself on guitar. The tuning is standard.


One more from the DCU set, this one is a set of reels from Kate Marquis and Sémus. I’ve included this one because it’s a good example of “vamping” on guitar, just like on a Céilí piano. The idea is to feature the base-line heavily and to alternate between roughly ascending or descending scales, with the right tunes it make it sound right out of the 1920′s recordings of Jim Morrison.

10 Replies to "Music"


/~colmmacc/ » Blog Archive » New look, new content  on October 30, 2006

[...] Music [...]


Jay Toups  on February 19, 2007

Hi Colm, I stumbled across your music page while following software mirroring links. Serendipity abounds on the internets!

Anyway, just wanted to say I enjoyed your music. I play Lakes of Ponchartrain myself, and you perform it very well.

Used to work for Novell too but that’s prolly more than you want to know…

from Montana,

Jay Toups


Matthias Weiss  on February 20, 2007

Hi Colm,

a real well sounding and interesting Site, and your music has opened my mind for Irish folk again.

Thx for the entertaining moments and your Niagara test!

All the best and kind regards from Leipzig



Ben Collins-Sussman  on March 7, 2007

Hey, I noticed that you were coveting my folding banjo… you posted on my blog. Are you a banjo player too, in addition to guitar, mando, etc.?


colmmacc  on March 7, 2007

Hi Ben! I can play Tenor banjo, and used to quite frequently though presently don’t have one, I’ve never played a 5-string though.


/~colmmacc/ » Blog Archive » Midnight on the Water  on March 10, 2007

[...] Music [...]


Michael  on April 13, 2007

The Andy Irvine / Paul Brady version of the Lakes of P far outstrips Liam’s version. It’s from the late 70s when Liam was still shitting in his nappy :]



Alec Fraser  on May 15, 2007

Nice job on Midnight on the Water. I`ll check back later and listen to some more.


Colm Hayden  on June 15, 2007

Hi Colm,

Enjoyed the Lakes of Ponchartrain. Good voice and performance!



Chris Callahan  on October 26, 2007

Very nice rendition of Midnight… Any chance of getting an MP3 of that? I play it often on fiddle, but never left D.

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