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Micho’s Dozen: Traditional Songs from the Repertoire of Micho Russell, Doolin, Co. Clare


Micho comes from a family of five; Gussie, Packie, Bridie, Mary Kate and himself. He was born in Doonagore on March 25th 1915 into an area where the Irish language was still strong. Neighbours included such renowned storytellers as Stiofán Ó hEalaoire and Seán Ó Carúin. Music and song were everywhere around and all Micho’s family were musicians and/or singers in Irish and English.

His earliest musical memory is of a man named John Hennessy playing the fiddle and teaching step dancing though he says that the most influential man in shaping his early repertoire was a local concertina player named Patrick Flanagan. The first tin whistle he remembers buying he got in the town of Ennistymon when he was about eleven years old. He acquired his first timber flute some three years later and began listening to local players like “The Captain” Moloney and a man named Ronan who played a flute made from the barrel of a gun!

Among the singers in his neighbourhood the ones that have left lasting impressions on Micho are Dean Hynes, John Mackeen, John Devitt, the Conoles (father and son) and ‘Styke’ Donoghue. However, he insists that almost everyone had something to contribute to the singing sessions that took place at “swarrys”, harvest parties and American wakes. A man entirely immersed in the musical traditions of his area, Micho is not only a musician and singer, he is also well able to demonstrate the old-style step dances as they used to be performed in North Clare.

Since the 1960s Micho has travelled to many parts of Europe and North America where his warmth and charm have captivated audiences everywhere he went and it is no exaggeration to say that this one man has brought as many visitors to our shores as many a multi-million Bord Failte campaign. For all the pleasure which he has given us over the years, the committee of the Ennistymon Traditional Singing Festival decided to put together this small songbook as a token of appreciation and affection. Micho was asked to select a number of his favourite songs for publication and I recorded them from him last February. My thanks to Dr. Marian Deasy for transcribing the tunes, to Tim Dennehy for assistance with the Irish texts and the proof-reading, Finally, I wish to record my continuing gratitude to Dr. Ríonach Uí Ógáin of the Department of Irish Folklore and Nicholas Carolan of The Irish Traditional Music Archive for help with this and many other matters.

Tom Munnelly, Hon. Chairperson, Festival Committee.

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