Brendan Mulkere, the fiddle virtuoso who taught thousands how to find the heart of music 

Photo shows Brendan Mulkere with with the Thatch Céilí Band from a recording at Cultúrlann na hÉireann in 1993

Brendan Mulkere, the fiddle player, teacher and composer extraordinaire, was buried on Sunday in Drumcliffe, less than 10 miles from his birthplace in Crusheen, Co Clare. 

He was a remarkable man, whose tremendous passion and love for Irish music ensured a whole generation came to know it, learn it, and love it in the same way. He must have taught and encouraged thousands of musicians in his time, not just how to play music but how to appreciate it and find its meaning and its heart.

He became known as the unofficial Irish music ambassador to London, when he moved there in the 1970s and became a much loved and admired teacher of traditional music, founding the Mulkere Academy of Irish Music, with emphasis on excellence in musicianship and on appreciation for the old styles and the playing of maestros like Bobby Casey and Roger Sherlock.

He also understood the importance of setting and showcasing traditional music so that it could be appreciated and heard, and established the London Irish Commission which ran packed concerts of traditional music. In addition, he set up Inchecronin Records, and was a music tutor at the University of Limerick’s Irish World’s Music Academy. His was a life packed with accomplishment.

More than anything else, he was a wonderful, gifted musician who could play a half dozen instruments but was best known for how he could make a fiddle speak to the deepest emotions in the human heart.

Here he is playing The Dark Woman Of The Mountain at the 2019 Gradam Ceoil TG4, a slow air composed by his father Jack Mulkere, from whom he learned not just his music but his understanding that teaching the next generation not only preserved our culture, but enriched the lives of all who played and loved it too.

 

It’s an extraordinarily beautiful, moving performance, shaped by the long practice of musicianship rooted in family and in the tradition of his people.

His rendition of Farewell to Ireland is the stuff of legend.

The strong, purposeful draw on the first note, the brilliant, driving bowing, the absolute command of the tune. It’s a virtuoso performance. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times

There was music even in the way he spoke, especially as Gaeilge, and a lyricism in how he described music and its place in the world, its ability to connect and excite, to heal and restore  No wonder he inspired and encouraged so many.

He brought my sister Úna and I to London when we were young women to sing at a weekend of concerts with Dolores Keane, and looked after us royally, with the same generous encouragement he showed to everyone. He and my Dad were great friends in the way that Clare men who love music are, but they were also simpatico on a great many things and had great conversations about the way the world should be and could be.

Too many of the brightest stars in the firmament of traditional fiddle were extinguished this year: the wonderful and much-loved Ben Lennon, the extraordinary Brendan McGlinchy, and master fiddler John Dwyer. Now Brendan has gone to join them.

People like Brendan Mulkere are rare and irreplaceable: ní bheidh a leithéad arís ann. We can only be grateful for all that he did for music and for our souls.

God be with you Brendan. Suaimhneas síoraí ort.

Sincere condolences to his partner Sharon and to all of his family and friends.



 

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