There was an air of excitement in Manhattan's Carnegie Hall on the evening of November 3, 1962. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Ireland's leading musical exports, were giving a concert. A capacity audience gathered to hear the four singing actors trot out their songs of love, their songs of patriotism, of childhood and of drinking. This disc preserves some of the finest moments from that concert.
This was the fourth time the singers from County Tipperary and County Armagh had appeared at Carnegie Hall in recent years. As their popularity grows by leaps, bounds and ballads, there seems to be no end to the variety of places in which they sing. Tom, Liam and Pat Clancy and Tommy Makem have been heard In concert in a dozen cities and campuses † throughout the U.S.A.
They have appeared on the Ed Sullivan TV show, as guests of Adlai Stevenson at a United Nations party, at festivals, at Playboy Clubs and a score of nightclubs around the country. When relaxing, they take their ease — with songs, of course — at two Greenwich Village bistros, the White Horse Tavern and the Limelight.
Always, they sing with spirit, always with a touch of nostalgia for their homeland, with more than a touch of love for the rich and many-faceted folk culture of Ireland. As the laughter and cheers in the recording indicate, there was a strong feeling of Irish nationalism among the audience at Carnegie Hall that night. And few singers could feed that bold and colourful nationalistic hunger better than the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. Bill Lee on bass and Bruce Langhorne on guitar are their accompanists.
Beginning this lively, memorable concert is a playful song of the Irish rebellion, Johnson's Motor Car. Although the subject of the song, the common practice of commandeering transportation during the Irish Troubles, † was far from humorous, the characteristic Irish whimsy could not help but find the lighter side of it.
Youngest brother Liam Clancy takes over on The Juice of the Barley, a topic that needs no further explanation. He picked up the song during a trip home in the summer of 1962.
One of the most endearing things about the Irish to non-Irish ears is the music of the speech. Tom Clancy's reading of The Host of the Air is interpolated in this in this song programmes as if it were another song. The poem, also known as O'Driscoll, was written by William Butler Yeats at the turn of the century, and is considered one of the greatest and most musical, of his works, a set of eleven quatrains.
Nothing seems to bring out the spirits of the quartet quite so much as when the subject is a girl. Reilly's Daughter is one of the best to bring out the rogue in this quartet of rogues. Tommy Makem takes the lead.
The Patriot Game is a traditional air, "The Merry Month of May," with new words by Dominic Behan, brother of the playwright, Brendan Behan, and a poet, writer and singer in his own right. Few bolder statements in song have been written by an Irishman in recent years than The Patriot Game.
The battle for national identity and independence is inextricably tied in with the Irish folksong tradition. One of the most stirring of these is the paean in march tempo to gallant soldiers, Legion of the Rearguard.
There have been many sing-alongs at Carnegie Hall over the recent years of the folksong revival. But Liam Clancy may well have led the first Gaelic "hootenanny" at the famous auditorium when he got the enthusiastic audience to sing Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile, which closes the first side of the disc.
Pat Clancy, being the oldest of the group, has, as a consequence, the greatest experience with the drinking song and the pleasant activities that surround it. In A Jug of Punch he imparts some of the background and all of the joy of such an event.
One of the finest vignettes of Irish life is next presented by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. This long, integrated re-creation of Irish childhood gives full play to the quartet's talents as actors, singers and Irishmen. Here are the street songs, the sounds of play, the taunts, the rhymes, the jokes and the fantasies of the young. It is, in Pat's phrase, the story of the towns in which they were "bred and buttered," Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, for the Clancys and Keady, County Armagh, for Tommy Makem.
This childhood medley starts with When I Was Young, a lovely lyric, and runs to the mimed game of war and wounds, The Irish Soldiers, in which Irish children show a stunning comprehension of the insanity of war. As you may gather, the quartet has been at work on this series of folklore portraits of a child's world for a lifetime, four lifetimes. †
A sentimental drinking song, which closes the evening in many an Irish pub, The Parting Glass, closes this evening as well. Liam sings the song at Carnegie Hall, but it might as easily have been a night at home with the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
Alternate sleeve notes …
Apparently, this album was originally planned to be released with different songs. While that version was never released, there are copies in existence with the original back sleeve, reflecting what those songs were intended to be, and with the original sleeve notes of the songs. These songs were subsequently released in March 2009 on In Person At Carnegie Hall: The Complete 1963 Concert.
† Reflects were the notes were (added to) alerted. Below are the (differences in) original track listing and sleeve notes.
My thanks to Bill Jantz for supplying a copy of the original back sleeve (below).
Kelly the Boy from Killane deals with an earlier uprising, in Wexford in the summer of 1798. John Kelly was a leader of the charge through the Three-Bullet Gate at the town of Ross. When the rebel leaders were captured, they were beheaded and theirs bodies thrown into the river. The song, to an old traditional melody, was written by P.J. McCall. Liam Clancy is the soloist.
Tommy Makem takes over on the next song. The Cobbler, with not only a few set of melody and lyrics, but also a little-acted out playlet of the cobbler at his work. While he tells of the shoemaker's plaint about his leathery, nailsy wife, Tommy goes through the motions of work on a shoe, spitting hands and working nail, hammer and needle.
Liam is also the soloist in a rare, fine old ballad, The Valley of Knockanure, done in the traditional, unaccompanied manner. All the brothers know a different version on the song, since it was long in their family. Liam's version, with its great visual imagery, is from County Kerry, where it was written and sung in honor of three victims of the Black and Tan war: "In memory of Jeremiah Lyons, Patrick Dalton and Patrick Walsh, murdered by Crown forces at Gortagleanna, County Kerry, on May 12, 1921."
In a happier vein, the whole group romps through another drinking song, Port Lairge, a local Gaelic song that once contained local references to place names near a pub, but in this version has incorporated some echoes of the interanation folk music revial.
Side Two begins with a long, intergrated re-creation of Irish childhood, Here are the street songs, the sounds of play, the taunts, the rhymes, the jokes and the fantasies of the young. It is, in Pat's phrase, the story of the towns in which they were "bred and buttered." From the lovely lyric When I Was Young, to the mimed game of war and wounds, The Irish Soldiers, this series of folklore vignettes recreates a child's world in a squeance that has been germinating with the quartet for a lifetime.