A Short History of Dreams
Sean Tyrrell is Galway born and bred: a great city to grow up in if your interest is music.For Sean the music was there from the start, “My mother and father were great set dancers and there was always traditional music around. My father also sang and so did my mother, under pressure and if she’d had a drink or two.”His father taught him the scales on the harmonica but it wasn’t till Sean was in his 20’s that, encouraged by friends like John and Henry Higgins, Jack Geary and Sean Conroy, he began to get really play. He bought a 4 string banjo on the ‘never never’ at Raftery’s in Galway City and it wasn’t long before he was playing gigs at places like the Eagle Tavern and the old Enda Hotel on Dominick Street along with Eddie Moloney, the Mulhares, Jimmy Cummins and the Rabbitt Brothers. “I had a hard neck so I wasn’t long playing before I was actually earning money out of it!” His first group was the Freedom Folk with John Higgins, Johnny Mulhern and a few others.
In the lat 60’s, just before the start of the ‘troubles’, Sean moved to Belfast and taught for a while. Then he started roving, wandering between Ireland and the U.S. “I played professionally in America for about 6 years. Then one night I was playing a gig in San Francisco and there were tremendous musicians in the audience. I remember coming off the stage and feeling a bit of a fraud up there. The whole thing was losing its appeal. I felt I really had to work more at it instead of just doing the same old ballads all the time.”
Sean got some advice that night and took it. “Give this up. Go back to Ireland and listen to the old fellas.” For the next few years that’s what he did. Keeping his ears open and learning.
Sean ended up working at the University College Galway Research Station at Carren, Co. Clare. It was here that he began work on many of the songs for “Cry of a Dreamer” and also to develop his idea for setting a translation of Brian Merrimen’s epic poem in Irish, “The Midnight Court” to music.
Living in Clare was a bonus, “On every side of me, no matter where I turned, there were the best of musicians – Tony Linane, Tommy Peoples, the Hynes brothers, Mickleen Conlon, the great Miko Russell, Chris Droney, Martin Fahey. No matter where I went out the door I was bound to find not just music, but the best of music.”
U.C.G. offered early retirement and Sean took them up on it and began the music seriously again. He appeared on his friend Davy Spillane’s albums, completed his work on “The Midnight Court” and had it produced in Galway by the Druid Theatre Company and, independently in Dublin. And, at long last, after 8 years of talking about it with friend and producer P.J. Curtis, he made “Cry of a Dreamer”. So, now, the rest of us can find out what Galway has known for all these years – Sean Tyrrell dreams great dreams, and sings about them even better.
Patrick Brennan, Hotpress.