For an Interview with Catherine McEvoy, please see Brad Hurley's Flute Pages at http://www.firescribble.net/flute/mcevoy.html
Catherine McEvoy was born in Birmingham in May 1956, both her parents having emigrated there from Co. Roscommon in the 1940s. Her father, Paddy, comes from
an area six miles from Strokestown called Kilmore. His father, Mark McEvoy, was an accomplished flute player in his time, playing at local house dances and fairs for
many years. Mark came from a large family, many of whom were also very fine musicians.
Sarah, Catherine's mother, also comes from Strokestown, and, in her younger days, was a very good traditional ballad singer. Both her parents remember many musicians around the Strokestown area, including Jimmy Tighe, a flute player, Pat Caslin, a fine fiddle player, and a character called Mutty Flanagan who was the local postman in Strokestown and also played the flute.
This great wealth of traditional music from Roscommon was very well reflected among the musicians who played in Birmingham as Catherine was growing up. This was especially true about the Birmingham Céili Band, one of the most popular bands of the 60s and 70s. During the 1960s there was a great tradition of Roscommon flute players playing with the band, including Frank Jordan from near Ballaghadereen, Frank Flanagan from Cloonsuck, and Paddy Joe Maloney. The founding members of the band, the Lawrie family, come from the Knockvicar area of Co. Roscommon. It was through the Birmingham Céili Band that Catherine, at a young age, was to have her first introduction to traditional Irish music.
Catherine's older brother John, himself a very well know fiddle player in both Ireland and England, had a major influence on her in those early days. John was very enthusiastic about traditional music and often brought home records of such great musicians as Denis Murphy and his sister Julia Clifford, Máirtin Byrnes, the Galway
fiddle player, and Jimmy Power, a fiddle player from Waterford who lived in London. One of the first records to be brought into the McEvoy household was an old '78 recording of Michael Coleman.
At the age of 13, Catherine started taking lessons on the accordion. Her teacher was Kathleen Lawrie, a well respected musician in Birmingham at the time, and member of the Birmingham Céili Band. Soon, Catherine became a member of the band herself, playing initially on the piano. When Tom McHale, the whistle and flute player from Tulsk, Co. Roscommon left the band in the early 1970s, Catherine took up the flute. Though she had no formal training, she soon began to master the instrument and built up a large repertoire of tunes. The other flute player with the Birmingham band at that time was Frank Carty from Ballaghadereen. Catherine also played in duets with her brother John, and later teamed up with Brendan Mulvihill, a fiddle player from the Bronx, New York, who was living in Birmingham at the time.
Catherine continued to spend a lot of time listening to tapes of such musicians as Séan Ryan from Tipperary and the Killina Céili Band. Many of these tapes were lent by Paddy Ryan, the Roscommon fiddle player who was also a member of the Birmingham band. All traditional recordings and Radio Éireann broadcasts were listened to with great interest. Many of these had a significant influence on the musical life of the McEvoy household. Numbered among these were the recordings of Seamus Tansey and Roger Sherlock and one of the first LP's of traditional music called All Ireland Champions featuring Paddy Canny, P.J. Hayes, and Peadar O'Loughlin, all from County Clare. Catherine remembers being given a present of The Tribute to Coleman record which features the music of Joe Burke, Andy McGann, and Felix Dolan on piano. Shortly afterwards, Catherine met Felix Dolan who accompanies her on this recording.
It was in the early 1970s that Catherine met another person who had a lasting influence on her music. That was the great flute player, composer, and singer from Ballyfarnon, Josie McDermott. He was accompanied on his many visits to Birmingham by another famous flute player, Peg McGrath. "Peg was the first woman I ever saw playing the flute," says Catherine.
Catherine spent many holidays in Ireland around the Knockvicar/Boyle area of Roscommon. Many's the night was spent playing in Dominic Cosgrove's in Boyle in the company of Patsy Hanly, the flute player from Kilroosky who Catherine holds in the highest esteem. Often, on these occasions, Catherine would pay a visit to Keadue to hear Josie McDermott play in the group "Flynn's Men." Also in this group were Tommy Flynn on fiddle and Liam Purcell on accordion. Catherine remembers Josie as always being very encouraging towards young musicians and he was particularly impressed with her playing as a young flute player.
Catherine continued to play regularly with the Birmingham and all around England and Ireland at Fleadhanna, Céilis, Fleadh Cheoil and Oireachtas competitions until she decided to move to Ireland in 1977. Her going away present from Kathleen Lawrie and her and was the Rudall and Rose flute which she had been playing and still plays to the present day. The flute is a rare Rudall and Rose from the early 19th century which has no tuning slide. In 1975 Catherine met her future husband Tom McGorman, himself a very accomplished flute player. After Catherine moved to Ireland, she and Tom spent many weekends in Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim, playing with Packie Duignan, Tom and Nellie Mulligan, and many others.
Around this time Catherine frequently visited "The Four Seasons" pub in Capel Street where John Kelly senior played regularly. Sessions there also included Paddy O'Brien, the accordion player from Offaly, James Kelly and Daithí Sproule, all of whom are now living in the States, and John Kelly Jr. who Catherine now place with
on a regular basis. Thus Catherine continue to expand her musical repertoire.
Some of the best music around was to be found upstairs in the "Four Seasons" on a Thursday night during the early 1980s, with John Kelly Jr. and John McEvoy on fiddles, Mick Hand and Mick Gavin on flutes, and Jacinta McGorman on piano and concertina. Another frequent visitor to these sessions was the well known Dublin
fiddle player Tommy Potts.
From 1984-1988 Catherine was a member of "Macalla," the first all female traditional group. In more recent years she has been one of the senior flute tutors at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare. She now lives in Co. Meath with her husband, Tom, and three children, Jane, Ruairí, and Fergus.
(Reprinted with permission from the liner notes to Catherine McEvoy's CD, "Catherine McEvoy with Felix Dolan: Traditional Flute Music in the Sligo-Roscommon Style," Cló lar-Chonnachta, 1996.)
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