Tommy Coen’s Reels

I recently learned two reels from my fiddle teacher, both called Tommy Coen’s reels.

According to “The Fiddler’s Companion:”

Coen was born in Urrachree, East Co. Galway, but moved with his family to Salthill, just west of Galway City, in the late 1920s. He started out as an accordion player, but later switched to the fiddle and it is for his skill on the latter instrument he is remembered. Coen worked as a conductor on Connemara buses and is said to have been inspired by the local scenery when composing his tunes. Flute player Mike McHale was overheard to tell a story about Coen during a concert at the East Durham Irish Arts Festival in 2000 (communicated by Mike Hogan). McHale was a boy who had picked up the tin whistle, and was entertaining himself by noodling around with it during his bus ride on his way home from school. Hearing him, the vehicle’s conductor approached him a asked, “Can you play that thing?” McHale answered, “A couple of tunes, Sir.” “Well then” said the conductor, “My name is Tommy Coen, will you come to the back of the bus, I have a fiddle under the seat.” Later, according to his student Séamus Walshe (Taylors Hill, Galway), when Coen’s health failed he returned to accordion playing, “putting his fiddle playing into the box. I think he wrote a total of about six tunes.

In this video, I know the first as Tommy Coen’s (or Sean Ryan’s,) and the second as Tommy Coen’s #2. I learned them both in G minor–not sure what key the video has them in. Really nice playing here, though. Enjoy!

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