In 1978, Shivaun O’Casey, daughter of the celebrated Irish playwright, Seán O’Casey, approached me with a project to record an album of songs from his plays … not as singer but musical director, arranger and in some instances composer where music didn’t exist. She had already engaged Seán Murphy, as director and producer of the project.
O’Casey’s plays were full of songs from the early 20th century. I was always fond of that era where Music Hall and Irish folk songs dovetailed. O’Casey adapted and altered many of the songs with his own words to suit the context of his plays. Many, too, had melodies that were already familiar to the general Irish and British public in their original forms as they would have been popular music hall hits. In addition, there were several soliloquies and poems in need of new music, which I wrote. We established a list of songs and spoken lyrics, engaged the well-known Irish actor and singer John Kavanagh to be our voice and began approaching musicians.
It was a challenge. I had never before been musical director for someone else’s project. As some of the songs were set in the Music Hall or light opera tradition, they needed instruments like piano, violin, cello, trumpet, trombone, French horn and double bass. Though I could imagine and hear the music, I had scant training in how to write for these instruments. I approached the talented Irish composer Shaun Davey and asked for his help. He generously talked me through things, arranged one of the songs and before long I had figured out how to put down on paper in an effective way, the music I heard in my head.
The album was released in 1979. To say it didn’t set the world alight would be fair. The record company seemed unsure as to what it was. A musical item? theatrical? ethnic Irish? Consequently, it slipped through the cracks and after six months was ‘catalogue’. A CD of it sneaked out in the 90’s but, with little or no traction, was quickly deleted. That was the end of it until now.
I have always loved the album and feel it deserves a new outing. With the recent untimely death of the album’s producer, Seán Murphy, and the record’s continuing unavailability, I decided to do whatever it took to bring it to the public once more. So here, re-mastered and with a new package faithfully echoing the original, is ‘The Green Crow Caws’.