Collection CMU-276376 - Charlie Mulvihill Collection

Identity area

Reference code

CMU-276376

Title

Charlie Mulvihill Collection

Date(s)

  • 1940s-1960s (Creation)

Level of description

Collection

Extent and medium

28 reel-to-reel tapes
17 transcription discs

Context area

Name of creator

(1917-1953)

Biographical history

Charlie Mulvihill was born in Manhattan, where his concertina-playing father Tom, an immigrant from Miltown Malbay, County Clare, drove trolley cars and ran a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Charlie started playing concertina when he was about nine years old and took up the button accordion soon after. On his return from army service in World War II, he and his new wife Noreen settled in the south Bronx, where he joined the company of the neighborhood’s many great Irish musicians. Lawrence Dolan, traditional music columnist for the Advocate, recalled those days in his 23 August 1975 obituary:
“Our fond recollections of Charlie go back to the early 40's when we were neighbors in the South Bronx. We often thrilled to the traditional music set forth at the Irish House - formerly the Leitrim House, on East 138th Street between Willis and Alexander Ave. Charlie would often join in with other great Irish musicians such as Paddy Killoran, Paddy Sweeney, Jack Mc Kenna, Jack Murphy, Bessie Sweeney, Harry Carroll, Joey Flynn, John McGrath, etc. The floor was always jam-packed with those up for the Caledonian Sets. The jigs and reels of Ireland were never performed any better than in those days at the Irish House, when Charlie joined his friends on the music stage.”
Charlie Mulvihill was highly regarded by his fellow musicians for his huge repertoire and knowledge of the names and histories of traditional tunes. He was one of the few D-row accordionists who could really play alongside the city’s top fiddlers on equal terms. He and fiddler Paddy Reynolds were recorded together in 1971 on “Sweet and Traditional Music of Ireland,” the first LP issued by Paddy Noonan’s Rego Irish Records label. Charlie and Paddy also often played together in the summer at Mullen’s Mountain View Farm (now the Blackthorn) in the Irish Catskills resort town of East Durham. And it was at Mullen’s that Charlie fell fatally ill in 1975. He passed on his musical talents to his children, pianist Geraldine and fiddler/singer/guitarist Tommy Mulvihill.

Archival history

Collection loaned to ITMA by Tommy Mulvihill for digitisation. Audio collection currently in New York. Initial contact between the Irish Traditional Music Archive and Tommy Mulvihill was made in November 2017. In correspondence about a different matter, Tommy related that he was in possession of a collection of reel-to-reel tapes and transcription discs which were created and/or compiled by his father, Charlie, between the late 1940s and the 1960s.

ITMA stayed in contact with Tommy over the following year, learning more details of his father's collection. The original plan was to visit Tommy in New York to collect and transport the collection back to Ireland for digitisation. This trip was arranged for April 2020 but was cancelled due to the onset of COVID-19 and its associated restrictions. ITMA then developed a plan with Tommy to seek the services of a digitisation vendor in the United States, to progress the preservation of this unique and invaluable collection consisting of 28 reel-to-reel tapes and 17 transcription discs. A variety of additional information was also preserved including any accompanying text, technical notes and images of the original boxes with descriptions in Charlie Mulvihill's handwriting.

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Scope and content

This collection of sound recordings is a unique taste of post-war Irish traditional music in New York, with leading players including Andy McGann, Paddy Reynolds and Larry Redican, concertina music from Charlie Mulvihill and family sessions with Charlie and his son Tommy (fiddle) and daughter Geraldine (piano).

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