There was an air of excitement in Manhattan's Carnegie Hall on the evening of November 3, 1962. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Ireland's leading musical exports, were giving a concert. A capacity audience gathered to hear the four singing actors trot out their songs of love, their songs of patriotism, of childhood and of drinking. This disc preserves some of the finest moments from that concert.
This was the fourth time the singers from County Tipperary and County Armagh had appeared at Carnegie Hall in recent years. As their popularity grows by leaps, bounds and ballads, there seems to be no end to the variety of places in which they sing. Tom, Liam and Pat Clancy and Tommy Makem have been heard in concert in a dozen cities and campuses throughout the U.S.A. They have appeared on the Ed Sullivan TV show, as guests of Adlai Stevenson at a United Nations party, at festivals, at Playboy Clubs and a score of nightclubs around the country. When relaxing, they take their ease — with songs, of course — at two Greenwich Village bistros, the White Horse Tavern and the Limelight.
Always, they sing with spirit, always with a touch of nostalgia for their homeland, with more than a touch of love for the rich and many-faceted folk culture of Ireland. As the laughter and cheers in the recording indicate, there was a strong feeling of Irish nationalism among the audience at Carnegie Hall that night. And few singers could feed that bold and colourful nationalistic hunger better than the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. Bill Lee on bass and Bruce Langhorne on guitar are their accompanists.
Beginning this lively, memorable concert is a playful song of the Irish rebellion, Johnson's Motor Car. Although the subject of the song, the common practice of commandeering transportation during the Irish Troubles, was far from humorous, the characteristic Irish whimsy could not help but find the lighter side of it.
Youngest brother Liam Clancy takes over on The Juice of the Barley, a topic that needs no further explanation. He picked up the song during a trip home in the summer of 1962.
One of the most endearing things about the Irish to non-Irish ears is the music of the speech. Tom Clancy's reading of The Host of the Air is interpolated in this song programme as if it were another song. The poem, also known as O'Driscoll, was written by William Butler Yeats at the turn of the century, and is considered one of the greatest, and most musical, of his works, a set of eleven quatrains.
Nothing seems to bring out the spirits of the quartet quite so much as when the subject is a girl. Reilly's Daughter is one of the best to bring out the rogue in this quartet of rogues. Tommy Makem takes the lead.
The Patriot Game is a traditional air, "The Merry Month of May," with new words by Dominic Behan, brother of the playwright, Brendan Behan, and a poet, writer and singer in his own right. Few bolder statements in song have been written by an Irishman in recent years than The Patriot Game.
The battle for national identity and independence is inextricably tied in with the Irish folksong tradition. One of the most stirring of these is the paean in march tempo to gallant soldiers, Legion of the Rearguard.
There have been many sing-alongs at Carnegie Hall over the recent years of the folksong revival. But Liam Clancy may well have led the first Gaelic "hootenanny" at the famous auditorium when he got the enthusiastic audience to sing Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile, which closes the first side of the disc.
Pat Clancy, being the oldest of the group, has, as a consequence, the greatest experience with the drinking song and the pleasant activities that surround it. In A Jug of Punch he imparts some of the background and all of the joy of such an event.
One of the finest vignettes of Irish life is next presented by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. This long, integrated re-creation of Irish childhood gives full play to the quartet's talents as actors, singers and Irishmen. Here are the street songs, the sounds of play, the taunts, the rhymes, the jokes and the fantasies of the young. It is, in Pat's phrase, the story of the towns in which they were "bred and buttered," Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, for the Clancys and Keady, County Armagh, for Tommy Makem.
This childhood medley starts with When I Was Young, a lovely lyric, and runs to the mimed game of war and wounds, The Irish Soldiers, in which Irish children show a stunning comprehension of the insanity of war. As you may gather, the quartet has been at work on this series of folklore portraits of a child's world for a lifetime, four lifetimes.
A sentimental drinking song, which closes the evening in many an Irish pub, The Parting Glass, closes this evening as well. Liam sings the song at Carnegie Hall, but it might as easily have been a night at home with the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
We wish to thank Harold Leventhal, who produced the Carnegie Hall concert.