Marie and Martin Reilly,
Séamus MacConaonaigh, and
James Riley at Agawam

Saturday, 2007 April 28
Captain Charles Leonard House, 663 Main Street, Agawam, Massachusetts
An evening of traditional Irish music with Marie Reilly on fiddle, Martin Reilly on button accordion, Séamus MacConaonaigh on flute and whistles, and James Riley on guitar and vocals.
$14.00 by advance reservation via e-mail to Meg Sullivan at
or by phone at +1 (413) 789-9267; $18.00 at the door


Meg Sullivan opening the concert

Séamus MacConaonaigh on flute and Martin Reilly on button accordion

Marie Reilly on fiddle

Marie Reilly on fiddle, Séamus MacConaonaigh on flute, and
Martin Reilly on button accordion

Séamus MacConaonaigh on tin whistle

Martin Reilly on button accordion

Martin Reilly on button accordion and James Riley on guitar

James Riley on guitar

Marie Reilly on fiddle

Pauline MacConaonaigh singing

Marie Reilly on tin whistle

Zoë Darrow and James Riley on guitar

Marie Reilly on fiddle and Zoë Darrow on fiddle

Zoë Darrow on fiddle

Séamus MacConaonaigh on flute

Séamus MacConaonaigh “lilting”

Review for the Cape Breton Music List
(Posted 2007 May 2)

The 2006-2007 season of concerts organized by Meg and Dan Sullivan at the Captain Charles Leonard House in Agawam drew to a close with a memorable evening of Irish traditional music, featuring fiddler Marie Reilly, her brother Martin Reilly on button accordion, her husband (of less than a year) Séamus MacConaonaigh on flute and whistles, and James Riley on guitar and vocals. Marie and Martin (lawyer and stockbroker in their day jobs) live in the New York City area (they were raised in Queens), but their father is from County Longford and their mother from County Waterford and they heard Irish music at home every day and in Ireland on summer trips; Séamus is from County Galway; and James (son of the famous Irish balladeer Kit Riley) hails from County Dublin. Marie is renowned for her work with Cherish the Ladies, the Green Fields of America, and Riverdance; Martin has toured with the Aoife Clancy Band, Eileen Ivers, and the Green Fields of America; Séamus is a highly acclaimed flute and tin whistle player who has toured extensively in Europe and the United States (he also has a degree in mathematics and has done graduate work in theoretical computer science); James has toured throughout Europe and the Middle East and, since immigrating to the United States in 2000, played with Eileen Ivers and recorded with Mick McAuley and Steve Holloway (as well as accompanying Marie and Martin on their eponymous CD). So these are performers who know Irish traditional music thoroughly, play it superbly well, and are very comfortable performing together. Having heard only Marie and Séamus last year, I was highly motivated to return for this year’s concert and I was not disappointed!

The evening began with a Scottish tune and a jig set, with one of the jigs coming from the harmonica player John Murphy of County Wexford; a very fine start indeed for the evening. Next came two marvellous hornpipes, neither of which I had heard before; they started out with the button accordion and guitar and ended with the whole ensemble; this was a superb set I thoroughly enjoyed. Next James sang a song he had written, accompanying himself on guitar and joined by Séamus on backing whistles. A magnificent set of reels (one of which was The Foxhunter’s) followed; Séamus’ flute accompaniment was spine-tinglingly gorgeous. Next was O’Carolan’s planxty Loftus Jones, a tune I have long loved, to which Séamus again added gorgeous decorative trills. Then it was more reels, again starting with just button accordion and guitar and adding flute later on; the blazing speed of these Scottish tunes brought over to County Donegal was incredible and Martin’s playing absolutely delightful. James then gave us another song, Stand up and Show Your Face, if I heard correctly. The first half of the show ended with a set of reels, all toe-tapping goodness, leaving everyone breathless at the end—the sold-out audience was thoroughly into this wonderful music!

Like the first half, the second half began with a lively jig set. It continued with a second jig set Martin put together, with button accordion and guitar at the start but adding the other players later. James then gave us a third song, whose title I didn’t catch. Next came The Diplodocus, a Liz Carroll tune, followed by reels, the last of which was a fine Cape Breton tune I’ve heard many times; the playing in this set was superb all around—there were numerous key changes and the transitions between them were very interesting. As a surprise, Séamus introduced us to his mother, over from Ireland, who graced us with the haunting traditional Irish folk song She Moved Through the Fair. Next came a set with Marie and Séamus both starting on whistles, with James accompanying on guitar; Martin on button accordion then picked up a set of reels with James continuing on guitar, later joined by the others, to finish up a long, wonderful set of great tunes. Séamus then played a beautiful air on a different flute than the one he had played previously, starting solo and later accompanied by James. Marie then invited Zoë Darrow, who was in the audience, to join her on stage for a set that featured many tunes I recognize from Cape Breton; it was a joyous, happy, driving set of tunes and, though it is hard to pick a single one from all the evening’s great sets, this would, were push come to shove, have to be my favourite. James then gave us a final song, on which all the others accompanied him. After a standing ovation, the ensemble gave us a set that began with Séamus “lilting” The Crooked Road to Dublin, which was followed by yet another great set of reels. No one wanted the evening to end, but it was already late and, however much one may want them to continue all night, all great concerts must draw to a close.

Marie’s fiddling is as fine as that of any Irish fiddler I have heard and Martin’s accordion playing is equally superb; Séamus’ marvellous playing and spot on embellishments and James’ driving guitar make this an ensemble perfect for traditional Irish music. While my heart will e’er be in Cape Breton, this was nevertheless a night of music I would not have wanted to miss; indeed, the music they gave us was so infused with the spirit and range of Cape Breton music that only the instrumentation really set it apart; since I love fiddle, accordion, flute, and guitar, hearing them together and so well played was an absolute treat.

So, a hearty thank you, Meg and Dan, for once again putting together a wonderful concert. As Pauline MacConaonaigh noted, the venue at the Captain Charles Leonard House provides a lovely intimate setting; hearing the music there is like being at a house party. Your hard work in making this concert series possible is gratefully appreciated. From the schedule I picked up at the concert, next year’s season is sure to be another great year. Kudos to you both!