RENOWNED East Clare fiddle player Martin Hayes, has published an eagerly-awaited memoir detailing his remarkable musical journey.
Described as “profoundly moving,” the book is entitled Shared Notes. It traces Martin’s early days learning music from his legendary father P Joe, through his meteoric rise in traditional music circles, to his modern-day collatorations and the founding of Irish-American trad sensation, The Gloaming .
Now one of Ireland’s most treasured traditional musicians, Martin, who lives in Spain, was born in Maghera.
As he grew up, life revolved around the famous Tulla Céilí Band, co-founded by his father in 1946. The household was steeped in musical tradition.
In a 1960s kitchen with no refrigerator, where the food came straight from the family farm, a session could start at any moment. Ireland’s greatest traditional musicians regularly turned up unannounced and were welcomed in.
At the age of 13, Martin won his first of six All-Ireland Fiddle Championships. In later years, he was named TG4’s Gradam Ceoil Musician of the Year and BBC Instrumentalist of the Year. He has since played every major musical venue in the western world.
A renowned educator and communicator, he was named the first ever Irish World Academy Artist at the University of Limerick (UL) and in 2018, he was conferred by NUI Galway with an honorary doctorate in music.
Fans might presume Martin had a straightforward path to professional musicianship, but, instead, as he outlines in Shared Notes, that journey was something of a rollercoaster ride. Throughout his free-spirited youth, he was propelled forward by music when at times the wheels threatened to come off entirely.
With honesty, humility and wit, Martin recalls dropping out of college in Ireland and the years that followed in the USA.
Making a living involved hammering nails on a construction site in the depths of a Chicago winter and working on a stock market trading floor.
Yet through it all, Martin never stopped playing.The days working as an illegal immigrant and the nights gigging and drinking all blended together, before he moved towards an incredible career playing the sort of music he always wanted to play, partnering with Dennis Cahill and founding The Gloaming.
Shared Notes is an insight into a life in music, one that took Martin from practising his fiddle as a boy on the edge of the family bathtub in Clare, to sharing a stage with Paul Simon and Sting and performing, alongside Denis Cahill, for Barack Obama in the White House.
The book also gives a glimpse into the story of Irish traditional music from the 1960s to the current day: how it works, why it matters and how it continues to connect generations of the past to those of the future.
Martin is highly sought after as a musical collaborator having worked with a wealth of talented artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Brooklyn Rider, Bill Frisell and The Common Ground Ensemble.
He continues to play with Tulla Céilí Band and is a frequent and hugely popular visitor to musical events across Clare.
Martin himself outlined how writing the book released a burst of memories.
“Being asked by Transworld to write a memoir has, on a personal level, unearthed a world of dormant memories and feelings while also giving me an opportunity to take people inside my musical journey,” he said.
“It wasn’t a straight line from my musically rich upbringing straight to the concert stage. Along the way, the musical treasure I was handed was lost, challenged and found again.
“It was a convoluted journey that I think explains the music I play and how I think about music to this day.”
Shared Notes is available now.