The New York fiddle and accordion player, teacher and dance-music composer John McGrath was born at Rossport, Co. Mayo in 1900. He emigrated at a young age, first to Scotland, then to England and, at the age of twenty eight to New York. There he rapidly established himself as a musician, music teacher, and band leader, playing on the radio, in dance-halls, vaudeville clubs and bars, and at festivals. He learned how to read and write music, and went on to teach hundreds of young people on fiddle, flute and accordion during his twenty seven years in the city. He composed and arranged hundreds of tunes, many of which were played by the top performers of his time, and are still everyday popular tunes today.
John McGrath’s story is being researched in detail by his nephew Vincent, himself a musician and composer in Rossport, Co. Mayo. Through interviews and press clippings he will construct his uncle’s family history in music, set in a social history of the times. The text will be supported by transcriptions (up to 130) of John’s compositions and arrangements, as well as topical, family and newspaper illustrations and photographs. This meticulous and substantial research work places county Mayo’s music legacy at the centre of the development of Irish Traditional music in the twentieth century. The book will have a place not only in Mayo local history and households, but in the traditional music community throughout Ireland and that in the United States.
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