I owe a great deal of my life to Seamus Ennis. Long ago, In NYC, I hosted a house concert for the singer Robin Roberts who read some poetry Seamua Ennis had translated from the Irish. I was so mesmerized by the poetry, all I wanted to do was to help this man get more of it translated and published. I told a friend of mine at the time, singer Patsy Margolin, how impressed I was by Seamus's translations and she put me in touch with Pat Sky, the American folk singer who was learning the uillean pipes, making reeds, and who was anxious to make a record of Seamus's piping recorded from many stages of his career. The long and short of it? We founded Green Linnet with that in mind, adding a few of Pat's own recordings to the label, two by Peter Bellamy, and one by Rosalie Sorrels to help launch the label and accumulate enough capital and clout to go to Ireland to record Seamus liveon a Nagra recording machine. Jean Ritchie lent us some tapes of Seamus playing and singing, and I'm afraid they got lost or destroyed-- a terrible sin for which Jean has graciously forgiven us.
Pat went over first. He knew Seamus and many other Irish traditional musicians. I rememberm his pal, Liam Og O'Flynn was staying with Seamus at the time. I went over later with recording engineer and musician, Pitt Kinsolving. Seamus and I hit it off-- I was particularly interested in his singing and his ability to explain the history of Irish music and to place singing styles in context. After a weekend at Listowel, I remember spending hours with him. I would sing what I had learned, and he would critique my singing. We finally both decided that I should look at Irish and Irish-American songs in northeastern America. He felt the natural rhythms and stresses of my voice would work better with this material from my own region, as so much of what is done in Irish singing is based on Gaelic and on the accents of Irish English.
Anyway, though he was in the last ravages of alcoholism, Seamus was my greatest teacher, a gallant man and scholar, and a delightful companion for a young American eager to learn all he could teach me.