The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #57151   Message #4167727
Posted By: Rain Dog
16-Mar-23 - 01:25 PM
Thread Name: Ottilie Patterson query
Subject: RE: Ottilie Patterson query


Notes by Ottilie Patterson

Some bright comedian once said that there were no Irish people left in Ireland any more, that they were all abroad singing about it. While not actually true, such a statement is very near the truth, for, after some years as a singer with Chris Barber's Jazz Band I myself began to feel the pull of "The Oul' Country". I just wanted to forget jazz and city life for a little while, and have the pleasure of singing a few of the old songs that all Irish people like to sing when they get together, and also to sing one or two which might all too soon be forgotten.

Once this idea got into my head, I was unable to think of anything else, and I eventually coaxed Denis Preston, my Recording Manager, to give me his support in the production of an Irish record. He agreed, or rather capitulated, submerged under the wave of my enthusiasm. Having now gained permission to go ahead with the plan, I found myself lacking in one thing -- the right kind of accompanying music; but after a distress signal to George Boyd (a trusty friend at home) I was able, on his recommendation, to obtain the services of an accordionist and a drummer -- Norman Connor, and Martin Fitzsimmons. These two courageous gentlemen agreed to free themselves from their commitments for two days, and set out for London to have a shot at recording with me. And they were courageous, too, as this was their first excursion beyond Ireland's shores, to the somewhat "Great Unknown".

Consequently, there I was, on a dull Thursday in November, at Euston station, looking for a man with an accordion case, for I had never before met either Norman or Martin. The instrument case was my only means of identifying them among the other passengers alighting from the "Shamrock Express". Well, I wasn't mistaken, I did find them; and that afternoon at my flat, when they first played to me, I discovered that my friend had not been mistaken about them either. He had found me two great musicians, who to me, were nostalgic reminders of Christmases and happy Saturday evenings spent with my whole family, in the little white-washed County Down farmhouse of my grandfather -- himself a skillful melodeonist and fifer.

My plans for recording were at first no more ambitious than to sing a few plain vocals with musical accompaniment, and to bring along my sister and two Irish friends, to help counteract the paralysing effect that the studio always has on "First-timers" and perpetually nervous people like myself. However, when I heard Norman's first few bars on the day of his arrival I knew that I couldn't let them go back to Ireland without giving a few more of my compatriots a musical treat. So, after some hurried last-minute telephoning, other friends were rounded up, and invited to join us the next evening in the studio.

At seven o'clock then, on Friday, we all trooped into a big bare studio, which seemed to us more like an operating theatre—just a handful of us, some microphones and a piano. It was enough to intimidate even the most blase professional. But the thoughtful Denis Preston, anticipating this, had kept something on hand for those of us who needed warming up, and for those others who "liked a wee taste" anyway.

Thus the evening began. The record apparatus was switched on and left to run without let or hindrance, for the next two hours, while we had a really "Irish-night", as it indeed turns out to be; for no sooner had the music struck up, than everyone immediately forgot to be overwhelmed by the disquieting atmosphere of a studio, and started to have some fun. I am glad to say that any spontaneity captured on this disc is completely genuine and we did not re-record things time and time again, in order to "get them right". Voices can be heard singing out of tune, and certainly my own voice could not have held out a minute longer than the time allotted to the recording, owing to all the singing, squawking and shouting I contributed during those two mad hours. Yes, there was plenty of hilarity with plenty of Irish rowdyism, and after all what could be more truly "Irish" than to start off the whole proceedings with a Scot's Tune!

NORMAN CONNOR, our 34-year-old accordionist comes from Holywood, Co. Down, and when at home is busy with his mobile grocery business by day, and quite a few evenings each week can be heard with his own six piece band, well known to dancers throughout many Counties.

MARTIN FITZSIMMONS, our drummer, a 23-year-old clerk in a Belfast shipping office, plays in Norman's band, and as well as playing in Irish traditional style is a jazz drummer besides. Indeed, we had some trouble to keep him and Chris Barber (our bass player for that evening) from breaking into jazz duets!

CHRIS BARBER was a last minute musician on this occasion, and turned up late (a personal idiosyncracy of his) through having had to dash across Town to borrow a double-bass. But we could not possibly refuse him admission to our party for, after all, his grandfather was a Monaghan man!

I don't really know how I got mixed up with playing the piano -- but anyhow I did, so that any heavy handed vamping on this record must be attributed to me. The evening started off with mostly accordion and vocals by myself, but as time passed a few guests became less self-conscious and "did their piece".

GEORGE CAMPBELL and GERARD DILLON are both well-known artists living in London, but as can be judged from this record painting is not their only accomplishment. Both have a natural unaffected style of singing with richly flavoured Irish voices, and also the faculty of producing very funny asides -- which unfortunately had to be left out of the finished record! Gerard, although known to me by name, I had not met until that night when he was brought along by George, his close friend. George, from Wicklow, I met one day nine years ago at a Belfast exhibition of his and Gerard's paintings. We chatted together for a while, but I never saw or heard from him again until one night last year when he was re-introduced to me by a reporter friend in a London jazz club. Gerard is also an excellent guitarist in the Spanish idiom, and he, accompanied by his wife Madge, spend six months each year in Spain painting and playing the guitar.

MADGE CAMPBELL and Gerard Dillon danced for us, and all the performers were encouraged and egged on further by my sister and two wild young Irishmen, RON CUNNINGHAM and WALTER "DIXIE" FISHER. Ron is a lorry driver, shortly to turn professional motor cyclist and "Dixie" at this moment is another unemployed Irishman with a capacity for loquaciousness and liquid intake equalled only by George Campbell!

All these people joined in the choruses, "yeeooghed" and yelled and whistled with characteristic Irish abandon, and one or two quiet English visitors who had dropped in soon crept off looking dazed and bewildered.

Not to be overlooked in the making of our record are the recording engineers who sat patiently working during our two hours of fun.

Well, that was our night out, and I hope you'll enjoy joining us.