The following clips are from John's two CDs, The Day At Sea and The Keeper's Companion. These pieces represent examples of John's solo music as well as his orchestral works.
The Keeper's Companion (John's newest release):
1. The Keeper's Companion (guitar & string orchestra) - “Spot” was a lighthouse keeper’s dog who loved to ring the fog bell as ships approached Owl’s Head, Maine. The ships’ captains would then blow their horn and Spot would bark back his hello. There is a famous story about a blizzard that covered the fog bell in ice. Undeterred, Spot ran down to the ledge and barked a mail boat to safety.
2. The New Chatham Hornpipe (solo concertina) - Like most traditional forms in music, the Hornpipe is a dance and the term also refers to the specific style of music played for the dance. Invented in the 16th century by sailors in England, the dance simulates the life of a sailor at sea, and was actually used by sailors for exercise onboard their ships. My inspiration for this piece came from a trip to Cape Cod that my wife, Conni, and I took a couple of summers ago.
3. The Fisherman & The Selkie (mandolin & string orchestra) - According to Scottish legend, a Selkie is a seal that has the ability to shed its skin at will and adopt a human form. Most of the stories deal with a Selkie woman, whose seal hide is captured by a fisherman while she is on shore. This puts the Selkie in the fisherman’s power, and the two marry, have children and are happy. However, if the Selkie woman should find her seal skin she will have no choice but to return to the sea. It is said that the singing of a Selkie can guide home a husband who is lost at sea.
4. The Wee Mad Road (solo guitar) - The inspiration for this piece was a trip to Scotland that I made with Conni. We started on the west coast, drove across the top of the country, and then finished our week by traveling down the east coast. Much of our journey was along what the locals referred to as the Wee Mad Road, a beautiful, narrow road that leads through the countryside and along the ocean.
5. For Those Lost At Sea (solo concertina) - Early on when I first took up the concertina, I had just finished reading The Perfect Storm. This piece was one of the first I had written for the instrument, the inspiration coming from that book.
6. Fort Of The Rounded Hills (tin whistle & string orchestra) - One of my favorite views in Ireland is up on the hillside just behind Doonagore castle in Doolin, Co. Clare. In Irish, Doonagore means “Fort of the Rounded Hills”. From this spot you can look out across the ocean to the Aran Islands.
7. Windward Home (solo guitar) - I wrote this piece one day when I was feeling particularly homesick for New England.
8. The Sailor At The Fair (solo concertina) - When I was young I used to visit Rocky Point Amusement Park with my family. Later on, when I was in my teens, I would go with my girlfriend and her family. The park was situated on Narragansett Bay, and you could see and smell the ocean from most of the rides. The park also had a dinner hall which served clam fritters and chowder. I have great memories of eating them by the water’s edge.
9. The Abbott's House (low whistle, & string orchestra) - This piece was inspired by the many monasteries that are found throughout the countryside of Ireland. They all date back to around the 12th century and have tall Round Towers in which the monks could store their riches (as well as themselves) during Viking raids.
10. The Ghost Of Castle Hill (solo mandolin) - The Ghost of Castle Hill turned out to be the lighthouse keeper’s wife who, when she couldn’t sleep, would take late-night walks around the grounds in her nightgown. For some reason, I’ve always envisioned her dancing there as well.
11. Moon Over Pemaquid (solo guitar) - Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is situated on such a pretty spot. This is where I asked my lovely wife to marry me. I used my photographs of this lighthouse for the cover art, as well as the inside tray photo on my first album The Day At Sea.
12. Sailor's Hymn (solo concertina) - The concertina was invented by Charles Wheatstone in 1829 and was a popular instrument among sailors who would use it onboard ship to provide music for dancing. These sailor-musicians would also use the concertina to provide hymns for the Sunday services. I composed this piece while envisioning a hymn played at sea.
The Day At Sea (John's first album):
1. The Patron Saint Of Ballyvourney (string orchestra) - St. Ghobnait is known as the patron saint of Ballyvourney (Co. Cork, Ireland). A beekeeper by trade, she spent time in West Clare before fleeing from enemies to the island of Inishere (Co. Galway, Ireland). She eventually settled in Ballyvourney. The escape route she followed was one she had seen in a vision.
2. Aboard The Morgan (solo guitar) - The Charles W. Morgan is an old whaling ship that was built in New Bedford in 1841. You can visit the vessel at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, CT. Mystic Seaport is also the place where I was first introduced to the concertina and sea music in general.
3. Roundstone Bay (concertina & string orchestra) - Roundstone is a small picturesque fishing village situated on the northwest side of Galway Bay, Co. Galway, Ireland. It is one of the oldest fishing villages on the west coast.
4. Panda Dreams (guitar & string trio) - Years after I wrote this piece I heard a story about how Pandas got their markings. There was once a shepherdess who, while trying to save a young Panda, was killed by a lion. At her funeral the Pandas (who were all white in color at that time) wore black ashes as arm bands. As the Pandas were hugging each other and rubbing their eyes from crying, the ashes bled to those parts of their body. Out of eternal respect for the shepherdess, the Panda would keep those markings for all time.
5. The Day At Sea (solo concertina) - When I was young my father worked on the Fisher's Island Ferry out of New London, CT. My brother and I would occasionally go with him to work in the evenings. I will always remember starry nights on Fisher's Island Sound.
6. Joshua's Lullaby (string orchestra w/ guitar accompaniment) - This is one of my first string compositions and was written to honor a couple of friends having their first baby.
7. The Ponies Of Chincoteague (solo guitar) - Back in the 16th century, a Spanish vessel carrying a cargo of Bard horses shipwrecked off the shoals of Assateague island. The horses escaped from the cargo hold and swam to the safety of the shore. Today the descendants of those horses still roam the island. The Chincoteague pony has evolved over time, adapting to the harsh conditions on the island. They have a beautiful long coat in the winter months and can drink salt water.
8. Nantucket Bound (mandolin & string orchestra) - This piece was composed upon completion of a trip I took to Nantucket one summer. I was inspired to travel there after an unsuccessful attempt at reading Moby Dick.
9. At The Cliffs Of Moher (guitar, percussion, & string orchestra) - Written after visiting the famous cliffs in Co. Clare, Ireland for the first time.
10. An Evening At The Inn (solo concertina) - Two wonderful old inns; Randall's Ordinary (Stonington, CT) and the Daniel Packer Inn (Mystic, CT), were the inspirations for this solo concertina piece. Both inns are rich in early American and New England maritime history.
11. The Eastern Shore (string orchestra) - Each modulation in this string piece begins a new movement which represents New London, Mystic, and Stonington respectively, with a return to New London in the end. My place of upbringing in general, this area is still very dear to me.
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