In 2002, the 58-year-old fiddler, who immigrated to the United States in 1976 and now lives in Groton, Mass., authored “Forget Me Not” with one of his former pupils, fiddler Laurel Martin of Westfield, Mass. Issued by Mel Bay Publications, a well-known music publishing house, this 132-page book contains notation for 50 Irish tunes, ranging from “Astley’s” hornpipe to “Tommy Mulhaire’s” jig, written by the father of another great composer, Galway-born Martin Mulhaire.
Tucked inside the back cover of the book are two CDs, recorded by Connolly, Martin, and such guests as flutist Jimmy Noonan, guitarist John McGann, and button accordionist Joe Derrane. On the first disk, the tunes are performed with little or no ornamentation and at a slow tempo geared for maximum learnability and retention. On the second disk, the pace quickens, with ornamentation laid in to demonstrate the fuller possibilities of interpretation.
It is a challenge for musicians of this caliber to play at such reduced tempos, and Connolly, with the others, has brought it all off with the intelligence and grace of the highly effective instructor that he is. (Past proof: another former pupil of his, Brendan Bulger, became the first Bostonian to win an All-Ireland fiddle championship, taking the under-18 title in 1990 in Sligo.)
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