So, I thought why not write a pooka story and use music that we already played to fill in the story. I decided that the story should be in verse to make it ‘special’ and then I thought that if the story itself were about music — and the different kinds of Irish music — we’d have something to work with. And so, The Pooka and the Fiddler was born.
Writing the verse was actually pretty easy for me. From my very earliest days I’ve had a love of verse and poetry. I owe this fondness to my father, who was a man possessed of a seemingly infinite store of doggerel, quotations, excerpts from speeches, stanzas of verse, snatches of songs and well-wrought aphorisms. He was likely on any and all occasions to have the mot juste or the wry quotation. From an early age he encouraged me to memorize verse and, when visitors came, would have me recite short poems from Hilaire Belloc’s A Bad Child’s Book of Beasts. One particular piece, The Whale, was my party piece. Another Belloc volume, Cautionary Tales for Children was also a favourite and contained such classics as Matilda Who Told Lies And Was Burned To Death.
And I, like many children of my generation, was a great fan of the comic strip, Curly Wee and Gussie Goose. Indeed, our daily newspaper for many years was the Irish Independent mainly because it ran the daily adventures of that dignified pig and his loyal friend. I have no doubt that my attempts in The Pooka and the Fiddler as well as in Happy as Larry and O’Toole and the Goose, owe a great debt to Belloc and to Maud Budden, who wrote the Curly Wee verse. Roland Clibborn’s illustrations were also hugely charming. I’ve searched for many years to find a Curly Wee anthology but they’re very rare — even though the strip was syndicated in newspapers all over the world — and expensive.
We often perform The Pooka live, and are actually going to get a chance to perform it again next summer at the festival where it all got started (now renamed the Mozaic Festival). After last year's performance at the Durango Celtic Festival our friend Kevin Dawson, of the band Giant's Dance, surprised us with a great illustration of his imagining of one of the scenes in the story. That's it there on the right.
We recorded the Pooka and the Fiddler along with a second story, Happy as Larry. We would love for you to buy the album, of course, but as as special treat for you all this month we're providing a link to a free listen. Enjoy!