Irish Music and Dance London will next week present a concert to celebrate the life and legacy of renowned traditional musician Joe Burke who passed away last year at the age of 81.
A native of east Galway, Joe Burke was a master accordion player who inspired generations of younger musicians.
He performed and recorded music for over 50 years and was acclaimed by audiences worldwide for his style and technique.
Among his many awards was the AIB traditional musician of the year 1997.
He was also named as RTÉ’s Traditional Musician of the Year in 1970, and won an award in Musical Mastery from Boston College in 2000.
The Irish World presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Galtymore in 1998.
Burke was born in 1939 in Kilnadeema in Co Galway.
As well as the accordion, he was also proficient on the fiddle, tin whistle, flute and uilleann pipes, but was known nationally and internationally as the musical giant of the button accordion.
He was a founding member of the Leitrim Ceili Band in 1956 and toured the US in 1961.
Burke’s first solo LP, Galway’s Own, was released in 1971.
He lived in the US between 1988 and 1991, and returned to east Galway in 1992, where he continued to teach and perform music.
The tribute concert will feature Joe’s wife Anne Conroy-Burke, Anne’s sister Mary Conroy and two of their closest friends Eileen O’Brien and Deirdre McSherry.
It will also feature John Bowe, Mick O´Connor, Andy Martyn and Seánín McDonagh and James Carty with accompaniment by Kevin Boyle.
Joe’s wife Anne Conroy- Burke told The Irish World: “I’m really looking forward to coming over in memory of Joe, in tribute to Joe really.
“It’s poignant but it’s lovely and it’s a lovely tribute to him.
“I’m so looking forward to it all and to meeting the musicians that we knew many years ago and friends of Joe’s.
“It’s just such a lovely thought and I’m delighted about it.
“The people that I’m going to be playing with have a huge connection with Joe as well.
“Of course Eileen O’Brien from County Tipperary is great fiddle player and composer and daughter of the great Paddy O’Brien who was also a friend of Joe’s.
“Paddy was one of the great composers of music and he and Joe would have refined the accordion style called the B/C accordion system.
“Another very special man in music.
“Thanks to all the London Community and especially to Andy Martyn and Karen Ryan and all at Irish Music and Dance London.”
When Joe passed away in February last year President Michael D Higgins said the news “will have saddened countless music lovers”.
Anne says: “People were so, so good and I got the most amazing, really touching, overwhelming letters and memories and all kinds of good feelings after Joe passed.
“He left such an imprint everywhere he went.
“He’s a huge loss.
“He’s a huge loss to the music in general, because he had such knowledge and history and connections with the past masters, people like Michael Coleman and all the great players that he met both in London and England and also in America because he spent a lot of time there.
“I know he’s missed by a lot of people.
“He really had a connection with the younger people as well, because we set up a school of music here, Joe and I, the Joe Burke School of Music.
“We were teaching music right up to near to the end and to also know that the younger generation are going to carry that forward is a tremendous thing.
“He left a mighty legacy really to people.
“He donated and gave some of his recordings to the ITMA, the Irish Traditional Music Archive, and they were recordings that had never been heard before and he made a gift of them.
“That was one of the great things that he did shortly before he passed away.
“There were rare recordings of Michael Coleman and Andy McGann, so that was lovely.
“And he also left some of his recordings and life’s work to NUIT Galway, to the James Hardiman Library.
“So people can still have access to his recordings and music and get a feel for the man in years to come.”
Looking back to his Irish World award in 1998 Ann says: “Of course it was lovely to be recognized.
“When you get an award, it’s nice to be recognized for the work that you do and the commitment that you put in.”
Looking ahead to the concert Ann says: “In a way it will be emotional, but there’ll also be a sense a little bit of maybe coming home.
“I’m looking forward to meeting many of the musicians that Joe would have known and kept in touch with throughout his time.
“When we were no longer able to tour,of course we missed all of them.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting up with everybody and I know I’ll feel right at home when I get there.”
Irish Music & Dance in London: A Tribute to Joe Burke takes place Wednesday 4 May 8pm at Kings Place, London.