At the time when Music from the Works of James Joyce was originally released in 1982 as an LP (remember vinyl?), and right up to the present day, with the re-release of the album on CD in 2004, Bill Black has remained a key contributor to this project.
It was while playing traditional flute at Irish sessions in the late 1970s that singer/musician Kevin McDermott met Bill; and it was then that Bill first proposed making the record.
(The sessions at the time were held at Wilde's Irish Ale House in New York City. Readers may appreciate the nice Joycean consubstantial "here comes everybody" touch here: the daughter of Peggy Jordan, Iseult, ended up quite coincidentally working at Wilde's when she first arrived in the States in the early 1980s!)
Through the years, Bill and his wife Pat have offered unstinting, generous support — moral as well as financial — in realizing the artists' vision; and it can accurately be said that without their guidance and encouragement, the music on this recording would exist only in the memories of those who happened to have the good fortune to hear the concert performed live.
Bill is retired from the deep-sea shipping business and is currently enjoying being a full-time musician and grandparent.
The Creative Side
In keeping with his truly Renaissance (and Joycean) spirit, Bill has avidly pursued not just a career in business but one that encompasses some serious musicianship as well. He started playing classical guitar at age 15, adding mandolin, banjo, and bouzouki to his repertoire later on. He also sings — in English and Irish.
His interest in Irish music began in the late 1960s with groups such as The Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners. In the early 1970s he moved to more traditional modes, becoming involved with the New York session scene and the activities of the Irish Arts Center. He was one of the original founders of the well-known Eagle Tavern Irish music sessions that lasted well into the 1980s; and over the years he has had the opportunity play with some of "the greats" in New York and Boston, including Joe Burke, Andy McGann, Brian Conway, Mike Rafferty, Joanie Madden, John Whelan, Jerry O'Sullivan, and Seamus Connolly, among others.
Since relocating from New York to Cape Cod in 1979, Bill has been an active participant in the fast-growing traditional music scene on Cape Cod. He has founded several trad groups (Carraroe, Cape Tradition, Northeast Ceili Band) and leads weekly sessions on the Cape and at the Irish Cultural Center.
Bill is also an accomplished composer and arranger of songs and tunes. His memorable reel, "The Camel's Hump," has been recorded by Skip Healy and can be heard on the Purgatory Chasm CD. "Hugh Smith's Farewell" has been recorded by Tony Smith and is included on the Lámh ar Lámh (Many Hands) compilation. Another Bill Black tune, "Granny Quinn's Reel," is featured on a CD by Solas entitled The Hour Before Dawn, which is available from Shanachie Entertainment. (A reviewer for the Boston Herald has called Solas "the best Irish traditional band in the world.")
In 2002 Bill was elected to the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (Irish Traditional Musicians' Society) Hall of Fame in recognition of work done for traditional music.
Bill has published a collection of dance tunes (Music's the Very Best Thing, 1996) as well as a book of arrangements of harp tunes for piano (a similar work for classical guitar is in the editing process). He also composes and arranges choral music, and is willing to try his hand at "serious" projects, e.g., string quartets, a sonata for viola, etc. His ongoing webABC project involves "digitising" (into ABC format) and archiving Irish dance tunes; the collection presently has 3,000 entries and continues to grow.
The results from a Google search for ["bill black" zouki] clearly illustrate the depth of Bill's involvement in Irish music on the Web. He is the author of some poems and short stories, which can be found on his CapeIrish website; and among the aforementioned Google SERPs, interested visitors will discover a treasure trove of postings from Bill that offer sterling examples of his distinctive brand of humor. Some of the funniest ones include: