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date: 24 February 2020

Coleman, Michaellocked

  • Carole Pegg


(b Knockgrania, Killavil, Co. Sligo, Ireland, 1891; d New York, Jan 4, 1945). Irish fiddle player and stepdancer. Michael Coleman's fiddle playing belongs to the rich tradition of southern Sligo and adjoining parts of Roscommon and Mayo, particularly around Doocastle, Bunnanadden and Killavil. His father, James Coleman, a smallholder, played the flute at home and his elder brother Jim Coleman (b 1883) played the fiddle. Coleman began to play at five or six years old and was influenced by his brother as well as local fiddlers such as Kipeen Scanlan, Jamesy Gannon, Philip O'Beirne and John O'Dowd. He learnt to stepdance from the dancing teachers John Tuohy and Charlie Dolan (uncle of the famous fiddle player Jimmy Morrison).

Coleman tried to find work in the north of England in 1914 but later in the year sailed for New York. In 1917 he married an immigrant from Co. Monaghan and had one daughter. After a provincial vaudeville tour on the Keith Theatre circuit, Coleman returned to New York where his extensive recording career began. Advances in recording technology enabling the fiddle's tone to be faithfully captured on disc coincided in the late 1920s with the height of Coleman's playing. His performances of highly embellished melodies at dazzling tempos with faultless rhythm were widely disseminated. Coleman was not only a virtuoso player but produced spontaneous complex variations, particularly when playing reels....

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