Sonny (Patrick) Brogan (4 July 1907 - 1 January 1965) was born in Prosperous, County Kildare and became one of the foremost and popular traditional musicians playing Melodeon and Accordian. He was one of the earliest advocates of the two-row B/C button accordion in traditional music. He originally played on the Hohner single row melodeon, and later the two-row Paolo Soprani.
In the 1930s and 1940s, he played with the Lough Gill Quartet, Sarah Hobbs on fiddle, James Cawley on flute, with Bill Harte and himself on accordions. This quartet was named after the famous Sligo lake and as a tribute to Michael Coleman who came from Sligo. The Lough Gill Quartet recorded four 78rpm records for HMV in or around 1941.
(A) Jigs : Newport Lass, Leitrim Jig (Matrix No OEL 204)
(B) Reels : Lough Gill Favourites (Matrix No OEL 207)
( ) Hornpipes: The Flowers of May, The Silver Spire
( ) Hawthorn Bush, Castle Kelly
(A) Jigs : Memories of Ballymote, The Kiltullagh Jig (Matrix No OEL 203)
(B) Reels : Jenny's Wedding, Toss the Feathers (Matrix No OEL 208)
(A) Reels : Ballinure Rake, The Market Man (Matrix No OEL 209 I)
(B) Jigs : The Mill Pond, Mist on the Meadow (Matrix No OEL 202 I)
"The Ballinure Rake" was later known as "Sonny Brogan's Favourite". From IM947, "The Flowers of May" and "The Silver Spire" were re-released in 1986 on the RTE/EMI LP "The Irish Phonograph Vol I" (GAE1003). From IM949, "The Mill Pond" and "The Mist on the Meadow", were re-released on the CD "Irish Dance Music" (Topic TSCD602). The sleeve notes of the CD say that this music is described "as representative of the quality music played by a hard core of active traditional musicians in Dublin at the time. Bill Harte and Sonny are reputed to have been among the pioneers who saw the potential for Irish music making in the button accordion pitched B/C and subsequently devised and disseminated the fingering method".
Sonny went to England briefly in the 1940s, and on his return, George Rowley (fiddler originally from Co Meath) and Ned Stapleton (flute player from Dublin) wrote "Sonny's Return" in honour of him. Ned called it "The Wanderer’s Return", but it is more commonly known as "Sonny's Return".
A regular in The Piper's Club in Thomas Street, Dublin, Sonny played alongside John Kelly Sr, Tom Mulligan, Tommy Potts, Tommy Reck, Leo Rowsome, Sean Seery and many other traditional musicians of the day. He also played music with fellow accordionist Joe Cooley in the late 1940s.
"Sonny Brogan's Mazurka" is a very well known Irish Mazurka and has been made popular in more recent years by The Chieftains.
In 1960, Seán Ó Riada was looking for musicians to perform music for the play "The Song of the Anvil" by Bryan MacMahon. Paddy Moloney, at the age of 20, was called to participate in the project, along with his friend Sean Potts on tin whistle, Sonny Brogan on accordion and John Kelly on flute.
Following its success, O'Riada had the idea to form the group Ceoltóirí Chualann, a band to present traditional songs with accompaniment and traditional dance tunes and slow airs, arranged with instruments: harpsichord, bodhran, piano, fiddle, accordions, flute, pipes and whistles.
The idea of actually arranging folk music, or dance music, had been done on at least one or two 78rpm recordings in the past, but they were folk tunes done in a classical way, highly orchestrated. O'Riada also started to unearth the music of the blind harper Turlough O'Carolan, and Ceoltóirí Chualann introduced the music of O'Carolan for the first time.
Bands: Lough Gill Quartet, Ceoltóirí Chualann