Michael Coleman was an influential Irish fiddler from Killavil in Sligo, born in 1891. His playing style has been highly influential in Irish traditional music, particularly in the development of the “Sligo style” of fiddling.
Coleman’s father, James, was a flute player, and his brother, Jim, was also respected locally as a fiddler. His early exposure to the distinctive local style of fiddling in Killavil heavily influenced his own playing technique and repertoire. While deeply rooted in the Sligo style, Coleman’s playing also exhibited personal touches and distinguished by its unique sound and timbre, technical precision and much use of variation, featuring fast, intricate bowing techniques and precise ornamentation.
He emigrated to the United States in 1914 and settled in New York City, where he spent the rest of his life and where he became a prominent figure in the Irish music scene. His recording career commenced in 1921, and he gained widespread acclaim through his 78 rpm records made for various labels. He recorded extensively for the Victor and Columbia record labels in the 1920s and 1930s, helping to popularize Irish music in America. Some of his most famous recordings include tunes such as “The Tarbolton,” “The Boys of the Lough,” and “The Green Fields of America.”
His influence can be seen in the work of many musicians, including Bobby Casey, Máirtín Byrnes, and Denis Murphy, among others.