Calling David Munnelly a box player is – like calling Muhammad Ali a boxer – true but reductive. Of course, as someone who grew up playing traditional music, he plays Irish dance tunes in the style of a box player, and he plays them with a flare and level of mastery you’d expect from someone as talented and dedicated to the music as he is. However, from a young age, driven by an innate musical curiosity and rapidly acquired fluency, Munnelly began pushing his chosen instrument further than most to discover what more it could do, what more it could help him to say. So, more accurately, Munnelly plays the accordion in its fullest international sense. He has absorbed how the instrument is played in many different cultures by many different players, and he has developed his very own way of handling all those influences in his playing, particularly in his almost baroque bass note self-accompaniment. His sound is unmistakably him, but with a deep respect for many other masters coming through, from John J Kimmel to Máirtín O Connor to Riccardo Tesi. He has also come up against the limitations of his instrument in terms of its relatively mechanical nature, and with scientific dedication to perfecting the possible ornamentations, he has made a virtue of those limitations, able to make it sing as freely as many more tactile instruments in other hands.

But if we’re to fully honour his art, we need to say that David Munnelly simply makes music, irrespective of instrument, in the most individual sense. As a musical ear, Munnelly might be said to have always been somewhat restless. He might have heard something in a phrase of a dance tune, for instance, and in his own time followed it wherever it was willing to take him and soon made something completely new from it. His compositional urges – originally expressed as such improvisations and flourishing because of his powerful phrasing and tasteful dynamics – have been unleashed in recent years such that much of his solo music is now uncategorisable; each composition presenting a different musical narrative or drama and covering a variety of moods, often large and ambitious in scope.

-Paul O Connor