Monday, July 18, 2005

WWW: Scottish Whistling

I've been a fan of the Tannahill Weavers for some time, but I've listened to their music with a fresh ear since taking up the whistle. So I set out to find some information on whistling in Scottish music.

The first stop was Nigel Gatherer's site, which features a short essay on the history of the whistle in Scotland and lots of Scottish tunes in ABC format.

Thanks to this Chiff and Fipple forums post I discovered the Folk Archive Resource North East (FARNE), "home of Northumbrian music online." Their music archive is like nothing I've seen online. ABC format? No way — fill in the search box and get back a scan of a historic manuscript! They have some interesting audio recordings as well. Read this article for a discussion of the history of flutes and whistles in Northumbrian music. Particularly interesting for me was the section on Billy Conroy:

A remarkable tin whistle player, Billy owned a small pet bird which would sit on the whistle, singing, whilst Billy played. His tin-whistles were always home-made, many from old bicycle pumps.

On this recording we hear whistle player Billy Conroy playing a seies of variations on one of Cumberland's most famous hunting songs - John Peel. Notice the way in which the melody becomes changed and increases in complexity with each repetion.

Update: I also found An Fhideag Airgid, a bilingual (English and Scots Gaelic) whistle tutorial for Highland music, which is the source of a tune by the same name recorded by the Tannahill Weavers.

Update 2: Since I wrote this post I have interviewed Colin Melville on this subject.

1 comment:

Nacho said...

Craig: Great post, great site, thanks for the wealth of information! I'm a rank beginner, trying to make my way through the whistle, but loving every minute of it (well, almost every minute!). I also have a weblog, not about tinwhistling, although I intend to post more frequently about my learning. Thanks again, I hope to visit frequently.


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