Sunday, October 28, 2007

General Guinness Band

The photo above is the Columbus-based General Guinness Band playing at the 2007 Dublin Irish Festival. The members, from left to right, include guitarist Steve Steele, bodhrán player Tom Davis, vocalist James O'Shea, flute player Larry Dulin, plus fiddler Charlene Adzima, who is not, I believe, a regular member of the band, but who played with them during all of their Dublin Irish Festival shows.


Friday, October 19, 2007

The Kitchen Sessions

Those of us who can't make the commute to an actual kitchen in Co. Clare for tunes and dancing can content ourselves with Clare FM's ongoing series of programs, presented by Paula Carroll and recorded in the homes of music lovers around the county.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Clare FM's trad archive is one of the best destinations for trad fans I've found on the Internet. They feature great music with knowledgeable presenters, and regularly include material not available anywhere else, such as visits from musically-talented local youngsters and the kitchen sessions mentioned above. It's all in MP3 format, so you can listen to the shows in whatever way is convenient for you.

Finally, here's one more way to hear tunes in a Co. Clare kitchen. Kitty Hayes is featured in the first track on the first kitchen sessions program, and Clare FM has done a program featuring her as the start of a new series on "different aspects of life for older people in Clare." It doesn't seem to be available online, though.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Niamh Parsons and Graham Dunne


Well, it's been entirely too long since I've posted any photos from the 2007 Dublin Irish Festival, and since I took a bunch of pictures at the CCÉ show last night I'd better work on clearing the backlog.

Niamh Parsons and Graham Dunne played a nighttime show in the pub on Saturday, mostly featuring songs from their latest album, The Old Simplicity.

For recent comments and photos from Niamh, check out Niamh's Musings, her blog.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

My Name is Yu Ming

Via the photoblog Ireland from a Polish perspective, here's a funny but slightly tragic film from TG4 about a Chinese man who spends six months learning Irish so that he can work in Ireland. It's full of great comic moments and worth five minutes of your time, I think.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

On Shopping, Spit, and Rolling in the Ryegrass

Some unrelated things on my mind today:

I put my money where my mouth was and ordered a stack of CDs from the Tayberry Music going-out-of-business sale. Having received the CDs, I'll recommend it again. I got great CDs at bargain prices, they were friendly, shipped quickly, and they fixed a misshipment at their expense. I wish the owners a happy retirement!

A while back I was having a problem with, um, drool getting into my whistle while I was playing. I asked my teacher about this and he said he'd never had the problem. But I figured it out; I just need to not look down while playing.

Mick O'Brien and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh have an interesting version of Rolling in the Ryegrass on Kitty Lie Over. They seem to prolong the first parts of the first two bars of the A part, and they don't go up as high, in relative pitch, on the second bar, as most versions I've heard. That, plus some other differences, gives the tune a really different feel. I like the whole album.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tayberry Music Going Out of Business

Folk music vendor Tayberry Music is going out of business, an they're selling their stock at 40% off. None of the prices on the site have been reduced, but they'll take the 40% off when they prepare your order for shipping.

Update: The sale has now ended, because Compass Records just bought Tayberry.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Echoes of Erin 4

The Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann 2007 Echoes of Erin tour is coming to central Ohio! Look at the incredible list of performers — or, better still, listen to the incredible group of musicians on the Comhaltas site. I'm in awe.

I haven't found a publicly-accessible link for the concert's Granville date, so here are the details:

Granville, OH
Wednesday 17 October 2007, 7:00 p.m.
Granville Schools Performing Arts Center

The concert is also coming to the following cities:

  • Ireland Dublin
  • Canada Saskatoon, Regina, Manitou, Winnipeg
  • USA Pittsburgh, Pearl River, NY, Waltham and North Andover, MA

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Really Big Whistle

Here's hatao of the Japanese band Butter Dogs playing "The Foggy Dew" on an Overton bass G whistle.

The Roots Music Listening Room

I mentioned a while back that I was learning "I Buried My Wife...," also known as "Frieze Britches," and listed some of the recordings I am using for study. Thanks to this Chiffboard thread I've found another: This spectacular recording of "Freeze Breeches" by Leo Rowsome.

There are a number of other gems on the Juneberry archive of (allegedly, anyway) public domain Irish dance music recordings.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Idir Deighric 'Gus Breo'

I just learned this slow air from the playing of Matt Molloy. It's another great track from Heathery Breeze. It's a short, simple tune, and Molloy plays it in D, so it's easy to pick up. It's beautiful on both the flute and the whistle. I've seen it listed as a waltz, but I think it would be a mistake to play it that way, in spite of the time signature. Molloy's version really makes the most of the freedom which comes from playing it as an air. The tune is in A mixolydian.

Like a lot of slow airs, this one comes from a song. You can hear the song, or a version of it called "Idir Áird Mhór Is Eochaill," anyway, on Danú's All Things Considered. I also found a transcription and translation of the words that Ciarán Ó Gealbháin sings. This review says that he got it from the singing of Éibhlis Bean de Paor from An Sean Phobal. The melody of Molloy's track is pretty much the same, but the places in the title are different.

What does "Idir Deighric 'Gus Breo'" mean? Well, "Idir" is "Between." "Gus" appears to be a contraction of the Irish "agus" (and), and Deighric and Breo are mountains in Co. Waterford. The Waterford County Library says that the names "defy analysis, and are evidently, like many mountain and most river names, of great antiquity." So my rough translation of the title is "'Tween Deighric 'n' Breo."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Drowsy Maggie

I like the reel Drowsy Maggie. It's easy to learn and fun to play. I learned it from Matt Molloy's recording on Heathery Breeze, and, as I see no reason to play any tune faster than Molloy, it usually sounds rushed to me when I hear it in a session. It's a beautiful tune played slowly, I think. Anyway, here are some good sources for the tune.

  • Here's Séamus Ennis playing it on the pipes. He includes the infrequently-heard-but-traditional third part.
  • Paddy Killoran's fiddle recording.
  • As above, Molloy's recording is my favorite. He plays it relatively slowly on the B♭ flute, giving it a stirring power.
  • Altan play a breakneck "Northern version" of the tune on Harvest Storm. It's way too fast for my taste, but it's an interesting version of the tune, and they end the set with the spectacular Altan original reel "Harvest Storm," which is itself a great tune, and, I think, more suited to the blistering speed of the set.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Boys of the Lough

Here are some photos from the Boys of the Lough performance at the 2007 Dublin Irish Festival.

The photo above is from flute and whistle player Cathal McConnell's excellent, solo whistle rendition of Harvest Home. He played the tune three times, with increasingly complex variations. I recorded his performance of this tune and will post the recording if I can get his permission to do so. When he received a well-deserved cheer after he finished the tune, one of the other band members said, "You've just made an old man very happy!"

Fiddler Kevin Henderson is from Shetland, and brought an interesting musical color to the group. He played a solo set of Shetland fiddle tunes which were quite striking; a bit slower-paced and less driving than the dance tunes which comprised the majority of the group's performance.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Armagh Rhymers

Imagine a group which plays songs and tunes with the following combinations of instruments:

  • Four bodhráns, plus vocals
  • Three bodhráns plus a tin whistle
  • Melody on guitar with accompaniment on a tin whistle

Would you enjoy such a group? Well I've seen 'em, and they're fantastic. The Armagh Rhymers (no points for guessing where they live) are an on-stage manifestation of the mumming and wrenboy traditions which dates back to at least medieval times and possibly quite a bit further. It's a custom of house visiting in disguise, and performing tunes, songs, poetry, and dancing. There's a track of part of a mummers play on the RTÉ disc Come West Along the Road, and if you've seen that, you know roughly what the Armagh Rhymers do.

If you haven't seen that, well, I'll try to describe it, but I'm not sure I can really do the show justice. The group performed traditional dance music along with melody-less drumming, poetry recitation, songs (including "Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone," and the occasional, brief, historical lesson.

Normally, the entire group would appear in disguise, but it seems Delta Airlines was still working on getting the rest of the group's luggage to Ohio.

The Armagh Rhymers performed at the 2007 Dublin Irish Festival, and I have to give credit to the festival organizers for booking such an interesting act.

By the way, you can click on the images to enlarge them.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Kwela Project

Check this out: There's a new blog all about Kwela, called The Kwela Project. It features news, links, and more about the South African "pennywhistle jive."

The Merry Love to Play

CDs of unaccompanied music are, unfortunately, a small minority of releases these days. But here's a new one from flute player Peter Horan and fiddler Gerry Herrington. Writing in The Irish Times, Siobhán Long says this of the release:

Horan wears his 81 years lightly, and what he might occasionally lack in lung-power, he more than compensates for in spirit and verve, particularly on the Donegal hornpipe The High Level. Horan's flute revels in ducking and diving between the notes of the tune, while Harrington's meticulously researched sleeve notes and understated presence pay their dues to Pádraig O'Keeffe's revered Sliabh Luachra style.

You can hear two sample excerpts from the album or order the CD online at the Cló Iar-Chonnachta site.

Internet Flute Lessons

First-rate flute player Harry Bradley is now offering flute lessons over the Internet, by exchanging MP3s. Interesting idea, as it opens the door to those who can't make it to Ireland to get lessons from Harry in person.

It might at first seem like such lessons would be necessarily limited — the teacher won't be able to see your grip, embouchure, etc. But we're producing music, not visual art, here, and the audio carries a heck of a lot of information, especially for a skilled listener. Studying with June McCormack's excellent tutor Fliúit has really sold me on the virtues of having well-played slow audio of the tunes I study. Without seeing her play or talking to her, I feel like I'm getting formal instruction just by listening and playing along to her tracks. I'm sure that having tutorial recordings made just for you and having your audio heard by a teacher would be even more beneficial.

With all that said, I don't think I'll be signing up just yet, for the same reason I haven't booked tickets for the Frankie Kennedy Winter School: I'm still new to this instrument and I feel like I have a lot more of the basics to learn from my teacher here in town before I start working with folks from overseas. But I really, really look forward to the day when I'll be good enough to make such efforts worthwhile.

Speaking of the Frankie Kennedy Winter School, Bradley teaches there, too, and you can get several MP3s for study (albeit not slow ones) from him, Téada, Robbie Hannan & Dermot McLaughlin from the Winter School site.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Heard At Last Night's Session

The Bodhrán: An instrument for people who can't afford a complete banjo.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Fiddle 78s online

Wow, this is great: Kevin L. Rietmann is posting MP3s of old fiddle 78s almost daily. Mostly Michael Coleman so far. Thank you Kevin!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Some Tunes

I don't know if this is great reading or not, but here are some tunes I'm learning right now and the recordings I'm using as references:

  • Trip to Athlone (track 4 of Colm O'Donnell's Farewell to Evening Dances). O'Donnell plays it together with The Blackthorn Stick; the two sound great together. This one is hard for me to play on the flute since it goes from first-octave A to low D to second-octave E, necessitating changes in embouchure.
  • I Buried My Wife... (Tara Bingham's recording from An Gaoth Aduaidh) Matt Molloy performs this on Heathery Breeze as Frieze Britches (where it's incorrectly identified as a slip jig in the liner notes, which confused me for some time when I first bought the album!), but his version is too fast/complicated for me to keep up with, though very nice for pure listening! Bingham's recording is slower and less heavily improvised. Liam O'Flynn plays it on Come West Along the Road.
  • Rolling In the Ryegrass (June McCormack's recording from the CDs which accompany her tutor Fliúit). CCÉ's Foinn Seisiún 1 CDs have a recording of this (as Shannon Breeze), which you can download for free from their site, but I find McCormack's tone and performance inspiring.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Come West Along the Road

Are you (if you're a U.S. resident) a Netflix member? If so, you might be interested to know that Netflix has Come West Along the Road, one of RTÉ's DVD compilations of music recordings from its archives.

Like a lot of compilations, it's a mixed bag. But there's some brilliant material on the DVD. There is (brief, unfortunately) footage of Frankie Kennedy, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, and other Ó Maonaigh family members playing in a pub in Gaoth Dobhair. There's footage of Joe Cooley, Denis O'Brien (Donncha Ó Briain), Tommy Peoples, and Matt Molloy.

While I was watching one of the segments — it must have been Planxty or The Bothy Band — my wife came into the room and said, "They look like hippies!" I laughed and replied, "They are hippies; this was taped in 1973!"

Sure, most of this has been pirated onto YouTube, but the DVD quality beats the heck out of Flash video. I'm not sure I'd pay $30 for it, but getting it "for free" (as a Netflix subscriber) is a great deal!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Granville Irish Festival

Seems there's another Irish festival in town, somewhat smaller than that other one in Dublin. The Granville Irish Festival will feature local bands The Drowsy Lads (trad) and Homeland (rock), plus dancers from Scoil Rince Ní Chiara.

Monday, May 21, 2007

2007 Dublin Irish Festival

I've just had a look at the 2007 Dublin Irish Festival entertainment lineup. Tucked in amongst the "Celtic rock," I found some pretty good reasons to attend, including the following out-of-town acts:

There are also some local bands I like. My teacher's band, The Kells, who played a great house concert in April will be performing. Occasionally-local Changeling is a husband-and-wife duo featuring the fiddle playing of Deborah Clark Colón. Aisling reformed last year after significant personnel changes; I haven't heard them in their current incarnation, but they were quite good in the past.

An intriguing-sounding group I'm unfamiliar with is the Armagh Rhymers, from, of course, Co. Armagh, who do folk theatre from the mummer tradition.

There's also a great deal of utter dreck on the bill. I'll elect to follow the "if you can't say anything nice about someone, say nothing at all" rule here, and simply write this off as the price of having a festival which can bring good acts in from overseas.

But since the festival generally has at least four stages running concurrently, plus session tents and other stuff, you can generally find something good to hear or see.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Chris Norman

Nova Scotian flute player Chris Norman came to the Ohio State University this past April as part of the Johnstone Woodwind Master Series in conjunction with the Central Ohio Flute Association. He and guitar player Andy Thurston played a rather unusual show on the night of 21 April. The first half was an informal concert featuring mostly traditional Scottish tunes, with some Irish, Cape Breton, and original compositions as well. He was joined, at times, by Robert Aitken on piccolo and a local woman named Casey (I didn't catch her last name) on piano. Chris said that he had met Casey at a Kinko's the day before. The concert became even less formal in the second half of the show as he invited the conference attendees to get out their instruments and play along with some tunes. There were perhaps 50 or so Boehm system flute players, a couple guitarists, a pianist, one other simple-system flute player besides Chris and myself, and one bassoonist!

The photo above shows Chris playing the Scottish smallpipes. Although they're fingered like the GHBs, Chris said they originate in the music of the Scottish Travellers rather than the mainstream Scottish music tradition.

Here's Chris, Andy, Casey, and Robert playing a tune together.

The photo above is from the second half of the show. Chris projected the scores for the tunes, played them through a couple times, had everyone play along, and then gave some feedback to the audience, mostly on rhythm.

The show wasn't particularly well-publicized outside of OSU. I was lucky to hear about it, because it was a great concert.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Kells

Some photos from a house concert featuring The Kells last month...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oidhreacht an Chláir

Oidhreacht an Chláir, the Clare College for Traditional Studies, now has a CD shop. Check it out!

Closer to Columbus, OH, those who like their Irish music without U2 covers or Michael Flatley would do well to see The Kells at a private house concert this coming Friday 9 March. My teacher will be playing the flute, whistle, and pipes.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Vermont Considers Tin Whistle Ban

...while driving, anyway.

The dangers of playing the whistle while driving are well-documented. But Vermont may actually ban it:

Put down the flute and keep your eyes on the road.
Vermont lawmakers are considering a measure that would ban eating, drinking, smoking, reading, writing, personal grooming, playing an instrument, “interacting with pets or cargo,” talking on a cell phone or using any other personal communication device while driving. The punishment: a fine of up to $600.
He said his wife recently saw a driver playing the flute, which led him to include the instrument ban in his bill.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Night-Rambler’s Companion

You can hear two tracks from Harry Bradley's new album, The Night-Rambler’s Companion, on his MySpace page.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Tannahill Weavers Requests

The Tannahill Weavers are taking requests for which tunes and songs they'll play on their next tour.

Their blog is worthwhile, too, since it features "Roy's Joke of the Week.