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!