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BRIMS O’Carolan Online Course

I’ve been mentioning to Lori for a few years now how I’d like to facilitate a four week May course teaching some O’Carolan tunes, but the timing just hadn’t worked out due to traveling conflicts. Since we’re all stuck at home for the moment, this seems like an excellent opportunity to give it a try, except for the online part. But we’ll give it a whirl and each Tuesday in May my intention is to post a new tune added to this post. Might need to go into the first week in June, but we’ll see. Each week, I’ll provide at least a video of me playing it on mandolin and the sheet music of the version I play (which may or may not match what you’ll find online. The tunes weren’t written down by O’Carolan, so like most traditional tunes, what we have is what has come down through time, in this case, from about 300 years ago. Pretty cool!

I’ve always wanted to learn a few more O’Carolan tunes, so a selfish reason for facilitating this learning is for me to learn some new ones myself. So, I won’t be teaching Fanny Power or Sheebeg Sheemore (though if you don’t know them, I’d encourage you to learn them), but instead doing a few lesser known ones.

Please let me know if you’re following along at home by adding a comment or emailing me. Thanks!

Week 1 – Planxty Hewlett

The first one we’ll do is Planxty Hewlett. Probably the best known recording of this is by the group Planxty (appropriately). Let’s have a listen to the great Liam Flynn playing it. I love the backing that comes in after the first time through – just brilliant!

Now from that gorgeous rendition, I’ll have to subject you to the version I learned (and that is provided in the sheet music) just so we’re all on the same page. I’ll break it down into the A part and the B part going slowly.

Planxty Hewlett
Planxty Hewlett (A part)
Planxty Hewlett (B part)


Are you wondering what the word Planxty means? Me too. Here’s a description: https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Planxty_(Form). Hmmm… I’m still not sure 🙂

Week 2 – Charles O’Connor

This week’s tune is Planxty Charles O’Connor. I think I first heard this one by Arty McGlynn on his CD McGlynn’s Fancy which is provided below (hopefully available everywhere). One of the things I particularly like about this tune is that while it can be played in a more traditional O’Carolan style, it also can fit well in a normal jig set and people won’t necessarily even know it is an O’Carolan tune!

I was also quite taken with a version on Good Morning to Your Nightcap (still not sure if that is the name of the group or the CD… probably yes). I was surprised last night to see Ruadhrai O’Kane who plays fiddle on that CD watching the same “We Are Roommates” live session from Boston. So let me recommend both the session (Saturdays at 5pm EST) and the CD.  See if this link will do it for you if you are on Facebook.  Really nice players and tasty tunes.

Anyway, back to Planxty Chuck.  So here are the A and B parts slowed down for you.  As usual, the version I learned is slightly different than both Arty McGlynn’s and the Nightcap crew.

Charles O’Connor
Charles O’Connor (A Part)
Charles O’Connor (B Part)


By the way, if you are finding this online tutorial of value, please consider donating to BRIMS. We’d really appreciate your help and every donation makes a difference and will be used wisely. The expected line up of concerts in Charlottesville for March – May was amazing and all had to be cancelled because of Covid-19. So please help out if you can. Thanks!

Week 3 – O’Carolan’s Welcome

Week 3 Intro

This week’s tune is O’Carolan’s Welcome which is a new tune for me this month and I was not familiar with it at all until recently. Very pretty and haunting melody. A couple of challenges to note are that it is in the key of Am / C. While Am is a typical key, the range gets to the high C and it includes some F naturals, so it also has a C feel to it. Note that some may play it in Em or Bm, but I believe the original is Am, so let’s give it a try if you can. Here’s a version of it by the Chieftains.

Here are the A and B parts slowed down for you along with the notation and both parts played together at normalish speed. I’ve heard and seen it written with repeats and without, so be prepared for either. I think this version is pretty true to the Chieftain’s (for a change!). On the notation, I wasn’t able to render the high C using standard abc synatax, so it shows an octave lower than it should be, but it is quite obvious (the first line of the b part), so you’ll recognize the issue.

O’Carolan’s Welcome
O’Carolan’s Welcome (A Part)
O’Carolan’s Welcome (B Part)


Week 4 – O’Carolan’s Draught

Our final week’s tune is O’Carolan’s Draught because we should end the course with a celebratory beer! It’s also a challenging tune and may require a few beers get us through practice 🙂 Oddly enough, it was one of the first tunes I learned and I think the first O’Carolan. I found it to be an excellent fingering exercise as well as a beautiful tune. A 2fer! Here’s a lovely version of it by the De Danann.

I think it makes sense to tackle this one in 3 parts even though it is technically just an AB tune. So I will break the B part in two for learning purposes (it is also twice the length of the A part). Here are the A and B parts slowed down for you along with the notation and both parts played together at normalish speed.

O’Carolan’s Draught
O’Carolan’s Draught (A Part)
O’Carolan’s Draught (1st B Part)
O’Carolan’s Draught (2nd B Part)


A few Originals

Well, there’s only so much woodshedding one can do, so I thought I’d post a couple of original tunes I’ve written recently. The first one, the Praha Polka (Prague Polka) goes nicely with Ned Kelly’s that I learned from the Crawford/Farrell/Doocey CD – Music and Mischief (highly recommended). I have yet to make it to the session in Prague, but hope to one day to join in with my friends Tomas and Veronika. Here’s the notation along with a short video clip of it.



The second tune is a single reel that was inspired by a composting project. Hence the strange name. But it also works well both visually and musically with Eels in the Sink. I think it has a bit of an old time feel to it as well (kind of appropriate given the title).



The third tune is an aptly named jig called Flatten the Curve. I’m sure lots of folks are writing tunes around this topic and I’m thinking this one might go well with Scatter the Mud (use your imagination). Note in the B part the visual of the coronavirus curves being flattened. Let me know what you think of any of these and if you have any suggestions (or corrections).


Dusty Hedgehog Lambeth Live Show

Thanks to Peter Jones for sending us this recording of our Lambeth Live radio show in July. Dusty Hedgehog (Augie Fairchild on flute/whistle, Alex Davis on fiddle/concertina, and Stu James on Bouzouki) were joined by dancers Marina Madden and Chloe Hellerman for a one hour live radio show on WTJU. If you’d like to listen to the show in its entirety, just click on the top link, otherwise, if you’re interested in listening to / learning particular tunes, just click on the appropriate part of the set list. Thanks for listening!!

Entire Show

Providence Reel / Sligo Maid / Blackberry Blossom (Reels)
Joe Bane’s / Gypsy Princess (Barndances)
Helvic Head / Tir Rafartaigh / Road to Errogie (Jigs/Reel)
Trip to the Cottage / Killavil / I Ne’er Shall Wean Her (Jigs)

Station Break

O’Flaherty’s / The Bachelor (Hornpipes w/ Dancing)
Monaghan / Bride’s Favorite (Jigs – Augie solo on whistle in Cm and Eb)
O’Reilly’s Grave / Jack Rowe / Road to Cashel (Air/Reels – Alex solo fiddle)
Fairest Rose (Hornpipe in Bb)

Station Break

Trip to Durrow / Lafferty’s / Killarney Boys (Reels with dancing)
Father Tom’s Wager / Scattery Island (Jigs)
Church St. / St. Mary’s / The Rooskey (Polkas)
Maudabawn Chapel / Gravelwalks / Old Copperplate (Reels with dancing)

Interview with Daoiri Farrell and a couple of songs

Nice interview with Daoiri Farrell with a quick intro to Irish Bouzouki for all those folks who ask me, “what is that?”. If you listen long enough (around 9:15) he sings Pat Rainey, a lovely song written by his friend Fergus Russell.

And, in case you haven’t heard it before, his version of Craggan White Hare. Great stuff! Enjoy!

P.S. My friend Stewart Deck just alerted me to this article on Daoiri as well:

Daoiri Farrell is no ordinary Irish folk singer

Sessions in the DC / Baltimore Area

If you are visiting or live in the Washington DC / Baltimore metro area, check out this list of local sessions in the link below:

Traditional Irish Session Guide for Maryland and Virginia and note one that was missed in the article from my friend Tim:
Monday night Irish session @ Ireland’s Four Provinces 105 West Broadway Street Falls Church, Va. 8:00 pm. Intermediate to advanced players, beginners welcome. Parking behind the pub. Contact audioarc@aol.com

And don’t forget our local Charlottesville sessions on Tuesday nights at the Tin Whistle Pub (led by Augie and Alex) and on 1st Thursdays (usually) at C’ville Coffee (led by Wally, Julie, and John). If you come, ask to be put on the email list to receive a list of tunes played that evening.

Finally – just updated the tune list for the Tuesday Session from last year or so.    Tin Whistle Session Tune List

Liz Carroll Interview

If you play Irish fiddle, it is likely that one of your influences is Liz Carroll. Liz is one of the reasons my daughter and I are playing Irish music as she and John Doyle were one of the first Irish music performances we saw (back in the days of the old Prism in Charlottesville). The energy and enthusiasm she brings to the stage is staggering. And more and more, the tunes she has written are making it into session repertoire. Finally, she is a total hoot. She was also my first fiddle teacher at Swannanoa – truly a fabulous teacher and person and always had made time for the younger musicians. Anyway, it always comes back to the people in the Irish music community, and Liz is and has always been a gracious, kind, and incredibly talented force in the Irish Trad scene. Here’s a wonderful interview with her from the Chicago Tribune.

Tribune Interview with Liz

Session I Class – Spring 2017

Week 11

So, keeping with the theme of syncopated reels, our tune for next week is Spootiskerry and the syncopation is right out of the gates, so it is easy to be ready for it.

Spootiskerry Reel (Key of G)

Also, no class on April 4th, so our last class will be on April 11th and Alex will be covering that one as I’ll be out of town yet again. However!!!! We will have a all-encompassing, practice for the recital, last blast of tunes on April 18th… so if you’ve missed a class or two, here’s your chance to catch up!!

Bonus for this week!!! In case you missed the BRIMS show last weekend, here’s your chance to see your teachers playing a tune together – a special tune for me as my daughter, Katherine, wrote it and played it for me when I visited in California. She calls it Harbinger of Spring. Hope you enjoy!

Week 10

It was great to have our fiddles back in force, though we missed our fearless fiddle leader. The tunes and transitions all sounded really good and I’m especially glad that Art has come around on the slip jigs (pretty quickly too!). Next week’s tune will be the Wedding Reel (aka Macleod’s Farewell reel). Below you’ll find a slow version of me playing it for learning as well as Lunasa’s version (the group that made it famous). Great tune and thanks to Holly for suggesting it!

Wedding Reel (Key of D)

And here’s Lunasa playing it a few years back.

And here’s ummm… well, you’ll just have to watch it (Thanks Augie!!!)

Week 8 (or 9?)

More slip jigs – this is a great connector tune and fairly easy to learn once you get over the F#min aspect of it (fingers may find this to be a weird pattern at first).

The Cock and the Hen Slip Jig

As I mentioned in class, I know this from the Dervish (thanks Holly) version as played below:

Cock and the Hen Slip Jig

Week 7

Greetings from rainy Oregon. Yes, I’m still alive and very thankful for Alex covering yet another week solo. When Lori asked about teaching again this Spring, I looked at my schedule and probably would have said that it didn’t make sense, but Alex was up for co-teaching, so have been leaning heavily on him this term. Also, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with you all again – such a fun and motivated group. Could not ask for a better set of students.

Well, thanks to Holly for forwarding this recording of Alex for posterity.

Black Haired Lass (Ryan’s) Slip Jig

Week 6

It seems like giving an extra week for practice and catching up was a good call. You all sounded very good tonight. Keep working on those transitions, and when you’re practicing on your own, mix in other jigs and hornpipes, not just ones from class. The more the merrier! Think about what makes certain tunes go better together and what makes for difficult (or easy) transitions. It takes awhile to get good at it. Just a matter of time and practice.

Stack of Barley – Hornpipe in G (from version I learned from Theresa in November in Ireland)

Alex Caton (from a fiddle class, back when I was trying to transition to Irish fiddle from old time). It’s nice to hear the variation from the version I learned in Ireland. Both work, but some subtle differences. Also, fiddle players – Alex is a FANTASTIC teacher. If you’re interested in some private lessons, I would higher recommend her. She lives up in Gordonsville.

Yay for Laura for starting her first tune!!!

Week 5

A little pre-class reading if you happen to stop by today. Thanks to Holly for the link!

Week 4

You all brought a huge smile to my face this week – fantastic job on a really tough tune. Plus, Kayla’s back and we have another newcomer, Laura! Such a fun group! Thank you all for participating. Truly a joy.

So, on to Hornpipes. Alex will be teaching Flaherty’s – a really sweet little tune. I’m looking forward to learning it along with you.

Flaherty’s (D Hornpipe)

Sunday morning update: Here’s the recording where Alex learned Flaherty’s (and the The Wily old Bachelor – is it just me, or does the name of that tune scare you too?)

This week’s bonus track are a couple of hornpipes from Colm Gannon, Jesse Smith, and John Blake. Saw them our final night in Ennis and they played a ton of hornpipes. At most shows you’re likely to get one hornpipe set, but these three must love them, because I’m sure they played at least 6 sets and some absolutely fabulous ones with great swing. Hope you enjoy!

Week 3

Here’s next week’s on the way back and just before heading out the door to go to Tune Junkie Weekend in Knoxville / Oak Ridge. Hopefully I will have a few new tunes on my mind after this weekend (not to mention a story or two!)

Christy Barry’s #2 (G jig)

Hmmm… I wonder who is playing this version of it…

Week 2

Just popping up next week’s tune before hitting the road – it’s a great tune with lots of variation in modes / keys going on behind the scenes, which makes it more interesting that most.

Cook in the Kitchen (jig) (in, well, a bunch of different keys / modes – I think I’d play it out of G position)

Week 1

Great to see everyone again and so glad Art can join in the fun as well. Hopefully, Kayla will brave the mountain and come as well. In the meantime, here are the two tunes for the week. The Dirty Tettle Slide (some places Dirty Trettles) is what we learned in class and Christy Barry’s #1 will be what we cover next week.

I learned Dirty Trettle from Theresa O’Grady in banjo class when I was in Ennis in November. Slides are great fun and it’s always worth having a couple up your Sliabh to play for dances. Alex sent me a link for the notation, but it is a little different from what Theresa provided, so I’ll try to put together the notation myself this week and bring to class for those who like to have the notation for reference (the version on thesession.org is somewhat different from what Theresa taught as well). I know, I’m always causing problems, but as I often mention, tunes are somewhat malleable, so we’ll be flexible in our insistence on the particulars.

Dirty Trettle Slide (in G)

And here’s a nice little youtube version of it with a couple of other slides.

Next week we’ll start in on the Christy Barry’s set of jigs which I’ve wanted to teach for many years. It’s a bit of an homage to my first trip to Ireland with Katherine as we learned them from Christy in Lisdoonvarna and we’ve always enjoyed playing them together with Katherine (with me backing). But it is long past time for me to learn the tune, and so, I will inflict it upon you as well 🙂 They are both really sweet G jigs that would be great to add to the Charlottesville session scene.

Christy Barry’s #1 (Jig in G)

I attempted to play the two variations in the B part that I’ve heard. One where the E note is played at the beginning of the run (which is how Christy plays it I believe) and one where it just repeats the G note instead.

Also here’s Sonny Brogan’s Mazurka that we played in class. If you’re in a session with John Pluta (accordion), ask him to play/lead it. Mazurkas originated in Poland, but apparently came to Ireland in the 1840s and were primarily played in Donegal. Another piece of trivia – Chopin composed 59 Mazurkas and, it seems that at least part of his motivation was creating a sense of Polish nationalism in opposition to the Russian Tsar.

This week’s bonus track – Theresa O’Grady (and Dáithí Gormley) playing a couple of hornpipes – first one is Cronin’s Hornpipe – which I’ve always loved.

Class Description and Potential Tunes

Welcome to the BRIMS Spring 2017 Session class webpage that Alex Davis and I will be teaching this Spring. Each week we’ll post a synopsis of what we cover in class, provide some resources for the tunes we’re learning, and other miscellaneous musings to amuse you. So, if you miss a week, this webpage will be a good place to start so you don’t miss too much.

Our first class is Tuesday, January 17th at 6pm at the Waldorf School in Charlottesville. We’ll start working on our first tune on Tuesday, so be ready to jump right in. Bring your instrument and anything you might find helpful in a music class (tuner, phone/recorder, something to take notes, etc.). We’d also like to you bring a tune list if you have one. If you don’t have one, now is a good time to start!

Everyone has a different idea of what a tune list should be. At a minimum, it should be the names of tunes you know or are learning. Some people also have some notation to help them remember how a tune goes. I also note the rhythm (reel, jig, hornpipe, etc.) and the key and I store mine in Excel for easy sorting (by name, rhythm, key, etc.). In addition, I have mine broken down in 3 columns – tunes I know, tunes I want to learn, and tunes I used to know, but have forgotten. I’m also thinking about adding a fourth column – tunes I can lead (in other words, tunes I play well). It’s really easy to get a tune list together when you’re first starting, and 10 years later, it is a really helpful practice tune to keep your repertoire up to date.

Below are some videos of tunes that we’re considering teaching. Listen to them over the next week. See which ones you find yourself humming later. Note which ones you’d like to learn. Maybe look up other versions on youtube. We are so lucky to be learning tunes at this point in our history. So many more resources – almost overwhelming!

Cook in the Kitchen Jig

Christy Barry’s 1 & 2 Jigs

Boys of the Town Jig

The Battering Ram Jig

Liz Carroll playing Battering Ram (Jaysus!)

Tell Her I Am (Jig)

Jackie Coleman’s Reel

The Ivy Leaf Reel

Sporting Paddy / Crooked Road / Old Bush Reels

Plains of Boyle Hornpipe

Colm Gannon Playing PofB

Stack of Barley Hornpipe

Stack of Barley with Dance Steps

Cock and the Hen Slip Jig

Ryan’s Slip Jig

Murieanne’s Jig

Langstrom’s Pony (Jig)

Jig of Slurs / Atholl Highlanders (this video is too much fun not to include)

It’s Never Too Late

Nice little article that discusses some of the advantages of learning to play an instrument as an adult. One thing is sure, we certainly have so many more resources available to us than we did when I was growing up thanks to the Internet. It is good to also mention, that whether you are young or old, learning an instrument does take time, passion, and perseverance. But, at least in my opinion, it is well worth it!

4 myths about learning an instrument as an adult

Traditional Irish Music Musings and Tune Learning Resource