2014 Susan Fletcher Tansey Youth Scholarships for Swannanoa

BRIMS is pleased to announce the 3rd annual Susan Fletcher Tansey Youth Scholarships for Celtic Week at Swannanoa Gathering, July 13-19, 2014. The two $500 scholarships are made possible by a generous donation from Interpretive Simulations and covers the full week’s tuition (room and board are extra). Celtic Week participants may take up to four courses from some of the finest musicians and instructors in the world, go to two concerts just for Celtic Week participants, have a blast at the two dances, and, of course, play in the sessions and slow jams during the week.

Instructors for 2014 included Martin Hayes, Liz Carroll, Kevin Crawford, Colin Farrell, Liz Knowles, Alastair McCulloch, Nuala Kennedy, John Skelton, John Doyle, Robin Bullock, Brian McNeill, Ed Miller, Billy Jackson, Andrew Finn Magill, Kathleen Conneely, Kimberley Fraser, Grainne Hambly, Len Graham, Eamon O’Leary, Cathie Ryan, Alan Reid, Marla Fibish, Donal Clancy, Cillian Vallely, Rose Flanagan, Matthew Olwell, Maldon Meehan, and John Whelan.

Congrats again to last year’s winners Leah and Chloe! If this sounds interesting to you, ask them about their experience.

You must be a current BRIMS student to apply and youth (under age 21) musicians and dancers are given priority. However, if we don’t have two applicants, we will award scholarships to adults who are interested in attending. For more information, please contact Lori Madden.

Session I Class – Jan 2014

Week 5

If you enjoy fiddle and banjo, you missed a fabulous display of it last night with Kevin Burke and John Carty. Here are a couple of sets from Patrick Street (Kevin, John, Andy Irvine and Arty McGlynn). A set of reels:

and Loftus Jones, a lovely composition by Turlough O’Carolan (and if you don’t know who that is, start the video at the beginning for an explanation by Kevin).

The last set of their performance (before encore) were tunes woven around the reel, Mountain Road. So, I decided that was sign to add that one for next week. A very well known (single) reel, lots of fun, and if you already know it, I’m going to try to dig up the 3rd part to learn (and if I can’t I’ll have an alternative tune for you all). Though it is (almost) always played as a two-part reel, so no worries about the 3rd part 🙂 Definitely a tune to have in your repertoire.

Have a listen here. Generally not a fan of these dubbed recordings, but hey, it is nice and clear with several variations, and has accordion on Banshee, so how could I resist? Here’s another version that starts with Castle Kelly’s – maybe you remember it from earlier?

Don’t forget Swinging on a Gate though!!

Week 4 – Winter Storm Edition

Great day to stay inside and play tunes. Again, everyone was sounding great this week. Transitions between tunes were stronger. One thing I do sometimes if I’m struggling with transitions is to play the tunes in various orders one time through each. Also a good way to explore which tunes work better with each other. I find people’s preferences all over the place when it comes to putting tunes together. My only advice (beyond trial and error) is that the transitions provide a “lift” of energy in a session. There are different ways of accomplishing this. One way is by changing keys. Another is by moving from less well known tunes to more common ones so that more people join in – leaving everyone at the session somewhat satisfied by the end of the set and helping to build a sense of inclusion within the group. Often sessions will have particular sets of tunes that are usually played together. Be sensitive to that when you are a visitor to a session.

Here’s another version of Castle Kelly’s coming at the end of a set. Thanks to John and Wes for telling me about how to start a Youtube video at a particular point in time, but feel free to start this one from the beginning as it is a nice set of tunes.

Next up is Swinging on a Gate in Holly’s honor. Usually played in G (we’ll learn the G version), but watch for different keys. If you find yourself in a jam with old time players, this one has some cross-over, so it also has that going for it.

And here’s another version played at a good clip:

Week 3

Running behind this week – fortunately, you’ve got the recording of Brian O’Lynn’s from last week along with the music handout. Thought that sounded quite good for the first time through it on Tues. Here’s an interesting version of it (2nd tune in set starting around 2:40), for those of you who might be looking for variations.

Next week, we’ll be working on Castle Kelly’s. Yes, I know, bait and switch strikes again, but we’ll get to Julia Delaney’s yet. Anyway, here’s a sweet set that starts with Castle Kelly’s along with Mountain Road and Pigeon on a Gate. Kind of nice as it has fiddle, banjo, and whistle, so you can a sense of how the various instruments “swing” around the beat. And no worries John and Kaleb, we won’t ask you to do that kind of intro… at least next week!

Week 2

Gee that was fun last night! Nothing like some jigs to make you smile on a cold winter night. And seriously, you all sounded really good on the new tunes – picking them up far faster than I do! Our primary tune for this week will be The Banks of Lough Gowna and if you’re looking for the challenge of a two tune week, you’ve got Larry O’Gaff’s to add to the mix. Next week, I’m leaning toward Brian O’Lynn’s.

Listen to Banks of Lough Gowna (jig in Bm/D)
Here’s a really lovely version of Banks of Lough Gowna (last tune in the set starting around 4:07) played by Marla Fibish who came through C’ville in November and taught a couple of workshops for BRIMS and gave a concert with husband, Bruce later in the day. If you play Irish mandolin (I’m talking to you, John M.), she is definitely someone to emulate!
John B. sent me a link to this version of Banks of Lough Gowna (second tune in the set). The fiddle player plays a bunch variations on all the tunes, but a fun set and the guitarist is clearly having such a good time! The last tune is another of my favorite jigs – Christy Barry’s. We learned that tune in Lisdoonvarna from Christy Barry himself on our BRIMS trip in 2005. After that workshop, there was no turning back.

So, it turns out that Larry O’Gaff’s is a favorite of the Uke players. Who knew? This can come in handy if you find yourself in a session surrounded by ukuleles. You never know – always good to be prepared! Listen to Larry O’Gaff’s (jig in D)
Here’s a nice Youtube video that starts with Larry O’Gaff’s and then adds a bit of lilting and dancing. The set builds beautifully into the 3rd tune. And I kind of like what they do with B part of Larry O’Gaff’s which is definitely a variation to what I handed out in class. A fun set of tunes and well presented. Have a listen!

Week 1

Thank you all for coming to Session Class last night – really wonderful to be with all of you and play some tunes. I was thinking on the way over to class how one could find an Irish session anywhere in the world, and though you might not be able to understand each other’s words at all, you could communicate with your instruments and share the joy of music and a common experience. But, enough with the philosophizing, and on to this week’s tunes.

The first tune is Brendan Tonra’s, a catchy two part jig in D. I believe it used to be a “BRIMS tune” in the early days, likely taught to us by Tes or Sara. It’s always been one of our daughter, Katherine’s, favorite tunes, so I thought it would be a nice one to start with and one that might be new to folks in the class. It does, however, present a little bit of a challenge to the flutes and whistles, so I appreciate Augie’s guidance there. Interestingly enough, the two best examples of our tunes for today I found were played by flutes, so we’ll celebrate our strong flute section today!

Listen to Brendan Tonra’s (paired with Maid on the Green, from Brock’s class)
Notation for Brendan Tonra’s
And here’s some background on Brendan Tonra, who is one of the more prolific Irish tune composers and, I believe, is still playing fiddle in Boston. Kind of fun to be able to come across some recent youtube videos of him. Here he is playing one of his compositions.

The second tune is a popular session tune, the Killavel Jig. This is one we’ve been playing in KGB for years paired with Cliffs of Moher, so we might try that combination next week for old time’s sake. It was interesting that none of us had learned it yet. I had put it in for this week’s alternative tune mainly b/c of the flute challenge on Brendan Tonra’s, but am glad to be introducing it to many of you.

Listen to the Killavel Jig
Notation for Killavel Jig

Oddly enough, when looking for examples, I found both together in a set. Not the best quality recording of either, but thought it might be helpful to have them both together.

Last thing which I probably didn’t say enough last night. While I may provide 2 tunes in a week, one will be our focus (Brendan Tonra’s this week) and the 2nd one is one is an alternative option (for whatever reason you may have – you like it better, you already knew the first one, etc). I’ll especially do this for the first few weeks as it is helpful to get our common repertoire count up quickly. However, I’ve always felt learning a tune a week is a great accomplishment. If you think about it, if you did that every week, you’d learn 50 tunes a year, which is a very solid tune list. So, my point is, we all pick up tunes at different paces and have different reasons for being in class. I will be very happy if, in 7 weeks, you’ve on your way to knowing 7 tunes that you enjoy playing.

How do you play that tune, anyway?

I’ve noticed that people have various reactions to what constitutes the “right” way to play a tune and I always struggle with handing out a piece of written music to my session class (or particular chords to my guitar class for that matter) for fear the tune becomes “fixed” in someone’s mind. Traditional tunes are malleable and we should be open to (or dare I say welcome?) interesting variations on how a tune is played. Here’s a quick take on the subject from Martin Hayes.

Also, here is a link to a somewhat related article and video from the Irish Times about The Gloaming, an on-going experiment in music, whose new CD will soon be released (featuring Martin among others).