Once again, feeling very blessed to live in Charlottesville, where we’re fortunate to have such great Irish music come through town (thanks Lori and BRIMS!). Wednesday night’s concert at C’ville Coffee was no exception as Nuala Kennedy, Eamon O’Leary, and John Doyle, collectively known as the ALT, treated us to a fabulous evening of songs and tunes. I’m definitely biased about these three, as I’ve taken multiple classes from them at Swannanoa over the years and all are wonderful instructors and people. So happy that they are working together, and their art shows their rich experience and love of the genre.

Their CD, fresh from pressing, is a rare treat of Irish and Scottish songs (primarily) with a few tunes as a delightful seasoning. There is a focus on harmonies not as typical of Irish tradition and their voices blend beautifully. Great to hear Eamon singing many last night. I’ve always loved his version of Craigie Hills on the Live at Mona’s CD. There’s an authenticity about his voice that is very compelling on the songs he chooses. Nuala and John already have quite a repertoire of songs to their credit, but two were particularly memborable: Nuala’s Cha Tig Mor Mo Bhean Dhachaigh, sung (I believe) in Scottish Gaelic and John sang a song that he had written inspired by a Yeats poem.

Here are a couple of links of interest related to the ALT – if they’re headed your way, don’t miss them!

Preview the ALT’s new CD here

Interview with John Doyle about the ALT and an upcoming show in New England

Session Class – Fall 2014


Tune List for Fall 2014 Class.

Class 8

I’m giving you several tunes to listen to this week, a second slip jig that we can put with Elizabeth Kelly’s called Hardiman the Fiddler (Julie begged for it), a lovely O’Carolan Tune called Madame Maxwell, and a Barndance called Gypsy Princess. Though I didn’t think about it when I was considering these three tunes, the common denominator is John Whelan… or at least could be as you’ll soon see 🙂

Here’s John playing 3 slip jigs. Hardiman’s is the last one, but this is a kick-ss set, so I’m leaving it as is. Hardiman’s begins at 2:18. Note how John is always smiling. He yelled at us alot in session class for not smiling. So, in his honor remember to smile at the session tonight 🙂

Slower: Hardiman the Fidder (Dmix I think)

Here’s John Wynne & John McEvoy starting off with Madame Maxwell at the beginning of a wonderful set. We won’t play it at this clip, no worries. I will also try to dig up John Whelan playing it this summer at a reasonable pace. For now, we’re just trying to get the tune in our heads!

Slower: and John Whelan playing it for us this past summer with a flute and harmony the second time through Madame Maxwell’s

Last is a two barndance set Joe Bane’s and Gypsy Princess played by Cormac Begley and Jack Talty recorded at Custy’s in Ennis. I also feel compelled to share the same set by Colin Botts below which he learned from the Begley and Talty recording, but for you mandolin and banjo players, you might appreciate this one. I really love Colin’s playing – check out some of his other sets. Based on the variations he throws into Gypsy Princess, I’m guessing he has some country roots 🙂 Both John Blandin and I have really gotten hooked on his stuff!

Class 7

No new tunes for this week. Coppers and Brass sounded much improved and so glad to see several of you at the C’ville Coffee session this week! So, work on Elizabeth Kelly’s for Tues and remember that there will be an open session at Tin Whistle after class for anyone who is interested.

Class 6

We had a small, but lively group last night. Actually was good to be able to hear those that were there more clearly. Missed those of you who were out of town, but heard you had a good group for the optional session last week. Lonesome Jig sounded great, but we’ve got a ways to go yet on Coppers and Brass 🙂

This week’s tune is Elizabeth Kelly’s Delight – a beautiful little slip jig that I first heard I think by Billy and Gráinne at SwannyG. I’ve also heard it called Catherine Kelly’s (in fact, that is what my daughter calls it and I think she learned it from a version by Martin Hayes – just be aware of alternate names). Here is a recording by Billy and Gráinne. Not the best quality recording, but it gives you an idea of some of the amazing variations and accompaniment they’ve put together. Slower version by me follows and I think I played it the same as the printed music for a change. Pretty close to how I play it normally.

Slower: Elizabeth Kelly’s (Am Slip jig)

And just for fun (and especially for Erin, who labors away on these tunes… maybe she needs a little more of a challenge, what do you think?), some flat out incredible fiddling from Liz Dorherty. Enjoy!

Class 5

We’ve reached the halfway point. Time for a well earned break to work on the more challenging tunes (certainly Coppers and Brass would qualify!). In two weeks, we’ll cover Lonesome Jig, that our own John B. plays beautifully on guitar. Here’s a slow version and I’ll post a couple of youtube links as soon as I have the chance to search through them (probably not until the weekend).

Slower: Lonesome Jig (Dmaj)

Class 4

Here are three versions of Humours of EnnistymonCoppers and Brass aka Humors of Ennistymon for you. Good timing for this tune so you’ll have two weeks to work on it as it is a challenge! First one is by Randal Bays, and one of the best renditions of it I’ve heard with lovely variations and very tasty backup too! Second one is in a set with a couple other tunes we know in a session-like setting featuring banjo for Julie and John 🙂 Pretty straight up. See if you like the set – maybe we’ll do it! Finally, a slower version for learning.

Slower: Coppers and Brass (3 Part Jig – G / Dmix / G)

Class 3

Great job on Farrel O’Gara, everyone. I may have to rethink my opinion that to get that tune down solid it will take awhile. Well, it took me awhile when I was learning it, so I’m especially impressed with you all. Remember to practice that last phrase of the B part extra or you will quickly find yourself being able to play the other parts well and falling apart on that last phrase. It’s more difficult and only played one time. A bad combination. Often the case with slip jigs too.

For next week, we’ll be working on the first Ballydesmond Polka. This one is new to me, but heard it first from Joe Basconi at one of the Thursday night sessions and it fits beautifully in front of the two more common Ballydesmonds. So, once you learn this one, you will now always have to ask if they play all three Ballydesmond Polkas at a session! Note that on the version below, I removed most of the triplets to keep it simple, but by all means if you’re up for it, add them in from the sheet music I handed out in class.

Slower: Ballydesmond 1 (Key of Am)

Class 2

Wow… very impressed with everyone’s playing this week. Keep working on the 3 reels and learning by ear. I will post links to Farrel O’Gara’s as soon as I can record it and we’ll work on that for the 3rd class. Heads up to whistle players, we’re going below the D. This one is a fiddle tune!

Link to a pdf of the class tune list at the top of the post with “L”s for tunes that we’ll learn (and how many people selected those) and “X”s for tunes to review from past classes. Thanks for all the feedback – really helps me design a class more in tune with your needs (pun intended). More soon.

Easy enough to find lots of recordings of Farrel O’Gara’s on YouTube. Here’s one by a couple of young fiddle players (since it is a fiddle tune!). Just listen for now. I’ll record a slow version for you over the weekend once I get home. Farrel O’Gara’s (first tune in set).

Slower: Farrel O’Gara’s (Key of D)

Class 1

First off, by popular demand, class has been moved to the 6pm time slot. The first 3 weeks we’ll be working on the following 3 reels:

One reel is Chattering Magpie, that Jillian brought back from Swannanoa this summer. Great tune and here’s Planxty playing it.

Slower: Chattering Magpie (Key of G)

Came across this video of one of the cuts of my all time favorite flute CD by Steph Gerermia. I think the first tune in this set would go wonderfully with Chattering Magpie. See what you think 🙂

2nd reel is the Concertina Reel, that I learned from Marla Fibish, who came through C’ville last Fall. Here’s another version which is in the wrong key (thanks Wes!) but is too good not to share. This version is played by Micho Russell (from Doolin) on tin whistle.

Slower: Concertina Reel (Key of D)

3rd reel is Dan Breen’s played by Catherine and John McEvoy at Custy’s Music Shop in Ennis. Check out Custy’s links to some of their video recordings of local musicians. Some really nice recordings on there!

Slower: Dan Breen’s (Key of Am)

Just for fun, I’m adding this recording of Dan Breen’s just because of context. I actually learned the tune from Eamon O’Leary who was here last week as part of the ALT. Here are Eamon, Patrick Ourceau (who teaches at Alex’s camp), and Paddy O’Brien playing it (2nd tune in the set). This recording was made at the Plough and Stars pub in San Francisco. If you’re out there, stop by – fabulous session and pub!


Hey Folks! The next installment of BRIMS Session I class is coming to Tuesday nights at the Waldorf School – First class is September 16th at 6pm (note changed time from the download). Here’s the class description.

Session I: 10 weeks – Led by Stu James and Erin Neeley. The focus of this 10 week class will be tune learning and getting practice playing with a group of people. We’ll aim for learning a new tune each week but also spend part of class reviewing tunes learned previously.