Session I Class – Fall 2016

Week 10

I thought that as we enter the home stretch (2 classes left), I’d teach one of my favorite jigs, and one that we learned from Breda and Claire Keville on one of the BRIMS trips to Ireland. Here’s me taking a stab at it on mandolin with a very even rhythm… remember to make it more jig-like when you play it!!

And since I’m so late posting the recording, it only seems right that I should also post a bonus recording. So here are Claire and Breda playing a couple of tunes to help you get a sense of their relaxed style.

Week 9

Okay, I’m back from Ennis, and Thanksgiving is behind us now, so I guess it is time to get back to the task at hand. Feels like a long time since I’ve met with you, so I’m looking forward to a really solid evening of tune practice on Tuesday evening.

First of all, here’s a recording of Alex playing our tune for this week, Joe Bane’s Barndance, which will go very nicely with Gypsy Princess! Wow, 3 barndances in one semester. That’s more barndances than I knew going into this Fall! I think most of you recorded it last class from Alex, but in case you didn’t (or for those following along at home), here it is!

See you Tuesday! I’m leaning toward teaching Tommy Mulhair’s Jig next, but if you have a hankering for a 4 part jig or reel instead, just let me know 😉

Week 8

While I’m over in Ennis, Alex will be teaching you Gypsy Princess, a beautiful barndance. Here’s Alex playing it:

I also found this recording of my friend Connor playing it at Swannanoa in 2014. Slightly different version, but on accordion (for you Holly!)

And Alex asked me to pass on these two YouTube videos which I’m pretty sure have the same source.

Colin Botts

Jack Talty and Cormac Begley – will be seeing Jack at his CD release show this weekend in Ennis!

Listening to these recordings cheered me up some and I was glad to be playing tunes with dear friends as the returns came in on Tuesday. Music, art and poetry share our spirits and heal our souls. Make time for them.

Week 7

This coming week we’ll be learning a 3 part jig that I first learned from Pio Ryan, but it is a classic piping tune often played at breakneck speed. We won’t do that in class 🙂 The first and 3rd parts are really just variations on a simple theme, so the B part is where you’ll likely spend most of your practice time.

Here’s me playing Paddy O’Rafferty’s at learning speed.

Week 6

We’ll stick with the Paddy Taylor theme for this week before adding in the 3rd Paddy. Seems to be the right theme with Paddy Keenan coming to C’ville Coffee this weekend. As I mentioned in class, these will be the two most challenging tunes we’ll do this semester – they are fairly notey, and have some rhythmic variation and a couple of tricky little bits that keep tripping me up. But both are really fabulous tunes and I’d love to see them pop up in future Charlottesville sessions.

Here’s me playing Paddy Taylor #2 at learning speed.

Week 6 Bonus Track… some classic Bothy Band featuring frequent Charlottesville performers Paddy Keenan and Kevin Burke.

Week 5

Time to switch over to jigs for a few weeks. As I mentioned in class, Kayla and I learned the Paddy Taylor jig set this summer from Marla and they are really a lovely set of jigs. But, I don’t want to just repeat that without adding a little something different, so I’d like to suggest throwing Paddy O’Rafferty’s Jig in between the two. I’ve wanted to teach that tune for a few years, so I think this will be the time to do it. It is also a 3 part tune, and we haven’t yet crossed that chasm. Plus, way we can have the Paddy Set 🙂

Here’s me playing Paddy Taylor #1 at learning speed.

Here’s a recording from a session (in Japan?) of Paddy Taylor’s 1 & 2 together.

It is usually about this time that it can start getting a little harder to pick up the new tune and practice all the old ones. At first, it seemed like a tune a week would be a piece of cake but now maybe that B part of Morning Star isn’t getting the same attention that it would have if it had been the first tune we learned. This is when I think we have to be more intentional about practice. Don’t divide up your time evenly among the tunes and the parts, but instead spend additional time on those parts where you stumble. Maybe one day, you play all the tunes as a set, but the next day you really focus in on those odd little passages in Thadelo’s until you feel like you have it. Main thing is to be intentional about practice… however that translates to your situation!

Week 5 Bonus!

Was working on a tune I used to know, Andy deJarlis, and came upon this lovely set by Altan that starts with it. Enjoy!

Week 4

Quick turnaround for week 4’s tune – Thadelo’s – that Alex learned from Rose Flanagan and Laura Byrne’s excellent CD, Forget Me Not. Here’s a version played by Matt Cranitch, who came through Charlottesville about a year ago with Jackie Daly. When it comes a couple of great trad tune shows, the Laura / Rose and Matt / Jackie shows were both fantastic. Catch them if you ever have the chance! And without further ado, here’s the tune.

And here’s Alex playing it a bit slower for learning:

Keep practicing the 3 reels and note the difference in rhythms / feel of the tunes. Try the two variations in Morning Star in the A part. Don’t forget trying a few ornaments from time to time to add interest. Have a great week and hope to see you on Tuesday if my flights get in on time!

Bonus for week 4 – check out the livestream of Celtic Colors – some Liz Dougherty this evening!! One of my favorite Irish fiddlers

Week 3

Super impressed with everyone’s playing this week in class. Great job on Lafferty’s and High Reel. Hope you like the tunes so far!

This coming week we’ll be working on Morning Star which will provide an excellent example of variations in versions. I recorded Alex playing it on Tuesday and realized his version was different from what I learned (and what will be passed out as notation). But I really like his variation on it. I then spent some time listening to various versions on the web and it is pretty clear there isn’t a standard version. I was talking with Lindsay a little after class about how we both “struggle” with the mindset that a tune is a single, standard version (a la classical music). Whereas, in Irish music (and folk music in general), a tune is a recognizable frame of reference based on some ordered notes and rhythm, but that much can be left to the musician as to how best to interpret it. Triplets and ornamentation are one example, but one can go beyond that. So, we might try to work a little this week on variations and I found this excellent example of two masters of variation playing Morning Star on fiddle!

Also came across this group from Sweden playing several different sets. The recording below has Morning Star as the 2nd reel in the set. Listen and watch how the energy lifts when they start the 2nd tune. Also a great reminder that a) Irish music is played around the world, b) that it is really fun to play with a group of friends, and c) Ian – rock on that guitar!

Here’s Alex and and I playing our respective versions at a learning pace.

Morning Star Reel in G

Bonus for week 3 – check out this amazing mandolin playing by David Benedict. While it isn’t an Irish tune, per se, I’m sharing it as a reminder to us string players the importance of keeping those fingers planted when possible. It is one of the many techniques David uses to make his playing smooth (and fast). So many great examples in this particular piece. Btw, David is one of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. Hope he meanders through Charlottesville one of these days!

Week 2

Nice playing in class this week! It was interesting to get some of the tune lists (John and Sandy, hint hint) and realize that, especially with people coming from different experiences (e.g. not the Charlottesville crowd), it will be more challenging to find overlap with tunes. But, we’ll alternate our way around the group which will be good ear practice for those who don’t know the tunes, or know a somewhat different version. And, as we learn more tunes in common, there will be plenty to play / practice as the class moves forward.

For this week, practice Lafferty’s at least to the point where you can play it through on your own with only minor oopes (oopsies?) and listen to the High Reel. Also, try playing Lafferty’s with another reel you know and get comfortable starting it from memory as either a first or 2nd tune in a set.

I wasn’t able to find an ideal version of the High Reel to share, but the version below is pretty clean and also has the Ivy Leaf, another tune for us to consider learning. As I mentioned in class, mainly focus on listening and getting the High Reel in your head. Maybe learn the first few notes and see if others fall out of your fingers without trying too hard. We’ll cover it in class using a similar approach to what we did with Lafferty’s.

Here’s me playing it more at a learning pace, and I believe this version matches the sheet music I handed out. I learned it slightly differently, but tried to modify it so it would match. Will do my best to stick with this approach in class.

High Reel in Amix

Week 1

Alex and I are really excited about the group. Really nice balance of instruments and interests and I believe, everyone is in a similar range of playing ability – all of which will be great for class chemistry. Again, from here on out, it will be primarily playing tunes and sets rather than listening to me drone on, but I hope you’ll think about listening and practicing actively and with purpose. Remember about Jackie Coleman’s and the repeats / difficulty issues – how does that apply to the tune we’re working on this week? What parts of Lafferty’s sound tricky and will require more practice? What tunes do I know that would work well with Lafferty’s in a set? (hint, hint)

So here’s that lovely version of Lafferty’s (aka Crane’s Leg) that Alex and I were referencing in class. Hope the link works – a mutual friend of ours posted it and I’m never quite sure how accessible videos and pictures are via Facebook. Regardless, Yvonne plays it with such a light touch and with such feeling – totally different from the way I often hear it played in sessions and by local bands. Almost a completely different tune, even though it is the same notes. It can also be a really hard driving reel which is also a blast to play (and how I normally hear it). Another good practice technique is playing tunes at different speeds and with different beat emphasis.

Yvonne Casey playing Lafferty’s

Lafferty’s (aka Crane’s Leg) in Em

This week’s bonus: Here’s a link to a blog that I’ve followed on and off since my trip to Ennis last year. Some great entries. I found it searching a bit more about Yvonne because I was so taken by her playing and stumbled upon this lovely quote from the blog author and Yvonne, “Of great value to me were the words of Yvonne Casey, “Love every note; feel every note”. And that has become my mantra.” Might be a good mantra for our class too! Anyway, please check out the post – some great pictures from this year’s Fleadh as well as another person’s attempt at the stages of learning and playing tunes. Timely after my droning 🙂

Fleadh in Ennis and The Path to Becoming a Better Fiddler

Class Description and Potential Tunes

Welcome to the BRIMS Fall Session class webpage. 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.

Before further ado – a couple of important announcements! First, is that Alex Davis will be co-teaching the class with me. If you don’t already know Alex, he’s a fabulous fiddle and concertina player and was one of the original members of BRIMS back at the turn of the century. Alex will also be leading Trad this term, so he’ll be a very familiar face soon enough. Second, we’re starting class one week late. So first class will be Tues, Sept 20th at 6pm. But fear not, we have three homework assignments for you. Don’t worry, they are kind of fun, although, if you know me, I do have a strange idea of fun sometimes.

First, please bring your tune list to class. 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.

Second, think of two tunes you’d really like to learn and bring those to class or email me. We have twelve weeks of class, so I’m aiming to learn / teach about 8-10 tunes, so if there are some that you’d like us to focus on, please let me know.

Third (and this is the fun part), here are some videos of tunes that I’m 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!

Jackie Coleman’s Reel

The Morning Star Reel

The Ivy Leaf Reel


The High Reel

Paddy O’Rafferty’s Jig

Paddy Taylor’s 1 and 2 (Jigs)

Boys of the Town

Tommy Mulhaire’s Jig

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)