All posts by Stu

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 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

The Session as Antidote

During this past year especially, I’ve found myself gravitating to sessions and playing more music with friends. I think one reason is that somewhere deep down, my body and soul know it is good for me, that it provides a better model for life than most of the other ones we’re presented with on a daily basis. Let me propose that for a small group of us, the session may represent an antidote for the challenges of modern life. I think there are other antidotes out there, and my hope is that each of you will find the antidote that works for you. However, since this blog is about Irish music, let me put forward a few of the reasons that I think the the best sessions have many elements that our souls crave.

  • We’re present
  • We’re in a circle, face to face
  • We listen to each other
  • We coordinate with others
  • We share what we know and lead when we can, but it’s more enjoyable when we’re not playing solo
  • We find common ground and a way to contribute
  • More do, less talk (but some talk is important)
  • We learn from history and the songs we sing speak of the human condition (love, war, loss)
  • Sessions improve with diversity of instruments and influences
  • We invite people in from outside our community and welcome their new tunes
  • We play quietly and try to learn when we don’t the tune

London Sessions

Some great footage from the 80s scene in London in this mini-documentary. Gotta love the hair too!

Also a short interview with Brendan Mulkere in part 2, who I recall seeing at last year’s Ennis Trad Fest when Claire Egan had her CD release show.

And here are some clips from 2013-2014 sessions. Maybe the more things change, the more they stay the same. Well, except for the hair.

Connie O’Connell

This fabulous resource just showed up in my Facebook feed today and wanted to share it with folks. Connie is regarded as one of the finest present-day exponents of Sliabh Luachra style of playing and his teaching has been at the heart of traditional music studies at University College Cork for nearly forty years. In his acknowledgements on the project, Connie states, “Composing tunes is one thing, but without a listening audience and a community of musicians to ‘adopt’ the tunes the practice of composing is pointless.” So, with those words in mind, please spend some time exploring his website / project via the link below.

Connie O’Connell’s UCC Project – “Original Compositions from a Master Fiddle Player”

The first thing that jumped out at me was that he had composed one of my favorite reels – Torn Jacket. I’ve been playing it for years and had no idea it was his composition. My guess is that Tes brought it back from one of her trips to Ireland and it snuck into our local repertoire. It was, I believe, one of the first reels that Sophie and I taught in our inaugural Session Class at BRIMS.

Personal note: I had the pleasure of meeting Connie on one of the BRIMS trips years ago in Ballyvourney when Sue Tansey and I took a fiddle lesson with him. Connie immediately sensed Sue’s passion for the fiddle, but had little hope for me. I say that with a good deal of respect for his opinion as he could tell I wasn’t playing fiddle much and let me know in no uncertain terms that my approach to learning fiddle would not work. He was kind about it, but clear. He was also right! My on again, off again relationship with the fiddle was not going to work in Trad and he wanted to make sure I knew that. He helped me understand that I had a decision to make – either find the passion for the fiddle or let it go. I can’t help but think of Connie whenever I see Trad musicians who are in that beginner/intermediate stage of learning. Do they (we) have that passion for their instrument and Irish Trad music or not? Because it really takes dedication to get to that next level of playing. To know the tunes and to be able to play them in the style they deserve. I’m still working on getting there, and, if you know me, it isn’t on fiddle. But it is still my favorite instrument to listen to, especially in the hands of people who have the passion to play it.

Jerry Crilly

A few weeks back at the Paddy Keenan show, my friends Kevin Donleavy and Alex Davis were invited up on the stage to play a few tunes and they introduced the audience to a tune that Kevin wrote in honor of his friend, Jerry Crilly, whom Paddy also knew. Since Paddy has asked Kevin to send him a recording of the tune, it seemed like an interesting idea for a blog post, so I asked Kevin to provide a little background on Jerry and the tune. Here’s what he had to say:

“In the early 1970s, among the best-known ballad singers in Dublin town were Lenny Duff, Eric Fleming, and Jerry Crilly. They often performed together in venues like Slattery’s or Toner’s or the Labour Club. They hooked me on the poignancy and power of Irish trad music, both the songs and the tunes.

Among the songs that I learned from Jerry were such fine ballads as “Where Is Our James Connolly,” “The Streets of Derry,” “Avondale,” “Bridget O’Reilly,” “No-Man’s Land,” “Admiral Nelson” (written by fellow Dub, Joe Dolan), ” and “Only Our Rivers Run Free.” Jerry’s first wife Betty sang along as these fellas gave forth, and she was one to prod me whenever I missed a line or two; her favorites were “Avondale” and “Where is Our James Connolly.”

I wrote this jig in the early 2000s as a way to honor Jerry for his commitment to the music and for his kindnesses to me. Paddy Keenan and Jerry have known each other in Dublin from the 1970s. With luck, Paddy and others in Ireland and the States can help popularize this wee jig in honor Jerry Crilly.”

A little more background on Jerry w/picture

Jerry singing the ballad, “Blood Upon the Grass”

Kevin (on right with whistle) and Alex (fiddle) playing Kevin’s tune, Jerry Crilly’s Jig with Paddy Keenan

Paddy Keenan

I had the rare opportunity to back renowned piper, Paddy Keenan, last weekend in Charlottesville. As I’m sure the 5 people who follow this blog know, he was a founding member of the Bothy Band, one of the Irish Trad Supergroups from a few years back now. Definitely one of the musical highlights of my life, and though I would have loved the opportunity to work with the tunes before playing it live in front of an audience, there is something wonderful about being in the moment with Irish trad music. Anyway, here are a couple of videos from the show and thanks again to Paddy for the opportunity to accompany him.

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I should also add how much I’m enjoying my new backing instrument of choice – a fabulous bouzouki made by my friend Gil Draper of Knoxville, TN. I’ve been having such fun with it – thanks Gil!!