Tag Archives: Jig

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).

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)

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 Fahey’s Jig and Reel (#20)

Mainly just plunking these up here for my own reference. I’m long overdue to learn a Paddy Fahey tune, and these are the two in the running right now. Both are really nice tunes and the Evelyn Healy version was just too sweet not to post. And reel is Martin Hayes. Can’t top that.

Oh gee, the next set that came up was too good not to include (Paddy Fahey Reel). Maybe some of my students remember Banks of Lough Gowna – seriously hot version! Be sure to check out Caitlin’s variations on that one. Great example of a set of different rhythms.

Addendum Sept 8, 2016

Came across this site with many of the Paddy Fahey tunes in one place. Yay!

Phillip Doddy’s Collection of Paddy Fahey Tunes

Fiddle Tunes from Prince Edward Island

We all hear about Cape Breton, and thanks to Great Big Sea, Newfoundland. But what about Prince Edward Island? They have quite a fiddle tradition as well. Here’s a link to a wonderful resource for tunes that are played there. Interesting mix of styles. For those of us who enjoy some cross over, maybe we should consider a summer trip there! Plus, there’s always Anne of Green Gables 🙂

Prince Edward Island Fiddle Traditions

Trad Tune Challenge

Have you been noticing some of your friends and teachers posting Irish tunes recently? Similar to the ALS ice bucket challenge, Tommy McCarthy started this Facebook campaign to raise awareness about the growing problem of mental health difficulties and depression among young adults in Ireland. For more information on work of St. Patrick’s Mental Health Foundation and the campaign, please visit their “Walk In My Shoes” website.

If you’re feeling generous, please make a donation!

Thanks to Zak for nominating me and since our daughter was home over Thanksgiving, she gladly raised the level of musicianship in the video. So here’s our contribution to the cause.

The tune we’re playing is called Tommy Mulhaire’s Jig, but also known as Castletown Connor’s. We learned it on our most recent BRIMS trip to Ireland from Breda and Claire Keville. Sweet tune and is still one of my favorites.

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.

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.

Session I Class – Fall 2013

Week 7

Good to have Jim back in class this week. So in his honor, Lark in the Morning is the tune of the week. This recording of Cillian Vallely was wonderful to come across as he’s one of the best out there on pipes. As always, this version is not the same as the printed version, which won’t be exactly the same as how we play it in class. But it’s definitely one to have in your repertoire. As I think I mentioned in class, at the C’ville session the other night, I think every person was playing on it, so it is a popular tune both in Charlottesville and elsewhere. Enjoy and see you next week for our last class (oh no). Bring your favorite tune and we’ll try to plug a few extras in our usual sets!

Week 6

It was great to have Mimi join us for a few tunes this week. A wonderful reminder of the enduring nature of the BRIMS community and the larger community of Irish music. What a cool thing to be able to travel to a town, look up on the internet to see if they have a session, join in, and instantly be connected to a new community of people through a common joy in trad music. In fact, at our monthly session at C’ville Coffee, we had a visitor who did just that! Love it!

So this week, our tune was Devaney’s Goat. This is a nice straight forward rendition of it (with an appropriate backdrop). Here’s another version by a trio of fabulous musicians (2nd tune in set, but enjoy the entire set). As I mentioned in class, I originally learned it from David Surrette as part of a set with Mountain Road (also in D). I looked up David’s site and found that he had posted tab notation for all the tunes from his CD, so here’s a link to a pdf of the version I originally learned.

Week 5

We’re trying a bit of Cape Breton this week with Brenda Stubbert’s written by Jerry Holland. Fortunately, we do have a recording of him playing the tune (with steel drum accompaniment!) which you can listen to here: Brenda Stubbert’s Reel (Am). The first phrase in the B part is the distinctive part of the tune. Here’s a bit clearer (and slower) version on solo fiddle. Also, you might enjoy hearing a set played by Brenda Stubbert herself. She really tears it up and you just can’t beat that Cape Breton piano accompaniment in my opinion! The first tune is Foxhunter’s which you probably have heard before. A bit different feel in Cape Breton style.

Will try to record and post the waltz tonight. Thanks everyone for another great class!

Well, apparently my password for the BRIMS site is out of date, so I can’t upload my recording. In the meantime, here’s Faraway Waltz on flute for Sandy and Sherry. (and thanks to Guy, who mentioned that the previous recording was in Em rather than the Bm that we’ll play)

Week 3 + 4

Sounding pretty darn good and folks seem to be up for learning more tunes, so I’ll oblige. However, I will always designate 1 tune the primary tune for the week in case you would prefer to focus on one tune. So this week’s tune is Rolling Wave(s) a beautiful jig in D (also known as Humours of Trim). John B. also found this incredibly cool version of it as well. Some folks from C’ville learned this in Doolin during our last trip to Ireland, so it is a good one to keep going!

If you’re feeling frisky, give Maire Rua a whirl. A pretty easy slip jig to pick up in the key of G. This version played on mando just for Jim. As I mentioned during class, John Doyle used the melody on his version of Wheels of the World. Lyrics shared below (may not be exactly the same). Good opportunity for a quick history lesson 🙂

The Wheels of the World

Come all of you true sons of Erin; attend to these few nimble lines:
I’ll sing you a song about spinning. It was a good trade in our time.
Now some they spun worsted and yarn, and others they spun flaxen and tow.
By experience, my friends, you may learn how the wheels of the world how they go.

William Pitt he was a good spinner, and so was Lord Castlereagh.
They spun out the Union from Ireland. To England they shipped it away.
Poor Pitt spun out his existence, then took a long trip on a boat.
Lord Castlereagh saved him the distance, by cutting the rim of his throat.

Napoleon he was a great spinner, for freedom did always advance.
Through deserts and high lofty mountains, he marched with the brave sons of France.
Wellington he went a-spinning. His wheels they were at Waterloo;
But if Grouchy had never been bribed, the French would have split him in two.

John Mitchel a true son of Erin, declared that a spinner he’d be.
He set all wheels in motion, his dear native land to set free.
But John Bull that crafty old tyrant, at spinning he was fully bent,
And straight to Van Diemen’s Land the son of old Erin was sent.

The factory owners are spinning. Their wheels are a turning away,
And now they are expecting their hands for to work thirteen hours a day.
They don’t care a damn for the poor and they hate all their sighs and their moans.
They don’t care a pin if you work till you cut all the flesh from your bones.

And the rich they are all famous spinners, and that we’re are very sure
They are always contriving a scheme to drive down the rights of the poor.
So if you’re compelled to go spinning, be sure that your spindles are steel.
Let “Liberty” then be your motto, and glory will turn your big wheel.

Week 2

Great job this week, everyone. Great to have two more melody players – thanks for joining us Sandy and Julie. So, our main tune to work on for the week is Geese in the Bog. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try out Merry Blacksmith (D reel) – here are two versions by Planxty (starts around 0:40) and Solas (from a workshop).

Next week, Sherry offered to bring in a printed version of Eel in the Sink (singular, Stu) and I will be out of town (sadly), but Erin will do a fabulous job leading you all in my absence. Thanks to both Sherry and Erin!

The following week, I’m thinking we might tackle Rolling Wave (another D major jig). Have a listen to it in the meantime if you don’t already know it (Note that they modulate to G for the performance but almost always played in D). Paired with The Legacy here – really nice set with Flute and Harp. Anyway, Rolling Wave is one of my favorite tunes… started learning it in Doolin two years ago, but never really got it down. So I’m pulling it out again for all of us to master together. Guitars, B part (to me) calls for a nice descending run down from D.

Week 1

So, we’re working on two tunes for next week – a single reel – Rolling in the Ryegrass (Key of D) and a jig – Pipe on the Hob #1 (Key of D mix). Here are two recordings of the tunes and you all have the music from class.

Watch Rolling in the Ryegrass (great for guitars to play along with)

Listen to Pipe on the Hob with Merrily Kissed the Quaker – really nice arrangement. John B. also reminded me that I had a version from Alex that she taught on fiddle a few years ago here.

Also, Sherry introduced us to Eel in the Sink, so here is a version of that tune as well!

Session I Class – Spring 2013


Cliffs of Moher (jig in Am)
Tobin’s Favorite (jig in D)
Wise Maid (reel in D)
Wise Maid (slower version from Alex – note that she only plays 1 A part and 1 B part even though they do repeat)
Maid Behind the Bar (reel in D)
Maid Behind the Bar (slower version from Alex – note that she only plays 1 A part and 1 B part even though they do repeat)
Kid on the Mountain (5 part slip jig in Em/G/Em/Em/G – pretty close to notation)
Kid on the Mountain (Erin’s version – missing 4th part, but lovely variation!)
Musical Priest (3 part reel in Bm/D/Bm)
Lilting Banshee for Emily (2 part jig in Am)
Galway Hornpipe (2 part hornpipe in D)
Kitty’s Wedding (2 part hornpipe in D)
Kitty’s Wedding played by Pio Ryan (banjo – some nice variations)
Spootiskerry fiddle version on Youtube (Reel in G)
Spootiskerry in a set with Flowers of Edinburgh (2nd tune)


How to Talk Like an Irish Musician
Playing in Sessions
The Session.org a great way to lose 3 or 4 hours.

Here are the two tune compilations from O’Flaherty’s Retreat in Texas.
O’Flaherty’s Retreat Tune List #1
O’Flaherty’s Retreat Tune List #2

9th Class

Heard lots compliments on our group’s playing after the recital – great job everyone. Thank you for being there! So on to our last tune for this Spring – Spootiskerry which is a Scottish tune and a rollicking reel. Here’s the sheet music and I’ve linked to a couple of youtube videos that should give you a good sense of the tune.


Did you all wonder where the name came from? Me too… here’s what I found (gotta love google).

From the Introduction to “Spootiskerry. Music from Shetland” by Ian Burns
“Spootiskerry – the croft belonging to my late great aunts Bella and Joan Nicholson, situated between the village of Sullom and the new town of Brae. Originally spelt Spootskerry, but as the years have passed, an “i” or an “a”, and sometimes an “o” have been added. The croft took its name from the skerry that lies offshore. Usually the house on a croft has the same name, but in this case the house is named Southness.” He adds that it was his first composition. and, it dates from 1980, and is a reel.

8th Class

What happened to the 7th class? Must have been really good (thanks again for covering, Erin!). Everyone sounded lovely on Tuesday. You may not realize it, but the progress you’ve made this semester has been fabulous. And it isn’t like we’re playing easy tunes – really impressive, everyone! In particular, we’re doing a much better job playing together and steadily. Way to go guitars for keeping a solid rhythm section going, but guitars can’t do it without melody players listening well to each other too.

Remember that Sunday, April 28th at 2pm will be the recital. Please let me know if you will NOT be able to come. We decided that the two sets to consider will be the jigs (Tobin’s and Cliffs) and the Maids (Wise and Behind the Bar). We’ll make the final call on Tuesday, but I thought both sounded good this week. I’ve requested to Lori that we play right before Brock’s class, so that we can get a circle set-up for the two classes.

Here’s the notation for Kitty’s Wedding for Emily and others! Julie and Jim, take a listen to Pio’s version of Kitty’s from our class last summer – some excellent examples of triplets and variations, especially the F natural lead-in to the 2nd phrase in the A part.


6th Class

Remember, BRIMS isn’t having classes this week b/c of Spring break.

Here’s the notation for Galway Hornpipe – our tune for next class.


5th Class

Thanks to Alex and Joe for sitting in on Kid on the Mountain, especially since we were missing Erin and Scott. That’s a really fabulous slip jig – and sounded pretty darn good that last time through. So, those of you who know a couple of slip jigs, be thinking about what you might want to pair with the Kid. Too bad there’s not a slip jig called Cassidy’s.

This week’s tune is a 3 part reel called Musical Priest. Seems like an appropriate tune to learn the week of St. Paddy’s, yes? It’s also in Bm (two parts anyway), so it is good to get the patterns for a Bm tune in your fingers if you haven’t learned any before. They are somewhat rare, but very nice to put with D tunes – such as, haha, the Maids! As I mentioned in class, this was the most popular tune in the Claire sessions I listened to a few years back – played at 6 of the 7 sessions. The most difficult part of Musical Priest, especially for banjo players, is the reach on the 3rd part from the high B coming down. That will take a bit of practice to master. Note that I played it on mandolin – perhaps for Jim – or perhaps because the stretch is just so darn difficult on octave mandolin. Anyway, my apologies for the dishes clanking in the background. Sounds almost like we’re at a pub… we’re not, really… I swear. Speaking of recordings in pubs, a really fine CD that captures the feel of a session is “Live at Mona’s” featuring Patrick Ourceau on Fiddle and Eamon O’Leary on guitar. Lots of great tunes as well. Speaking of Patrick, he’s been the Irish fiddle teacher at Alex’s summer fiddle camp. For you fiddle players in class, that is an amazing opportunity to take some classes (and be treated to some fabulous playing) over a weekend in August. Yes, a blatant plug.


4th Class

Okay, enough of the dark, rainy evenings. Hope everyone made it back from the concert without any incidents. Started snowing quite a bit earlier here than expected. Just a couple of quick comments for this week as we lost power yesterday and I’m behind something awful. First, the Maids sounded quite good – you all are to be commended on your practice. 2nd, as I mentioned in class, I won’t be here this coming week, but the classroom is available, so I’m encouraging you to meet and play this week as well (I mean, come on, it is St. Paddy’s week). 3rd, our tune for the following week will be Kid on the Mountain, a 5 part slip jig. Though I knew the tune well, I hadn’t learned it. But was able to get it down reasonably well in a couple of days. So, even though it is a 5 part tune which sounds rather daunting, it isn’t as technically difficult as say, The Maids! Anyway, best to get the tough ones out of the way first so we’ll have the opportunity to practice them more in class. Here’s the notation:

Kid on the Mountain (the) 2

3rd Class

It was a dark, rainy evening – perfect for Irish tunes – but we were missing a few folks. I’m counting on the fact that it was the weather (or other commitments) and not the difficulty of the tune that kept people away. Those who were there all agreed that Wise Maid was a challenging tune, but we decided to work on Maid Behind the Bar this week and we reassured ourselves that we’d have 8 weeks to work on the Maid Set. As I mentioned in class – I first “learned” these tunes a year or more ago, and I still don’t have them down solidly. I can play them at home 50/50 on my own, but in a group setting I rarely make it through without an error. My point being not to be hard on yourself with the Maids. They are very popular tunes, but also of a higher order of challenge. Those who kind of know them will benefit from working more on them, and those who are new to them will begin the process. No worries. Tobin’s sounded solid, but I think we could all stand a bit more work on the Cliffs, especially as part of a set.

One last thing that I don’t want to forget. We will have class this coming week (March 5th), but March 12th I will be out of town, so that will give all of us a solid 2 weeks of practice time before we meet again after St. Paddy’s Day. Hopefully, I shall be fully recovered by Tuesday 🙂

Here’s the notation for Maid Behind the Bar:

2nd Class

So we’re taking on the Maid Set – or at least Wise Maid. Both of the Maids are challenging tunes, so we’ll see how you all feel about it next week. But Wise Maid was at top of the “want to learn” list. For those of us who kind of know the tune, we’ll no doubt benefit from working on it some more. Guitars, Wise Maid can either be done very simply or you can have a blast with backing variations. We’ll start simply (single finger) but then will show you a few fun variations. Here’s the notation (and chords) from O’Flaherty’s. But again, I encourage you to learn primarily by ear and refer to the notation only for guidance or when you are stuck on a part. There are two recordings of the tune provided, one by Erin that moves along at a pretty good clip and slow version from Alex that I had recorded back when I learned the tune. Melody instruments may find Alex’s easier to learn from at first while guitars may find it easier to play along with Erin.


You all sounded very solid on the two jigs. Frankly, I was planning on working on Tobin’s for this week, but you eager beavers all were ready to move on. We will play the two jigs again next week, so keep practicing them, especially as a set.

Generally, we will follow a similar format for the coming weeks. First thing we’ll do is play the “tune of the week” (Wise Maid for this week) together at a measured pace. Then we’ll review any tricky parts or variations of interest and play it as part of a set. After that, we’ll do other tunes and we’ll mix in tunes that a majority of the class knows, or tunes that some people know and others have mentioned they’d like to learn. That way, even if one of those tunes isn’t chosen as “tune of the week”, you’ll still have a chance to hear it and possibly pick up a few bars (and notice who does know it, so you can accost them later!) At the end of class, presuming there is time, we’ll play the tune of the week once more as part of a set, but this time as the 2nd tune, which is generally more difficult for a new tune. Hopefully, this sounds like a good approach and will help you get mentally prepared for the format of the class! I do reserve the right to throw in a surprise or two along the way 🙂

First Class
Welcome everyone! Great to be starting up our class and to have both familiar and new faces. Based on the first class, I think everyone is in the right place, but if you have any concerns about that or anything else, please let me know. Our goal will be to learn one tune each week. I will pass out sheet music for the tune each week and we’ll have a recording on this site for reference. We won’t be learning the tune in a note by note, phrase by phrase way in class, but we will play the tune slowly in class together multiple times. If you can learn it that way, great, but I expect most of us to spend some time during the week to learn the tune on our own either from the sheet music or the recording. Also, if you have one of those weeks, and you can’t find the time to learn the tune, no worries. We’ll be playing most of the tunes we learn every week (yes, that means 10 weeks of Cliffs of Moher!), so there will be ample opportunity to catch up if you’d like.

This weeks’ tune is Cliffs of Moher, but I’ve also given you Tobin’s Favorite (next week’s tune) to work on if you already knew the Cliffs. The tune recordings will always be at the top of this post and each week I’ll post a few notes / thoughts about what we covered in class.

We will spend most of our time in class playing tunes rather than chatting and I promise not to have quite so much coffee next class 🙂 Thanks for being willing to introduce yourselves and try out a few tunes. I hope to have a better sense of people’s repertoire as time goes on, and we’ll try to find some common tunes that people already know to try out each class, but if not, we’ll work on the tunes that we cover in class in more detail.

A couple of things about playing in Sessions that we were kind of covering:
New folks If you’re part of an open session and someone new comes to join in, it is nice to ask them for what tunes they’d like to play or to ask them start a set of tunes. You may have noticed that I was asking 3 or 4 people in particular what tunes they knew or what they’d like to play – this was because they were new to the class / group.
Starting tunes If you are asked (or want) to lead a set – meaning 2-4 tunes played in succession – it is helpful to play a few bars of each tune that you’re planning on playing. It’s also helpful to the guitarists if you happen to know the key of the tunes. Last, it is important to let folks in the group know when your planning on switching from one tune to the next by either sticking your leg out or saying “hup” or “here we go” or doing that Irish thing where you look around at everybody with that knowing glance that says, “we’re about to change to the next tune”. You can also say “one more time” to indicate that you’d really like another go at it. Personally, I’m a stick my leg out person, probably left over from old time playing days. I believe the tradition of sticking one’s leg out was actually due to one’s leg cramping uncontrollably after playing an old-time tune 15 times in a row, though I could be wrong.
Tunes and Songs Not the same! Silly, I know, but a tune is a tune and a song has words and is sung.
Craic Pronounced crack. Irish for having a really great time as in, “ah, the craic was mighty last night”. Not to be confused with any of the other ones.