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).
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 🙂
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!
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
First off, I apologize for not mentioning the fact that I will be gone next week. But I would like to do a two hour session class on the 18th from 7 to 9. Please let me know if this does not work for you by emailing me at email@example.com.
This week we started with rhythm and used the dance form of the polka to do this. I gave an exercise of tapping the foot on the downbeat while pushing the beat if you are a melody player, strumming on the offbeat if you are an accompanist. Then I asked you to apply that technique to the Ballydesmond polkas at a slow tempo. When I return, we will work on that and be prepared to play them in small groups with rhythm and lift. To get your creative ideas flowing on this set, here are a few examples including the one that I played in class.
Here is a whistle version played very ‘straight’ but great harmony. Guy, I forgot to mention in class that it is a balancing act and takes great breath control for whistles to ‘push’ the beat without overblowing and jumping the octave . A near impossibility for a loud session. You’ll notice that the players in this recording don’t do it at all, but focus on harmony and ornamentation, and the result is great. You can use cuts in the place of a push.
So happy listening. Don’t try to work on this tune yet – we will do it together in class.
So say you would like to increase your ability to learn by ear – what to do? I make use of the free software Audacity. You can slow down anything without changing the pitch, you can move tracks that are in another pitch up or down to where you are, and many other neat things. I usually just slow the whole track down about 30-50%, learn it in chunks by playing highlighted segments in a loop (by hitting shift + play), and then hit ‘undo’ to move it back to normal speed after I can play it on my own. It’s a great tool and I’ll give a demo during the next class.
I am also going to post our first jig set for listening as well. We will be working on both the jig and the polka in the next double class on the 18th. As always, feel free to email me with questions, comments or suggestions.
Welcome to the Spring 2012 link for our Session Workshop tunes! We’ll be meeting every other week for 7 weeks starting January 17. I’ve asked everyone to provide 3 tunes they’d like to learn and we’ll try to choose the new tunes from that list as our new tunes and then put those in a set with tunes we’ve covered previously. No worries if you only have time to learn one of the two new tunes. I’m just putting two out there for those who either already know one of them, or who just want to learn two tunes.
For April 17th Class:
Note that due to Spring break, class is 3 weeks from our last one. For next class, continue to work on Lark in the Morning and Drops of Brandy. We’ll decide on what to play for the recital and practice that as well. And remember to come to the session at C’ville Coffee on April 7th (Saturday before Easter – moved from Thursday).
[Notes: Guy suggested this tune and although it is a 4 part jig, thanks to some fairly repetitive phrases, it isn’t as overwhelming as you might think. For those of you going to Swannanoa, it’s a good tune to pick up as it has been played nightly there in years past. The youtube video has it along with Jig of Slurs, another cooking 4 part jig with a great lift from the key change for parts 3 and 4.]
[Notes: Humors Humours of Kilclougher Kill Clougher Kiltyclougher… yep, one of those. Nice tune and a little different feel from most jigs, almost slide-like at times. Drops of Brandy is a slip jig that we learned during our last trip to Ireland, so it is great to revisit it. I’ve included the notation in G and D. The notation in G leaves out the high variation in the B part that I’m familiar with and it is a different version than the D version which illustrates some of the potential variations. And just for Catherine, let’s make it a set with a regular jig thrown in at the end. That should help demonstrate the difference between a jig and slip jig beyond 6/8 and 9/8 time signature. Guy’s piping today drew me to this recording which also provides some very nice variations on a tune that really favors them.]
[Notes: The YouTube poster called both tunes in the Connie Walsh’s set jigs, but Connie Walsh’s is a slide and Old Favorite is a jig – remember that one, Julie? See if you can hear the difference in the rhythm. Slides and jigs are definitely related due to the groups of 3 eighth notes together, but there is a different feel to them. On Banshee Reel, I believe the recording starts partway through the B part, so you’ll have to wait for it to come around. And, at the end of the recording, you’ll hear the king of the Celtic Instruments – or at least the one that is hardest to argue with.]
[Notes: On the Ballydesmonds, there is some discussion on which is #1, #2 and #3. For what it is worth, these are the two I’ve heard played most in our area and are almost always played in this order and known as #1 and #2. Joe also played the Ballyvourney which is a great polka to end a set, and I mistakenly called it the New Roundabout (which is another good polka, so I owe Guy a beer!). Since a few of you already knew the Ballydesmonds, figured I’d give you a bonus tune. Maybe this could become the Bally Set.]
[Note: Found these tunes on a YouTube channel where both the melody and guitar accompaniment are nice and clear. Their channel has quite a few good session tunes (including some on our list). Thanks to Holly and Sue for the tune suggestions! Keep ’em coming! Also Mist on the Mountain is also known as Mist Covered Mountain and on the Home Ruler link, Kitty’s Wedding, another hornpipe, is also played. This is one of the most popular hornpipe sets and the two tunes are often played together.]
A couple of other quick notes. Had a delightful time at the Andy Irvine show at C’ville Coffee last night. What a great ambassador of the folk / Irish tradition. Also have to say it was nice to have great music in a local, intimate setting again. Couldn’t help but think of the Prism last night and how I’ve missed it.
Second quick note. Aaron Olwell is offering a new class on Tuesday nights for the remainder of the BRIMS Fall term alternating with our session class (and is a really nice complement to it for the session melody students). It’s called, “Learning to Play by Ear”. Here’s the description from Aaron:
What aspiring musician wouldn’t want to be able to pick up melodies on the spot after only hearing them a few times? I believe this is one of the most useful and pertinent skills in any kind of music, and it’s practically the foundation that Irish and many other folk musics are based on. Musicians with little or no theoretical understanding of music (often not even knowing a single note by name) have for centuries relied only on their ears to learn hundreds of tunes!
In this class, which will be open to all instruments and ages, we will surprise ourselves with latent talent and accomplish feats of “learning on the fly” that we previously thought were beyond us. Skill level is not important, although the class will be geared towards students who are already somewhat familiar with their instrument. So, if you have been playing for years but still feel like you struggle with this aspect of music, this class is for you. If you are comfortable as long as you have a page in front of you, but get anxious as soon as it’s taken away, this class is for you. If you are musically illiterate and maybe never even touched an instrument until some time within the last year, then you guessed it; this class is for you.
Welcome to the Fall 2011 link for our Session Workshop tunes!
First thing, this Fall there is a new twist on the class tune list. I’ve taken what everyone sent me and grouped them by rhythm and provided you (and me) with a list of who knows the tune, who is working on the tune, and who wants to learn the tune. This will help us choose set lists, and also help you choose a set list to play balancing your own playing skills with tunes that the group knows. The list is comprised only of tunes that were listed by at least two people. Please click here to view the pdf. Also feel free to update the list you sent me, now that you have a better idea of why I requested a list from you!
Below you’ll find links to where you can listen to / watch the tunes as well as a link to view a version of the notation from thesession.org. This Fall, I’m going to try to find links where the tunes are played in a session setting, to give you a different flavor for the tune. Also, you’ll be able to hear some additional tunes that might go with the tune we’re learning. When you listen to the set, what makes for a good set of tunes? Also, pay attention to the transitions. What makes transitions interesting / difficult / easy / smooth, etc.?
Most Recent Class Notes
We were missing a bunch of folks on Tuesday, and those that were there weren’t quite ready for the new jig set, so I quickly changed gears and taught the Breton set I had learned this summer. For next class, we’ll work on the new jig set in earnest and, of course, practice the original jig set for the recital (note: for the recital, we’ll just play each tune 2x instead of the usual 3x).
For those who would like to review the Breton Andros set, you can listen to it here.
Polka Set (3x each)
John Walsh’s ListenView Notation Key of G
John Brosnan’s (aka John Walsh’s locally) ListenView Notation We play it in key of G, notation here is key of D – so if you learn from notation, start on the G rather than D
It was a real treat to come across this video featuring Connie O’Connell playing this particular set of polkas that we worked on (plus one more). Let’s use his order for the set. One of the highlights of our recent trip to Ireland was learning tunes from Connie. Also, fiddlers, note his bowing style – he was quite insistent about the proper bowing on polkas!
I also have to add that there is likely to be some confusion over the John Walsh set. I spent a bit of time this week trying to sort that out and decided upon the above naming for the tunes, which is different than how Alex taught them in our intro fiddle class a couple of years ago, so I know I’m going against the local grain here! The session.org and several other sites listed John Walsh’s as what Alex taught as John Walsh’s #2 and I’ve listed as John Walsh’s above (and Tes taught years ago in BRIMS as John Walsh’s #1) but there was less agreement on the 2nd tune, so additional comments to raise our level of confusion are much appreciated. Ultimately, I think names are less important when it comes to polkas. Often they’ll just be listed as “Kerry Polkas” on a CD. But I did want to make sure that our students were aware of some of the alternatives here so as not to be caught flatfooted (so to speak) at sessions!
Reminder – Sunday, Dec 12 at 2pm at the Haven in Downtown Charlottesville is BRIMS’ Winter recital and sign-up for Spring Classes. Also KGB at Fellini’s from 6-9pm. Lots of tunes for a predicted rainy day.
After making multiple copies of the King Golden Banshee practice CD for folks, I decided it was time to “Go Green”, and, thanks to gaining permission from Will Rourk, the originator of the CD, here it is in all its glory. And yes, my DADGAD guitar students, playing along with these tunes is excellent practice! Hahaha! I have placated two groups with my ingenious counter offensive!
Do note that you may need to re-tune your instrument slightly, especially on some tracks, as it is not quite 440. All are in Windows Media Format, so if you are on a Mac, please use the link on the right to be able to play on your computer. Also, for those of you who might be sitting in with KGB, some sets have been changed, though most of these tunes are still actively being played.
Note: Alex taught us 1 and 2 reversed from how Tes taught the tunes back when Katherine and I were playing in BRIMS trad. At the time Alex taught them, I wasn’t sure which was “right”. After a bit of recent research, I believe that what Alex taught as John Walsh’s #2 is John Walsh’s and that what she taught as John Walsh’s #1 is known as John Brosnan’s (also John Clifford’s and a few others). I think generally, people are less concerned with names of polkas, but given that there was quite a bit of uncertainty around this particular tune, I thought I’d attempt to at least raise the level of uncertainty to a higher level 🙂
Traditional Irish Music Musings and Tune Learning Resource