Saturday, April 18, 2009

Irish flute player Liam Ryan

Finbar McGreevy (flute) and Fiona Doherty (fiddle) with Irish reels

This selection is from the tutors' concert at Scoil Éigse, held at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Tullamore in August 2008. Scoil Éigse attendance reached a record level of over 800 students this year. Here is a selection of three reels played by tutors Finbar McGreevy on flute from Co. Roscommon and Fiona Doherty on fiddle from Sligo. The reels are: "The Hare's Paw", "The Cup of Tea" and "Jimmy McGettrick's".

Frequently Asked Flute Questions

I get a lot of correspondence that tends to cover the same issues, so at last I'm getting around to creating an FAQ page. More issues will be added as time goes by - feel free to contact me with a request for anything you think should be added.

Contents, so far ...

What is an Irish flute?

Who invented it?

Whence came the keyless Irish flute?

Changing from Modern Metal Flute to Irish Flute

Will a wooden head make my metal flute sound like an Irish Flute?

What is an Irish flute?

The Irish flute is actually a modern invention, dating from about the 1970's. It's based on the old 8-key flute, an instrument that was extremely fashionable from around the turn of the 19th century, but which was totally supplanted by the Boehm flute by around the start of the 20th century.

For a long time, Irish players were able to find the old 8-key flutes, no longer in use by classical musicians, and procure them cheaply. This lead to the development of a popular and intricate flute playing style, or more accurately, range of styles, and therefore increased demand. By about the mid 1970's it became increasingly difficult for new players to find instruments, prompting the development of a new breed of instruments.

Who invented it?

Probably not possible to say; indeed probably fairer to say that it was invented in a number of places at approximately the same time, by people blissfully unaware of each other. In other words, it was an idea whose time had come.

I think it's fairly likely that I was close to the start of the action, making my first Irish flute in 1975. At that time, I was certainly unaware of any other makers anywhere. At this time, I'm still unaware of any before me.

Whence came the keyless Irish flute?

The keyless Irish flute is completely a modern concept, probably the natural starting point for the modern maker "re-inventing" the wooden conical flute. There is no historical precedent.