Thursday, December 29, 2011

Irish Flute Tunes 2011 from Tradschool : Free Download

Flute tunes of Irish traditional music uploaded to the site in 2011. Played by Stephen Ducke on wooden flute. For individual track info, see the tradschool website.

All tunes:
Irish Flute Tunes 2011 : Tradschool : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cathal McConnell - musical and literary character on the Irish music scene

Cathal McConnellThe job of the journeyman ballad singer in Irish folk music had been revered for a long time and it plays a vital role in Ireland’s literary tradition expressed through the world of song. There have been a number of exceptional singers who have led the field and have iconic status among those who follow the Ballad scene but there are some whose colorful natures and personality stand out all the more.

One of those is a native Fermanagh man from Ballinaleck from a musical and literary family who has been one of the real characters in Irish music for most of his 66 years. We are talking about Cathal McConnell whose legendary prowess in Irish song and music through his flute and whistle playing and storytelling makes him a special artist. And earlier this year a new book and CD encapsulating his song catalog were published called “I Have Travelled This Country” in Ireland and happily I was able to get a copy at the launch at the Cavan Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann.

As one of the founders of the Boys of the Lough and the only remaining member from the original group formed in 1967 by Robin Morton and Tommy Gunn and later to be joined by Ally Bain and Dave Richardson, Cathal McConnell quickly established himself as special voice and tradition bearer for the rich repertoire of songs from the British Isles. Blessed with an impish wit and deliberate comical demeanor, which have added to the charm and depth he brings to his songs and performances. For many decades he has shared a friendship and keen interest in song-collecting with Len Graham as they traipsed around Ireland gathering songs and soaking up the pure drop in the raw bar realm of the tradition along with many cups of tea and other spirits in country homes and sessions throughout the island. His lifelong dedication to song-catching and transference to his audience and a slew of singers-in the making accompanied his exception flute playing that inspired a further examination of music from his own County which was recorded and published as the Hidden Fermanagh project exhibited over here at the Smithsonian Northern Ireland Festival a few years back. In 2010 he was acknowledged with a Gradam Cheoil as Singer of the Year by TG4.

The new book is a collection of 123 songs from a much larger McConnell canon but most of them would be songs that are little known but spared the fate of disappearance because McConnell saw the value in them in depicting some part of the world he relished. It was undertaken by fiddler Gerry O’Connor who along with his late-wife Eithne Ni Uallachain, a noted singer herself visited the McConnell home many years ago and maintained a friendship and professional relationship down through the years. Along with his current wife Sile Boylan, they set out to create an important and living archive of Cathal McConnell’s singing and songs so the interactive book was planned and received support from the Irish Arts Council under its Traditional Arts Officer Paul Flynn. Through brief introductory essays from Len Graham, Dave Richardson and Gerry O’Connor along with a brief biography we know the measure of the man who has devoted his life to preserving and passing on the music he was reared with and fostered throughout his life.

The result is an invaluable book and recording of a living Master of the Tradition that anyone interested in Irish song will want to have for their own. Each of the 123 songs is listed alphabetically with lyrics to accompany the chosen songs. One word of caution for those who are used to hearing Cathal in more animated form but the songs here are sung without any musical accompaniment in spare fashion meant to teach the basic melody and inflection for the verses. For this long-time fan, sadly, it doesn’t include the great humorous and unpredictable banter that Cathal usually weaves into his introductions in live performances. (Never miss a chance to experience that for yourselves however). Still the book is a treasure for anyone appreciating the Irish song tradition and wanting to enhance their own repertoire while saving some great songs from going into the ground with the singers who gave them life above.

The new book and audio DVD can be obtained from OssianUSA ( or phone 603-783-4303) and also is available in MP3 format from where it can be purchased as a download. (Fyi his older brother Cormac McConnell has graced the pages of the Irish Voice as a colorful columnist for many years).

Read more:

Cathal McConnell - musical and literary character on the Irish music scene | From The Hob | IrishCentral

‘Christmas Celtic Sojourn’ a very good night

Seamus EganChristmas is not renowned as a Celtic holiday. England has carols and plum pudding and Charles Dickens; Ireland has the forbidding snow of James Joyce’s “The Dead.’’ Yet in just nine years, “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn’’ has become a holiday staple, with performances this season not only in Boston but also in Portsmouth, N.H., Worcester, New Bedford, and Rockport.
Friday night at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, it was easy to see why. Hosted by the always engaging Brian O’Donovan of the parent WGBH radio show “A Celtic Sojourn,’’ the evening flew by faster than Seamus Egan’s twinkling fingers or Kevin Doyle’s flashing feet. The program was oriented toward Ireland and Scotland; it would have been nice to have more from Wales and Cornwall and Brittany. (There is plenty of Breton material, as “Christmas Revels’’ proved back in 1996.) But that’s a quibble.
The curtain rose on a darkened stage, the full ensemble in front of three Christmas trees. The O’Donovans - Brian and his wife, Lindsay - sat in armchairs stage right, as if they were in their living room and their friends had gathered there to make music. Ruth Moody, from Winnipeg, began to sing “The First Noel.’’ The infectious fiddle trio Halali stood and started playing. Moody switched to accordion, and we heard this season’s hot carol, “Noël Nouvelet.’’ Simon Chrisman and Kieran O’Hare swung into action on hammer dulcimer and uilleann pipes, respectively, and the children from the Harney Academy of Irish Dancing - refreshingly spontaneous and un-straitjacketed - came out.
This edition of the show was overseen by Egan as music director and the redoubtable local actress Paula Plum as artistic director, so no surprise that the evening was one delectable sweetmeat after another. Moody sang Gordon Lightfoot’s “Song for a Winter’s Night’’ and “O Holy Night.’’ Cornwall was represented by “The Sans Carol.’’ Doyle did a humorous hornpipe and engaged in a cutting contest with percussionist Ben Wittman.
Traditional singer Len Graham from County Antrim contributed “Green Grow the Laurels’’ and “Raglan Road’’; Halali played reels that went on forever and yet ended too soon. Brian O’Donovan read bits of Christmas stories by Irish authors, making even “The Dead’’ sound warm and cozy. The best part of all just might have been watching 6- and 7-year-olds do a Kerry polka set to “Jingle Bells’’ and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.’’
There was one encore, “Oíche Chiúin’’/ “Silent Night,’’ sung first in Irish and then in English. Then Brian O’Donovan bid everyone farewell with “Oíche mhaith.’’ That’s Irish for “Good night’’ - which it most certainly was

‘Christmas Celtic Sojourn’ a very good night - Arts - The Boston Globe

Friday, December 16, 2011

Araki, Claire play IMC concert

Hanz Araki and Casey Neill of KMRIAImage by inger klekacz via FlickrHanz Araki and Katherine Claire will perform at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 at Island Music Center.

Advance tickets, $20, are available at or by calling 780-6911.

For more information, visit

Brighten the dark days with an eclectic concert with Hanz Araki and Katherine Claire at 7 p.m. tonight at Island Music Center.

While Araki may be best known in the Northwest for his playing and singing of Celtic music, his deep roots are in the shakuhachi, the traditional bamboo “Zen flute” of Japan.

Trained by his father, Kinko Ryu Grand Master Kodo Araki V, Hanz (short for Hanzaburo) can claim the title of the world’s only sixth-generation shakuhachi player.

He took up the shakuhachi at age 17, making his concert debut in Japan only four months later. He went on to teach shakuhachi at Keio University in Tokyo before moving back to Seattle in 1992.

Influenced by his mother’s Gaelic roots, he began teaching himself Irish and Scottish tunes on the flute and penny-whistle. His flute playing and singing of traditional songs caught the attention of those following the Northwest Celtic music scene.

He has performed around the world with the Paperboys, Casey Neill and with an all-star tribute to The Pogues. He has played with the Seattle Symphony, the University of Washington Wind Ensemble and is featured on more than a dozen recordings and soundtracks, from feature films and documentaries to popular video games.

Advance tickets are $20, and are available by contacting or by calling 780-6911.

To hear a sampling of Araki’s music, visit

Araki, Claire play IMC concert - Bainbridge Island Review

Friday, December 9, 2011

Kittie's Gone A Milking (Reel) - Irish Flute Tutorial from Tradschool

Group puts unique spin on Celtic music

English: Scottish HighlandsImage via Wikipedia
Immigrant's Daughter is a delightful trio that brings a fresh approach to Celtic music. Rather than traveling the well-worn path of their contemporaries, they have gone boldly in a different direction by infusing traditional Celtic sounds with classic American pop, rock 'n' roll and jazz.

The band is made up of three women of British Isles descent who seem more like sisters than friends. Sharon Fogarty, 36, who was born in Ireland, plays the flute; Ann Borden, 53, makes her harp sing; and Nora Garver, 58, captures the imagination with her violin.

And although their music evokes visions of the Scottish Highlands and dreamy ballads, it also reminds listeners of American tunes. For example, "Wexford Carol," (March) and "Wexford Carol," (Lyrical), are both songs from their latest CD "The Winter Moon," (2011). They are the same song performed different ways, Borden said. Although the former is a lively song with a strong rhythmic beat, the later is a slow, meditative piece. Their music combines their classical training with traditional Celtic, pop, rock 'n' roll and jazz. "Truly, a blend of sounds that represent all Americans," Borden said.

Borden and Fogarty graduated from UNC School of the Arts with degrees in music. Garver graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in French and Arabic. Garver was classically trained by private tutors.

They have been together five years.

Q: Is there a story behind your group's name?

A: Borden: My family background is Scottish, Scotch Irish, English and from all over. Our families are from all different places, but we are all now Americans. And if you look at America, everybody is like that. And even if you look at the American Indians, you can still trace them to the Behring Straights or over in Polynesia. The idea of Immigrant's Daughter gives us the ability to take world music and add what we are into it.

A: Garver: And I think we all relate mostly with our British Isles background. I'm three-quarters British Isles, and there are other mixes in there, but our heritage is primarily from the British Isles.

A: Fogarty: Long story short, Immigrant's Daughter gives us the right not to be authentic. We have so many influences.

A: Garver: We don't have to play Irish music exactly like the Irish play it. Our strength is in developing arrangements that are original.

Q: Describe your performances. What can first-time attendees expect?

A: Sharon: Definitely something different. We do not have cookie-cutter performances.

A: Garver: We make sure we perform at least one new piece. We like to do themes: Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day.

A: Fogarty: From a Celtic point of view, it's seasonal. That's why (our CD) is called "The Winter Moon." It's the solstice.

A: Borden: (My goal is) to really be able to connect the people who listen to it with their environment. To have an environment using the music to heal in, to feel good about yourself and to have the listener discover who they are from their attraction to whatever we're doing. When you get people who start to discover who they are, the people around them are influenced to discover who they are.

Q: I know you released "Over the Whistle and Through the Strings" in 2009 and "The Winter Moon" this year. Let's talk about "The Winter Moon." What's the CD about?

A: Garver: It's ancient Celtic carols.

A: Fogarty: This CD was my idea. Being Irish in America and listening to Irish music year round, you realize Americans expect to hear it in March. And we're a Celtic group, but we're not just March. The winter CD came about because we wanted to show people what the Celts were doing this time of year. At Christmas time, you hear the same music all the time. And so this CD was meant to give a winter atmosphere at Christmas time.

Q: What's next?

A: Borden: We have a new album coming out.

A: Fogarty: It's called, "Hands Down." And it's all original tunes.

A: Garver: It's a collaborative effort of the three of us in terms of writing the music and arranging it. It's Celtic, but there are some things on there that are not necessarily Celtic. It's a combination of our influences.

A: Fogarty: Nora and I signed up for Kickstarter to help us out with this. We plan to start recording in January, and hopefully by July we'll have it finished, recorded, released and packaged. (Fans can view a video performance of Immigrant's Daughter and contribute to their Kickstarter campaign by visiting

Artist Profile - Group puts unique spin on Celtic music |

Friday, December 2, 2011

Art of Elan Performs Wynton Marsalis' "A Fiddler's Tale"

Being tempted by the Devil in some unexpected disguise is the oldest story in the Book—literally. From folklore to grand opera to pulpit oratory, tales of Satanic deception have enjoyed an amazing shelf life. So it is hardly surprising that jazz composer-performer Wynton Marsalis latched on to Old Nick as the heavy in his musical morality play “A Fiddler’s Tale,” which Art of Elan presented Tuesday (Nov. 29) at the San Diego Museum of Art.
Music history buffs will easily pick up the link betweenMarsalis’ “A Fiddler’s Tale” andIgor Stravinsky’s chic 1918 theater piece “The Soldier’s Tale,” a clever musical entertainment for seven musicians and narrator that ushered in the neo-classical fad in Europe’s post-World War I musical landscape. Written for New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in 1998, the new Marsalis piece was intended to give "The Soldier's Tale" a jazzy update, but in truth it is too much homage to Stravinsky and too little Marsalis to make it more than a curiosity.
The only serious departure from the Stravinsky “Tale” is a brand new narrative, written by columnist and critic Stanley Crouch, who transformed the old Russian folk tale and its war-weary soldier (who was only an amateur musician with a fiddle) to a distinctly American topography set in the deep South. The new protagonist is a female musician, a fiddler named Beatrice Connors, who is tempted by a smarmy recording executive, Mr. B.Z.B., who lures her away from playing simple, heartfelt music that “warms the soul” to snappy commercial fare that sells millions of records.
Even those who daydreamed through their Sunday School lessons will not miss the code here: “B.Z.B.” is nothing less than shorthand for Beelzebub, that Prince of Demons (or more literally “Lord of the Flies”) who is the bad guy in many a New Testament story. And huge credit is due Hassan El-Amin, the skilled actor who delivered Crouch’s oratorical narrative with panache and credibility in Tuesday’s performance. Although Mr. B.Z.B. spouts bloated, cliché-ridden wisdom and fawning deceptions, I thought his rhetoric paled in comparison to that of the current crop of political candicates vying for the Republican presidential nomination.
But I digress. Marsalis copied Stravinsky’s instrumentation precisely: violin, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, bass and percussion, and, like Stravinsky, he kept the musical momentum going with a perky march whose crackling counterpoint came to the rescue just when the ear required relief from the blustery narration. His set pieces struck me as the most compelling, e.g. the languorous tango, the acidic, tipsy waltz, and the rowdy “Devil’s Dance.” In terms of style, we heard quite a bit of polished ragtime and some gentle swing meditations, but far too little of the edgy, straight-ahead jazz at which Marsalis the performer excels. While it is dangerous to tell a composer what he should have written, this composition left me with a sense of great potential only modestly realized.
Concerning the Art of Elan performance, I have no reservations whatsoever. Artistic Director and violinist Kate Hatmaker turned out snappy riffs and silvery melodies with assurance, a winning incarnation of Crouch’s protagonist (referred to several times as the “beauty with the bow”). Clarinetist Terri Tunnicliff mastered the score’s thorniest licks, and trumpeter Andrew Elstob burnished his solos with grace that too often eludes muscular symphony trumpeters. The ensemble included the deft bassist Jory Herman (no relation!), suave bassoonist Valentin Martchev, thankfully understated percussionist Andy Watkins, and tastefully assertive trombonist Kyle Ross Covington.

San Diego Arts | Art of Elan Performs Wynton Marsalis' "A Fiddler's Tale"