December 24, 2005
CHIFF & FIPPLE AUTHORIZED DOMESTIC SPYING ON WHISTLERS
Chiff & Fipple 2005-2006 intern Erin Rogers engaging in some domestic spying.
I. THE CHIFF & FIPPLE GREETING
Well, it's Christmas and we're at war. The War on Christmas. Or the War to Defend Christmas.
I will settle for nothing less than a completely victorious Christmas. What is Christmas after all? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.
Montage by Dale Wisely, by permission of the editor of RIGHT HAND POINTING.
II. NEW FORUM ON THE MESSAGE BOARD
We have a new forum on the C&F Forums, dedicated to some of the more unusual fusions of musical genres. In fact, we're having some trouble settling on a topic:
(Formerly Rai-Ska Outlaw Country Operetta Fusion, Neurofunk Madigral Throat Singing, Freestyle Acid House Flamenco, Twelve Tone Boy Groups, Dark Ambient Ragtime, Klezmer Surf Trance; Gregorian Chant/Bluegrass; Andean-Reggae Black Metal for Lapsed Lutherans; Chinese Opera-Mississippi Delta Blues; and Alpine Yodeling-Samba Fusion Forum)
III. Tobar an Dúchais by Bríd O'Donohue.
We're pleased to have this review of Brid O'Donohue's new CD. I can't recall the last time a whistle recording gained this kind of respect, this rapidly, by so many of the best players. --Dale
CD review by Peter Laban
A recording of solo Irish Traditional whistle playing rarely becomes available on CD. Such a recording by a player considered one of the very best in the field of Irish music is even rarer. Yet, the Willie Clancy Summer School of 2005 provided the venue for the launch of such a CD: Tobar an Dúchais by Bríd O'Donohue.
Bríd is a whistle and flute player originally from the townland of Caherrush between Miltown Malbay and Quilty in Co. Clare. Born into a musical environment Bríd started playing the whistle at an early age, receiving tips from her uncle J.C. Talty, whistle- and flute-player with the Tulla Ceili Band and one time (1960) all Ireland champion on the pipes. Another relation, Willie Clancy, also encouraged her and gave her tips and tunes.
Speaking of traditional music and musicians,Tony McMahon, in his excellent article ‘A Language of Passion’, said:
The late Breandan Breatnach defined Traditional Irish music as essentially the art of solo performance - a gift - to which the musician or singer devotes an apprenticeship of learning, especially to the great songs and song airs of Ireland. It involves a search for the local footprints of those who have gone before... and it involves a care of not trampling on them when found. It involves a search for the music and songs of one's own place, and if that is not successful, a search for the music to which the individual musical spirit can resonate.
It means having a mind-set to one's gift that is devoid of aggression, of narrow personal ambition, of political preconception. It involves an innocence, a humility in being the bearer of a gift that can infuse musician and listener with a shaft of universal joy. It involves an awareness of the natural, internal rhythm of a piece as distinct from its speed, it involves attention to the smallest detail of a tune or a song and most importantly it involves care and discernment when deciding to add one's own embellishment to a piece of music that has its own local integrity and has stood the test of time.
It also implies a maturity of judgement ... an independent ear... an ability to question popular approaches to structure, accompaniment, ornamentation and other received ideas.
This encapsulates the essence of Bríd’ s musicianship perfectly. She drank from the well of her heritage (the Tobar an Dúchais of the CD title) developing her style she took freely from the local music and repertoire and blended what she received into a lovely flowing richly rolling style devoid of any ego or flashiness. Yet listening to her music there is no doubt where it came from, it’s rooted firmly in the West of Clare.
In her own locality Brid works hard at passing on the music to a younger generation, her own five children all play and over a hundred children attend her weekly music classes during the winter months. It is a testament to Bríd’s sensitivity and enthusiasm that nearly all her pupils turn into lovely players, often branching out into other instruments after a few years on the whistle, yet retaining the same lift and musicality that also characterizes Bríd’s own music. The annual Christmas concert she puts on for her pupils is a clear evidence of that.
The CD was recorded in may 2005 by Martin O'Malley’s Malbay Studios. The sound of the whistles is well captured in a bright, clear natural sound. The first track, "The Green Groves of Erin" and "The Copperplate," immediately establishes the atmosphere. Lovely lively reel playing, rich in rolls and variation but always personal and full of emotion. These recordings are against a trend toward overly ornamented playing, music which "never simple hearted enough to speak to us plainly, and so intensely. It therefore dazzles us rather than moves us."
The atmosphere holds throughout the recording , through jigs reels, hornpipes and set dances which were chosen for their associations to people and places. Bríd’s air playing deserves a special mention. Here she plays two airs associated with the playing of Willie Clancy: "Caoinneadh an Spailpin" and "The Bold Trainor-O" and a moving (and deceptively) simple-sounding "Amhrán na Leabhar."
The CD booklet has extensive notes on the tunes, emphasizing again how the music is connected to people and places and a rich sprinkling of photographs from the family collection with some additional material .
It is safe to say this is a classic recording that in my eyes has a place right between Sean Potts and Paddy Moloney’s Tin Whistles, Donncha O’Briain’s, Micho Russel's Topic album and Mary Bergin’s Feadoga Stain. A must have.
CD is a available from the usual suppliers an (recommended) through http://www.bridodonohue.com/
Miltown Malbay Co Clare, 12 dec 05 Peter Laban
Peter Laban is a veteran Irish Traditional musician and a long-time member and contributor to Chiff & Fipple. The next newsletter will feature a Chiff & Fipple Interview
Intern Sarah McNargle at work
IV. TINWHISTLE FINGERING RESEARCH CENTER
I wanted to send a note to tell you that the Tinwhistle Fingering Research Center has been completely revamped. So I did write a note. And this is it.
The Really Interesting Tidbit of the First Part is the TFRC has it's own page now: www.fullbodyburn.com. (I had a friend when I lived in California whose dad was a stuntman. His specialty was the full body burn which, as the name suggests, involves being totally engulfed in real, live fire. I can't really claim that this fellow had any great impact on my life other than instilling in me a morbid fascination with the concept of lighting yourself aflame for the entertainment of others, but there you go -- the true story of why the site is called Full¥Body¥Burn Productions (www.fullbodyburn.com) instead of, say, the Tinwhistle Fingering Research Center dot toot.)
The Really Interesting Tidbit of the Second Part is that the site also has downloadable sheet music for tinwhistle (in Acrobat format). Right now, there are probably somewhere around 40 songs, with a lot of Christmas carols and some other stuff. I'll be adding more music as I get it prepared.
The site is also expanding with more and more information. I've got, like, 50 megabytes worth of space I can fill and it's not even remotely full yet. I guess that's Really Interesting Tidbit of the Third Part, but I'm not sure how interesting that really is since the site has been expanding for years. It's just doing it a lot more quickly, now.
If you could let folks know through your newsletter that the site has been revamped and there is downloadable sheet music there (including a few of the long-awaited PIRATE SONGS!!!), I'd appreciate it.
V. The History of the Tinwhistle
My friend Norman Dannatt sent me a copy of the second edition of his history of the tinwhistle. The History of the Tinwhistle: The Story of Robert Clarke & His Musical Invention. Published in Great Britain by the Clarke Tinwhistle Company. ISBN 095496932-4.
I contributed the foreword. The text of the book mentions Chiff & Fipple and the Undisputed and it is our honor. (Alas, there is no emoticon for "moved and proud.")
I'll keep you posted about how to obtain a copy.
Flook are nominated as BEST GROUP in the BBC Folk Awards 2006
Haven now available to purchase online BUY NOW. Available soon in the USA.
I've got my copy already, thanks to the nice folks in the band. I love it, as I have every other CD they've put out. Here's a collection of reviews.
VII. SUSATO GEMSHORN REVIEWED
In my ongoing interest in all things fipple-related, I've been fascinated with the gemshorn for some time. This rustic flute of the Renaissance has been a bit inaccessible, as they are generally made individually of animal horn. I was therefore happy to see that Susato has added a new ABS resin soprano to their existing line of gemshorns. The cost is US$34.95, compared to most soprano gemshorns, which cost over US$200.00.
They come in a full range of colors. I chose ivory, because it seemed a natural color, though the black is also fairly natural-looking. It comes in a drawstring bag made of a sort of fake fur material, with a tribal-type design on it. I found the bag to be nice, as I'd expected the usual vinyl Susato pouch, but this is made in the shape to fit the gemshorn.
It has a chromatic range from b' to d#''', and comes with a fingering chart. Susato also produces a method book and repertoire books for the gemshorn.
The sound is very strong and clear, from the lowest note to the highest. It is not the same sound as tinwhistle, nor is it the same as the recorder, but has the sort of haunting sound typical of vessel flutes.
It may have a little bit of condensation problem, but considerably less so than my Hoover narrow bore brass whistle, and can be dealt with in the same way as on the whistle.
It can be made tunable, to a certain extent, by placing a band just above the window, and adjusting its position. This is demonstrated by a color photograph, on the fingering chart.
Walden, who is mostly known just by the one word name like Cher and Madonna, is a veteran member of C&F.
VIII. The Tao Te Chiff
I've written a new book, available free to C&F members on the web. An audio version, narrated by actor Jeremy Irons, is in preparation.
Properly, I guess, it should have been called the Chiff Te Ching.
With apologies to all my Taoist friends:
The Tao Te Chiff
translated from ancient manuscripts by Dale Wisely
The Chiff that can be named
is not the eternal Chiff.
The Chiff that can be spoken
is not the eternal Chiff.
Chiff is the boundary of Heaven and Earth.
The mother of Whistledom.
Freed from WhOA, you can see the hidden mystery.
By having WhOA, you can only see what is visibly real.
So, the student asks the Undisputed,
is having WhOA good or bad?
The Undisputed only smiles
and then whacks the student on the head
with an aluminum Low D.
Click here to read the rest.
IX. NEW BOOK ON IRISH TRADITIONAL MUSIC
Thanks to Mark for making us aware of this.
From the Belfast Telegraph:
THE WALTONS GUIDE TO IRISH MUSIC, by Harry Long, Waltons, £12.25
By Neil Johnston
03 December 2005
IRISH traditional music enjoys a worldwide popularity but it has long been lacking a handy ready reference work. Now that gap has been filled.
This 427-page paperback, presented in A-Z format, is a reader-friendly fount of information for all who love and follow the music.
Its 900 entries are a veritable who's who of the tradition's most important and influential musicians, singers and groups, both past and present.
Among the many northern instrumentalists and singers listed are Cathal Hayden, Arty McGlynn, Paul Brady, Cathal McConnell, Marcas O Murchu and the late Sean McGuire, Derek Bell and Sarah Makem.
The author recalls, for example, how folk song collectors from all over the world would visit the remarkable Co Armagh singer Sarah Makem at her home in Keady.
She was a living archive of rarely heard songs and ballads, many of which she passed on to her famous son Tommy. During the 1950s, one of the traditional songs for which she was best known, As I Roved Out, became the signature tune of a popular BBC radio series of that name. She died in 1983 at the age of 83, having gained an international reputation without ever leaving Keady.
The history and development of Irish song and dance over the years are examined in the book, and there are also detailed references to the instruments which have become associated with Irish music, from the Uilleann pipes to the fiddle and the bodhran to the bouzouki. (The fife and the Lambeg drum, representative of the loyalist musical tradition, both get their due mentions as well).
The copiously illustrated book also includes a select discography and bibliography, as well as helpful lists of specialist record companies, festivals and summer schools.
The author of this folk encyclopaedia, which has taken 10 years to research and write, is the whistle player, teacher and Irish music lecturer, Harry Long, from Slane.
He first became involved in the music when, as a schoolboy on holiday at his uncle's hotel in Carrick-on-Suir, he heard many of the country's finest musicians playing in the session room down in the basement.
Among them was Liam Clancy of the famous Clancy Brothers, and he paid tribute to Long's dedicated work in compiling this comprehensive guide.
He said: "For those of us who love Irish music and the people who play, sing and foster it in all its forms, this book is a treasure trove and an essential resource. I highly recommend it."
Long himself says that writing the book had been a journey of discovery for him.
"While it is difficult to capture the spirit of Irish music in words, I hope the book can offer a few pointers and enrich the reader's knowledge," he said.
He has certainly achieved that aspiration as far as this reader is concerned.
This informative and entertaining volume is tailor-made for delving into between the jigs and reels.
X. DON'T LET A TRAGEDY LIKE THIS RUIN YOUR HOLIDAYS
I'm new on the block. I have enjoyed your website a lot over the past month and wanted to share with you folks something that happened to me after following your web site advise.
I was tweaking a Clark whistle, and at the time living with my girlfriend. The only type of candle wax she had were a load of scented candles. I was interested in seeing what would happen to the tone on my Clark so choosing the one candle that seemed the least objectionable, I followed the steps on tweaking at your site. It came out just fine. The tone sings now and the breathiness is lessened considerably. The trouble is that it was scented wax, and smells like blueberry pie. Halfway in to a tune I get very hungry and start drooling like a wild dog. You might want to pass this around that scented candles are a bad idea, unless you like your jig with extra drool.
I have sense changed it to a nice odorless plug and am happy to report that the drooling has stopped.
Anyway, keep up the great work guys.
Blueberry pie: The natural enemy of whistling.
XI. JUST IN TIME FOR 2006!
XII. COMING SOON: IRON CHIFF!
XIII. WINDING IT UP
The last newsletter went out very shortly after Hurricane Katrina and included my rather low-key offer to purchase some relief supplies on behalf of members. A short time later, I had to make decisions on exactly how to disperse $3212 sent to me by 50 donors.
Ultimately, $600 went for an immediate need, feminine hygiene supplies that we took to a shelter in Birmingham. (These I purchased at the local Target store. I regret not having someone make a video of me negotiating the price of Tampax, in bulk, with the store manager.) As you may know, after the first week or so, the need for that kind of supplies dropped off. So, after sending emails to donors and checking it out with them, we sent $1000 to St. Mary's, a mostly African-American and impoverished Catholic community here in the Birmingham area. They took a number of children from the Gulf Coast into their parish school. Another $1000 went to relief work done by a church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. (Hattiesburg ended up being a major staging area for relief to southern Mississippi.) The remaining money, $650, supported an event held here in Birmingham designed to connect people in need of temporary homes to people with room to spare.
You know, I've not kept up with this over the years, but I believe Chiff & Fipple's members have contributed in excess of $22,000 to various fundraisers we've done or directly supported. That doesn't include Hunger Site click-ons and various other small projects that have cropped up here and there.
And, I just got a check 2 weeks ago for $210, from proceeds of the hyper-inflated Katrina price sale at the Chiff & Fipple shop. (The prices are now down to the regular prices.) I'm taking a look at what to do with that.
It's heartwarming and I am grateful to all of you for supporting this wacky on-line community.
Below is Christmas Card to all of you by the endlessly talented Norman Dannatt.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
a subsidiary of the Department of Homeland Security
Lord, help us see how near is your kingdom.
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