June 1, 2002
This Issue is More Exciting Than Star Wars Episode II
There's a lot to read in this issue.
I had less time than I normally do to prepare this issue, so I put out a special call to people on the message board to make contributions. My special thanks to Mark Johnston, Charlie Tarrio, Erle Bartlett, Xavier Tan, and Chris Laughlin for carrying my weight on this one.
"Freeway Whistler" used by permission of artist Steve O'Loughlin. The original is oil on canvas 20x20. View more of Steve's terrific Celtic art at http://www.stevenoloughlin.com/
Of course, all of us who are aware of the perils of Knee Driving know that our friend here is stuck in a traffic jam.
II. PAUL BUSMAN DEBUTS
Paul Busman (message board fans will know him as BREWERPAUL) is a long-time Chiff & Fippler who sent me a whistle he made out of hardwood a long time ago. It impressed the heck out of me. Since then, I've been hoping Paul would be able to offer these to a few other players, at least on a limited basis. And so he is. Paul writes to us:
I bought my first Thin Weasel a long time ago. I was, and still am, an avid recorder player and was used to fine quality instruments. When I branched out into Celtic music, I was very dissatisfied with the commercially available whistles. I found a Rosewood Thin Weasel (by Glenn Schultz) during a trip to Andy's Front Hall, but had to think long and hard about spending a whole $125 on a whistle... I had some technical questions about the whistle that the nice people at Andy's couldn't answer, but they put me in touch with Glenn Schultz, thus starting a long correspondence first by snail mail ( no internet back then), later by phone and e-mail. Under Glenn's long distance tutelage, I have been making D whistles out of a variety of exotic hardwoods. Some of my favorites are Bocote, Rosewood, Blackwood, Tulipwood, and Bloodwood. I'm always on the lookout for some interesting new timber. The fittings on the whistles are either brass or stainless steel, with brass tuning slides. Fipple plugs of black Delrin look sharp and are very stable. I don't have cases for my whistles at present, but am looking at several options. The whistles are fairly light in weight, making them easy to play for long periods of time. Large finger holes make for a nice, open sound and easy half holing. C natural works either half holed or cross fingered. The sound of these whistles is pretty loud, and will hold their own in a moderate sized session, but won't blast your ears out. I have showed my whistles to 2 other whistle makers and 2 VERY well known professional players and have received very favorable comments from them. This is all extremely gratifying to a newbie whistle maker. I am very excited about the response I have had from my initial offering on C&F. This is a VERY part time venture for me, but I will do my best to supply whistles in a timely fashion.
And I received the following fine review from Charlie Tarrio.
Many C&F readers know that I am an unapologetic
fan of high-end whistles. (Actually, Charlie apologized to me about this
once--DW) A few who have corresponded with me off list know that Iım also a
woodworker and luthier and generally a great fan of fine wood and wood
craftsmanship. So while Iım predisposed to liking high-quality wooden whistles,
I can also recognize workmanship that's not up to snuff.
My Busman whistle is made from a Central American wood called Bocote (I think itıs pronounced bo-CO-tay). The wood itself is gorgeous -- it has a very tight yet swirling and contrasting grain. The light parts are kind of a golden color, while the dark is almost pitch black. The finish is excellent. The fittings are brass and well turned. Paul also makes stainless fittings; whatıs standard depends on the wood, and you can specify which you want when ordering. ...
This is my fourth wooden D whistle: I also own a Thin Weasel in cocobolo, an Abell in blackwood, and a Ralph Sweet in cherry. It should come as no surprise that the design of his instrument somewhat resembles that of the Weasel. The beak is curved, but somewhat longer than the TW (I had specified that I wanted it that way). The fipple plug is Delrin plastic
rather than the composite of the TW. I think Delrin is somewhat less susceptible to condensation, so that's a plus. The outer part of the mouthpiece is brass, so itıs susceptible to condensation if itıs not warmed up. The blade is a little shorter than that of the TW, but not as steep as, say, a Burke. The tuning slide works very well. The metal fittings are rounded and two-lobed, which looks nice. The wood is very thin-walled, making a nice light whistle. The holes are well aligned and feel pretty
comfortable. There is a little texture to them (a result of the grain of the wood -- itıs pretty common in thin-walled wooden instruments), but they seal very easily. All in all, it's a very lovely, well-crafted instrument. In pure craftsmanship, Iıd give the edge to the Abell, but this is pretty close behind.
This is actually the first wooden whistle that I bought new. Wooden instruments tend to have a break-in period, and both the playability and sound will change over time. I was told that the Abell was not broken in when I bought it, either. So the discussion of the sound must be taken with a little grain of salt.
The breath requirements are moderate, but it takes some pressure. It's also somewhat forgiving pressure-wise. So you can play very expressively, and you can also bend notes a little. It does take a little push to keep it in the upper octave, but octave transitions are pretty sure and crisp once itıs warmed up. As far as I can tell the tuning is spot on with the slide out about 3-4 mm. For comparison, it takes somewhat less breath than the Abell, and somewhat less pressure and breath in the upper octave than the Sweet.
The sound is fairly pure and mellow. Itıs somewhat less breathy than the Abell, and not nearly as sweet as the Sweet, which is probably the most recorder-sounding whistle in my stable. As expected, itıs most reminiscent of the Thin Weasel, but it's certainly not a clone. It has a little bit less of an edge in the sound, and while the TW really screams in the upper octave, this one has somewhat less volume in the high notes.
Paul's whistles are $175 plus $5 S/H in the US. That
puts them pretty much in the middle of these four -- the Sweet is about $95, and
the TW and the Abell are both about $300. ... If you want a high-quality
handcrafted wooden whistle but arenıt sure whether you want to fork out $300,
you might want to consider one of Paul's soon.
PAUL BUSMAN: BREWERPAUL@AOL.COM
III. M&E/MICHAEL CRONNOLLY WHISTLE
Many of you know Michael Cronnolly for his M&E polymer flutes, widely regarded by many players (including some flute barely-players such as yours truly. I heard from Michael a couple of years ago about his interest in producing whistles. Two or three have arrived in the states. I've received a beautiful wooden one (!) and James Peoples has a polymer one. These are looking and sounding great. Watch for a full report in an upcoming issue of Chiff & Fipple.
IV. ERLE BARTLETT LOW WHISTLES
We hear from Australian Low whistle maker Erle Bartlett
I live and work in the Blue Mountains of New South
As far as whistles go, you would best describe what I make as being high-end high whistles, in native and exotic timbers. Because of the time and effort that goes into them, I have never advertised what I make, they are certainly not production instruments, and have relied on word of mouth to sell whatever comes out of the workshop. More lately I have begun to make low whistles, especially in the key of D, and am particularly pleased with the result. The use of materials other than wood for their construction has meant that production time is dramatically reduced and I can feel confident about making (relatively) larger numbers of instruments, which can be readily advertised and at the same time available for sale.
Some technical details.
The body on these low D whistles is brass. There is a fipple plug made of cedar and a mouthpiece of Delrin. A brass pin is used to lock the various pieces together. The window and air ways are curved, and the window is partially shrouded by the mouthpiece. The left hand finger holes are 1 5/8 and 1 ½ apart, while the right hand spacings are 1 ĵ and 1 7/8 distant, which means that for most people, a pipers grip is necessary. The brass body has a polished finish which may be maintained, or left to develop its own patina over time.
How they play
These low whistles have a breath requirement that is very similar to a high whistle, the bottom of the range being a little gentler, and there is a capacity to push in a bit more air in the upper octave. They produce a range of two full octaves with a volume again comparable to a high whistle. The notes are clean over the two octaves with just a hint of a burr, they jump positively between octaves without any problems.
Cost and supply.
Because of the exchange rate between US and AU dollars, these whistles will sell for about US$100, a further US$10 will cover postage to anywhere in the world. Delivery time is hopefully about a week through the postal system. Enquiries to the maker through firstname.lastname@example.org .
II. WHISTLE CD REVIEWS BY MARK JOHNSON
Mid-Atlantic field correspondent Mark Johnston (pictured to the right holding a 66 pound ocarina) has submitted the following whistle CD reviews.
This little gem was originally recorded on a whim in a small Cork recording studio during an afternoon in 1983. It was not re-mastered and commercially available until 2000, after the untimely passing of Michael in June of 1997. I don't think it fair to compare any artist to the best on the instrument, but I'll do just that in this case. I feel that music (traditional music, especially) can be too abstract to describe without using a benchmark. I hope most folks reading this will have heard a few of the marquis players I mention and be able to follow the my review within some sort of context.
When first hearing this recording, I noticed that Michael's playing is not at all in the Fleadh style that, to me at least, is defined by Mary Bergin's landmark (and benchmark) Fedóga Stáin. Michael's style of playing sounds much more home grown. This unique style Michael displays reminds me more of Miko Russell's playing. There are, however, some strong contrasts between Miko and Michael. Michael plays with a fair amount of cuts and rolls, but takes much more subtle freedoms with the tune's rhythm and note duration (I often feel that Miko played a tune with such freedom that it becomes a countermelody as he played tunes with brothers. I think of this as one of Miko's great gifts.). The variations that Michael plays are very subtle; the tune changes enough to keep things interesting, but not so much that he leaves the basic tune behind. The music has a great swing and a lively pulse. The tempo is at times quite brisk, but varies quite a bit to suit each tune. Nowhere, did Michael play with a speed to flaunt his virtuosity; nothing shows good taste like restraint. One key thing makes Micheal's music quite different from different from a lot of other recordings. He plays dance tunes with glissando (sliding his fingers off the holes during the attack of the next note). He plays with great feeling. Something in it reminds me of the great Clare fiddling tradition, but it ends up different enough that I just can't say what.
Margaret certainly did the Irish traditional music community a great service by making this recording available to a wider audience. I think in about 50 years, this one might be mentioned in the same breath as some of Miko Russell's or Paddy Carty's recordings. The reason I feel that is a fair statement is because recordings, like this one, just sound different that most other traditional Irish music. Individual styles of playing, like this, insure that diversity in playing styles is kept alive from within the tradition. While this is not a kitchen recording, the music feels like the wonderful stuff that you hear about, but were never in the right kitchen at the right time to hear it. To me, this is so important as other music styles are now creating little Frankenstein monsters that will, in many insidious, ways influence future generations of traditional musicians. The infusion (and sometimes outright contamination) genres, including, Jazz, Rock, Pop, and even Eastern European Folk, threaten to commercialize traditional music so much that it may shift off it's foundation and away from its greatest strength, the tradition itself (melodrama intended).
I found this recording to be very pleasant listening. The music always falls easily within the undefined boundaries of the tradition. For me, the highlight of the CD was Martina's playing of slow airs. They are among the sweetest I have heard; expressive, sensitive and honest. I think good airs sound like an instrumentalists interpretation of the human voice. This is what I heard. The CD has Martina accompanied by Seamus O'Dowd of Dervish on guitar and bouzouki. The two play very well together with some chemistry evident.
I really enjoyed her setting of Jenny's Chickens, which I think of mostly as a fiddle tune. I've always wanted to hear a whistle recording of this tune; I got my wish. Martina plays some nice variations in the jigs, reels and hornpipes. Of the tunes selected, I know more than I don't; so I'd say that most of them are fairly common. One really nice thing is that Martina plays some of those nice little elements that you hear in sessions that make you sit up and listen. Things like repeating a high note out of the melody line in certain places. Things like that, for me, always give a session some lift when you think it's doing just fine by itself. That being said, these little elements sometimes sound out of place without fiddles and squeeze boxes to fill in the notes you expect. I'm glad she did it, though, as I could never figure out how folks that did this did it. Now I have a rough idea and Martina has taught this 30-something dog a new trick (thanks, eh). Also, Martina's rolls have a unique rhythmic effect to them. It is definitely something I'd pick up on in a "blind taste test" with other recordings. Another nifty little thing to make the CD memorable.
This is a hot one. Wonderful traditional music packaged up real nice. The production of this recording stands out as an asset from start to finish. It was tasteful enough so to never to allow too many studio tricks to creep in over the tunes, yet sounded very polished. The tune selection was a nice mix of old standards and uncommon tunes that rarely get out. The liner notes stated that many came from the music of Clare, however, I find that the music does not sound like the relaxed music of Clare that I (in my limited listening experience) know. A bit too much octane in the mix.
I gravitate towards solo CD's, but sometimes I tire of one artist with only one or two accompanists. One of my favorite things about this CD is that the mix of musicians that play with Gavin. He has three guitar players, two bouzouki players, two bodhran players, a mandolin, a fiddle, and a concertina all contributing to the well rounded sound of the recording. There is one solo slow air, with the balance having one to five other musicians in on the fun. This mix of sound textures and densities adds to its longevity in my CD player, for sure.
Gavin is very skilled at playing good music, but nowhere during the recording did I feel like Gavin was trying to blind his listeners with unrestrained virtuosity. Gavin always had a nice swing going during the tunes, making the music genuine and more important than his skill. The result is a nice tune collection I can listen to often. One of the things I like about this recording is that Gavin plays a lot of tunes with with settings, phrasings and syncopations that sound very traditional to me, yet are new and certainly expand my horizons. I think this recording will influence my playing in the future as it has lots of twists that are very original.
III. CHIFFBOARD FAVORITE JAW-DROPPING TRAD TRACKS
A while back, the message board (http://chiffboard.mati.ca) started a great thread on favorite "jaw-dropping tracks." I asked the originator of the thread, Xavier Tan (eldarion) to compile these for us.
This is the information you requested. Includes non-whistle, as well as
slow stuff, album titles if stated:
Sean Ryan (whistle) - Broderick's/Galway Rambler, from "Take the air"
Matt Molloy w Chieftains - The Mason's Apron, from "An Irish Evening"
Flook - Eb Reels from "Flatfish"
Laurence Nugent - Sean Sa Cheo/Lord Gordon's
Grey Larsen & Paddy League - Banks of Lough Gowna
Micho Russell - Sean sa Cheo
Micho Russell - Boy in the Gap
Mary Bergin - Mrs Crehan's/Gerry Commane's/The Rainy Day, from "Feadoga
Kiernan Collins - The Earls Chair
Matt Malloy Josie McDermotts/Benny Ainsboroughs
Paul Winter (w Joanie Madden) - My Fair and Faithful Love/Blarney Pilgrim,
from "Celtic Solstice"
Frankie Kennedy w Altan - Sunset Reel, from "The Best of Altan"
Frankie Kennedy w Altan - An Feochan, from "The Best of Altan"
Matt Molloy - Sgariunt na Gcompanagh (Parting of Friends), from "Music at
Seamus Egan - Mason's Apron/My Love is In America, from "When Juniper
Seamus Egan - Flaubert's Lilt, from "When Juniper Sleeps"
Mary Bergin - Richard Dwyers/Miss McDonald's, from "Feadoga Stain 2"
Paddy Maloney - Protected by Angels, from "OST Babe: Pig in the City"
Frankie Kennedy - Dobbin's Flowery Vale, from "Harvest Storm"
Matt Molloy w Chieftains - Dunmore Lassies, from "Long Black Veil"
Cormac Breatnach - Sporting Paddy/Adele, from "Musical Journey"
Cormac Breatnach - The Tailor Small's Jig/The Battering Ram, from "Musical
Liz Carroll - The Old Maid of Galway
Martin Rochford - The Mist Covered mountain, Forget me not, Splendid
Isolation (Breandan McGlinchey's)/Caoilte Mountains
Paddy Canny and Michael Kelleher - Young Francis Mooney and the Humours of
Ballydehob, from recorded home session
Paddy Canny and Michael Kelleher - Maguire's fiddle/the Cuckoo, from
recorded home session
Tommy Peoples - The Newport Lass/The Rambling Pitchfork, from the
Martin Hayes - The Whistler from Rosslea / Connor Dunn
Martin Hayes - Port Na Bpucai
Jerry Holland - Cutting Ferns/Alex Dan MacIsaac's/Brenda Stubberts/Mutt's
Ciaran Tourish w Altan - The Windmill (Tommy Peoples/The Winmill/Fintan
McManus), from "The Best of Altan"
Celtic Fiddle Festival (Kevin Burke) - Mrs Kenny's/Dowden Locks/Sweeney's
Buttermilk/I haven't heard from Jonny yet/Les ridees du printemps, from
"Celtic Fiddle Festival"
Willie Clancy - Rakish Paddy, from home recording of Paddy Hill 1958
Willie Clancy - Green Gates/Satin Slipper/London Lasses, from tape recorded
by John Joe Tuttle, early 1960s
Seamus Ennis - Hand me down the Tackle, from the RTE archive acetate discs
Seamus Ennis - The first house in Connaught, from the RTE archive acetate
Seamus Ennis - SilverSpear/Dublin Reel
Seamus Ennis - Longford Collector / Eammon Coyne's
Michael McGoldrick & John McSherry - Doinna, from "at first light"
Paddy Keenan - The Bucks of Oranmore
Gordon Mooney - O're the Border
Paul Winter (w Jerry O'Sullivan) - O'Farrell's Welcome to Limerick, from
Paul Winter (w Jerry O'Sullivan) - After the Fleadh, from "Celtic Solstice"
Group/Vocal/Others (and some I just don't know):
Martyn Bennett - 3 Sheeps 2 The Wind I & II
MacUmba - Brenda's (Brenda Stubbert's)
Lunasa - The Morning Nightcap, from "The Merry Sisters of Fate"
Lunasa - Inion Ni Scannlain, from "The Merry Sisters of Fate"
The Chieftains - The Session
Martin Byrnes - The Blackbird
Mrs. Elizabeth Crotty - Andy Mcganns Reel (concertina)
DeDannan - The Rights of Man/The Pride of Petravore, from "Ballroom"
Willie Clancy - Erin's Lovely Lea
LothLorien - The Black Cat, from "Ghostwood"
Lothlorien - Dans en Dro, from "Ghostwood"
Lunasa - The Butlers of Glen Avenue / Sliabh Russell / Cathal McConnell's,
Lunasa - January Snows / Laura Lynn Cunningham, from "Otherworld"
Wolfstone - Gillies
Scartaglen (Connie Dover) - Chuaigh Me 'Na Rosann, from "Celtic Odessey"
Orison - The Butterfly, from "Celtic Odessey" (Narada)
Bert Jansch, Reynardine - Guitar and Vox, from "Rosemary Lane"
Those mentioned without particular tune recommendations:
Anything solo by Sean Potts
Joe Burke on flute
IV. CHRIS LAUGHLIN'S LIST
On a related note, from a post by Chris Laughlin:
....make sure you're listening to the right kind of playing. I would strongly recommend steering clear of the ensemble playing a la Solas, Lunasa, Dervish. They make for great music and enjoyable listening, but they are sort of misleading for those who don't already have a really firm foundation in the music. There are three reasons that I say this. First, it's often very hard to really hear what the flute and whistle players are doing. Second, this is sort of "rock and roll" traditional music. It's great stuff, but you are almost definitely never going to find a session anywhere that sounds even vaguely like that. Third, the tunes are often in very strange keys, in very odd versions. Knowing a tune in a strange key doesn't really impress anyone in a session. It tends to have rather the opposite effect, especially if playing said tune require you to play it on a whistle or flute in a key other than D.
Instead, think about listening to solo flute and whistle players, with very basic accompaniment, a la piano, bodhran or guitar. Try to listen to the older recordings if possible. If you're going to listen to recordings with ensembles, try and find duets or trios in very traditional settings. Here are some of my recommendations for good listening if you're really interested in playing in a very traditional style:
- Mike McHale - The Schoolmaster's House
- Any of Mike and Mary Rafferty's albums
- Catherine McEvoy - Traditional FLute-Music in the Sligo-Roscommon Style
-Josie McDermott - Darby's Farewell
- Anything with Micho Russel
- Marcas O Murchu - O Bheal go Beal
- Gavin Whelan
-Eamonn Cotter - Traditional Irish Music from County Clare
- Anything from Matt Molloy
- Hammy Hamilton - It's No Secret
- Colm O'Donnel - Farewell to the Evening Dances
- Conal O'Grada - Top of the Coom
- John Whynne- With Every Breath
- Paddy Carty - Traditional Irish Music
-Harry Bradley - Bad Turns and Horseshoe Bends
- Paul McGratten - The Frost is all over
- Kevin Crawford - In Good Company
- Frankie Gavin - Up and Away
- Mary Bergin
- The Wheels of the World - Early Irish American Music (featuring John McKenna on flute)
SMALL ENSEMBLE/SESSION/SOME FLUTE OR WHISTLE BUT GREAT TRAD
- The Coleman Archive Vol. 1 - The Living Tradition
- Martin Mulhaire, Seamus Connolly, and Jack Coen - Warming Up
- Music at Matt Molloy's
- The Mountain Road - A Compilation of tunes popular in South Sligo
- An Historical Recording of Irish Traditional Music from Country Clare and East Galway - Featuring Paddy Canny, P.J. Hayes, Peadar O'Loughlin and Bridie Lafferty.
-Folk Music and Dances of Ireland
- A Tribute to Michael Coleman - Joe Burke, Andy McGann, Felix Dolan
- Paddy in the Smoke - Irish Dance Music from a London Pub
- Charlie Piggot and Gerry Harrington - The New Road
My two cents,
V. FIREFIGHTERS ALWAYS GET THEIR EMAIL PUBLISHED IN CHIFF & FIPPLE
Thanks for putting me in your subscription list. My name is Rick and I am a
firefighter here in Wichita, KS. (32 years on the job). I have been building and
playing Native American flutes for a couple of years and am now trying the Penny
Whistle. I play other instruments such as the banjo, guitar and saxophone (high
school). I am in search of a better whistle than can be found in Wichita. That
brought me to your site through other flute sites I have been looking at. With
your help and others I plan to buy a Susato. We'll see where it goes from there.
VI. HECK IF I KNOW
As Whistledom's leading journalist, I'm sure you're all over this story already: Nathan Schroeder's great site, Jigs-n-Reels.com has vanished. All
my bookmarks to his site and the various Google leads are all roads to nowhere now.
Can you help? Where has he taken all the sound files? I tried to send an email ... but alas it bounced.
A loyal subscriber (and presumably nation) thanks you,
Carl's right. It's gone. Maybe we'll hear from Nate.
VII. WHISTLING JUGGLERS FROM WAGGA WAGGA WHO TRANSPOSE OLD VIDEO GAME MUSIC ALWAYS GET THEIR EMAIL PUBLISHED IN CHIFF & FIPPLE
This caught my eye when it came into my inbox under the name "James Brown." At first I thought maybe the Godfather of Soul and the Hardest Working Man in Show Business had taken up the whistle. But no, that's too bizarre to contemplate.
Hi Dale, Thank you for the welcome.
My name is Eric Brown, Jr. I'm 23 and have been playing tin whistle for just under 6 months. I live in Wagga Wagga, Australia and juggle. I mainly play Irish music on my tin whistle, but this is simply because it is the easiest to obtain. I now also transpose old video game music mostly from the Amiga to play on whistle. I found the Chiff and Fipple site while searching for sheet music a while ago but didn't have a good look until recently.
Anyway once again thanks for the welcome and all the best.
VIII. WHY ALABAMA IS RAPIDLY BECOMING THE 3213th MOST IMPORTANT CENTER FOR CELTIC MUSIC
1. Chiff & Fipple (Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama with world-wide Bureaus.)
IX. AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
So, I subscribe to NETFLIX. It's a mail-order DVD rental deal. Yesterday I get a DVD that's broken. Split in half. Looked liked it had been stepped on. The movie? That's right: "Unbreakable". Now I'm thinking this must be somebody's idea of a joke.
X. IT'S A SMALL WORLD
A recent message board post:
Does anyone know where I can find the sheet music for the Disney tune "It's a Small World" online that I can play with my Feadóg D whistl // ////////////////BRK///////////////INTERCPT PROTOCOL:DISNEY//////BRK////TRANSMISSION INTERRUPT///CPEOPLE VICE-ADMIRAL VIAGRA ///////BRK'FORCE END//
worldwide community of whistle-players. You may subscribe to this newsletter by
sending blank email to email@example.com
with the word "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line. A very active and
supportive message board forum is available at http://chiffboard.mati.ca . An
unbearably extensive informational website for Chiff & Fipple is at
Pray for India & Pakistan. And for us all.
Lord, help us see how near is your kingdom.