Some Fiddle Workshop Notes

Jason van  Steenwyck, our Irish fiddle instructor, has posted some notes for students on the Tír  na mBláth Facebook page.  Here are a  few excerpts:

We spoke a bit about the cello in traditional music. As I mentioned, the cello has a long-established role, particularly in the Scottish tradition. Couldn’t talk enough about it in the workshop, but here is a backgrounder:, Liz Davis Maxfield wrote a book of Irish tune arrangements for cello, available here: Don’t know anything about the book beyond it, though. I haven’t flipped through it, personally.
Cooley’s Reel, on cello. Nicely done by this young lady.

Cooley’s Reel – New Tuna A Day – (Irish Cello)

I passed out another hornpipe, which we didn’t get around to working on in the workshop, called Caislean an Or, or The Golden Castle. It’s in Gm, which is a key we haven’t gone over. It’ll stretch your left hand out a bit more. The range on the E string ranges from the F-natural up to the Bb. I picked the tune because it’s beautiful and sounds GREAT played slowly. For example, look up Martin Hayes’ lovely version. I got the tune years ago from a lovely but relatively little- known player in LA named Kira Ott, who recorded it on her album with a band called Ciunas. Joey Abarta, who is now making a splash in piper circles, played around with this crew back then.

The Golden Castle (Hornpipe) NTAD

Karan Casey, with Kate Ellis on cello

Karan Casey & Kate Ellis – The Fiddle and the Drum (Folk Alley)

Rosemarie brought in a beautiful air called “Ar Eirinn Ni Osainn Ce Hi,” or “For Ireland, I’ll Not Tell Her Name.” Which I sometimes call “In Irish, I Can’t Spell Her Name.” Here’s an English language version, sung by Kathy Jordan and her band, Dervish. . I don’t have any idea how close the translation is from the Irish. Maybe @tricianne garrihy can weigh in. Liam Clancy has a beautiful version out there, too, as does Maria McCool – Singer, though her version is synthed out a bit much for my taste, she’s a beautiful singer who gets a lot of music out of this air. The High Kings also have a well-known version. There are also a number of lovely instrumental versions of it out there by Eamonn Dillon, Paddy Maloney and many, many others. This a very rich one to explore with a lot of different takes on it… some more plainly stated, some more heavily ornamented. Plagiarize heavily from multiple sources.

Dervish “Ar Eirinn Ni Neosfainn” (Montage)

Doinna. By John McSherry. This air was composed by a Cape Breton player named Jackie Molard. The name and some of the musical elements evoke an eastern European musical form, the Doina. There’s a wikipedia page to look up more on the form and structure and history for those interested. There is a history of importation of eastern European influences into Irish music… the Polka, for example, originates in Poland, though the modern Irish polkas sound quite different. Donal Lunny and Alec Finn brought the bouzouki to Irish music, pioneering the sound with the Bothy Band and DeDanaan. Any Irvine also travelled extensively in Eastern Europe, and brought back a lot of their odd-meter forms, which he inflicted on his bandmates in Planxty. (cf. the Horos he recorded, which you can find on Youtube) and songs like the beautiful “Thousands are Sailing.”

“Doinna” McSherry

 – Jason van Steenwyck