Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rolls- In Irish Traditional Music

Jennys Chickens

A very popular session tune

Eileen Ivers aims to begin new year on positive note

Here’s one of Eileen Ivers’ New Year’s Eve wishes:

“I want to leave folks feeling very positive and joyful heading into the New Year.” Which is excellent news for folks here since Ivers and her band Immigrant Soul will be spending the night of Dec. 31 as a headline act for First Night Worcester 2010 with performances at 9:30 and 10:45 p.m. in Mechanics Hall.

The electric, eclectic Irish-American fiddler extraordinaire has played in Worcester before, including a previous First Night Worcester appearance. “I have some very nice memories. It’s a great community,” said Ivers, who lives in New York City.

So those already in the know, will know the following: “In set after set, she played with a tremendous energy and excitement that easily caught on with the wildly enthusiastic audience.” That was from a 2000 Telegram & Gazette review by David Lasky.

At 44, Ivers continues to relish performing live. This holiday season she certainly hasn’t spent much time sitting down staring at the holly and the ivy. Part of her recent holiday tour included a string of engagements in Alaska. “I love it,” she said of performing before audiences. “It’s such a passion still. Thankfully the band and I share it. It’s ridiculous. We go over the top. We have to give everything.”

Who could wish for more? But, actually, there is a lot more to Ivers. In the case of this “Riverdance” star, it is not just still waters that run deep. She’s done post-graduate work in mathematics, for example. Musically, the equation includes playing on more than 60 records, including releases by Paula Cole and Patti Smith. She was a founding member of the band Cherish the Ladies and worked with The Chieftains. Her fiddle work was featured on the movie “Titanic,” and she was the featured performer in the touring version of “Riverdance.”’ She’s worked with the Boston Pops and recently played some dates with Sting in support of his new album, “If On a Winter’s Night.”

So, given her diversity and Irish-American heritage, just how much of her music is Irish and how much is American or otherwise?

“There’s a lot of blend,” she said. “Certainly the core of it is Irish. At the same time, we do love to draw parallels.” Irish music, she noted, is the “backbone” of American musical forms such as bluegrass.

Ivers’ musical background was formed growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., a daughter of Irish immigrants from County Mayo. “County Bronx,” Ivers quipped about her neighborhood. But while there were plenty of other Irish immigrants there, other ethnic heritages helped make for an interesting blend “There was a mix. It was a great neighborhood to grow up.”

Ivers spent her summer school vacations in Ireland. “I got a wonderful sense of our Irish heritage,” she said. She has recalled visiting grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and, as she once put it, “chasing the farm animals around, toppling over haystacks, and entering music competitions.”

In fact, she was seven-time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion.

An uncle told her of a memory he had of Ivers as a young child holding a pink plastic guitar and trying to play it fiddle-style with a wooden spoon. Ivers can recall listening to records at home and becoming entranced by the sounds that the fiddle can make. “I remember thinking that sound — it’s such a warm sound, so much joy can be on that instrument.

“I was a pretty serious kid. Every day it wasn’t hard to get me to sit down and practice. The competitions began fairly early. But I never dreamed I’d be playing professionally.”

Ivers credits her early successes to her New York fiddle teacher, Martin Mulvihill. “It was unheard of,” she said of an American girl from the Bronx winning fiddle competitions in Ireland. “It’s just a testament to the teacher we had. He just embodied Irishness.”

She has maintained her Irish connections. “My husband and I built a home in the West of Ireland. It feels very natural there. My folks often go back. It’s really like a full circle.”

Speaking of circles, Ivers has won fans around the globe while touring the world. The Irish music has a universal appeal, she said. “One big part of it — there’s so many emotions in it. Slow airs, beautiful old melodies that people can latch on to. And the joy — it’s so accessible. People around the world can feel that.”

Closer to home, Ivers was asked what she’ll be performing in Worcester on Thursday. Given that it is still the holidays, there will likely be a couple of songs of the season, she said. Sting’s evocative “Soul Cakes” from “If On a Winter’s Night” has made an impression. “I just fell in love with the song. It’s a beautiful winter song.” Irish bluegrass will also likely be on the First Night list.

“It’s such a special night. You can bring something special and put your spirit out there and make it a special night for everyone,” she said. She paused, “As I’m talking to you, I’m thinking of a tune I wrote for my parents — ‘Bygone Days.’ ”

That will be on the list, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ivers will change the way you think about the violin

FAIRBANKS - The Boston Globe claims it’s nearly impossible to sit still at an Eileen Ivers concert.

They’ve called a performance by Ivers and her band Immigrant Soul an “invigorating and highly energetic evening,” and, thanks to the Fairbanks Concert Association, Ivers is making her way north this weekend. The internationally acclaimed Irish musician brings the rich and heart-pounding sounds from the green rolling hills of Ireland to the Hering Auditorium this Sunday for a special holiday concert “An Nollaig — An Irish Christmas.”

“If you feel like clapping along, feel free,” Ivers said she often tells her audience. “It’s absolutely that kind of music.”

Ivers has been wowing audiences worldwide since the age of 8, collecting more than 30 Irish fiddling championship medals and playing for royalty and Grammy winning performers for decades. She is one of the most decorated musicians in the history of fiddling competition. She’s been hailed as one of the great innovators and pioneers in the Celtic and world music genres.

Critics from The Irish Times have referred to Iver’s performance as “a superb, fast-paced and high-energy performance.”

Ivers takes a fresh spin on traditional Irish tunes, respectfully fusing the traditions of the Celtic fiddle while exploring the roots of American music. She’ll change the way audience members think about the violin as she bridges the gap between her Celtic roots and styles ranging from jazz, salsa, Caribbean and flamenco to funk and even electronic.

Billboard magazine has called Ivers a “sensation,” and the New York Times has called her “the Jimi Hendrix of the violin.”

The daughter of two Irish immigrants, Ivers was raised deep in the Bronx of New York City. While her parents kept her closely tied to her Irish heritage, Ivers was exposed to the melting pot of New York City, and that exposure has transferred well into her musical talents.

Ivers has played center stage with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops.

She is also one of the original musicians of Riverdance. She has also played alongside music icons such as The Chieftans, Hall and Oates, Sting, Patti Smith and Paula Cole.

What: Fairbanks Concert Association presents Eileen Ivers

When: 4 p.m., Sunday

Where: Hering Auditorium

Tickets: Available at Grassroots Guitar or at

A family Cajun tradition continues

For Cajun music's preeminent power couple, Marc and Ann Savoy, playing music isn't merely a vocation or creative outlet. It's an all-encompassing way of life, a family tradition that's intimately tied to the Louisiana land.
Based in Eunice, a small city in the heart of Cajun country, the Savoys have been at the center of the Cajun revival for more than three decades. While they play together and separately in several combos, the Savoy Family Cajun Band best embodies the regenerative power of Cajun culture, an unbroken chain stretching back for centuries.
An acoustic quartet featuring the Savoy sons Wilson (Cajun accordion, piano and bass) and Joel (fiddle), the family has honed an extensive Ancien Régime repertoire of rollicking dance music that's as earthy and bluntly sensuous as the blues. Handed down for generations, the songs have been infused with fresh energy by the Savoy sons, organic products of a community that once again embraces its roots.
"We live our lives so authentically within this neighborhood," says guitarist and fiddler Ann Savoy, who brings the Family Cajun Band to San Francisco's Great American Music Hall on Friday and Don Quixote's in Felton on Sunday.
"Marc's family has been here seven generations. Joel is living in his grandfather's house. At 10, the boys started playing and never looked back. The instruments were here and they were always around when we were playing with other musicians. It's interesting how by osmosis they absorbed the sounds and smells and tastes and became part of what this world is."
Cajun culture is a proud birthright for Marc, a master accordionist and instrument builder whose Savoy Music Center has served ground zero for the Cajun cultural renaissance since 1965. He toured and recorded with many of the legendary Cajun musicians who first recorded the songs brought from Canada's Maritime Provinces when the French-speaking Acadians were expelled by the British in the mid-18th century.
Settling in Louisiana, the Cajuns preserved the old tunes while absorbing influences that flowed through Louisiana. It's a process that continues to shape the music today, exemplified by Wilson's thumping boogie woogie piano, an instrument that's hardly typical in traditional Cajun combos.
"Cajun music is a product of whatever's coming through this region, which is situated on a major byway," Joel says. "So Wilson's rockin' piano, which gives the band a nice rhythm and blues feel, belongs there just as much as anything else.
"Having so many different multi-instrumentalists, we can cover so many different sounds. We do twin fiddles, three fiddles, and sometimes just fiddles and guitar or fiddles and accordion. We can get a lot of different sounds."
While Ann is the only member of the band who's not a Louisiana native, she's devoted her adult life to Cajun culture. A Francophile who grew up in Richmond, Va., she met Marc at the National Folk Festival in Washington, D.C., in 1977. Before long she and Savoy were married and two-thirds of the pioneering Savoy Doucet Band with fiddle master Michael Doucet, who also leads the popular Cajun band BeauSoleil.
Many of the artists who first recorded Cajun music in the 1920s and '30s were still on the scene, and the Savoys played an essential role in bringing them to a wider audience. Off the bandstand, Ann Savoy's affectionate interviews of the old-timers became her award-winning book "Cajun Music, A Reflection of a People," one of the first scholarly efforts to explore the history of Cajun music (she's at work on a second volume).
She also became the public face of Cajun music, appearing in numerous documentaries and in Callie Khouri's 2002 film "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," which also featured Joel.
From the beginning of the Cajun renaissance, Northern California has served as something of a second home for the Savoys, ties that endure on several fronts. Most importantly, Chris Strachwitz's El Cerrito-based Arhoolie label has documented just about every Savoy project, including the Family Cajun Band's most recent release "Turn It Loose But Don't Let Go."
Now the next Savoy generation is picking up the torch. Several years ago Joel launched Valcour Records with two partners, a label dedicated to documenting the music of Louisiana. He tours with the Cajun/Gypsy band The Red Stick Ramblers while Wilson has launched several projects of his own. They feel free to put their own twist on Cajun music because of their deep knowledge of their roots.
"A lot of people our age and the generation before us learned this repertoire because my parents were part of that early revival," Joel says. "We end up playing a lot of the tunes my dad has made famous.
"Nowadays they're the only people still playing that stuff, so we're continuing the tradition, but adding a lot as far as our particular styles are concerned. My mom has always been one for digging up repertoire, and my dad just pulls the songs out of his head."
The Savoy Family Cajun Band
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Don Quixote"s, 6275 Highway 9, Felton, $14-$16, www.don
Tickets: $14-$16,
Also: 9 p.m. Friday, Great American Music Hall, 859 O"Farrell St., San Francisco. $20,

Monday, November 23, 2009

In fiddlers’ songs, echoes of the past

EASTHAM - The lilting notes of “St. Anne’s Reel,’’ a rollicking Canadian fiddle tune, glide out the front door and into the pitch-black night near Kingsbury Beach. Inside, eight fiddlers and a bass player tap a wooden floor with their feet, pull and push their bows, and tilt their faces toward fingers that dance atop the strings.

It’s another Monday night for the Cape Cod Fiddlers, a knot of local musicians who began gathering every week 20 years ago to catch up, leave their jobs behind, and indulge a love of music that often is centuries old.

They also are part of the glue that accounts for the remarkable staying power of the fiddle, the common man’s violin that was an indispensable element in house parties, barn dances, and social occasions that bound a community together for generations. In the hands of the Cape Cod Fiddlers, the music might be old, but the spirit that powers the tunes is as fresh as the cinnamon-spiked cider that warms on the kitchen stove.

“When I’m playing, there’s nothing else,’’ said Stuart Moore, who doubles as Chatham’s shellfish warden when he’s not carving out time to make a little fiddle music.

The group first came together through the efforts of Billy Hardy, a native of Hackensack, N.J., who moved to Eastham 37 years ago and never looked back. Seated in his house at the head of a long, thin table, Hardy is all bouncing, earnest movement as the fiddlers move between tunes with almost imperceptible ease.

“Everyone has to leave their egos at the door when we play,’’ said Hardy, one of two professional musicians in the group. The remainder come from an eclectic array of jobs: architect, graphic designer, two teachers, lawyer, and the Irish music librarian at Boston College.

“How would we all be sitting in the same room otherwise,’’ asked Hardy, delighted by the convergence.

The tunes move among the great fiddle traditions - including Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton, French Canada, and Appalachia. The players learn from each other, teach each other, and revel in what is a constantly simmering melting pot of music.

The atmosphere, which includes a wood stove and a bearded collie named Kylah, is convivial but low-key - at least until the music starts and the sensation is one of driving sound and bobbing feet. Over 20 years, a fair amount of hair has turned gray.

For Dinah Mellin of Orleans, who studied classical music, the effervescence and physicality of the tunes are a big part of their allure. “I like the liveliness of it and the bowing,’’ Mellin said. “It’s a workout.’’

Indeed, for more than two hours last Monday, the fiddlers barely stopped, catching their breath and resting their arms only briefly while they waited for the first notes of a musical journey to somewhere new. There were waltzes, and reels, and rags, and plaintive laments, many of which they play periodically in concert.

Hardy said he had trouble finding other fiddlers when he began to play. Now, the scene is dramatically different. Informal get-togethers are much more abundant than they were a few decades ago, and instruction is plentiful, Hardy said.

Mike Falkoff, vice president of the Boston Scottish Fiddle Club, agreed the music has been revitalized. In the last three years, he said, the club’s membership has doubled to about 90 people.

“It’s amazingly crisp music,’’ Falkoff said. “I love classical music, and basically a lot of the stuff is what would have been played in 1790. It’s well-syncopated string music in a number of different sorts of rhythm.’’

Much Scottish fiddle music made its way to Boston from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where 18th- and 19th-century emigrants from Scotland brought traditions that continued to survive and thrive in a largely rural and isolated society. For entertainment, the fiddle was king.

“The violin sings, but the fiddle dances,’’ Hardy said about the differences in the instrument’s use. “There’s a joke that the only difference is that nobody cares if you spill beer on the fiddle.’’

Hardy, however, clearly cares about his instrument, which is of British origin from the 1800s. Other fiddles in the room were made many decades ago in Germany. And a mandocello, played by Tim Dickey of Truro, will turn 100 this year.

Hardy, like several other fiddlers here, was hard-pressed to explain precisely why he craves fiddle music.

“My gut feeling is the music is just good, and people can feel that,’’ Hardy said. “I’ve had people come up to me after a concert and say this music is therapeutic.

“I’m sure it is for us, too.’’

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Irish fiddle championship

Continuing with the Senior Fiddle Competition at Fleadh Cheoil ha hÉireann 2007, from Irish Minstrels CCÉ, Glasgow, Scotland, Katie Boyle played this reel. More videos at

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don’t listen to this man if you want ‘diddly dee’ fiddling...

Rob Adams talks to Caoimhin O Raghallaigh, one of the star attractions at this weekend’s Fiddle 2009 Festival

Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms will be thronged from Friday to Sunday this weekend as fiddle players and listeners alike gather to celebrate the continuing popularity of the instrument and its music in the capital’s annual fiddle festival.

It was at a gathering similar to this that a young musician had his enthusiasm re-fired by a group of players his own age, a re-firing that has led to Caoimhin O Raghallaigh emerging as arguably the most fascinating Irish musician of his generation.

There’s a tendency for those who don’t care for traditional fiddle music – and some who do but with a more ironic inflection – to refer to it as “diddly dee” music.

Making music is like painting sound onto a canvas of time
Caoimhin O Raghallaigh
O Raghallaigh doesn’t do “diddly dee”. He can and loves to play all the traditional tune types with great skill, but his mission goes beyond the tradition.

His belief is that people without any interest or background in traditional music can be drawn into fiddle music and his approach is more that of a poet with sound. There’s a bit of the poet with words in the thirty-year-old Mr O Raghallaigh, too.

“Making music is like painting sound onto a canvas of time,” he says in a quote that, if he hasn’t already done so, he should copyright pronto.

O Raghallaigh was once almost lost to making music. Growing up in Dublin with parents who didn’t play instruments but had spent much of their courtship driving for miles around County Clare to see concertinist Noel Hill and fiddler Tony Linnane and bands like Planxty, the Chieftains and the Bothy Band, he was accustomed to hearing Irish traditional music through the many LPs there were at home. One particular musician, however, captured his imagination.

Hearing a young John Kelly playing The Marino Waltz, a tune composed by The Dubliners’ John Sheahan, on a TV commercial, O Raghallaigh decided that he, too, should play the fiddle.

After much pleading for fiddle lessons, his mother took him to the classes that traditional music advocates Comhaltas ran nearby but, at eight, he was considered too young at the time and was told to come back in two years. The pleading continued, so his mother tried a classical violin teacher.

“I arrived for my first lesson full of enthusiasm, with a manuscript copy of The Marino Waltz in my hand,” says O Raghallaigh. “The teacher was horrified by this piece of music.

“Instead of nurturing my enthusiasm, she turned it to stone in double quick time, I’m afraid. Inspiring she was not. Her final comment to my mother was: ‘You’re wasting your money and my time. He’ll never be a musician’.”

And that might have been that but for his parents, two years later, taking him to a festival in Gormanstown, where he heard a bunch of young fiddlers sounding – he thought – great and having a lot of fun.

Another teacher was found who, this time, opened the door to the world of Irish music, including sessions where the youngster would sit with a group of much older, wiser heads, playing as quietly as possible with his ear to his instrument, trying to fit into the rhythms of jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas and slides.

In his mid teens O Raghallaigh began to feel, much as he loved playing the fiddle and by this time, the tin whistle and flute too (he later added the uilleann pipes), that the music he was playing was lifeless.

“I realised that nobody was going to teach me how to change that,” he says. “It was up to me to figure it out for myself. So I went in search of music that really excited me. I tried to immerse myself totally in it and try to grasp some fundamental difference between it and the music I was making.”

His quest took him, after leaving school, to a transition year work experience post in the Irish Traditional Music Archives in Dublin where, while working as an archivist, he was able to listen over and over to old recordings, especially of fiddle players from the Sliabh Luachra district on the Cork-Kerry border, County Clare musicians including fiddler Patrick Kelly and piper Willie Clancy, and sean-nos (old style) singers.

All through his student years at Trinity College, where he graduated in theoretical physics, O Raghallaigh continued working in the archives during the holidays and continued to immerse himself in the tradition.

“The thing that really interested me about truly great traditional music was not the notes I heard, but how it made me feel and the state of mind it created in you as a listener,” he says. Not for him, then, the pursuit of speed as a means of making traditional music more exciting.

“Well, if the thing that interests you about traditional music is the notes, then it makes perfect sense that you’d want to play as many of them as possible, as fast as possible,” he says. “But if the thing that interests you is the state of mind created, I think it makes sense to create the kind of music I’m creating now.

“There are many other aspects of the tradition that are integral to the music I make, aspects which many other people have not chosen to keep, such as a particular sense of time and space, an idiosyncratic and internally coherent sense of intonation, and an unsterilised idea of what constitutes acceptable tone.

“I think of music much more in terms of sound than in terms of notes.”

In this he shares an approach with Norwegian fiddler Nils Okland, whose tour earlier this year for the Scottish Arts Council’s Tune-up programme proved a revelation. O Raghallaigh and Okland also share a common instrument, the Norwegian hardanger fiddle, to which O Raghallaigh was introduced while working on a particle accelerator project in America in 2000.

With its wide tonal range and the effect of its sympathetic strings, which allow O Raghallaigh to incorporate the drones of the uilleann pipes into his fiddle playing, the hardanger might have been invented for his new music, albeit music that comes from deep in the tradition.

“Nils and me are not the only ones doing this,” he says. “All over the world, in other folk music traditions, there are people writing really interesting contemporary music which is very obviously directly related to folk music but isn’t necessarily folk music.

“My album Where the One-Eyed Man Is King opened up a whole new listenership. They don’t need a background in traditional music to get it. So I’m trying to communicate to people who might have switched off.”

Caoimhin O Raghallaigh plays at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh on Saturday at 10pm and Sunday at 3pm. For information on Fiddle 2009, log onto

Erin Loughran plays two Ed Reavy tunes on Fiddle

Here are two Ed Reavy reels played by fiddle player Erin Loughran from Pearl River, New York. Erin learned her music from Brian Conway and Rose Conway Flanagan. The reels are: "In memory of Coleman" and "The Wild Swans of Coole".

The music was recorded at the North American Comhaltas Convention in Parsippany, New Jersey in April 2004. Info on this year's convention at

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Farewell to Connaught - Tradschool

Irish reel on flute and fiddle. More at

Aidan O'Neill on Irish Fiddle

Multi-instrumentalist Aidan O'Neill from Trillick, Co. Tyrone plays the reel "Farewell to Ireland" on fiddle. Aidan won the All-Ireland title in Senior fiddle and came 3rd in senior button accordion in 2006, having won the senior concertina in 2004.

More info and videos at

Thursday, October 29, 2009

John Carty at Scoil Cheoil na Botha - Festival in Scotstown

John Carty performing at the Scoil Cheoil na Botha music weekend in Scotstown, Co. Monaghan Website:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Katie Boyle on Fiddle

A selection of reels from fiddle player Katie Boyle from Glasgow, Scotland on the Comhaltas Concert Tour of North America in October 2007. The reels are "McCahill's" and "The Flood on the Road to Glenties".

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vazzy hit concert series

The duo Vazzy brings you traditional melodies and songs from Acadia, Quebec and France. From medieval sonorities with a hint of Arabic and Breton, to lively French-Canadian fiddle tunes.

Their engaging and dynamic performances are sure to make you laugh at times and experience very touching moments at others.

Vazzy’s repertoire of humourous songs and instrumentals with infectious toe-tapping rhythms are sure to liven-up the occasion.

As well, the ballads will take you to an intimate space where you will feel the life and emotions of a people through time.

From a large family in Northern New-Brunswick, Suzanne Leclerc sings and plays a variety of instruments including foot-tapping, spoon playing, doumbeck, bodhran, jews harp, harmonica and button accordion.

She shares her Acadian traditions through her warm vocals and touching interpretations. Bryn Wilkin brings life to the string instruments — playing fiddle, mandolin, banjo and oud (Arabic luth). In addition to his tasty song accompaniments, he draws the instrumentals pieces from his wide repertoire of traditional Canadian and French-Canadian tunes.

Vazzy has performed from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland and south in Washington State and California.

Listen to their music, view some videos and find out more at

Monday, October 19, 2009

Barrage to bring 'fiddle fest' to Performing Arts Center

The Arts Council of South Wood County is pleased to present Barrage at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Performing Arts Center of Wisconsin Rapids, 1801 16th St. S. This high-octane fiddle fest has been referred to as "too Wow for Words" by the Denver Post.

The show is an eclectic mix of contemporary world music, layered vocal arrangements, and pulsating modern beats and rhythms. The young, hip cast delivers the show with amazing energy and musical virtuosity, often leaping into the air mid-song as they dance and sing across the stage.

The eight-member group originated in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in 1996. The creators, known as 5 to 1 Entertainments, follow an "unshakable belief that artistic experiences can motivate, educate, cross cultural boundaries and still be fun." Dean Marshall, the artistic director for the group, is distinguished as having stretched the parameters of violin playing by incorporating fiddling and traditional music styles, and a world-beat sound into his arrangements.

Those chosen to perform for Barrage are selected via intensive audition calls that occur year-round, around the world. Consisting of five violinists, one drummer, one guitarist and one bass player, the current members hail from Canada, Germany and the United States.

The Arts Council sought the performance for Wisconsin Rapids per the recommendation of local strings teacher Ginger Marten. The group is well-known for its student outreach programs and influence on young musicians. The Arts Council will be offering a student outreach program for music students. To make arrangements to attend, call me at 421-4552.

The Lincoln High School Chamber Group will be performing in the Performing Arts Center lobby prior to the performance. The Lincoln High School Cheer and Stunt team will offer refreshments.

Tickets for the Nov. 5 performance are $33 for adults and $15 for students. A group discount of 15 percent is available for groups of 10 or more. To order tickets, call the Arts Council office at 424-2787 or go to the office at 1040 Eighth St. S., Suite 101, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday or 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets also are available at Daly Drug, 3215 Eighth St. S.

The Arts Council would like to thank Marshfield Clinic and Renaissance Learning Inc. for financial sponsorship of the show. In-kind media sponsorship is provided by 1320 WFHR-AM and Wisconsin Public Radio (90.9 WHRM-FM).

Christine Scheller, is executive director of the Arts Council of South Wood County. She can be reached at 424-2787 or

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Renowned player offers trad and classical fiddle lessons

By John McCusker
RENOWNED fiddle player Nollaig Casey launches a series of lessons in the Strule Arts Centre beginning next week (Monday, October 5).

The lessons are aimed at both traditional and classical players and will cater for all levels of experience, including adult classes. Bookings are now being taken for the term which will last for a total of ten weeks.

Nollaig – a classically trained musician and distinguished traditional player – has performed to audiences worldwide with numerous groups and ensembles over the years.

Among those she has recorded and worked with were Enya, Van Morrison, Sinéad O'Connor, Nanci Griffith, Ricky Skaggs, Rod Stewart, Dónal Lunny, Mary Black, Carlos Nuñez, Andy Irvine, Moving Hearts, Christy Moore, Liam O'Flynn, Sharon Shannon, Maura O'Connell and her sister, harp player Máire Ní Chathasaigh.

She has made two duo albums, Lead The Knave and Causeway, with Arty McGlynn and a quartet album with her sister Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Arty McGlynn and Chris Newman which was released last year to critical acclaim.

Nollaig was a founder member of Dónal Lunny's ground-breaking band Coolfin and was the featured fiddle player in the stage production of Riverdance.

A number of her compositions have been used as signature tunes for both radio and TV.

Born into a well-known West Cork musical family, Nollaig began to play the violin at the age of 11, having previously mastered the piano, tin-whistle and uilleann pipes. During her teens she developed her talents both in the fields of classical and traditional music, winning several All-Ireland titles for fiddle-playing and traditional singing culminating in the award to her of the Bonn Éigse agus Ceoil at Slógadh Náisiúnta na h-Éireann 1972 for the best all-round performer.

She had already begun to compose and in 1972 won an RTÉ Radio Young Composer of the Year Competition for newly-composed tunes in the traditional idiom. As a student of the Royal Irish Academy of Music she won the Vandeleur Scholarship and was awarded the Arthur Darley Memorial Prize at the Dublin Feis Ceoil.

As a student of the Royal Irish Academy of Music she won the Vandeleur Scholarship and was awarded the prestigious Arthur Darley Memorial Prize at the Dublin Feis Ceoil for the playing of unaccompanied Bach Sonatas and Partitas.

After graduating from University College Cork with a music degree at the early age of 19, she began her professional career, firstly with the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra before joining Planxty in 1980, touring all over Europe with them.

She has been the featured soloist on over 20 feature-films – most recently in Dancing at Lughnasa and Waking Ned. She also featured prominently in the 1992 film Hear My Song about the life of singer Josef Locke.

Nollaig continues to work and tour regularly along with Arty McGlynn and the pair recently performed in the Alley Arts Centre in Strabane.

* Those wishing to enrol in the

series of lessons which begin next Monday, October 5 in the Strule Arts Centre should contact the

venue on 028 8224 7831

or email Nollaig at

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Irish musical delights of Donegal

KILCAR, Co. Donegal -- The tide is rolling steadily into Tawny Bay towards Kilcar Town as the rain falls softly down for the first time on my current rambles in Ireland.

Alongside a warm comfortable fire burning in the holiday home of friends Patricia and Jim Flynn, access to wireless Internet affords me the opportunity to pen some lines about the first visit to Donegal in a score of years. It is only a flying visit for the weekend, but anytime spent in such a beautiful part of the world is memorable, especially when you can take in some traditional music and dancing along the way and reconnect with old friends and meet new ones which is so easy to do in Ireland.

Twilight was ebbing last Friday night as I drove across the Derryveagh Mountains on a winding country road leading to the sandy shores of Gweedore. There was enough light remaining to make out the majestic form of Mount Errigal in Glenveigh National Park in the distance, one of the most distinguishable summits among the spectacular hills of Donegal.

The first stop in my Destination Donegal tour would be Bunbeg and the famous house for music, Hudi Beag’s Tavern, brought to greater recognition by Altan, the traditional music group that helped raise the profile of the unique Donegal music style a number of years ago.

Fridays and Mondays would be nights where tunes are shared and arrangements are made to meet up with Ciaran O’Maonaigh and Caitlinn Nic Gabhann (visiting from Co. Meath before she headed back to her studies in Cork). We were also joined by Ciaran’s father Gearoid O’Maonaigh who plays guitar. and a piper from Belfast, Conor Tay.

Ciaran O’Maonaigh is one of those extraordinary young musicians carrying on the musical heritage of Donegal who was recognized back in 2003 as a comer by TG4, which named the fiddler the Young Musician of the Year.

The following year he produced a fabulous CD, “Music of the Glen,” that also featured Dermot McLaughlin and John Blake, that highlighted the music of this region which has been further enhanced by his latest recording with two other Donegal musicians, Aidan O’Donnell and Damien McGeehan, as a fiddle trio called Fidil.

Caitlinn is the youngest daughter of Cavan fiddle master Antoin MacGabhann who plays the concertina, and a part of the very vibrant Co. Meath music scene.

Hudi Beag’s was relatively quiet this night in terms of a crowd, but the music was sublime and intense and well worth making the journey all the way from Dublin that day. Quiet tunes in pubs like this are really to be treasured, because in noisier or more touristy timeframes, one wouldn’t have the pleasure of hearing the music with such clarity and beauty.

By Paul Keating

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tommy Peoples, Lewes Saturday Folk Club

Published Date: 21 September 2009
FIDDLER Tommy Peoples gave a masterful and well-received performance in Lewes despite suffering the loss of his usual instrument.
Tommy, from Donegal, had to borrow a fiddle for the gig at the Elephant and Castle after a thief stole his fiddle from his car the day before the Lewes Saturday Folk Club show on Saturday.

The appreciative audience followed up the applause later with some e mails of congratulation.
One of the e mails from a fan from the Isle of Wight said: " Thank you for organising such an amazing gig last night. Literally took my breath away a few times. Real traditional music, taking us to some other place. I drove home without putting any other music on and had his playing going on in my head till I went to sleep around 2.30am."

Fans also came from as far away as Devon and London.

Tommy performed for more than 90 minutes and his solo playing is described as "heart-stoppingly beautiful, delicate, intricate and inventive: it demands careful concentration rather than foot-pounding and whooping."

Members of the audience who also contributed a tune or two during the evening included Mandy Murray and Ben Paley on anglo concertina and fiddle, Dirk Campbell on Uilleann pipes and Elle Osborne on voice and fiddle.

Tommy's all-day fiddle workshop during the day was also sold out with a long waiting list.

Next week's guest is the American Jeff Warner who accompanies his American traditional songs with banjo, guitar and concertina.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Neotraditionalists Nora Ben and Eli to Perform

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 16, 2009) − The "neotraditional" sound of musical trio Nora Ben and Eli, 16 year-old multi-instrumentalists from Louisville, is next up for "Appalachia in the Bluegrass," a series of concerts performed by artists known for their knowledge of Appalachian music and tradition. The Nora Ben and Eli concert, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for noon Friday, Sept. 18, in the Niles Gallery of the University of Kentucky's Lucille Caudill Little Fine Arts Library and Learning Center.

Musicians Nora Grossman, Ben Scruton, and Eli Kleinsmith play an eclectic mix that includes jazz, Irish and Appalachian folk, old-time music and original tunes. The group's own unique arrangements incorporate a variety of instruments including fiddle, guitars, banjo, accordion, percussion, ukulele and tinwhistle, as well as vocals.

Nora Ben and Eli began playing music together as members of the Louisville Leopard Percussionists (LLP), where they were exposed to an array of musical styles and were introduced to improvisation and composing. After graduation from LLP, the three came together to form their own group, constantly evolving as an ensemble, adding new styles of music, new instruments and even some traditional dance elements into their performances. The group recently released a CD of original music titled "Neotradition."

Nora has been involved with folk music and dance for most of her life. She plays guitar, mandolin, percussion, ukulele and piano. Nora also performs with the Angleterre Morris Dancers, experimental belly dance group the Samovar Dance Theatre, and her school's Salsa Club. Nora is a sophomore at duPont Manual High School.

Ben plays a range of folk instruments that includes banjo, guitar, ukulele, mandolin, accordion, tin whistle and recorder. He also plays piano and is a trombonist with the Youth Performing Arts School bands and Louisville Youth Orchestra. Outside of the world of music, Ben also participates in cross country, ultimate Frisbee, math competition, and folk dancing. A junior, he also attends duPont Manual.

Eli began Suzuki violin lessons at the age of 8. In addition to being an outstanding fiddler, he is an accomplished classical violinist previously performing with the Louisville Youth Orchestra for three years. Eli also plays guitar, piano, banjo, mandolin and percussion. His other interests include film and visual arts. Eli is a junior at St. Francis High School.

Watch video of the trio Nora Ben and Eli performing Jean Ritchie's "Wintergrace" with musician Meaghan Spencer.

The "Appalachia in the Bluegrass" concert series, presented by UK's John Jacob Niles Center for American Music, showcases a diverse selection of traditional musical expression. This series focuses on the many faces of indigenous American folk music, celebrating its roots in old-time music. All "Appalachia in the Bluegrass" concerts take place in the gallery of the Niles Center in the Little Fine Arts Library on UK's central campus. Niles Gallery concerts are scheduled on Fridays at noon and are free and open to the public.

The John Jacob Niles Center for American Music, a collaborative research and performance center of the UK College of Fine Arts, UK School of Music, and UK Libraries, is the host of "Appalachia in the Bluegrass."

For more information on the Nora Ben and Eli concert or the "Appalachia in the Bluegrass" series, contact Ron Pen, director of the Niles Center, by phone at (859) 257-8183 or by e-mail.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kevin Burke and Cal Scott

Kevin Burke and Cal Scott bring the best of Celtic music and American roots, folk and jazz to their collaborative style.

The two first met in Portland while working on a documentary titled "The Troubles," a history of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland. Scott — a film composer who has created scores for about 30 PBS documentaries — was commissioned for "The Troubles," and he engaged Burke as a consultant on the project.

Burke's links to Celtic music include being one of the leading fiddlers in his homeland and his roles as a player with the Bothy Band in the late '70s and other groups such as Patrick Street. He has toured extensively with the Celtic Fiddle Festival since the '90s. Being at the forefront of traditional Irish music for nearly 30 years has gained Burke a reputation as a skilled solo artist and ensemble player.

Scott, whose background is in American roots, folk and jazz, plays bass and brass as well as guitar. He is a member of The Trail Band, an ensemble that plays annually at the Craterian in Medford.

The two musicians enjoyed working together enough that after the film score was finished, they continued to spend time together, playing, recording and exchanging ideas.

They released their debut album, "Across the Black River," in May 2007. It was recorded in Oregon and was the premier recording on Burke's new label, Loftus Music.

The album title comes from one of Burke's compositions, named for a river in County Sligo where his mother grew up. Guest musicians on the album are Johnny B. Connolly (accordionist from the band Bridgetown), Michael McGoldrick (flutist for Capercaillie) and Phil Baker (bassist for Pink Martini).

"Across the Black River" dips into both Burke's and Scott's musical backgrounds. The album includes Irish jigs, reels and hornpipes, Scottish airs and bluegrass tunes, along with new compositions. There is a French musette-style waltz by Scott with Connolly on accordion; a swingy arrangement of Bill Monroe's "Evening Prayer Blues" that features multi-tracks of Burke's fiddle and Scott's mandolin; and a melody written by Scottish folk musician Phil Cunningham.

Burke's ongoing interest in American music has led to work with Arlo Guthrie, Tim O'Brien, The Dillards and his own group, Open House. He was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship in 2002 by the National Endowment of the Arts for his contributions to traditional music.

Along with his recordings with The Trail Band and other folk, rock and jazz ensembles and work as a film composer over the past 30 years, Scott's sound track album for the film "Scotland's Lighthouses" earned fourth place in the Celtic Instrumental Album of the Year category in the Just Plain Folks Music Awards.

For more about the duo, visit and

Monday, September 7, 2009

Annual Welsh Celtic Fiddle contest to continue at Stackpole Centre

A Pembrokeshire-based music competiton is to go ahead despite a massive loss of prize sponsorship, its organisers said this week.

The annual Welsh Celtic Fiddle contest is held as part of the Fiddle Festival of Wales, which takes place at the at the end of the month.

But there has been no luck in getting support for prizes for this year's competition, said event co-founder David Hughes, despite contacting some of Pembrokeshire's largest companies.

"In previous years, we had support from Dragon LNG, who generously donated £6,500 over the first five years," he said. "It appears that the global recession has come down hard on Pembrokeshire."

The lack of sponsorship was described as 'a hard blow' to the festival by co-founder Sian Phillips, as some of the country's top fiddle players were attracted to the event by the prizes.

"We shall make up some sort of prize, but nothing as attractive as in previous years," she said.

The festival opens at the Stackpole Centre on Wednesday September 30th with a concert by the 3 Daft Monkeys. There will also be workshops and masterclasses given by legendary jazz violinist Tim Kliphuis from Holland, the Albion Band's Joe Broughton; Mike Lease, who was runner-up in the Irish national competitions and the 2003 Young Traditional Fiddler of the Year, Ross Couper from Shetland.

For concert tickets and worshop booking, telephone 01646 621269.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Irish Fiddle Workshop

Irish fiddle workshop with Tradschool in August 2009

Gorman's Reel, The Pretty Girls of the Village (Mp3)

Fiddle solo, Tom McSharry - piano, Copley 9-115. The first tune is titled after Johnny Gorman, a famous travelling piper from Roscommon who played music with both Michael Coleman and James Morrison. This reel was also recorded by Dublin piper Billy Andrews, who may have learned it directly from Gorman at a Dublin Feis Ceoil, or indirectly from musicians who knew Gorman, as Cronin did. The second tune is often called Anderson's, after another renowned piper, Michael Anderson from Co. Sligo. The spoken outro is by Clare/Dublin/Florida fiddler James Kelly, who made some of the dubs of these old Irish 78s.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Traditional Music - Mp3 Downloads

The Wayfarers Live at Festival of the Mabon

Track List
01) Reels
02) Humpback Whale
03) French Canadian Set
04) banter
05) Pound a Week Rise
06) Paddy on the Spot -> reels
07) banter
08) Beeswing
09) Reels -> Providence Reel
10) Green Shores of Canada
11) Star of Bethlehem -> reel
12) Jigs -> reel
13) Yew Piney Mountain -> reels

Christel Astin - Flute
Jessie Burns - Fiddle
Jeff Hamer - Tenor Banjo, Guitar, Bouzouki, Vocals
Sean Sutherland - Guitar, Bouzouki, Vocals
Spirit Acladach - Bodhran

Download mp3s here:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Scottish Tunes on Fiddle

The Grave of the Unknown Clansman; The Highlands of Banffshire; Trip to Skye; Logie Bridge

Scottish traditional music recorded in a kitchen session in Perthshire.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Twin fiddles at the fair

by Kelly Jo McDonnell
Contributing Writer
Thursday, August 27, 2009 4:32 PM CDT
Watch Video

STILLWATER — When you ask 11-year-old boys what their hobbies are, typically the answer revolves around video games or hanging out with friends.

It’s the same for 11-year-old twins Soren and Skyler Schwendeman of Stillwater, except they add one unusual aspect to the list: they’re close to being musical prodigies. The outstanding fiddle and violin players have competed at the Minnesota State Fair and other contests since they were past the toddling age.

“They almost can’t stop making music … or noise,” laughed their mother, Jill Schwendeman. “They always did walk around humming music. It’s fascinating how they sprout music ... it just comes out their ears.”

For now, they’re gearing up to compete in their age bracket in this year’s Minnesota State Fair Fiddle Contest on Aug. 29 and 30 on the Heritage Square Stage (times are from 2 to 4 p.m. each day). Their enthusiasm for the fair and the contest, which they’ve competed in for the past four or five years, is obvious.

“It’s not as much competing, as getting up there and performing for a ton of people,” said Soren. “It’s fun to be up there.”

Jill said there are wonderful contestants at the competition. “It’s a friendly, supportive community, and we hang out in this little area of the fair, and the kids are running around within 30 feet of each other,” she said. “It doesn’t seem to be real cutthroat.”

Jill remembers when Skyler was 5 and so small he had to lean way up to the microphone.

“I have to say, we’ve only been good for two to three years,” said Soren. “Last year I got fourth place …we haven’t won.”

The boys, who will be in the sixth grade this fall at St. Croix Preparatory Academy in Stillwater, have also performed at countless county and state fairs, as well as gigs at town halls, churches and weddings.

A little history

Asked how they got interested in fiddle music, the twins answer almost in unison.

“Well, me and my brother were driving in the car and mom asked, ‘Hey, do you want to get a violin?’” recalled Skyler. “Me and my brother started jumping up and down.” At the time, the boys weren’t even 5.

The classical violin lessons began, and the boys have never looked back.

Jill said she and her husband, Tiger, thought it was important to stress to their sons that they should “stick with it” for five years and see what happens. “Tiger and I didn’t want them starting and stopping things,” said Jill. “We knew this would give them good grounding.”

She said her own family background has been rooted in music.

“My brother played in a symphony, and my sister was a music therapist,” she said. “I taught K-music, children’s music and piano.”

One of her favorite stories: when the twins were around 6 or 7, they built a lemonade stand outside the house, and if folks bought a glass of lemonade they would play a tune for them on fiddles. “That was fun,” she laughed. “It drew a crowd. Sometimes they put on a CD and played to it outside.”

Both boys said they like all types of music. “Our friends think we’re the musical ones on the block,” said Soren. “They’re into the new hip hop and rapping stuff, and we like that too, but we do classical to heavy metal and rock and any new stuff ... (friends) don’t like the fiddle as much.”

They stress that they do enjoy other things. “I like to read a lot, and be with friends,” said Skyler. “I always like medieval fantasy computer games, too.” Soren said he likes to “play guitar and drums “like all day, sometimes. I like to e-mail chat, too”.

Over summer break, the boys practice once a week and take part in up to three summer music camps each. During the school year, practice is once a day. The musicians have a full-time teacher in Brian Wicklund, a well-known fiddle performer and author on American Fiddle Method.

“Both boys are super musical,” said Wicklund. “They have a spirit of play when they make music. It seems really natural for them.”

He remembered when Soren started playing guitar on his own. “The first time he brought his guitar to play an original composition for me, I was really blown away,” said Wicklund. “The kids have worked up a number of tunes and songs on their own and are really self-motivated.”

The boys talk excitedly when asked about their favorite pieces of music. “Well, I like a piece called ‘Stinky’s Blues’ … it’s actually by Brian, and we manipulated it,” said Skyler. “I actually play it in the contest. I just think it’s fun to play and nice to listen to.”

Soren said he also likes “Orange Blossom Special.” But Jill said State Fair officials won’t let contestants play it at the fiddle contest because it’s “too flashy and weird.”

Bigger venues?

While Jill loves “Prairie Home Companion,” and would like to someday see her boys at that venue, Skyler sees himself playing at Orchestra Hall. Soren said he simply enjoys fair grandstands.

Once another Minnesota State Fair contest is under their belts, what’s next for the Schwendeman twins?

“It’d be cool to have a music career,” said Soren. “I don’t know how easy that would be, shows and stuff, but I’d like to go to Juilliard (School of Music). That would be awesome.”

His brother, Skyler’s plans are slightly different: “I’ve always wanted a career with animals or technology, but I haven’t really been able to decide on a career. Designing computer games, that’s my goal. I think I’ll have something to do with music, but not as my full-time job or anything.”

Samantha Depatie opens school of fiddle & stepdance

By Robert Palangio
Sunday, August 30, 2009
For the nearly 14 years, Chad's School of Fiddle and Stepdance has brought a great Canadian tradition to North Bay and area and has contributed to many local events and charities. Now, Samantha Depatie, a former student of Chad's, is opening a school of her own as Chad makes a permanent move to Ottawa. The new school is called Samantha's Fiddle and Stepdance School snd also has a new location: 141-D Golf Club Road which is across from St. Mary's Cemetery.

Samantha was a student of Chad's for 11 years, worked first as an instructor and then managed the school for Chad when he began to make the transition towards Ottawa. Samantha is very excited to continue the great tradition of fiddling and stepdancing in North Bay and continues to teach the original students from Chad's.

Fiddle and stepdance has been in this area long before Chad's or Samantha's schools ever opened. With the Scottish, Irish, French Canadian and Metis heritage so strong in the area, there is a long tradition of these arts and they are truly Canadian in the sense that any person of any background can enjoy them. Stepdancing is also an effective (and fun!) form of exercise and definitely gets the blood flowing. And this form of dance is not just for the girls; guys can also enjoy stepdancing and many of the best stepdancers in Canada are male!

In the school's new location on Golf Club Road, Samantha is preparing to welcome current and new students for the September session. She is offering fiddle and stepdance lessons for anyone ages 4 and older and is willing to work around her students' schedules to find a class time that is convenient.

The September session begins after Labour Day and registrations will be accepted until September 7th. The class sizes are limited to ensure that Samantha and her instructors can give you the most out of your lesson. And it's not just for kids! Adults are more than welcome and you can even take lessons with your child if you wish.

You can register for a trial month of lessons today by calling 474-7982 or emailing Samantha.

For those who would like to check out the new location or see for themselves what the school has to offer, Samantha will be hosting an open house at the school on Saturday, September 5th from 1-3 p.m. All are welcome to check out the location and see the instructors and some of their students demonstrate their talents.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Toasting Fiddles and Drams

A TWO-DAY musical extravaganza celebrating an array of Scottish talent launches at Winton House, in Pencaitland, next weekend.
Fiddles and Drams 2009 kicks off at 7pm with concert and ceilidh next Friday (August 28). Performances from Ruaridh MacMillan, current BBC Alba Young Musician of the Year, will be followed by Session A9 and an end of night ceilidh with Deoch n Dorus.
The following day (Saturday, August 29) is a family fun day, from 11am until 4pm, which includes music sessions and workshops with Rachel Newton and Jennifer McGlone, story-telling with Claire Mulholland and live music.
There will also be a range of activities, such as falconry, laser clays, dog and duck herding, clay pigeon shooting, archery and session tents - visitors are invited to bring their own instruments.
The jam-packed programme continues in the evening with a family ceilidh between 4.30pm-6.30pm.
From 7pm there will be performances from Lau, followed by The Julie Fowlis Band and an end of night ceilidh with 'Or' led by Fiona Dalgetty, the musical director for the weekend.
Rob Steadman, events and marketing manager of Winton House, said: "The estate and its surroundings offer stunning scenery and spectacular countryside and we hope to keep it that way.
"We are striving to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible from this event as we are already a Carbon Neutral Venue.
"We are encouraging visitors to use the shuttle bus service, car share, or hire a minibus if travelling in groups, in this instance parking is free."
And a treat is in store for 'patriots'. . . as all kilt/tartan wearers over the weekend will also be treated to one free drink.
For ticket information, visit or phone 01875 340222.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Folk on the Farm fiddle

FOLK fiddle enthusiasts are in for a treat this summer when top fiddle player Tom Kitching makes a welcome return to Ashby Arts Festival.

Tom will lead a fiddle workshop at the Folk on the Farm events taking place just outside the town during the first weekend of the festival on Saturday, August 22.

Last year’s workshop was fully subscribed and organiser Sue Kendrick, whose farm is hosting the event, said bookings are already coming in.

She said: "Tom is one of the country’s top young fiddle players. He made the BBC finals for Young Folk Musician of the Year and plays professionally in several well known bands doing the rounds of the folk circuit.

"The workshop was a sell out last year and we’re anticipating the same level of interest this time around."

Tom, along with Gren Bartley, was a huge hit during last year’s festival when he played to a capacity audience at the Venture Folk concert.

He opens the Folk on the Farm events with a Friday evening ceildh on August 21. More information is available from Sue Kendrick on 01530 223467.

Alternatively, visit

Friday, August 14, 2009

Music and laughter at Fiddle Frenzy

I’m not sure how to start this review. To be honest, I probably shouldn’t even be writing it, being a Fetlar lass myself. But you’ll have to excuse that fact, I’m afraid, because Fiddle Frenzy’s night in Fetlar was superb.

There’s something magical about Fetlar. Maybe it’s all the trowie goings on or maybe it’s just because it’s home, but I always feel there’s something special about the place, and it would seem I’m not the only one if the crowd’s reaction on Friday night was anything to go by.

Headlining was the brilliant Fullsceilidh Spellemanslag, who need no introduction here (and I’m not about to get myself into trouble trying …) Their lively set was a big hit with the crowd and got everyone shouting for an encore, and while they were brilliant, for me the highlight of the night came much earlier.

The first act was made up of fiddle players Maurice Henderson, Ashley Leaper and Joe Jamieson, with Andrew Leaper on guitar, who were introduced by Lawrence Tulloch as “a Fetlar band”. It’s here that you’ll have to forgive my bias because 80-year-old Joe Jamieson is my uncle and Andrew and Ashley are my cousins.

Uncle Joe is a brilliant fiddle player, something I’d heard about a lot growing up but didn’t hear for myself until a few years ago, when he took the fiddle down at my granny’s and played for us one New Year.

Seeing him on stage playing was excellent, especially because so many of the tunes he knows are old, many without names, learnt from other great fiddle players now long gone. It’s special to have someone that can remember them and pass them on to another generation to enjoy.

One such tune played on Friday was learnt from the late Irvine Park, another Fetlar man. Uncle Joe either forgot its name or forgot to ask, so it remains nameless. Others were Winyadepla, Heogravilta and Garster’s Dream, which are all traditional Shetland tunes. It was a lovely set and a gentle start to the night.

The next act on was Kevin Henderson on fiddle, accompanied by guitarist Fionán de Barra. The pair played seven sets of traditional and modern tunes, as well as a couple of guitar tunes from Fionán.

Originally from Dublin, Fionán now plays with Fiddlers’ Bid. I was blown away with his playing. It’s not often my attention is pulled away from the fiddle but with his style, rhythm and impressive finger picking it was hard for it not to be. It was a brilliant reminder that the guitar doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) play second, er, fiddle in a set like that. Wow is pretty much all that came to mind.

Some of the highlights of their set included a Gaelic song learnt by Kevin from the Boys of the Lough, which will also have to go nameless as Kevin can’t pronounce it. (He didn’t attempt to sing it either, but played the tune instead.) It had a lovely melody and worked really well as a fiddle tune.

They also played Da Trowie Burn and a barn dance learnt from Irish fiddler Martin Hayes. Da Trowie Burn is a favourite of mine, a beautiful Shetland lament and the kind of tune that makes you homesick, and was beautifully played.

The boys finished with a tune written after a night spent in Austin, Texas, on a Fiddlers’ Bid tour, when Kevin and Maurice managed to convince some unwitting folk that they were a Gaelic singing duo. I’m not sure I’d want a repeat of that performance but the tune that came from it was excellent.

The third act on were the Cullivoe Fiddlers. With various members of the band having played from the middle of the last century, it was good to hear them still on the go.

After some minor trowie technical interference, fourth and final act Fullsceilidh took to the stage and immediately got the crowd stomping their feet and even a few young ones up to dance.

They played tunes from their new album Spreefix, as well as a few new ones including Pure Sandy, after the late Sandy Macaulay, and the Pierhead Reel and were, as ever, sickeningly good.

A quick scan around the hall revealed a rare sight – people of all ages sitting enthralled. I can’t imagine many other occasions that young kids will sit for over an hour to watch a night of fiddle music.

After the rows of seating were cleared away there was a dance to Leeshinat to round things off before the various visitors, musicians and organisers made their way to the last ferry. The night reminded me – as did all of the music heard at the Fiddle Frenzy week – of how lucky we are in Shetland to have talent like this on our doorstep.

Louise Thomason

Erin McGeown on Fiddle with some Irish Reels

Co. Armagh fiddle player Erin McGeown plays a selection of three reels, accompanied on guitar by Deirdre Murray of Toome, Co. Antrim. The first one Erin learned from the playing of Fiddlesticks, the second is a version of "The Mason's Apron" and the third reel is a setting of "The Maid Behind the Bar".


Irish fiddle player, Zoë Conway, is a prodigious talent, equally at home in both traditional Irish and classical styles. Her list of achievements belies her youthful age as Zoë has performed across the globe, both as a solo artist and also playing with international acts such as Riverdance, Damien Rice, Rodrigo y Gabriella, Nick Cave and Lou Reed among others. She is a holder of the much coveted All-Ireland Senior Fiddle Champion title, winning the prestigious competition in 2001. She was also recently voted Best Traditional Female of the Year in Irish Music Magazine. Zoë is increasingly in demand as a tutor, regularly giving workshops and lectures on the merits of classical and traditional music on the violin. She has performed at festivals such as Glastonbury, LOrient, Tonder and Womad and has also performed in some of the most prestigious concert halls in the world including The National Concert Hall, Dublin; The Kremlin, Russia; The Kennedy Centre, Washington; The Broadway Gershwin Theatre and Carnegie Hall, New York. To date, she has released two solo albums, Zoë Conway, produced by Bill Whelan, and The Horses Tail, both critically acclaimed, and she recently released a live DVD, Zoë Conway Live.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fiddling for the first lady

Adam Larkey was born and raised in Abingdon.
For a short while, he had a normal sort of life.
Then his father brought home a fiddle.
Soon enough, Adam’s life wasn’t all that normal, not unless you count playing for first lady Michelle Obama in Washington, D.C., normal.
Oh, and he’s only 12 years old.
“My dad had brought home an old fiddle and I just wouldn’t leave it alone,” Larkey said of his start with the instrument.
He practiced all the time, he said, and played a few shows with his father, a bluegrass bass player, before going on to win the 2008 Youth Old Time Fiddle Championship at the Galax Fiddlers Convention. He’s also appeared on a number of local radio and television shows, including WCYB’s Family Focus, WJHL’s Cable Country, the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion and even played on the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree in Nashville.
Rhythm and Roots and the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance got invited to take part in the White House Summer Music Series and needed to find musicians to send.
Adam, already on the rise in the local sound scene, was a natural pick.
He and nine others from Southwest Virginia and northeastern Tennessee traveled to the nation’s capital a short time later.
“We went to the capital and saw all the monuments,” said Adam. “We walked until our feet were sore and then we kept walking.”
The trip wasn’t just a site-seeing adventure, though. Adam got a chance to participate in a songwriting workshop hosted by Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss.
“We went into a room with a very, very nice stage. Allison Krauss and Brad Paisley played a few songs for us then told us anyone can write a song,” he said.
Adam said Nashville stars gave out some good advice on writing, but he was already acquainted with the writing process. Two years ago, Adam wrote a song for the 2007 Tennessee State PTA Reflection Contest. He walked away with first place.
Now that Adam’s back from Washington, he said he’s going to be working on another song based on the Erwin Six, a group of POW’s from Erwin, Texas.
“I’m a history buff,” he said. “I thought this story was really cool and if I could write a song about them, maybe more people would open their eyes to who they were.”
Though he’s only 12, Adam has had a few run-ins with stars. He’s played alongside Michael Cleveland, Kim Karnes, Penny Gilley, Third Thyme Out and the Little River Band.
Adam also plays in a band with friends and siblings called Mountain Time.
As he’s looking to get back in the studio to record his song and some other music, another brush with fame is keeping him out.
“Ralph Stanley has the studio all booked up,” he said.
To see more of Larkey or hear his music, visit
Justin Harmon can be reached at or 276-628-7101

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Cape Breton Fiddlers association

In February, 1972, a CBC documentary entitled The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler was produced by Ron MacInnis. The premise of this film was the traditional Cape Breton violin music was in a state of decline, and that it would soon disappear entirely! Reaction to this documentary was swift and disbelieving. The most notable achievement of the film was that it shook Cape Bretoners out of their complacency, and it made them aware of that, quite possibly, the Cape Breton Fiddle was facing extinction.

Father John Angus Rankin was one of the key people who vowed that this would never happen! A group composed of Frank MacInnis, Father Eugene Morris, Burton MacIntyre, Archie Neil Chisholm, Father John Angus Rankin, Rod Chisholm, Judge Hugh J. MacPherson, Anne Marie MacDonald, Jeannette Beaton, Joey Beaton, and Ray MacDonald met as a result of a letter sent out by Frank MacInnis. This group discussed the possibility of forming some kind of a fiddlers' festival. This dedicated group of people decided to proceed with the concept; thus, the very seed of the Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association began. Because of the efforts of this determined group, the first Festival of Cape Breton Fiddling was held in Glendale in July 1973. Over one hundred and thirty proud Cape Breton fiddlers arrived in Glendale that weekend and gave one of the greatest concerts ever witnessed in Cape Breton. Several thousand people made up the audience.

Preparation for the successful 1973 festival gave birth to the Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association, and its work continues today. The Association's main mandate has been to preserve and promote traditional Cape Breton fiddle music. Since its inception, it has provided workshops and opportunities for its members to learn new tunes and techniques, it has published tunes written by its members, and it has provided venues for musicians to perform for thousands of people. It has nurtured and supported its members to excel; as a result, many of our wonderful members are now performing worldwide. Our membership has increased to include both local, national, and international members. We have been included in several publications, and we have some wonderful recordings to our credit. Cape Breton fiddle music is alive and flourishing both on the Island and throughout the world; and the Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association is proud to have played a significant role in this resurgence.
Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts

The Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts was established in 1938 by a Presbyterian Minister, Reverend A.W.R MacKenzie. It is located at St. Ann's and is one kilometer off the Trans-Canada Highway (Exit 11) on the world-renowned Cabot Trail. The Gaelic College ahs gained an international reputation for its contribution towards the promotion and preservation of the culture of the Scottish Highlanders who had settled in Cape Breton.

The College is home to the Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association, and it is here that our monthly practices, as well as our annual Festival of Cape Breton Fiddling, are held.

Celtic Colours International Festival is an Island-wide festival with a wide array of events-ceilidhs, concerts, square dances, milling frolics, and Celtic workshops. It features some of the finest Celtic musicians, singers, dancers, storytellers, and cultural bearers from around the Island and around the world. The Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association will be performing at one of the evening concerts held in the beautiful Hall of the Clans at the Gaelic College.

For information about the Gaelic College or Celtic Colours International Festival, contact:

Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts Society
Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts
P.O. Box 80
Englishtown, Nova Scotia
B0C 1H0

Celtic Colours Festival
363 Charlotte Street
Sydney, Nova Scotia
B1P 1E1
Phone: 902-562-6700
Fax: 902-539-9388

Monday, March 30, 2009

John Carty Live

Buying your first fiddle.

As a rule, don't spend less than US$250 on a first fiddle, because anything less than that is probably going to be a frustrating experience. Beyond that, it would be difficult for me to tell you what to look and listen for in a fiddle. If you are not yet a fiddler (or violinist), you probably shouldn't go out and do a lot of shopping for an instrument yourself. Reading lists of things to watch out for (cracks, cheap Chinese fiddles, well-cut scrolls, etc.) would help with that a little, but the sound of the instrument is most important (for most fiddlers, anyway--certainly for me). No matter how well you memorize a list of things to watch out for, looking at and listening to a large variety of instruments is necessary to get a good idea of what is and is not a good instrument; without knowing how to play, in all likelihood, you still won't be able to tell what a good fiddle sounds like. If you're just starting, then definitely get the advice of someone who plays. If you have a friend who plays, that's ideal; impose on him or her to go shopping with you. If just an acquaintance (who is a good fiddler), you might consider paying him or her to go shopping with you for an afternoon. If you know no one who plays, or if you just want to avoid that effort, you really won't go far wrong simply going to a reputable violin shop and getting a decent (say, 500 U.S. dollar) "student model." Sounds demeaning perhaps but they can make nice music. Or for that matter some good deals can be had by mail order from large companies that deal online, such as Elderly Instruments in Michigan--that's just one example. (My second fiddle was obtained that way and I got a good instrument for the price.) Of course, the problem with ordering instruments by mail order is that you must go to the considerable trouble and expense of mailing them back instruments that you don't like. Even for your first instrument, you'll surely want to hear it before you buy it. I strongly advise against trying to find a "deal" in a pawn shop or antique store by yourself. It is possible to find good deals in such places, but unless you know what to look for, you just can't know if what you're getting really is a "deal." The fact of the matter is that you usually get what you pay for, and a fiddle the dealer says is a "bargain" at $100 really probably is worth $100, i.e., you shouldn't bother with it if you're serious about learning.