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.