An Irish Good-bye, An American Thank You

Though it has been almost a week since I returned home from fiddle school in Ireland, I can still hear the last session ringing in my head. And here is what it sounds like:

Sessions like this went on all night and every night throughout the fiddle week in Glencolmcille. Though there were only two bars in the town, every night both were filled with music like this until the wee hours of the morning. I think I’m still trying to recover from my lack of sleep, even a week later. Those who frequent Irish Arts Week in the Catskills know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a tune learning marathon complete with sessions that never actually end. The music is still ringing true in my head and in my heart.

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Music and Dancing, Like Peas and Carrots

Learning music isn’t just about learning the tunes. Anyone can memorize notes. But when it comes to traditional Donegal music, knowing the dances can help tell the story of the tunes, making it easier to feel the music and help it sink in.

At the Donegal Fiddle School I attended in Glencomcille, learning the dances was an important part of learning the music. For a half day on Thursday, we had no fiddle classes. Instead we had dancing lessons in preparation for the Ceilidh dance that night.

In Donegal music, most of the dances are couple dances because they were done in kitchens where there wasn’t much room. Here are a few examples of the dances we learned:

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Fairies in the Fiddle

Fiddle School in IrelandThere are fairies in the fiddle!

I was told last night by my house-mate that in Ireland some teachers, when teaching children to play the fiddle, make the kids put the fiddle on the table while the teacher plays a tune. The children are instructed to lightly place their fingers on the strings while the teacher is playing. When they do this, they can feel the instrument vibrating. The children are then told that the vibrations they are feeling, are the fairies inside the fiddle and it’s their job to bring them out through the music.

I love this story, not only because I love the concept of fairies roaming around us but because I feel that vibration in my fiddle during sessions and it is truly magical.

This is only one of the many stories I’ve heard this week and I’m sure to hear more.

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Dublin, the first stop

street musiciansYesterday I arrived in Dublin, Ireland. I had a fun day though I have to admit, Dublin will not go down as one of my favorite cities. It’s not a bad city, it’s just, well…a city, like any other city. Loads of people, tons of shops and lots of hustle and bustle.

What I enjoyed most, other than the delicious Guinness I had in the bar, was all the street musicians. Oddly enough, they were all singing American songs. Yes I did come here to listen to and learn traditional Irish music but I couldn’t help myself when I heard the words to I’m Yours, I had to stop and listen and then do the touristy thing and take pictures.

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How blogging helps my fiddle playing

travelI’ve been writing this blog since 2009 and during that process I have been able to interview some great musicians, learn some valuable lessons and share some of my favorite stories. But I never thought this blog would actually be the conduit to me finally making the trek across the pond to learn Irish music directly from Irish musicians.

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