An Irish Good-bye, An American Thank You

August 11, 2013

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

August 8, 2013

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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Fiddle School in Ireland

July 30, 2013

Glencolmcille

Really is there any better place to learn Irish music than in Ireland? I think not. I’m currently in Glencolmcille, Ireland at the Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí fiddle school, studying the Donegal tradition of fiddle music. I’ve been to some beautiful places but this is by far the best place to spend a week learning fiddle tunes.

I’m surrounded by beautiful mountains, the bright blue sea and a bazillion goats and sheep who seem to have no problem making their way up and down the mountains feeding on grass and singing their native song called “Baaaah, Baaaah, Black Sheep.”

It’s Tuesday and in my class alone I think we learned over 7 tunes so far. And by “learned” I mean I recorded them for later. My brain can only fit so many tunes at a time.

My little house is conveniently situated right next to this lovely cafe and not far from where my classes are. Turns out there is a concert there tonight as well and some of the musicians will be staying in my house. I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting any sleep tonight or possibly for the rest of the week.

The fiddle school is organized well. The first day consisted of registering and auditioning so they can place each student in the right class according to their level of ability. I am not sure their method on how they decide who goes where but with me they were dead on. Though I think i know the tunes I know well, it does take me a while to learn a tune.

The teacher I got, his name is Mick, is a great teacher (and fiddle player). When he teaches he takes a small part of the tune and plays it over and over until everyone learns it. Luckily there are only 7 people in the class so we get lots of attention.  I seem to be the slowest learner. I like to think that I’m just saving the tunes for later. Some seem to come easier than others to me. Mazurkas and Highlands are a bit tough because we don’t play many around where I live. I hope I can fine tune the ones I learned so I can bring them home and do them justice.

Because we are in such a remote area I don’t have a lot of access to wifi so I’ll try to write more when I can. In the meantime here are some photos for your enjoyment: Read the rest of this entry »


Heading to Ireland

July 24, 2013
glencolmcille, Ireland

Photo: glenfolkvillage.com

My music has taken me to places around the world like Scotland, Switzerland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. This time it’s taking me to a tiny town on the northwest corner of Ireland called Glencolmcille.

I’ll be spending a week at a fiddle school there studying the Donegal-style tradition and then traveling around the countryside to view the scenery, make some friends and share a tune or two along the way.

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How blogging helps my fiddle playing

June 21, 2013

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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