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The Flow archive 2006

     
 
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Updates 2006

December


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Lots to update this time. There have been some important releases recently and I have been trying to get round to updating the site for a while. Unfortunately my course commitments mean that updates will remain less regular for the time being.

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First up is Dave Sheridan's Sheridan's Guesthouse. Hailing from County Leitrim, this impressive debut album features a large number of guest musicians (hence the title), with the flute playing being the central thread running through it all.

The flute playing is highly accomplished, dynamic and in a modern flowing style rather than the rhythmic style traditionally associated with Leitrim (such as Packie Duignan). The guests are too numerous to mention in detail here, but notably include Brian Rooney (fiddle) on one track, Junior Davey (bodhran) on several others and Brian McDonagh and Seamie O'Dowd from Dervish providing backing on all but two tracks. Some of the arrangements are inventive and forward-looking, but still very much within the tradition.

For me the only weak point is the one song, although I can imagine others disagreeing with me. In any case this feels like a minor point on what is an exhuberent recording that reminds me of Jimmy Noonan's The Maple Leaf in the sheer joy of playing that comes over to the listener.

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Next up is the much-anticipated third volume of the Wooden Flute Obsession series. Another double CD, it boasts a stunning number of 41 flute players and 95 tunes, but once more manages to keep the standards impressively high. Once more, the ethos is to invite a number of Irish flute players as nominated by their peers on the internet to contribute recordings of their choice.

It is surely difficult for contributors and executive producer alike to work on a project like this with an awareness of the success that has gone before. However, the continued mix of better and lesser-known names retain the high standards of performance and production of the previous releases and ensure that this is another essential recording for lovers of the Irish traditional flute. The proportion of lesser-known musicians is understandably higher, but as the quality of playing is so high this is probably more interesting as a result.

Compared with the previous volumes, there are a few distinct differences in this offering that are worth highlighting. For one, there appears to be an attempt, almost self-conscious perhaps, by one or two of the performers to come up with something different. There are a couple of longer and more elaborately arranged sets for example, one from Christy Barry, the other from Alan Doherty, and also a larger number of slow airs (eight) compared with the previous releases (four and five respectively) -- not counting any other slower tune types.

Some of this may reflect the wishes of the internet community for more airs to be represented. But in the past the procedure of the project has been to allow the musicians to submit whatever they deem to be suitable and there is no reason to assume otherwise here. My guess is that a number of the musicians consciously tried to do something different and there is a sense that a wider balance has been struck and for there to be a greater variety of mood and pace throughout.

From a listening perspective therefore, this is arguably a more rounded volume. This is not to denigrate the previous releases at all -- lively dance music is often what people wish to hear the most and nobody could have foreseen how successful this series was to become. In a sense, this is a sign that the project has come of age.

Another point of interest is that more women appear on this recording than on the previous ones -- 5 on the first, 7 on the second, 11 on this. I'm not sure how much can be read into this, other than artists that get to make CDs tend to be men, but it does seem to reflect my own experience of traditional music more and is to be welcomed.

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Derry-based Marcas Ó Murchú featured on a previous volume of and is well known as a teacher and performer. His debut CD of a few years ago was very warmly received, so I was pleased to learn of the release of Turas Ceoil in the summer. His influences include Josie McDermott and Packie Duignan and an illustration that he in turn is actively passing these influences down can be seen in the the presence of his former students as guests -- one track apparently features 10 flutes together. Other guests include Ciaran Curran (bouzouki), Oisin Mac Diarmada and Ben Lennon (fiddles) and Seamus O'Kane (bodhran).

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June McCormack plays the flute in the duo Draiocht, with Michael Rooney on harp. She is also a popular teacher and has recently published Fliúit, a flute tutor with accompanying CDs that is aimed at beginners and advanced players alike. It covers breathing and ornaments with exercises and playing guides to 64 tunes included. The Draiocht web site has further details, including reviews and online ordering. Personally, I think there can never be enough flute tutors as there is always something new to learn.

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There has been a strong stream of music emerging from London in recent years, and flute player James Carty continues this trend. Brother to fiddle and banjo master John Carty (who also plays flute), he has recently released his debut CD, Upon My Soul that was launched at the Return to Camden Town festival in October. Accompanied by Alec Finn (bouzouki), Francis Gaffney (guitar), John Blake (piano) and Joe Kennedy (bodhran), there is even a three flute track (the two brothers and their father John P).

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Mayo flute player Kieran Munnelly, and Donegal fiddler Aidan O'Donnell have teamed up to record In Safe Hands. Although in their early 20s, the title suggests that they have a mature approach to the tradition that sounds promising. Accompaniment is by Sean Óg Graham (guitar, bouzouki and accordion) and Ryan Molly (piano) and one of the tracks includes a string quartet arrangement.

Track samples can be heard on Claddagh Records' web site.


+ Brian Hughes is a whistler fluter and piper from Athy, Kildare, whose first CD Whistle Stop was very well received. Whirlwind picks up where he left off and he is joined by Garry O'Briain, Nollaig Casey, Brendan O'Regan, Donnchadh Gough, James Blennerhasset and Bruno Staehlin. I get the impression that the recordings are whistle only. The Cló Iar-Chonnachta web site has some sample tracks and both CDs have been added to the discography.

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Finally, a brief mention for West Ocean String, whose first CD who have recorded The Guiding Moon with Matt Molloy. The string quartet features fiddler Seamus Maguire (Buttons and Bows, Moving Cloud, etc.) and cellist Neil Martin, who was in the original Cran line-up and so have a foot in the traditional music camp. This release features a suite of music written for Molloy by Martin and as such reminds me of his involvement with Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin on Oileán/Island. I don't think that this warrants inclusion in the discography, but it is of interest and some samples can be heard on the West Ocean String Quartet's web site.


October

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The briefest of updates for the time being as I am now on an intensive full-time teaching course for Primary children and free time has sadly become an abstract concept.

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Lesl Harker has asked me to update the information on her book of Mike Rafferty tunes. The project has been so successful that it now has its own microsite on Brad Hurley's web site.

For anyone who doesn't know about this project, Lesl is a student of Mike Rafferty, a flute player from east Galway who now lives in New Jersey. He is a highly influential musician and is the source of many fine and rare tunes, some of which have been picked up by other musicians worldwide from his recordings. The east Galway page of this site has a sample of his playing, used with his permission and the book is highly recommended.

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There have been quite a few updates backing up and I aim to just get them up and out when I can. There have been CD releases by Marcus O Murchu, Dave Sheridan, and volume three of the terrific Wooden Flute Obsession series as well as a new flute tutor (book and CD) by June McCormack. The stream of quality output by Irish flute players continues to flourish, which is of course how we all like it.


July 2006, part 2

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This is the second update within a month and comes hot on the tail of the previous one as I play catch-up with the news and releases.

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First up is a remastered release of Seamus Tansey's classic recording King of the Concert Flute. One of the icons of the Irish flute (or concert flute as it is sometimes known), the title alone hints at the swagger, confidence, power, artistry and character of this South Sligo master of the instrument. First released in 1976, this is a milestone recording with minimal backing that deserves to be in everyone's Irish music collection.

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Another rerelease by a South Sligo flute player is Eddie Cahill's Ah, Surely!, which was first released in 1979. It comes repackaged with fiddler John Vesey's 1977 release The First Month of Spring as Two Sligo Masters. Eddie Cahill spent most of his life in Philadelphia and was persuaded by Mick Moloney to play the flute again after an absence of many years. Accompaniment is tastefully provided by Mick on mandola.

Both recordings did well on vinyl and cassette and hopefully this CD from the Coleman Heritage Centre (link opens in new window) will allow a new generation to appreciate their music.

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Flute player June McCormack from County Sligo and harper Michael Rooney from County Monaghan perform under the name of Draiocht (meaning 'enchantment') and earlier this year they launched their second release, Land's End, to favourable reviews.

"A melding of genteel formality and raw-nerved virtuosity" according to the Irish Times, they cover a wide range of moods, textures and styles and get the best out of their instruments. Their web site (link opens in new window) has more reviews and some sound samples.

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Wooden Flute Obsession volume 3 is now out. This is the latest in a highly recommended series of recordings of traditional Irish flute players that has come about entirely through the internet. Featuring many of the best musicians around today, this double CD is a much-anticipated release available from Kevin Krell's Worldtrad web site (link opens in new window) and some independent online outlets. More information on this soon.

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The House Band's John Skelton has produced two booklets of tunes with accompanying CDs. A popular and authoritative teacher and musician, he originally intended as recordings for his students to learn from, but word of mouth created a demand for these that was impossible to ignore and he made them commercially available.

A Few Tunes and A Few More Tunes are as simple in format as the titles suggest; with no accompaniment and no frills, just the tunes and excellent playing. This may need to be tracked down through a specialist supplier such as Celtic Grooves (link opens in new window) in the USA or from John Skelton directly (link opens in new window).

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Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh is the singer with Danu and also plays whistle and flute. Her solo recording Daybreak / Fainne An Lae mostly features her vocals and as it can't be considered a flute album, it hasn't been added to the discography. However, there are two tracks of solo whistle and flute playing that reviewers have rated well. For more information, see her web site (link opens in new window).

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Finally, multi-talented Belfast-based flute player and piper Barry Kerr has released a CD that also features self-penned songs that others including Karan Casey have been covering. Entitled The World Looks Away, his web site (link opens in new window) doesn't have many details that I can find as the links weren't performing too well for me, but I will post more information when it becomes available.


July 2006, part 1

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A number of recordings have been added to the discography, and there will be more to come in forthcoming updates as I work through a backlog and the addition of other site content.

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Louise Mulcahy was mentioned in the last update and also features on one of the CDs that have been added to the discography. Notes from the Heart by Mick, Louise and Michelle Mulcahy from West Limerick was released in August 2005. With Sliabh Luchra and County Clare influences, there is some very fine music on this family recording, nicely paced and with a clean, unified sound. The tunes and sets are also well selected, with many being either unusual or unusual settings, which is always refreshing to hear.

The line-up consists of the accordion and melodeon player, Mick Mulcahy and his two daughters, Michelle (fiddle, concertina, harp and piano) and Louise (flute and uilleann pipes).  They are assisted by Cyril O'Donoghue on the bouzouki and guitar and Tommy Hayes on the bodhrán. At the moment I can't stop playing this one.

I have also added their earlier release The Mulcahy Family from 2000, although I can find few details on this recording.

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Garry Shannon has released Punctured, as a follow-up to 2000's Loozin' Air. A strong, energetic and inventive player who likes to try and surprise the listener, I have only heard the samples on his web site (link opens in new window) which suggest that this continues where the previous recording left off.

Featuring multitracking and duets with Kevin Crawford, Niall Keegan and Anthony Quigney, the instrument is very much to the fore. Solid accompaniment comes from Padraic O Reilly, Kieran Leahy, Paul O Driscoll, Matt Griffin and Fergal Scahill as well as percussionists Brian Morrissey, Mossie Griffin and Adrian Healy. There is also a song and some esoteric lilting among the traditional tunes, to make what sounds like a sparky release.

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Like many uilleann pipers, young Dubliner Mikie Smyth also plays the flute and whistle. His September 2005 debut release The Wild Keys has been receiving favourable reviews and mostly showcases the pipes, but his whistle and flute playing also feature. According to Alex Monaghan's review in The Living Tradition (link opens in new window),

"this debut album keeps to a reasonable pace and concentrates on the nuances of tunes which are often neglected by younger players".

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Another young musician with a well received debut release is Martin Meehan. Originally from Manchester, but now resident in Armagh, he is a former student of Michael McGoldrick. He is joined on Three's Company by Colm Gannon (accordion) and Paul Bradley (fiddle) with accompaniment by Arty McGlynn (guitar), Caoimhin Vallely (piano) and Paul Meehan (guitar) on what sounds like a strong and very promising recording.


June 2006

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My apologies for the length of time between updates, which is due to other commitments, such as Absolutely Legless gearing up for a summer of gigs and working with a new line-up.

Although I still intend to update the site on a near-monthly basis, I realise that there is no point in providing a date for this. With a number of tasks for the site backing up, I will for the time being at least, be updating it on a rolling basis, so watch out for more happening here over the coming months.

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The first major flute event of the year was the publication by Lesl Harker of a book of 300 tunes from influential East Galway flute player Mike Rafferty, now resident in New Jersey. Lesl is a long-time student of Mike's and with his blessing she has compiled this invaluable collection of transcriptions from her unique archive of study tapes. Some of the tunes are relatively well-known, but not necessarily these settings of them, while others are unlikely to have been in print before.

It is well produced with a practical Wire-O binding and features background notes on some of the tunes. Available for $20 US plus shipping and handling, it is now being carried by Ossian USA or you can contact Lesl directly. Other distributors and retailers may also take this up. Brad Hurley's site has further details (opens in new window) and an interview with Mike.

A book like this doesn't come along very often and the demand has understandably led to a third print run just weeks after the launch, which is testament to its importance. The book is clearly a labour of love and a great gift to the world of traditional Irish flute playing. Highly recommended.

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Too late for those wishing to attend unfortunately, the Micho Russell Memorial Weekend 2006 was on in Doolin, Co. Clare in February. The festival remembers the great Clare man with a series of events including concerts, ceilis and sessions. The web site (opens in new window) has further details, with some background information on Micho and his brothers Packie and Gussie, also accomplished musicians. This has been added to the Resources page.

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The lineup for Meitheal 2006 Residential Summer School in Limerick was recently announced. Clare flute player Gary Shannon is one of the organisers and piper/ fluters Louise Mulcahy and Ivan Goff are amongst the tutors. Some details have been added to the Events page.





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