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The Flow archive 2009

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The Flow has had a major rejig to try and make the old design more up to date. The biggest change has been the organisation of the files. Some things have changed their name or their location and the Events page has now been removed (Events are now covered in the news section).

For example, the article on left handed fute playing can now be found in the new Articles section, along with the accounts of Irish flute styles and articles on the flute in other related cultures that used to sit in the old Styles section. As a result, the Resources page has been simplified and broken down into more useful sections.

The Flow store in association with Amazon is there to help locate recordings or books that feature on this site and a small percentage of a sale goes towards the upkeep of this site. Please note that The Flow does not otherwise accept payment for featured products or links and never has done.

Another change is the addition of a Workshops section now that I provide music workshops both for traditional musicians and for school children. Some of the music that is used or referenced in these workshops will appear in the Music section of the Resources pages.

The remaining major new feature is the inclusion of a search facility on the site. As the site has grown to some 40 or more pages (and continues to grow), some information on releases or events can become harder to track down. Again, the search box on each page should help make this process simpler.

Finally, the changes are not yet complete as there may be some fine tuning to do. If anything is not working as it should do, please do let me know and I will get onto it.

Review: A Second Wind Lesl Harker's second volume of Mike Rafferty's tunes

I recently received a copy of Lesl Harker's second collection of tunes transcribed from Mike Rafferty and have been spending many evenings trawling through its riches. For those of you who don't know, Mike Rafferty is a flute player, whistler and piper who hails from Woodford, County Galway and is one of a number of notable exponents of the East Galway flute style along with others such as Paddy Carty, Jack Coen, Stephen and Sean Moloney and Vincent Broderick.

Mike Rafferty now resides in New Jersey and Lesl Harker is one of his students. In the process of learning from such an eminent musician, Lesl has kept a meticulous record of the tunes she has been taught, first as recordings and then transcribed into ABC. What began as a personal project has grown organically and developed into an important musician's archive of Mike Rafferty's repertoire. The recognition of this achievement has resulted in a special award for Distinguished Achievement in the Preservation of Irish Music and Culture by the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Mid Atlantic Region.

With more than 300 tunes in this second volume bringing the tunes total to over 600, each part of it has been ratified and approved by Mike Rafferty, making it both accurate and authoritative. There are a wide range of tune types, from reels and jigs to less commonly heard flings, barndances, marches and airs. This alone makes it of interest to beginners and more advanced players alike.

As in the first volume, there are familiar and rare tunes here, both traditional and newly composed, sitting side by side. but we also have particular settings or versions, making it akin to Mitchell's classic The Piping of Willie Clancy. This gives a clear illustration of the musical choices that Mike Rafferty makes, right down to where he chooses to take a breath in a tune. That level of detail is as near to playing with Mike Rafferty as you can get and provides an insight into the East Galway style and repertoire that might otherwise be impossible.

The book is a delight to explore. The order of the tunes in the collections is simply that in which they were encountered and recorded, providing a sense of a story unfolding naturally as you explore them. In the way of the best traditional music collections, the tunes have anecdotes or additional information from Mike such as where they came from, who they are associated with, what tunes they are usually played with, what recordings they are on, providing them with an important musical and social context.

These notes are placed together towards the back of the collection, allowing the music to appear together unbroken on the page. Although supporting information alongside the tunes can be successful, an advantage to this approach is that it offers less distractions from the music itself. If I wish to find out more about a tune I can then look it up easily.

Well produced and organised, there is plenty here for all musicians. Clear and legible in a practical wire-o binding (it stays flat), there is even an ABC index so that it is possible to search for a tune based on it's opening notes.

This and the preceding volume are highly recommended and should be in every serious musician's library. A dedicated web site has extensive further information, including sample pages, links and purchasing details.

+ A special mention must go to Alan O'Leary of Copperplate Distribution in London, who specialise in distributing Irish traditional music. I have been enjoying to Alan's Copperplate podcasts since last summer as I have caught up with his output, which features titles in the Copperplate catalogue. I have heard some glorious music, both new and old alike and Alan clearly knows who and what he is talking about. The podcasts, which often feature the flute (Catherine McEvoy and Paul McGlinchey were on recent ones) are free from iTunes or from his web site.

I think I am right in saying that the podcasts are released at irregular intervals, but at over an hour long each there is plenty for everyone. An afficianado and musician himself, they are home-produced and have an intimate atmosphere, giving the feeling of being in someone's house as they enthusiastically share the musical gems they have heard. As he particularly champions independent releases, it's a good way to listen to some of the music that might otherwise be harder to come by.

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Rachel Howitt
Rachel Howitt at The White Stag, Leeds

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