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November 2010

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Flute player Tom McElvogue has finally released his recording with accompanist Paddy Kerr, the suitably titled The Long Hard Road. The Flow has a copy to give away in a competition — see below for details.

Recorded back in 2003-04, the title hints at the difficulties encountered in getting the recordings through the editing, production and release processes. The wait is worth it however, as this recording is shot through with warmth and colour, the result of a rich tone combined with great technique, timing and judgement.

The Long Hard Road

There are 14 tracks on the CD, consisting of mostly traditional reels, jigs, slip jigs, hornpipes and a slow air. The overall balance of tunes and pace feels right and Tom's strong tone and clear phrasing are well captured in the production. His style is best described as piping and when I played it to some friends they remarked favourably on a passing resemblance to Matt Molloy.

Seven original compositions, including a reel by Paddy Kerr, reflect the fact that many of Tom McElvogue's tunes have been picked up and performed by other musicians. The style of the compositions is very much in the traditional idiom and it isn't always easy to pick out by ear which ones are modern.

The titles too, slip into a no-nonsense traditional format, simply entitled Tom McElvogue's Jig in G No.9 or No.1, for example. The result is to focus attention on the tunes themselves, which is no bad thing.

Among the non-traditional tunes are the driving and tricky The Cacodemon (Jackie Daly) and J Scott Skinner's hornpipe The Mathematician, complete with leaping quadruplet runs. Neither could be said to sit comfortably on the flute, but the playing still feels effortless. It is technically impressive, but steers clear of gimmicks.

None of the technical merits of the performances on this recording would be of any worth if they didn't serve the tunes in some way. As fiddler Martin Hayes said, it's not about the musician, it's all about the music. To my ears at least, this has been a high priority and the tunes are given space to breathe and come alive.

The accompaniment from Paddy Kerr on bouzoukis, guitar and bodhrán is understated, being delicate and driving in turns with a nod towards the school of Arty McGlynn and Donal Lunny.

The range of flutes on the recording create a variety of tonal colour — Bb, D, Eb, F — and there are some unexpected choices, such as the pipers' multipart showcase reel Colonel Frazer played on a Bb instrument at regular speed. Difficult enough at the best of times, like Paul McGrattan (for example), he has chosen an instrument more commonly associated with mellow resonance and contemplative pieces to shed new light on a fiery classic.

The technique required to do this can't be underestimated and it is an approach he takes into his own compositions. For instance, he describes his decision to write tunes for the flute on the piano: "I'd often write tunes on different instruments to try and get an unorthodox run of notes or a phrase which I do not drop into automatically while playing the flute".

Those already familiar with Tom McElvogue's name will have come across his own compositions either as played by others or through his own web site, which also contains recordings and sheet music for his compositions as well as enough outtakes of this CD to fill another one.

At the moment, the CD can only be obtained via his web site. However, there's a chance for you to win a copy as Tom has generously donated one to The Flow. All you have to do is to answer the following question:

The CD features a type of dance tune called a Slip Jig. What time signature is a Slip Jig in?

A. 4/4
B. 2/4
C. 9/8

Answers please in an email to competition@theflow.org.uk. Remember to include your name and address, which will only be used for the purposes of this competition. The prize will be sent first class and by airmail if overseas. The Flow cannot take any responsibility for import duty. Only one entry per person please and if you're stuck, there's always Google.

Update: Please note that this competition is now closed. The answer is of course C, slip jigs are in 9/8 time.

The Random Number Generator did its work and the lucky winner is Andrew Shaw, who lives in Lomazzo in northern Italy. Congratulations to him and he can expect a CD in the post very soon. Thanks to everyone else who entered (there were no incorrect answers!) and better luck next time.

September 2010

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The Flow Music Workshops: A sister web site to The Flow has been launched that focuses on the music classes and workshops that I run in the Edinburgh area and beyond.

These classes and workshops are for both schools and the community and include creative music making and traditional flute and whistle tuition. The blog and Twitter feed also provide up to date information on musical and other matters.

The resource page for the Portobello Flute Group will remain on The Flow. Plans are currently under way for the Autumn term. If you may be interested in joining us, feel free to contact me for further details.

June 2010

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Portobello Flute Group recordings: A page has been added to support the Portobello Flute Group that I run in Edinburgh.

The Portobello Flute Group page has MP3 recordings and ABC notation of traditional tunes that are being learned by the Beginners and Advanced classes at their fortnightly workshops.

The summer term ends at the end of June, but more are being planned for after the summer. If you may be interested in joining us, feel free to contact me for further details.

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Flutility: Ten more Irish session tunes have been added to the Flutility page plus one Scottish reel.

These learner-friendly recordings are of tunes played both slow and at regular session speed. Free to download.


March 2010

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Portobello Flute Group: Bookings are now being taken for a Summer Term of traditional flute workshops in the Portobello area in the east of Edinburgh.

I have been running these workshops periodically for over 10 years and for the first time there will be separate workshops for Beginners and more Advanced musicians. The workshops will feature learning technique and tunes primarily from the Irish and Scottish traditions. The general focus is on learning by ear with some support.

The groups will meet fortnightly on alternate Thursdays, with the workshops running from Thursday 29th April to Thursday 1st July, making 5 workshops in total for each group. The cost is £8 per workshop (£40 in total), payable in advance.

The venue is on main bus routes, is not far from the A1 and has free parking. Spaces are limited. Please contact me directly for further details:

gordon[dot]turnbull[at]theflow[dot]org[dot]uk

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Flutility: 10 more MP3s of Irish session tunes to learn on the flute have been added to the site and are free to download.

Flutility is a traditional Irish flute music project that I recorded and released in 1994. Ideal for people learning Irish session tunes, the tracks consist of tunes played both slowly and at regular session speed.

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I am reminded that a new edition of Hammy Hamilton's classic Irish Traditional Flute Player's Handbook was published last year.

Hammy says:
This new edition brings the first edition published in 1990 up to date, and although in the same format, contains much new information, as well as a new section of colour plates.

The discography has been extended to 1990, which marks the last flute LP and the first original flute CD recordings.

The tutor section now has an accompanying CD, which has a couple of bonus tracks from my Moneymusk CD.

This time we have also published a limited edition of signed and numbered hardback copies, which are initially being offered to those people who had registered beforehand.

Copies can be had, for the moment, directly from me. Package and posting is at cost.

Hardback limited edition (250 copies, signed and numbered) €50 plus p&p (Ireland €10, UK & EU €13, Rest of the World €18). Softback €35 plus p&p (Ireland €5, UK & EU €10, Rest of the World €13).

Also available is my new DVD-ROM on flute maintenance, which complements the section on care and maintenance in the book, and also covers basic repairs such as recorking and repadding. DVD-ROM is €35 including post, but if bought in conjunction with either hard or softback book, special price of €25 will apply.
Personally, I can't believe that it is 20 years since the first edition came out. At the time it was a revelation and caused quite a stir. When it became out of print, it then became sought-after for its detailed information, history, guidance and clear, practical advice.

In the days before the ready information that web access gives us now copies were passed around between flute players like members of a secret society. It is easy to forget how difficult it was to obtain good advice and dispel the bad ones, such as leave your flute in a rain barrel of water.

The quality of information in the book fed into web sites and, along with Fintan Vallely's Timber, helped to spearhead a traditional flute enlightenment that has since been supplemented by Gray Larson's The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle and June McCormack's Fliúit. I'm looking forward to seeing the new edition and can't recommend it highly enough.

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In case you missed it, the dates for Cruinniú na bhFliúit (Flutemeet) 2010 have been announced. Taking place in Baile Bhuirne (Ballyvourney), Co. Cork, this traditional flute meeting once more features an eye-catching array of events, lectures, concerts, workshops and sessions.

According to organiser Hammy Hamilton,
We're happy to announce that the 2010 Flute meeting is open for business. It'll take place from the 7th-10th April in Baile Bhuirne, Co Cork. This is our third biennial event, and follows the same basic format, with classes lectures seminars, a public interview, concert, and of course, sessions.

Teachers lined up for this year are Catherine McEvoy, Tara Bingham, Conal Ó Gráda, and Hammy Hamilton. Lecturers Aoife Granville and Fintan Vallely, performance workshop with John Blake and Harry Bradley, and Roscommon flute player Patsy Hanley is the subject of the interview.
The event has its own Facebook Page with further information and a timetable also can be found on the Flutemeet blog. Places can be booked by mailing flutemeet@gmail.com, and cost for classes and all events is €150, booking deposit €50.

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Susan Maclagan is a Canadian flute player, teacher and journalist who has written A Dictionary for the Modern Flutist, which was published in 2009. While written for the Boehm flute player, Susan regularly contributes to Woodenflute-L and is aware of the perspective of Irish flute players. Indeed, "Irish flute" is one of over 1500 entries that will appeal to anyone who wishes to add to their library of flute text books.

This has been added to the printed resources page. For further information and links to reviews, the book has a Facebook Fan page.

Recent additions to the discography

+ Conal O Grada's Cnoc Buí is a welcome return for the highly influential and well-regarded fluter from Cork. His only previous release, The Top of Coom, was in 1990. It makes me feel old to recall the impact it had at the time and the excitement it caused among those who heard it. By all accounts this is as good and has a nod towards the older styles in terms of accompaniment, which features just bodhrán master Colm Murphy on some tracks. If that seems uncompromising, it allows his musicality, tone, rhythm and technical control to shine. His MySpace page has sample tracks.

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John Wynne has another solo CD after some well-received collaborative recordings and work promoting flute music in his native County Roscommon. Ar Nós na Gaoithe/ Like the Wind apparantly marks a new direction for John Wynne. According to Irish Music Magazine:
Following his critically-acclaimed duet album with fiddler John McEvoy on the Cló Iar-Chonnachta label in 2007, Roscommon flute-player John Wynne releases a new album which brings his solo playing back into focus.

Ar Nós na Gaoithe/ Like the Wind is an absorbing collection of fourteen virtuosic tracks, played with precision, discernment and breathtaking control. Nine years after his debut solo album,
With Every Breath, John Wynne was compelled to make this second album, sensing his playing had turned a corner and that he had something new to offer.

As flute-player Conal O Grada writes on the sleevenotes,
In flute playing, the elemental link between music and breath creates a dynamic tension of its own... John moves air through a flute with aplomb. In turns powerful and commanding... be prepared to be blown away!

A repertoire of popular session tunes which John learned from musicians over the years, Ar Nós na Gaoithe/Like the Wind also includes new compositions from fiddle players Tommy Peoples, Ed Reavy, Martin McGinley and Liz Knowles.

Originally from Roscommon, John Wynne began playing on tin whistle at eight and subsequently learned flute from Patsy Hanley. Hearing Sligo flute-player Peter Horan in full flow in the 1980s made a lasting impression, as did the solo recordings of Seamus Tansey and Matt Molloy.

He recorded two albums with the band Providence with whom he toured for several years, and is a member of the Roscommon Traditional Arts Forum, a pioneering organisation which released the album The Flute Players of Roscommon, which John produced. John Wynne is a regular tutor at summer schools and workshops in Ireland and beyond.
Again, you can find out more on his MySpace page.

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Mike Rafferty has teamed up with fiddler Willie Kelly and frequent collaborator Donal Clancy on guitar to produce a duet +1 recording. The New Broom of the title is from the proverb, "A new broom sweeps clean, but an old one knows the corners". Mike Rafferty's east Galway repertoire and style of playing is sympathetically matched here by Willie Kelly's fiddle playing which acknowledges the influence of neighbouring east Clare fiddlers P Joe Hayes and Paddy Canny.

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Staying with a Clare connection, the late and great Micho Russell of Doolin was a whistler, flute player and singer who recorded and released numerous tapes and LPs that had uneven distribution, not all of which made it to CD, let alone MP3. A rerelease on CD of Traditional Irish Music From County Clare, the milestone solo recording he did for Free Reed in 1975 has come to my attention.

There is a discussion of this recording on The Session.

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Brian O'Connor is a Dublin flute and whistle player now resident in Germany. A former member of Oisín, he regularly performs with ex-Oisín singer Geraldine MacGowan. Come West Along the Road is his first solo outing and features many of his own compositions alongside traditional material. He is supported by a lineup that includes guitar, drums, bass and keyboards and you can hear and see more at his web site.

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Fintan Vallely from Armagh needs almost no introduction. Flute player, whistler, journalist and author of several books on Irish traditional music, Timber was the first text book on Irish flute playing. For a while it wasn't always easy to obtain his music, but the re-issue on CD of Irish Traditional Music on Concert Flute, his recording made in 1979 and released in 1984 is welcome. I'm not sure how long it's been around, but it has now been added to the discography as well. Also of interest, the accompanying tape for Timber has also been reissued on CD.

He has more recently made a couple of CDs, one of which features his flute playing. The Stone Lane to Monaghan, made with Mark Siros on guitar has the old musical links between Scotland and Ireland as it's theme, featuring a number of tunes old and new from both traditions. It's an interesting project and one that I particularly find appealing.

He will be lecturing at Cruinniú na bhFliúit 2010 and more information about him can be found from his web site.

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Sraid Eoin Shuffle is a recording by the award-winning Dingle, Co. Kerry flute and fiddle player Aoife Granville, who is also lecturing at Cruinniú na bhFliúit 2010. Featuring a mix of traditional tunes and newly composed tunes by established musicians such as Liz Carroll, Charlie Lennon and Phil Cunningham, she also sings and is backed by Donogh Hennessy and Tony Byrne on guitar, Ciarán Coughlan on piano, Deirdre on harp and Cuan Granville on bodhrán.

Again, more information from her MySpace page.

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I first became aware of Steph Geremia when I caught some of her performance at Celtic Connections on TV last month when she was playing with The Alan Kelly Quartet. Her debut solo recording The Open Road was also news to me. Hailing from New York and now resident in Ireland, the tracks I have heard display a rich tone, inventive touch and thoughtful arrangements. Alex Monaghan, reviewing her for Folkworld.de says:
Brimful of confidence, with sparkling tone and a lovely choice of tunes, Stephanie Geremia's debut CD is an unexpected treasure.
More information from her MySpace page.

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Noel Sweeney was the All-Ireland flute champion of 1982. , but released his debut recording in 2007. The Whinny Hills of Leitrim explores his roots in the area on various flutes, whistles and even saxophone at one point. Noel is supported by Paul Gurney on piano and strings, Sean Sweeney on guitar, Siobhan O'Donnell on bodhrán, and Noel Carberry on bones. According to Aidan O'Hara in Irish Music Magazine:
Some who have heard it say this is Noel Sweeney at his best, and that's saying something, because I'm told he always delivers when it comes to performing...The Whinny Hills of Leitrim CD includes a few original Leitrim tunes that are obscure, I'm told, pieces that Noel learned while playing in his old haunts of Aughavas and Cloone where he was inspired by local musicians.


January 2010

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Update: The dates for Cruinniú na bhFliúit (Flutemeet) 2010 have been announced. Taking place in Baile Bhuirne (Ballyvourney), Co. Cork, this traditional flute meeting once more features an eye-catching array of events, lectures, concerts, workshops and sessions.

According to organiser Hammy Hamilton,

We're happy to announce that the 2010 Flute meeting is open for business. It'll take place from the 7th-10th April in Baile Bhuirne, Co Cork. This is our third biennial event, and follows the same basic format, with classes lectures seminars, a public interview, concert, and of course, sessions.

Teachers lined up for this year are Catherine McEvoy, Tara Bingham, Conal Ó Gráda, and Hammy Hamilton. Lecturers Aoife Granville and Fintan Vallely, performance workshop with John Blake and Harry Bradley, and Roscommon flute player Patsy Hanley is the subject of the interview.

The event has its own Facebook Page with further information and a timetable also can be found on the Flutemeet blog. Places can be booked by mailing flutemeet@gmail.com, and cost for classes and all events is €150, booking deposit €50.

+
Flutility: Free MP3s of Irish session tunes on the flute. Flutility is a traditional Irish flute music project that I recorded and released in 1994. Ideal for people learning Irish session tunes, this was originally a small private release made for a friend and consists of tunes played both slowly and at regular session speed.

It has proved to be popular has been circulated freely amongst traditional musicians in Scotland, UK, Ireland and USA. This version is available for free download on The Flow.

Recent additions to the discography

+ Out of the London Irish scene comes Humours of Highgate, the second release by John Blake (flute), Lamond Gillespie (fiddle) and Mick Leahy (guitar). Their 2003 release met with positive reviews and this one of last year similarly so. Norman Chalmers, writing in The Scotsman, praised the acknowledged legacy of the 1940s-50s north London music scene in his review:

Although these tracks were put down recently, they have the authenticity of feel, phrasing, pace, style and an understated dignity that is rare in the Pogues and Riverdance generation.

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In 2008 Peter Horan and Gerry Harrington released a follow up to their well-received 2005 recording. The Merry Love to Play brings the great Horan, now going strong in his 80s and a talisman of Sligo flute playing, together with Kerry fiddler Harrington for a very traditional outing with no accompaniment.

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I am currently enjoying Catherine McEvoy's The Home Ruler. Those familiar with her playing will have come to expect choice tunes at a pace that allows their nuances to be explored. The inclusion of a number of sets on the C flute adds a mellowness to the CD while maintaining the overall liveliness of her playing. She is joined variously by Felix Dolan, Geraldine Cotter and Paddy McEvoy on piano, Steve Cooney on guitar and Joe Kennedy on bodhrán.

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I am also enjoying The Pleasures of Hope, a unique release by Harry Bradley and Michael Clarkson. These two Belfast players have much in common, not just in their expression of the Belfast flute style, but in their approach to the tunes which reflects some of Belfast's native robust wit. Their creative commonality produces a compelling sound, sometimes in complete unison, other times like otters in play, sinewing around each other. I imagine that the official launch in Madden's Bar in Belfast would have been a night to remember.

This is only the second flute duets CD that I am aware of, the other being 2003's Double Barrelled by John Skelton and Keiran O'Hare. Both are great recordings and worth checking out.

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Unearthed is a recording from Paul McGlinchey of Omagh Co. Tyrone, three times All Ireland flute winner. Featuring D and F flutes, he is joined by some high calibre friends: fiddlers Brid Harper and MacDara Ó Raghallaigh, Stevie Dunne on guitar and banjo, Ryan Molloy on piano and Seamus O'Kane on bodhrán.

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Matt Molloy's most recent release is with champion fiddler (and flute and banjo player) John Carty. Pathway to the Well was recorded live in Molloy's pub in Westport, Co. Mayo with Arty McGlynn on guitar.

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Joe Burke's The Tailor's Choice has been made available again and is highly recommended. Better-known as a box player, this recording is a one-off, featuring outstanding flute and whistle playing in an East Galway style with only the harp for accompaniment. There are a large number of slow airs and plenty of less common other tunes presented in an unfussy and unhurried way. This was an influential recording when it first came out and is a firm favourite of many. Maire Ni Chathasaigh is the accompanying harper and Brian Conway also guests on fiddle.




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