New and old tunes which were posted daily on YouTube and Facebook in July & August of 2020.
My goal here was to post a new tune everyday. I was inspired by friends who have posted music every day since we've been staying at home and I thought I would give it a try. My goal was to hold myself accountable to continue learning and practicing new music, and also just give a very small something back. I certainly miss playing tunes with friends! Until we can be together again - stay safe, ya'll!
Day 1: Homer Spit (hornpipe) by Randal Bays
This great tune is by fiddler, Randal Bays. I was reminded of it by another friend who posted a picture of herself at Homer Spit, AK on instagram on Independence Day.
I hope you enjoy it!
Day 2: She's a Keeper by Luke Plumb.
I just really love this melody. Luke has a way of writing really lovely tunes.
While staying at home, I've been trying to learn tunes that have been on my "to learn" list. This one was a new one to that list as I stumbled across it while doing work on the ZoukFest oral history project. I hope you enjoy hearing it as much as I enjoyed learning it!
Day 3: Cairo Waltz by Norman Blake.
Two things about this tune:
1) First of all, I can't believe I didn't know about Norman Blake until just 2 years ago! I'm often embarrassed by how limited my musical world view is. However, one of the benefits is that I am constantly discovering wonderful music (like Norman Blake) that I didn't know was missing from my life!
2) I learned this tune because I was asked by a friend one night if I played it as we were trying to think of things we both knew. So now I know it for the next time we play music together, whenever that ends up being!
Day 4: The Cedars of Lebanon by Sean Ryan.
Sean Ryan is not only one of my favorite Irish fiddlers of all time, but also one of my favorite composers of tunes.
This tune kinda breaks the rules I set for myself here. But since I made the rules, I guess I get to break them...
I've known this tune for awhile, but rarely play it. Every time I do, I remember not only how much I love it, but how it pushes and challenges me! :-)
That being said, one of my goals in this project is to offer music a little less conditionally.
So rather than being self critical, I want to share this mighty tune with you! I hope you enjoy it!
Day 5: Paddy Taylor's (Jig)
So, I actually learned this tune 17 or 18 years ago when I was really just getting going on fiddle. At the time, I was listening to a lot of recordings from the great West Clare fiddler, Joe Ryan, which is where I learned this tune. Sadly, he passed away in 2008. However, we are fortunate to live in a time where many recordings and videos of great masters like Joe Ryan are so easy to find and access. He played absolutely beautiful music, and I recommend anyone interested in Irish traditional tunes to check out his playing. It's the kind of playing and music-making you can learn from forever... In fact, better to listen to that, and not my humble rendition of this tune!
Day 6: Lord Inchiquin by Turlough O'Carolan.
This is a tune I've been meaning to learn for years. In fact, I love O'Carolan tunes but I don't play many of them. I've no real excuse except I've never taken the time to learn... Now's the opportunity!
Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738) was a blind harper who traveled around Ireland in the late 17th/early 18th century. He was also a prolific composer on tunes. Many of these tunes were written and named for his patrons, of which Lord Inchiquin is one.
Personally, my favourite way to hear O'Carolan tunes played is on finger style guitar or Irish bouzouki. (Any of my guitar/bouzouki friends want to take up that challenge of playing this tune? 😁 )
For my musicology friends: look up Donal O'Sullivan's book "Carolan: The Life, Times and Music of an Irish Harper" reprinted in 2001.
Day 7: Lad O'Beirne's (hornpipe) by Ed Reavey
I first learned this tune as "Lad O'Beirne's" at the very first ZoukFest I attended in 2002 - a week of music that changed the course of my life forever. It's a great tune!
It was also recorded a couple of times by the great fiddler, Sean Ryan, as "The Flowing Tide."
Day 8: Spirit of the House (reel) by Rebecca Pringle
This is a fantastic tune written by the late Missouri fiddler, Rebecca Pringle. Some might know her as a member of the group Scartaglen in the 1990s. She had a beautiful, unique style of playing the fiddle. My understanding is that she composed this tune for a ghost in a house she once lived in.
Many thanks to Roger Landes for sharing the clips of her playing. I will link them in the comments, and I would urge folks to take a listen!
Day 9: Paddy Fahey's & Willie Coleman's (Two jigs)
As I type this, the temperature outside here is 108F and rising. All four of our dogs are inside taking advantage of the air-conditioning and were on hand to help with recording tunes today, though only Honey put in a cameo. :-)
I love Paddy Fahey's tunes (all named "Paddy Fahey") and I'm sure I'll record more of them for you. The second tune is called "The Mouse in the Cupboard" or "Willie Coleman's" and used to be a session standard here in town.
Day 10: Mouse in the Cupboard / Scully Casey's
Ok, here it is: the actual Mouse in the Cupboard! Thanks to Randal Bays for reminding me of this tune. It's a really great one.
Scully Casey's is another favourite tune. Scully Casey was the father the great fiddler, Bobby Casey. I'm not sure if the tune was composed by Bobby and named after his father or composed by someone else, maybe even Scully himself? I've also seen this tune called a slide. It does seem to have some of the rhythmic characteristics of a slide, but I'm going to leave it to someone with more expertise than myself to make that determination! I simply don't have the experience or pleasure to play for dancers often enough...
Day 11: 250 to Vigo by Angus Grant.
I was asked about two and a half years ago why I play music. Oddly, it took something of a personal odyssey for me to be able to answer that question!
One of the most important reasons for me is because music is something that ties people together and creates connections which can span distances: physical, psychological, emotional, and temporal. Without getting too metaphysical, I will say simply. Music is a Gift.
As a musician, it is my responsibility to share it. This tune reminds me of that in ways I can't quite explain.
I'm performing this tune today with gratitude to Ronnie who taught it to me, and her sister Kate: when I hear it, I am transported back to the lovely performance they gave of it. I'm also grateful to the late fiddler, Angus Grant, (who I unfortunately never had the pleasure to meet or see play in person) for writing this beautiful tune, which he performed with the band Shooglenifty.
Day 12: The Dash to Portobello by Sean Ryan.
This is, without a doubt, the first tune by Sean Ryan I ever learned: sometime around '02 or '03.
It's always interesting to go back and play tunes I haven't played in ages. So many memories...
When I was in Co. Roscommon in 2004, I had the privilege to sit in a session with the late, great Sligo musician, Peter Horan. At one point I started this tune, and Peter told about recording it with Fred Finn followed by The Morning Dew. He was so kind and encouraging, and at one point he introduced my friend, Corey and I by saying "These are the girls from Texas, and they have their own style." He said it with a smile and without a hint of sarcasm. Very kindly not saying that we were very much new to the music but were obviously trying hard! :-) I wish I had the opportunity to go back now and thank him for his kindness and encouragement. I guess all I can do is keep practicing, sharing the music, and trying to get it "right."
Day 13: The Peacock's Feather (hornpipe)
This is the minor tune by that name. There's also a tune in major that's on my "to learn" list! :-)
Just for a change of scenery, I decided to record from a different room today, which was more complicated than I thought. However, Gary came to the rescue by solving the lighting problem for me! I'm continuing to learn new things everyday.
Day 14: All Along the River Bank (attributed to Jackie Daly)
In some ways, I think polkas get a bit of a bad rap. When played well, they have a sort of beauty all their own... (I feel like this post needs an "unpopular opinions" hashtag! HA!)
Anyway, I love this tune, even though it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out how to play it without adding an extra beat on the repeat (true story!).
Day 15: The Wandering Minstrel (jig)
I was having a conversation yesterday about what defines an "obscure" tune. I don't think this is one, though it's not one that I would group in the most commonly played session tunes... However, the more I travel (and I don't get to do this and play in far flung sessions nearly as often as I'd like - and honestly, who knows the next time any of us will have the opportunity!) I think what's common in one locality may be totally different from what's common in another locality. Whether this is viewed as a common tune or not, I think it's a great one, and one I wish I thought to pull out more often!
With gratitude to Roger Landes for passing this one on to me.
Day 16: The New Road from Paddy Fahey
I remember the first time I heard a recording of Paddy Fahey: I had sent a note to the IRTRAD-L (one of the old listservs in the early 2000s) inquiring where to hear recordings of folks like Paddy Fahey, and a kind person mailed me burned CDs that included precious field recordings of Paddy Fahey from the 1970s. I was completely entranced. Although I was familiar with some of his compositions, I'd not heard his playing before, and something about it spoke to my soul. I learned this tune from that recording and although it was not named, I have come to believe it is a tune called "The New Road."
When I traveled to Dublin in 2006, I was able to spend just a few hours one afternoon in the Irish Traditional Music Archives. I spent all of that time looking for more on Paddy Fahey. It was there I first saw a photograph of him, and I heard another lovely recording of him playing "The Kerry Reel" on a cassette. It was an afternoon very well spent.
I was sorry to hear that he'd passed away in 2019 at the age of 102. What a legend.
Any mistakes in this version of this tune are 100% my own.
Day 17: The Hag's Purse (jig)
With thanks to Luke Plumb who I learned this particular setting from years ago. I think it's lovely.
Day 18: Willie Clancy's (reel)
I learned this tune from Roger Landes who I believe learned it from Liam O'Flynn's solo album. It's also known as "The Humours of Quilty" and can be played single. This setting was definitely taught to me doubled.
Day 19: Lucy Farr's (reel)
I learned this tune from Randal Bays many moons ago, and it's one of my favourites. He introduced me to the playing of the late, great Galway fiddler and composer, Lucy Farr, which I fell in love with. In fact, there's a great clip of her playing and talking about the Ballinakill Ceili Band on YouTube. Great stuff, lovely playing.
Day 20: The Last of the Twins (hornpipe)
Another great tune I learned from Roger Landes.
Day 21: The Sport of the Chase (slip jig)
Here's another great tune I learned from Randal Bays. I think I learned it at ZoukFest in 2003. Really great memories...
Day 22: The Coolin as a March from Steve Cooper
I'm hoping Steve can tell us more about the tune - I know it is a march version of the very famous slow air, The Coolin. But I can't remember anything more about it!
I'm not sure what made me think of this tune, but it popped into my head yesterday. It was tune that Steve Cooper used to start here in our Lubbock session all of the time "back in the day." I might have heard it the first time way back when the session was still at Klusoz?
Day 23: Micho Russell's (reel)
I learned this tune from my friend, flute player Jonathan Milton. I don't know a lot about the tune, but the late Micho Russell was a wonderful whistle player and keeper of traditional Irish music and folklore from Doolin in County Clare.
Day 24: Con Cassidy's Jig
I first learned this tune from the album "Ceol Aduaidh" and the playing of the late great Irish flute player, Frankie Kennedy. In fact, I learned it so long ago, I went back to check my setting and had the joy of listening to that wonderful album for the first time in ages! Highly recommended!
Con Cassidy was a wonderful fiddle player from Donegal, in the beautiful northwest of Ireland. I've never been there, but would love to go one day! The fiddle style found in Donegal, and Con Cassidy's style in particular is beautiful and unique. Quite distinctive from the styles found in other parts of Ireland.
There are many great recordings and clips on YouTube of Con Cassidy and Frankie Kennedy both.
Day 25: The Star Hornpipe
Another lovely tune from the playing of Randal Bays.
Day 26: The Mother's Day (slip jig) by Randal Bays.
Another beautiful tune, this one written by my friend, Randal Bays.
I don't play a lot of slip jigs (no good excuse... I just don't). I'm trying to remember when I first heard this one. It may have been on the album "House to House" which Randal recorded with another good friend, Roger Landes.
You've probably guessed by my posts that both Randal and Roger have contributed enormously to both my tune repertoire and my approach to Irish music.
I've been reflecting over the last couple of days how extraordinarily fortunate I have been to have the opportunity to learn from and make music with folks who I enormously admire as both artists and human beings. I am extraordinarily grateful not only to Randal and Roger, but to all of my musical mentors over the years.
Day 27: James Murray's (jig)
I learned this tune from John Carty at ZoukFest in 2005. John is an incredible teacher, and personally I believe one of the greatest Irish fiddle players currently living and performing. He is an absolute treasure trove for the tradition on so many levels and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have been in his class that year, and in subsequent years.
I haven't even begun to do this tune justice here, but it gives me an opportunity to encourage you to look him up and check out his playing.
Day 28: The Humors of Carrigaholt (reel)
This is a great reel that I don't think I've ever heard played in a session - at least not here. I first became aware of it on Randal Bays' album "Out of the Woods" and then made a conscious effort to track down the source he listed: Clare fiddler, John Kelly, Sr. Much easier to do now than it was back in 2002!
Besides being an incredible fiddle and concertina player, John Kelly had an enormous impact on traditional Irish music. There are lots of beautiful recordings and videos of his playing and I would encourage you to look them up. I'm going to link a short video here, as well as a website which gives more information. Also, his playing of this particular tune is gorgeous, and easily found on YouTube!
Day 29: The Lilting Fisherman (jig)
I learned this great tune from Roger Landes. I'm not sure where he got it from...
I am not used to playing this tune by myself. You'll just have to imagine that it's an hour or two into a really great house session with a few good friends and maybe a glass of wine, and Roger starts this tune - that's my favourite place to hear it, by far.
Good times. We'll get there again some day.
Day 30: Two Reels: Within a Mile of Dublin/The Steampacket
These are two great tunes: I learned the first tune from the playing of one of my favourite pipers ever: Mick O'Brien, off an album called "The Piper's Rock", and I learned the second from Roger Landes.
Celebrating 30 days of tunes!
I had originally thought I'd do 30 days and see how I felt about it. I think I'll just keep going. 🙂 I just keep unearthing more great tunes, and it's fun to have an excuse to play everyday! Thanks for all of the great feedback from those listening and commenting. I appreciate your support and indulgence!
Thanks also to my friends who have fielded my questions on tune settings and where they got them from, and who continue to let me text them quick recordings completely randomly to "make sure I got it right."
Day 31: The Maids of Mt. Kisco/Hand Me Down the Tackle (two more reels)
Playing these two tunes for no other reason than I like them and I miss playing music with my friends.
If you'd like more for today, I would direct you to the playing of the great piper and folklorist Séamus Ennis, who performed the second tune on the album "Seoda Ceoil."
Day 32: The Blockers (reel).
Another mighty tune by Sean Ryan which I learned from Randal Bays.
I don't think I linked one of my favourite videos of Sean Ryan in the comments last time, so I'll do it below. 🙂
Day 33: East at Glendart (jig)
Another great tune I learned from Randal Bays, who incidentally re-released his album Katy Bar the Door on Bandcamp this week.
Day 34: The Glen of Aherlow by Sean Ryan.
This tune is also commonly called Lafferty's. It was recorded under this title on another really recording that was really influential to me: "All Ireland Champions: (An Historical Recording of Irish Traditional Music)", which is where I first heard it. This recording of Paddy Canny, P.J. Hayes, Peadar O'Loughlin and Bridie Lafferty is an absolute classic and was one of the first recordings recommended to me when I began to learn to play Irish fiddle.
Although, when I sat down to learn this tune years ago, I actually learned it from a recording of Sean Ryan (see the video posted in the comments from Day 32).
However, my absolute favourite setting of The Glen of Aherlow is Bobby Casey's recording of it on "Casey in the Cowhouse."
Day 35: The Torrid Romance by Leslie Harris.
I learned this one from Roger Landes who learned it from Rebecca Pringle.
Day 36: The Priest in His Boots (jig)
Thanks to Roger Landes for teaching me this one. I generally play it in a set with The Lilting Fisherman (Day 29), which I also learned from Roger.
h/t to Oscar West for reminding me of this tune!
Day 37: My Love is in America/The Ten Pound Float (reels)
My Love is in America was, if not the first, one of the very first reels I ever learned. Many moons ago now, Chris Smith ran a slow session at the Canterbury Center here in town. It was in that space, every Saturday, that I not only learned my first traditional Irish tunes, but also critical ways of teaching and learning music and building communities. These skills have greatly shaped the music educator I have become. It is also not an exaggeration to say that without those slow sessions I would not be in the place I am today, and I am beyond grateful for that.
The Ten Pound Float (also called The Killavil Fancy) I learned from my favourite Randal Bays album: "The Salmon's Leap."
Day 38: The Three Sea Captains (set dance)
The tunes called "set dances" are tunes that are played for a particular solo dance. I learned this tune from a recording of fiddler, Sean Ryan, and I've never had the pleasure to play it for a dancer before.
In fact, chances to play for dancers here in West Texas are fewer and further between than I'd like. The opportunity to play for dancers is something I cherish!
I worry, as a musician, that not playing for dancers means I've not actually learned the music itself.
Not to wax poetic, and my dancer friends could probably speak much more eloquently on this subject, but in some ways, dance could be considered the most complete art form as it incorporates the musical, the physical, and the visual. Participating in dance - either as a musician or a dancer - makes me feel ALIVE! Singing is another action that encompasses that feeling. It is spiritual without question.
So this is for my dancer friends out there. I miss playing for you! Hopefully we'll be together again some day soon.
(PS - for my classical music friends, I left the C's in that Sean Ryan played "between the cracks" of the natural and the sharp because they were both intentional and (I think) strikingly beautiful. 😊❤️)
Day 39: Down the Back Lane/The Lilting Banshee/The Bank of Turf (jigs)
Three tunes today! Down the Back Lane is a tune I learned from Randal Bays at the very first ZoukFest I attended in 2002. The Lilting Banshee I am pretty sure I learned from Jonathan Milton, and The Bank of Turf is a tune I play with Roger Landes.
The Bank of Turf is attributed to the great traveling Kerry fiddler and teacher, Padraig O'Keefe, who allegedly wrote and taught the tune by carving it into the side of a bank of turf.
Day 40: The Great Southern Ocean
Here's the last installment of this quarantunes series and played on request.
I wrote it while visiting dear friends in Victoria, Australia in 2018 and it provides the title for the album I recorded there.
Music is a gift, and it continues to be my honor and privilege to have the opportunity to share it with you.
Thank you all for following and supporting these tunes everyday!
Take care and be well. ❤️