Irish Tin Whistle Workshop for MA Music Students @ The University of Sheffield

Over Easter 2016, 10 distance learning music students came from across Europe, North Africa and the USA came to The University of Sheffield Music Department to take part in a residential for the M.A.’s in World Music and Music of the British Isles. Participants come from a variety of backgrounds but with a shared interest in what FRoots Magazine so aptly describes as ‘local music from around the world’. It’s an opportunity for students to meet each other, have face to face contact with lecturers and get hands on experience in playing music or an instrument that maybe somewhat different from their own specialism.

I was asked to provide a workshop on Traditional Irish Music on the Tin Whistle. Apart from one Irish musician, the musicians had little or no experience of playing Irish music and all were more or less starting learning from scratch. It was a great advantage that they were talented musicians in their own field. A big focus was learning by ear, that is learning without the use of written notation. For most Traditional Irish musicians this is a skill developed early on in the learning process but for others used to staff notation in particularly classically trained musicians, this is quite a challenge. The students took the task with gusto, covering the basic scales of D and G, cultural and geographical contexts, ornamentation (Cuts, taps, rolls and crans) and the importance of posture and relaxation when playing. We covered several lessons’ worth of information in 2 hours, learned the first part of the Mountains of Pomeroy March played on very challenging Clarke’s Whistle’s and by request, I played a couple of tunes on my flute form Asturias and Ireland. The students were a great group of people to work with and a good bit of laughter was had as well as a couple of beers in the bar afterwards. I want to thank them for tackling the task with such great spirit and at the end of the session they made a lovely sound.

Michael Walsh with students from his Trad Irish Tin Whistle Workshop at The University of Sheffield

Michael Walsh with students from his Trad Irish Tin Whistle Workshop at The University of Sheffield

I was inspired to teach a march by two things recently. Firstly discussing the flute band tradition in Dingle, Ireland with Dr Aoife Granville and the recent use of marshal music as part of the Centenary Celebrations of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. The Mountain’s of Pomeroy was part of the first March set I learned from Marian Flannery (Egan) at St Wilfrid’s Comhaltas Branch in Hulme, Manchester during the 1970’s. I still love playing a March when I’m playing with The Leeds Céilí Band.

Here’s the March we were learning and below is a list of references I mentioned during the presentation. There’s also further information on Sligo style music in some of my previous blogs.

Dr Aoife Granville’s work on Marching Traditions in Kerry.
http://www.academia.edu/13415326/Musicking_and_Marching_through_the_Year

Relaxing whilst playing: ‘The Inner Game of Music’ by Barry Green. London: Pan 1987.

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