Traditional Irish Music Workshop with The University of Sheffield Folk Group

I was delighted to be asked to deliver a workshop on Traditional Irish Music with the University of Sheffield Folk Group. They were specifically interested in me sharing some of my knowledge and perspective on Sligo style flute playing, the style that I was I taught by Marian Flannery (Egan) in 1970’s Manchester. I had an hour to work with a group of very talented musicians, but musicians not too familiar with the technicalities of Traditional Irish Music. To explain Sligo style (if there is an exact defined style?) is a big task and our session could only ever be a drop in a large ocean.

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The Folk Group meet at the Bath Hotel in Sheffield every week and play a variety of styles of folk music on a number of different instruments. They are mixture of undergraduate, postgraduate and staff. All were welcoming and keen for some hands on learning rather than a lecture. I gave a little outline of my learning and influences including my flute hero Roger Sherlock:

https://youtu.be/ZdfU2Gc1ZlE

I talked about some different perspectives on style ranging from Séamus Tansey and his highly ornate music through to players such as Sherlock, who had a little more space in their playing. We talked about rhythm and the concept of a pulse in the music (there’s a PhD in there for someone). The video below demonstrates, in a humorous and perhaps extreme way, the differing schools of thought on what is ‘authentic’.

https://youtu.be/m1m1KMtIjWA

I handed out a Clarke’s Tin Whistle to each of the participants. They’re easy to get the hang of, six finger holes and blow in the end. We did a quick run through of the scale of D and focused the rest of the session on basic techniques (cuts, taps, rolls, breath control) and learning a tune by ear. I won’t go into detail here about technique. There are some great on-line resources on technique. I would also recommend Hammy Hamilton’s ‘The Irish Flute Players Handbook’. If you are a University of Sheffield library member, I’ve ordered the book and it should be available in the next couple of weeks. You can also order a copy direct from Hammy. It has a wealth of historical context, an accompanying CD and tunes for you to learn.

http://www.hamiltonflutes.com/The_Irish_Flute_Players_Handbook.html

Within the hour the group managed to learn the first part of the Jig, ‘The Whistling Banshee’ by ‘ear’ (listening without notation) and add a couple of ornaments to the tune. Here are slow and correct tempo versions of the tune:

As I explained to the group, it’s hard to pin down an exact version of the tune and as you will see even more difficult to agreement on the name of the tune. If you do need to refer to notation, www.thesession.org is a great resource for different versions of the tune in ABC and staff notation (the dots). Here’s a link to The Whistling Banshee/ Lilting Banshee/ Paddy Macs on The Session:

https://thesession.org/tunes/60

The University of Sheffield Folk Group have an ambitious programme of worshops ahead with the likes of Nancy Kerr, Fay Hield (founder of the group) and Jon Boden (Bellowhead) amongst others. Keep an eye out for them gigging near you some time soon. Thank you to them all for asking me to work with them.

My next workshop is later this month with the students on the MA in Music of the British Isles at the University of Sheffield.

If you would like me to deliver a workshop for you, in English or Spanish, get in contact with me: mpwalsh1@sheffield.ac.uk and check out my ‘traddad for hire’ section on here.

2 comments

  1. Mike Wild says:

    Great to see your approach and how it’s all going Mike !

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