New Home For Jigathons

Hi All,

We’re in the process of moving.

New home is

Come visit!

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What’s so compelling about the Irish Musical Tradition?

Having recently witnessed an amazing concert by the Teetotalers (Martin Hayes, Kevin Crawford, John Doyle), I am once again astounded by both the soul and technical prowess of Irish musicians. Granted, these three are at the top of their craft as individuals and together are over the moon (in my opinion, the greatest band performing today not to have a website or a CD!). But is there something unique to Irish music tradition and culture that fosters a level of musicianship beyond the ordinary? Perhaps so.

What Ireland Can Teach the World about Music

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2014 Susan Fletcher Tansey Youth Scholarships for Swannanoa

BRIMS is pleased to announce the 3rd annual Susan Fletcher Tansey Youth Scholarships for Celtic Week at Swannanoa Gathering, July 13-19, 2014. The two $500 scholarships are made possible by a generous donation from Interpretive Simulations and covers the full week’s tuition (room and board are extra). Celtic Week participants may take up to four courses from some of the finest musicians and instructors in the world, go to two concerts just for Celtic Week participants, have a blast at the two dances, and, of course, play in the sessions and slow jams during the week.

Instructors for 2014 included Martin Hayes, Liz Carroll, Kevin Crawford, Colin Farrell, Liz Knowles, Alastair McCulloch, Nuala Kennedy, John Skelton, John Doyle, Robin Bullock, Brian McNeill, Ed Miller, Billy Jackson, Andrew Finn Magill, Kathleen Conneely, Kimberley Fraser, Grainne Hambly, Len Graham, Eamon O’Leary, Cathie Ryan, Alan Reid, Marla Fibish, Donal Clancy, Cillian Vallely, Rose Flanagan, Matthew Olwell, Maldon Meehan, and John Whelan.

Congrats again to last year’s winners Leah and Chloe! If this sounds interesting to you, ask them about their experience.

You must be a current BRIMS student to apply and youth (under age 21) musicians and dancers are given priority. However, if we don’t have two applicants, we will award scholarships to adults who are interested in attending. For more information, please contact Lori Madden.

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A Case for Guitar

Fans of Fiona Ritchie’s Thistle and Shamrock show will certainly appreciate this segment focusing on the guitar in Celtic Music.

Click here for a listen.

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Session I Class – Jan 2014

Week 5

If you enjoy fiddle and banjo, you missed a fabulous display of it last night with Kevin Burke and John Carty. Here are a couple of sets from Patrick Street (Kevin, John, Andy Irvine and Arty McGlynn). A Set of Reels and Loftus Jones, a lovely composition by Turlough O’Carolan (and if you don’t know who that is, start the video at the beginning for an explanation by Kevin).

The last set of their performance (before encore) were tunes woven around the reel, Mountain Road. So, I decided that was sign to add that one for next week. A very well known (single) reel, lots of fun, and if you already know it, I’m going to try to dig up the 3rd part to learn (and if I can’t I’ll have an alternative tune for you all). Though it is (almost) always played as a two-part reel, so no worries about the 3rd part 🙂 Definitely a tune to have in your repertoire.

Have a listen here. Generally not a fan of these dubbed recordings, but hey, it is nice and clear with several variations, and has accordion on Banshee, so how could I resist? Here’s another version that starts with Castle Kelly’s – maybe you remember it from earlier?

Don’t forget Swinging on a Gate though!!

Week 4 – Winter Storm Edition

Great day to stay inside and play tunes. Again, everyone was sounding great this week. Transitions between tunes were stronger. One thing I do sometimes if I’m struggling with transitions is to play the tunes in various orders one time through each. Also a good way to explore which tunes work better with each other. I find people’s preferences all over the place when it comes to putting tunes together. My only advice (beyond trial and error) is that the transitions provide a “lift” of energy in a session. There are different ways of accomplishing this. One way is by changing keys. Another is by moving from less well known tunes to more common ones so that more people join in – leaving everyone at the session somewhat satisfied by the end of the set and helping to build a sense of inclusion within the group. Often sessions will have particular sets of tunes that are usually played together. Be sensitive to that when you are a visitor to a session.

Here’s another version of Castle Kelly’s coming at the end of a set. Thanks to John and Wes for telling me about how to start a Youtube video at a particular point in time, but feel free to start this one from the beginning as it is a nice set of tunes.

Next up is Swinging on a Gate in Holly’s honor 🙂 And here’s another version played at a good clip. Usually played in G (we’ll learn the G version), but watch for different keys. If you find yourself in a jam with old time players, this one has some cross-over, so it also has that going for it.

Week 3

Running behind this week – fortunately, you’ve got the recording of Brian O’Lynn’s from last week along with the music handout. Thought that sounded quite good for the first time through it on Tues. Here’s an interesting version of it (2nd tune in set starting around 2:40), for those of you who might be looking for variations.

Next week, we’ll be working on Castle Kelly’s. Yes, I know, bait and switch strikes again, but we’ll get to Julia Delaney’s yet. Anyway, here’s a sweet set that starts with Castle Kelly’s along with Mountain Road and Pigeon on a Gate. Kind of nice as it has fiddle, banjo, and whistle, so you can a sense of how the various instruments “swing” around the beat. And no worries John and Kaleb, we won’t ask you to do that kind of intro… at least next week!

Week 2

Gee that was fun last night! Nothing like some jigs to make you smile on a cold winter night. And seriously, you all sounded really good on the new tunes – picking them up far faster than I do! Our primary tune for this week will be The Banks of Lough Gowna and if you’re looking for the challenge of a two tune week, you’ve got Larry O’Gaff’s to add to the mix. Next week, I’m leaning toward Brian O’Lynn’s.

Listen to Banks of Lough Gowna (jig in Bm/D)
Here’s a really lovely version of Banks of Lough Gowna (last tune in the set starting around 4:07) played by Marla Fibish who came through C’ville in November and taught a couple of workshops for BRIMS and gave a concert with husband, Bruce later in the day. If you play Irish mandolin (I’m talking to you, John M.), she is definitely someone to emulate!
John B. sent me a link to this version of Banks of Lough Gowna (second tune in the set). The fiddle player plays a bunch variations on all the tunes, but a fun set and the guitarist is clearly having such a good time! The last tune is another of my favorite jigs – Christy Barry’s. We learned that tune in Lisdoonvarna from Christy Barry himself on our BRIMS trip in 2005. After that workshop, there was no turning back.

So, it turns out that Larry O’Gaff’s is a favorite of the Uke players. Who knew? This can come in handy if you find yourself in a session surrounded by ukuleles. You never know – always good to be prepared! Listen to Larry O’Gaff’s (jig in D)
Here’s a nice Youtube video that starts with Larry O’Gaff’s and then adds a bit of lilting and dancing. The set builds beautifully into the 3rd tune. And I kind of like what they do with B part of Larry O’Gaff’s which is definitely a variation to what I handed out in class. A fun set of tunes and well presented. Have a listen!

Week 1

Thank you all for coming to Session Class last night – really wonderful to be with all of you and play some tunes. I was thinking on the way over to class how one could find an Irish session anywhere in the world, and though you might not be able to understand each other’s words at all, you could communicate with your instruments and share the joy of music and a common experience. But, enough with the philosophizing, and on to this week’s tunes.

The first tune is Brendan Tonra’s, a catchy two part jig in D. I believe it used to be a “BRIMS tune” in the early days, likely taught to us by Tes or Sara. It’s always been one of our daughter, Katherine’s, favorite tunes, so I thought it would be a nice one to start with and one that might be new to folks in the class. It does, however, present a little bit of a challenge to the flutes and whistles, so I appreciate Augie’s guidance there. Interestingly enough, the two best examples of our tunes for today I found were played by flutes, so we’ll celebrate our strong flute section today!

Listen to Brendan Tonra’s (paired with Maid on the Green, from Brock’s class)
Notation for Brendan Tonra’s
And here’s some background on Brendan Tonra, who is one of the more prolific Irish tune composers and, I believe, is still playing fiddle in Boston. Kind of fun to be able to come across some recent youtube videos of him. Here he is playing one of his compositions.

The second tune is a popular session tune, the Killavel Jig. This is one we’ve been playing in KGB for years paired with Cliffs of Moher, so we might try that combination next week for old time’s sake. It was interesting that none of us had learned it yet. I had put it in for this week’s alternative tune mainly b/c of the flute challenge on Brendan Tonra’s, but am glad to be introducing it to many of you.

Listen to the Killavel Jig
Notation for Killavel Jig

Oddly enough, when looking for examples, I found both together in a set. Not the best quality recording of either, but thought it might be helpful to have them both together.

Last thing which I probably didn’t say enough last night. While I may provide 2 tunes in a week, one will be our focus (Brendan Tonra’s this week) and the 2nd one is one is an alternative option (for whatever reason you may have – you like it better, you already knew the first one, etc). I’ll especially do this for the first few weeks as it is helpful to get our common repertoire count up quickly. However, I’ve always felt learning a tune a week is a great accomplishment. If you think about it, if you did that every week, you’d learn 50 tunes a year, which is a very solid tune list. So, my point is, we all pick up tunes at different paces and have different reasons for being in class. I will be very happy if, in 7 weeks, you’ve on your way to knowing 7 tunes that you enjoy playing.

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How do you play that tune, anyway?

I’ve noticed that people have various reactions to what constitutes the “right” way to play a tune and I always struggle with handing out a piece of written music to my session class (or particular chords to my guitar class for that matter) for fear the tune becomes “fixed” in someone’s mind. Traditional tunes are malleable and we should be open to (or dare I say welcome?) interesting variations on how a tune is played. Here’s a quick take on the subject from Martin Hayes.

Also, here is a link to a somewhat related article and video from the Irish Times about The Gloaming, an on-going experiment in music, whose new CD will soon be released (featuring Martin among others).

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Session I Class – Fall 2013

Week 7

Good to have Jim back in class this week. So in his honor, Lark in the Morning is the tune of the week. This recording of Cillian Vallely was wonderful to come across as he’s one of the best out there on pipes. As always, this version is not the same as the printed version, which won’t be exactly the same as how we play it in class. But it’s definitely one to have in your repertoire. As I think I mentioned in class, at the C’ville session the other night, I think every person was playing on it, so it is a popular tune both in Charlottesville and elsewhere. Enjoy and see you next week for our last class (oh no). Bring your favorite tune and we’ll try to plug a few extras in our usual sets!

Week 6

It was great to have Mimi join us for a few tunes this week. A wonderful reminder of the enduring nature of the BRIMS community and the larger community of Irish music. What a cool thing to be able to travel to a town, look up on the internet to see if they have a session, join in, and instantly be connected to a new community of people through a common joy in trad music. In fact, at our monthly session at C’ville Coffee, we had a visitor who did just that! Love it!

So this week, our tune was Devaney’s Goat. This is a nice straight forward rendition of it (with an appropriate backdrop). Here’s another version by a trio of fabulous musicians (2nd tune in set, but enjoy the entire set). As I mentioned in class, I originally learned it from David Surrette as part of a set with Mountain Road (also in D). I looked up David’s site and found that he had posted tab notation for all the tunes from his CD, so here’s a link to a pdf of the version I originally learned.

Week 5

We’re trying a bit of Cape Breton this week with Brenda Stubbert’s written by Jerry Holland. Fortunately, we do have a recording of him playing the tune (with steel drum accompaniment!) which you can listen to here: Brenda Stubbert’s Reel (Am). The first phrase in the B part is the distinctive part of the tune. Here’s a bit clearer (and slower) version on solo fiddle. Also, you might enjoy hearing a set played by Brenda Stubbert herself. She really tears it up and you just can’t beat that Cape Breton piano accompaniment in my opinion! The first tune is Foxhunter’s which you probably have heard before. A bit different feel in Cape Breton style.

Will try to record and post the waltz tonight. Thanks everyone for another great class!

Well, apparently my password for the BRIMS site is out of date, so I can’t upload my recording. In the meantime, here’s Faraway Waltz on flute for Sandy and Sherry. (and thanks to Guy, who mentioned that the previous recording was in Em rather than the Bm that we’ll play)

Week 3 + 4

Sounding pretty darn good and folks seem to be up for learning more tunes, so I’ll oblige. However, I will always designate 1 tune the primary tune for the week in case you would prefer to focus on one tune. So this week’s tune is Rolling Wave(s) a beautiful jig in D (also known as Humours of Trim). John B. also found this incredibly cool version of it as well. Some folks from C’ville learned this in Doolin during our last trip to Ireland, so it is a good one to keep going!

If you’re feeling frisky, give Maire Rua a whirl. A pretty easy slip jig to pick up in the key of G. This version played on mando just for Jim. As I mentioned during class, John Doyle used the melody on his version of Wheels of the World. Lyrics shared below (may not be exactly the same). Good opportunity for a quick history lesson 🙂

The Wheels of the World

Come all of you true sons of Erin; attend to these few nimble lines:
I’ll sing you a song about spinning. It was a good trade in our time.
Now some they spun worsted and yarn, and others they spun flaxen and tow.
By experience, my friends, you may learn how the wheels of the world how they go.

William Pitt he was a good spinner, and so was Lord Castlereagh.
They spun out the Union from Ireland. To England they shipped it away.
Poor Pitt spun out his existence, then took a long trip on a boat.
Lord Castlereagh saved him the distance, by cutting the rim of his throat.

Napoleon he was a great spinner, for freedom did always advance.
Through deserts and high lofty mountains, he marched with the brave sons of France.
Wellington he went a-spinning. His wheels they were at Waterloo;
But if Grouchy had never been bribed, the French would have split him in two.

John Mitchel a true son of Erin, declared that a spinner he’d be.
He set all wheels in motion, his dear native land to set free.
But John Bull that crafty old tyrant, at spinning he was fully bent,
And straight to Van Diemen’s Land the son of old Erin was sent.

The factory owners are spinning. Their wheels are a turning away,
And now they are expecting their hands for to work thirteen hours a day.
They don’t care a damn for the poor and they hate all their sighs and their moans.
They don’t care a pin if you work till you cut all the flesh from your bones.

And the rich they are all famous spinners, and that we’re are very sure
They are always contriving a scheme to drive down the rights of the poor.
So if you’re compelled to go spinning, be sure that your spindles are steel.
Let “Liberty” then be your motto, and glory will turn your big wheel.

Week 2

Great job this week, everyone. Great to have two more melody players – thanks for joining us Sandy and Julie. So, our main tune to work on for the week is Geese in the Bog. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try out Merry Blacksmith (D reel) – here are two versions by Planxty (starts around 0:40) and Solas (from a workshop).

Next week, Sherry offered to bring in a printed version of Eel in the Sink (singular, Stu) and I will be out of town (sadly), but Erin will do a fabulous job leading you all in my absence. Thanks to both Sherry and Erin!

The following week, I’m thinking we might tackle Rolling Wave (another D major jig). Have a listen to it in the meantime if you don’t already know it (Note that they modulate to G for the performance but almost always played in D). Paired with The Legacy here – really nice set with Flute and Harp. Anyway, Rolling Wave is one of my favorite tunes… started learning it in Doolin two years ago, but never really got it down. So I’m pulling it out again for all of us to master together. Guitars, B part (to me) calls for a nice descending run down from D.

Week 1

So, we’re working on two tunes for next week – a single reel – Rolling in the Ryegrass (Key of D) and a jig – Pipe on the Hob #1 (Key of D mix). Here are two recordings of the tunes and you all have the music from class.

Watch Rolling in the Ryegrass (great for guitars to play along with)

Listen to Pipe on the Hob with Merrily Kissed the Quaker – really nice arrangement. John B. also reminded me that I had a version from Alex that she taught on fiddle a few years ago here.

Also, Sherry introduced us to Eel in the Sink, so here is a version of that tune as well!

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Summer Tunes and Songs

Just back from Alex Caton’s Fiddle Camp, my last stop on a summer tour filled with lots of new musical inspiration, new friends, and, of course, new tunes! So much to catch up on before Fall’s courses start up in… oh my, just over a week. I still haven’t had the time to download all the music from Swannanoa off my iPhone and organize that yet as I’m just back from basically 3 straight weeks away from home (sadly, only 2 days of music).

Going back to June, I had the opportunity to back Sara Read (fiddle) and Monika Fallon (singing/flute) on the forthcoming BRIMS CD. That was the highlight of a lovely week of music. Great to see Sara with a fiddle in her hands again these days. Backing her reminded me what a joy it is to play with melody players who have a really solid internal rhythm. Something I need to remember to talk about in session class. So often it is perceived that accompaniment players set the rhythm, but really, our job is to enhance/support the rhythm that is already created by the melody player. It was also a delight to recreate a bit of our last BRIMS trip to Ireland with Monika as we recorded “The Orchard”, a song we learned from Mairead Curran around the piano at the Ballyroe Hotel. Thanks to Dave C., finally got to hear some of the cuts off the CD over the weekend, including hearing Marina’s dance steps on Sara’s track. I think folks will be pleased with the results on the CD! Bobby Read has a fantastic new recording studio set-up in Charlottesville, so if you’re looking for studio time / engineering, check out Bobby. Really enjoyed working with him.

Next up was Swannanoa in mid-July. It is honestly THE week I look forward to most all year and this year was the best yet, perhaps because Katherine was able to come, or perhaps just because each year I return I meet new friends and get to know returning friends better. Plus, the music rocked! I took three classes this year – Mandolin I with Marla Fibish, who was new to me. Really enjoyed her class and have also been enjoying her CD. Hoping that she’ll make her way to Charlottesville on an upcoming East Coast tour. Her “potluck” with Martin Hayes was certainly one of the highlights of my week. 2nd class of the day was Bouzouki with Robbin Bullock. I’ve been looking forward to taking a class with him since the first SwannyG concert I saw. What he does with O’Carolan pieces is mesmerizing and his Rosewood Castle CD remains one of my favorites. My last class was banjo with Eamon O’Leary. I’ve taken 3 classes with Eamon over the years, and I’ve always appreciated his approach to teaching. He always meets you where you are, encourages you to reach a little farther, and is very thorough. While I don’t play banjo much (why? b/c it is heavier than my octave mandolin? questions to ponder early in the morning), this was a terrific class for me.

Late night sessions / slow jams / breakfast chats about picks were all wonderful as always. Great to catch up with some of the folks from Asheville I’ve met in years past who come by for an evening or two of tunes. I did miss being in a singing class, however. I think this was the first year I didn’t sign up for one. They always kind of center me, so I’ll get back to that next year for sure. Some of the tunes I heard and want to learn include: Brenda Stubbert’s, Pipe on the Hob (the 2 pt in D), Julia Delaney’s, Geese in the Bog, Faraway Waltz, Miss McLeod’s, Islay Rantor Reel, Christy Barry’s #1, Boy in the Bush, Donnybrook Fair, Rose in the Heather, Humours of Glendart, Hunter’s House, Monaghan Jig, and one of the Paddy Fahey’s (cripe… who knows now which one). Many standards that I just haven’t learned yet, but some lesser known ones too. Along with the tunes I learned in class, that should keep me busy for awhile. Are any of these on your list as well? Let’s learn them together!

And finally, last weekend, I wrapped up my summer at Alex’s Fiddle Camp. Along with getting to hang out and play tunes with good friends from C’ville, I also took a couple of classes with Patrick Ourceau who came with his family and is such a great guy (and musician). Really enjoyed getting to know him a bit and their twins are a total hoot. My fiddle playing, however, left much to be desired. Not sure what to do about that! Though he does give Skype lessons now apparently 🙂 Also took one singing class with Pat Egan who long ago taught me a few key DADGAD runs when I was first getting started on guitar. And yes, he teaches guitar in standard tuning. Someone to check out if you’d prefer to build on playing in that tuning rather than trying to figure out drop D or DADGAD. So great to catch up with folks who are in Alex’s circle… many years, her camp is the one place I get to play tunes with them. It was fun to see the crew from NOVA who were there last year. Hope we’re able to get together one Sunday evening in Warrenton (or Culpeper… I forget now the session locale). Even try to dust off a few old-time tunes with somewhat limited success – many cobwebs there. Also a quick plug for Sara(h), a young fiddler who’s been a student of Alex’s for years. She made a huge jump in playing this past year. Just so cool to see these young players hit their stride!

What I have missed with all the travel is playing with my bandmates in KGB. Fortunately, we’re playing tonight – Sunday (Aug 25th) at 6pm at Fellini’s. So, with that and BRIMS classes starting on Sept 3rd, sounds like we’ll be back on track. Look forward to see you all soon!

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Classes for this Fall

Hey folks – here’s what I’ll be teaching at BRIMS this Fall. First half of semester will be Session I, 2nd half will be DADGAD Guitar. Not finalized yet is the timing, but probably in the 6pm time slot. I expect all the classes and times to be published on the BRIMS homepage soon. Hope you’ll be able to join us for one more classes!

If you are considering taking either of these classes and have any specific requests or questions, please let me know through a comment to this post – thanks!

Session Workshop Class I (8 Week Class)

This 8 week class will focus on playing well-known session tunes as a group. We will learn tunes from three sources – most popular tunes from, tunes that are played locally, and tunes that people in the class want to learn. To take this class you should have some experience with a melody instrument (e.g. can play at least a few Irish tunes), be eager to work on playing better, and be able to learn a tune on your own from a recording with perhaps a little help from music notation if you’re new to learning by ear. We will also have room for 1 or 2 guitars / bouzoukis / bodhráns for accompaniment. Ages 12 and up are welcome. We will cover a new tune each week so that by the end of class, we’ll have 3 sets of tunes that you can play. Our goal will be to play those tunes well and in a consistent rhythm.

Introduction to Irish Accompaniment on Guitar (DADGAD tuning)

In this five week class, students will learn the fundamentals of accompanying Irish traditional tunes on guitar. We’ll cover two of the basic rhythms (reels and jigs), chord shapes, and some common major and minor progressions. We’ll also be using DADGAD tuning; an open style guitar tuning that is very popular for backing Irish musicians. Ages 12 and up are welcome. Some experience on guitar is helpful (simple chords and strumming in standard tuning). You will need a guitar, capo, and pick.

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Susan Fletcher Tansey Scholarship Recipients Announced for Swannanoa

BRIMS is pleased to announce that fiddle student Leah Marshall and dance student Chloe Hellerman are recipients of the 2013 youth scholarships to the Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week. The Susan Fletcher Tansey youth scholarship is made possible by a generous donation from Interpretive Simulations.

Congrats Leah and Chloe!! Have a great week and bring back some new tunes and steps to our community! Sue would be so happy for you.