Friday, 19 October 2007

The Good Father - Irish Theatre - Nov 6 - 18, 2007

Earlier this year I had the intense pleasure of attending the play ‘A Night in November’ starring one-man-wonder Pierre Brault, from Seven Thirty Productions, Directed by transplanted Irishman John P. Kelly, luckily for us now residing in Ottawa. John trained at the renowned Abbey Theatre in Dublin and has directed on most of the major stages in Ireland. ‘A Night in November’ was highly recommended by theatre critics acclaimed had an incredible run at two Ottawa theatres, the second run being added due to demand beyond the first run. For that effort John has been nominated for Best Director by the Capital Critics’ Circle. I also managed to see another play under John’s direction at the Ottawa Fringe Festival this past summer. It was a fascinating view into the Irish life of a newly wedded couple and their rocky road through life. I don’t know what the critics said, but I’m really glad I went!

John P. Kelly now brings us ‘The Good Father,’ written by Christian O’Reilly, during November 6 – 18 at The Studio Theatre, Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre (GCTC), Wellington at Holland (very close to Daniel O’Connell’s Pub). The Good Father premiered at the 25th Galway Arts Festival in July 2002, to wide public and critical acclaim, and has since been adapted for both RTE and BBC radio.

Described elsewhere as ‘a stark and fiercely intimate play by one of Ireland's most exciting new writers’ it centres around two lonely strangers, Jane and Tim, who find themselves cut off from the others at a New Years Eve party. Their lives would have been very different if Jane hadn't come up to Tim and asked…

Come out for a great play and begin, or continue, to support local Irish theatre. Hope to see you there! Opening night will be followed by a small party with live Irish traditional music! To reserve tickets at the box office: 613 236 5196, $20-25.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

15th New World Festival – Review

Over the Labour Day weekend I ventured down to the small, very friendly, town of Randolph, Vermont, to attend the 12 hour (Sunday, Noon to Midnight) traditional music extravaganza that is the New World Festival. This year was the Festival’s 15th year, and it shows, as it is a very well run event bringing in top talent from home and abroad. Please check their website by the link in this article. For 12 hours you can attend all gigs by flashing your $30 wristband at the door of any hosting venue. You can walk in or out at anytime during the show, though good manners means you wait for a break between tunes. One small church had sessions all day long, Scottish, Irish, Fiddle, Quebecois, British Isles, Appalachian, etc. A larger church had stage concerts, and across the street from that was an old, well kept, concert hall, for larger audiences. As well there were food vendors, cd sales, craft sales, and a huge dance tent complete with wooden dance floor, and beer/wine/food for sale. Personally, for me the main draw was to see Paddy Keenan play his Uillean pipes, as it had been over ten years since the last time. Most artists/groups got to play on at least two or three occasions during the 12 hours, usually at a different venue each time. So, instead of being torn by who to see or miss, you just pick your time. I saw two Paddy Keenan gigs in 12 hours, and the second gig included Peter Molloy, whose father is Matt Molloy of Chieftans fame. It was definitely a magical day. Other artists included: Sarah Blair, April Verch, The McDades, Norman Kennedy, Revillons, and Cantrip, and native son of Ottawa Nicholas Williams, only to name a few. For what it’s worth, I give this Festival 10/10, even if not including my favourite artist. Well worth the drive.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Huge Outdoor Tin Whistle Workshop Takes Place

On August 19, at the Ottawa Folk Festival, Britannia Park, Ottawa, myself and about 200 other people were educated, entertained, and enthralled even, by Andy Daub and his teachings in the ways of tin whistle wisdom and technique. The Ottawa Folklore Centre, where Andy can normally be found teaching a variety of instruments, sponsored the workshop by providing a FREE Clarke Meg tin whistle to ANYBODY that wanted one. Andy managed to keep his sanity with 200 whistles wailing away from people of all ages in front of him. Andy covered the basic scale, covering the holes properly, blowing properly, cuts, taps, and rolls! No doubt some people retained more than others, but nonetheless a fantastic introduction to the mass public about an affordable entry into Irish traditional music. I had a total blast. Craig.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Ottawa Cape Breton Session to visit Perth

The Ottawa Cape Breton Session is coming to join us at Fiddleheads in Perth, ON, this Sunday, August 26, at 3 p.m. This session plays traditional Celtic music focusing on the tunes and culture of Cape Breton Island. More information is available HERE. Please join us if you can. Directions to Fiddleheads For more information please call me, Janice Parton, at 613-256-6463 or Clare Dwyer at 613-278-0057. (submitted by Janice Parton)

Monday, 20 August 2007

Traditional French Canadian Session

Fiddleheads in Perth will be the home of a Traditional French Canadian session in the months to come to be held one Sunday afternoon a month. To help get us ready for the session we are offering a study session to learn traditional French Canadian tunes to be lead by accomplished fiddler Dawson Girdwood of Perth, who has studied with legendary fiddler Jean Carignan. The Study sessions will tentatively be held from 1-3 p.m. preceding the regular 3 p.m. session, one or two Sundays a month (frequency to be decided as a group at the first meeting). The location is yet to be determined but will be in Perth as close as possible to Fiddleheads so we can easily go from one to the other. Price for the study sessions is $10 per session attended. The fee will end once we take the session to the pub. If you are interested in joining us for the study sessions, please contact me, Janice Parton, by email or by phone at 613-256-6463, by September 6, 2007. First study session will tentatively be held on Sunday, September 23, 2007 at 1 p.m. (submitted by Janice Parton)

Sunday, 12 August 2007

A Mountain Road, and a Trad Session

In this post are two pictures I took in, and near, Colorado Springs. The road is the Pike's Peak Highway which peaks at 14,110 ft above sea level. It was the venue for the 85th edition of a famous motorsport race (only the Indy 500 is an older race, in the USA). The pub shot is taken at a session at Jack Quinn's Pub (very nice pub, good grub, and they had Murphy's!) in Colorado Springs at the regular Sunday afternoon session. I learned of the session at Finally, after 6 days living at 6500 ft altitude, two pints didn't practically drop me to the floor! The instrumentation was the usual fiddles, bodhrans, flute, guitar, and a seasoned highland piper turned newbie uillean piper. This fellow also played some Border Pipes, which I'd never seen or heard before. They are quite interesting, sounding more or less like highland pipes, but much quieter and played with a bellows as with uillean pipes, and no design for regulators. This session has apparently recorded a cd and accept tips (monetary, that is). All in all, a nice bunch of folks and a friendly session.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

One of THOSE tunes…

Preamble: While still primarily an observer in the trad. scene I’m reluctant to write an opinion piece. All I can say is if you have an alternate opinion, idea, review, proposal, etc., share it and I’ll publish it, I promise! That’s what this blog is supposed to be about. I can publish it anonymously if you fear the torch mob for espousing radical socio-musicological-political ideas! :)

You know them. The Kesh Jig, The Irish Washerwoman, Danny Boy, Dingle Regatta, and so on. Some sessions will play them, others won’t. Generally, they won’t. They’re too good for (or too tired of) THOSE tunes. It depends where you go.

I recently went to a session in Colorado Springs as I was in the area to see a very famous car race on a dramatic mountain road (the road starts at 7000 ft, and goes up another 7000 ft, not much for guardrails). Great people there, by the way. Naturally, I kept having the tune The Mountain Road in my head. It’s a fantastic reel. I mean, I really like this one. In Colorado Springs, situated next to the Front Range of the beautiful Rocky Mountains, you can forget it. I was a little surprised. I’ve read online that striking up the Dingle Regatta in the Kerry/Dingle region will get rolled eyes as well (in fact I got rolled eyes at an Ottawa session for suggesting it). Too bad, it’s actually a jolly fun three part tune. The Kesh Jig played anywhere near Sligo, same deal. A friend of a friend said he heard that Paddy Keenan played the Kesh Jig in a concert – the horror! Of course he played the Kesh Jig, have you heard the Bothy Band’s classic version? Why shouldn’t he play it, it’s a great jig! When you can play it like Paddy, you play it and don’t give a fiddler’s fart what anyone else thinks. I’ve deduced the rule is if the tune is really good, was popular, and from your area, forget it. When will we lose the St. Annes’s Reel? Some tunes are ‘worse’ than others for being rejected, and even I don’t want to hear Danny Boy more than once a year. At a fairly recent O’Connell’s session, well after the main session was over, a punter brought his girlfriend and wanted to hear Danny Boy. Upon initial rejection of the request I felt quite bad for the guy, sitting next to his girlfriend, who didn’t know it was one of THOSE tunes. One of the musicians bravely decided to play it and their smiles came back. It was a nice version, too. Good session PR. If you haven’t heard Shane MacGowan’s version of Danny Boy (or his gut wrenching Waltzing Matilda) you’re missing out. Very moving. At my recent house concert Don Kavanagh ‘bravely’ played The Irish Washerwoman on harmonica. Notably, he apologized before playing it. It’s a fairly tired, clichéd, tune but when you can play it with life and energy like Don, you play it. If Don can play it that’s good enough for me. It was a real crowd pleaser.

I think in most cases tunes stand the test of time on their merits. For one, they’re still here. The onus may, therefore, be on the musician to play it such that it has its original life breathed into it. While avoiding garish embellishments, the dots on the page are only a guide to the main tune. Be brave. Play what’s good (but, please, attempt to maintain the one-Danny-Boy-maximum per year, preferably sometime in early March).


Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Roma McMillan: 1911-2007

The old-time/traditional fiddling community was saddened early in the month to learn of the passing of Roma McMillan one day before her 96th birthday. As I did not know Roma, or ever hear her play, I cannot provide a personal commentary on her passing. Several of the news media articles about her life appear to require online subscriptions. In lieu I did find a good account, however, of her life story HERE in section 4 (iv) (c) and it is well worth the read. Our sincere condolences to the McMillan family and the music community on the the loss of a champion in both life and music.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

House Concert - The Parting Glass

Friday night the craic in Ottawa was here and it was good. Last night, House Concert attendees enjoyed the inspired playing of Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin and local guitarist Ian Clark. Gearóid’s historical interjections provided fascinating historical context to the tunes we don’t often get in regular sessions, or concerts. The selection of tunes and their playing was often quite moving. The humour was good and plentiful, too, coming from both musicians and guests. Tough crowd! After the main two sets, we were further treated to the talents of gifted local musicians: Ellen MacIsaac (songs), John Dahms (fiddle), and Don Kavanagh (harmonica). This of course was followed by a house session with these, and more, local musicians! This was the first house concert I’ve hosted. While it is a bit of effort to put on the opportunity to host such talent and fine people in your own home is well worth it. It was a pleasure to host and meet all of my guests. As I can’t play an instrument well at this time this was also one way to give back to the session musicians who I enjoy on a regular basis. Heartfelt thanks to Gearóid and Ian, and all guests. See you in the pub!

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Ramblings and News #1

In Ramblings and News I will try to catch up, in no particular order, the things I've been up to, and general happenings.
  • The website is up to well over 1000 hits! Thanks to all for your interest! Again, keep me informed what is going on. I do not have ESP, or a crystal ball. My info is only as good as what gets passed to me from your good selves. I am getting emails from California, Ireland, and referrals from locals like the Black Sheep Inn.
  • I attended the weekend portion of the Montreal Sessions Festival in Montreal last weekend. I was too late to attend the whistle workshop, so decided to do the bodhran workshop Friday night, and the uillean pipes workshop (sans pipes) Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon was a workshop with Chris Crilly, speaking on sessions as a means to move your playing to different levels, basically. The whistle, bodhran, and pipes workshops were presented by Steafan Hannigan, now living just north of Toronto. I now link to Steafan's webpage from the main website. Please check him out. He's a great teacher, good humour, and has loads of talent. Steafan is eager to put on workshops on just about anything at the OFC, so let the OFC know what you'd like to see, and tell 'em Steafan's the man. On ehighlight for me was to meet the Cree fiddlers from James Bay who drove 18 hours to be at the Festival. They are playing what sounds to me like a Scottish traditional style, brought over by Europeans hundreds of years ago to James Bay as Canada was opening up. Amazing to have that pocket of music up there. They were really great guys to meet, and we enjoyed beer and humour until 3:30am, making following 10am piping workshop a bit of a stretch! Thanks to Elizabeth Johnston for pulling off the inaugural festival in short order, her own inspiration. While attendance was on the low side, I hope this will grow in the years to come. I'll be going back.
  • I received no feedback on how the fiddle competition went in Pakenham, but I trust the tunes were plenty and good!
  • As I write below, I received from the book "The Rough Guide to Irish Music" - a mere 600 page summary of the background, groups, musicians, and lists of lists. It is an inch thick, and about 4 by 6 inches on the cover, small, but chunky! Listed for under $20.
  • Today Parks Canada marked the 175th Anniversary of the Rideau Canal, and it included a Big Irish Kitchen Ceili. We were all invited down to participate in the music making. It was held down by the Celtic cross at the bottom of the Rideau Locks. Parks set up a covered platform and the music ran from 1-4pm. The Governor-General and other dignitaries to made speeches earlier. I dropped by for the festivities and this event was well attended by the public. The Rideau Canal was also recognised as an official World Heritage Site. Supporting the Ceili was further recognition of the sacrifice made by the approximately 1000 Irish workers used to build the canal under dreadful environmental and (lack of) work safety conditions. Main players were members of the "Daniel O'Connell's Pub Session Regulars", who also played the street session at Westfest a few weekends ago (photos below). Taking Trad to the public!
  • The North American Irish Dance Championships is being held this week in Ottawa. This was a "hidden event" - I only found out about it when I got an email from a lady in California, who found the "IMO" site via Google search (top link for her search query!).
  • There is a small movement to find a location for a Tuesday Session in Ottawa. Keep you posted.
  • If you need to find a daytime practice space, no phones, no family, nothing but a quiet soundproof room with a tuned piano, for a whopping $4/hour, try the Nepean Creative Arts Centre (Bell's Corners). I work nearby, and take lunch there at least once a week and it breaks up the work day nicely!!
  • I've updated the House Concert blog below, entry dated 30 June.
  • The O'Connell's session will miss singer/guitarist John Linehan, who has hushed many a crowd with his great voice, as his family heads back to Taiwan for professional reasons. I guess we'll have to have a Taiwanese Wake for John.
  • If you have a cd you'd like to review, etc, send it to me, and I'll get it posted to the blog.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Irish Traditional Music House Concert - July 13, 2007 is sponsoring a a house concert with Dr. Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin and local guitarist Ian Clark, in Nepean on July 13, 2007. Simply due to the non-enourmous size of the house I have to make this by invitation only, HOWEVER, please send me an email (or leave a message at 613 727 3192) if you want to attend as there are definitely seats available. Tickets are $15. A door prize of the DVD "Come West Along the Road" will be given out. It is a lengthy, and fantastic collection of Irish traditional music from the RTE TV archives. Bring your instrument as I expect there will a great house session afterwards! Proceeds will go towards covering the traveling musician's costs, and to run the event (some food, chairs). If you have a portable chair that WILL NOT DAMAGE my hardwood floor bring please bring it along and let me know. BYOB and please drink responsibly. 8pm Update: 17 June 'Secrets and Lies About Irish Traditional Music': An Insider's View of the Living Tradition Despite its global popularity, Irish traditional music is often a remote and inaccessible genre for many of its fans and devotees. For musicians, singers and dancers born outside the so-called 'living tradition,' getting a grasp of the basics of the music and understanding its cultural world is often as insurmountable as it is mysterious. Irish music historian and concertina player Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin who grew up in the 'home of the music' in Co. Clare will take a number of key session tunes and use them to explore the traditional process of transmission and learning in Irish music communities. This workshop forum is open to musicians, singers and dancers of all levels and persuasions. Fee: $ 20 (separate from house concert); 5:30-6:45 pm Update: 30 June Two weeks away . . . For the concert we are at 10 paid guests, and another 8 'strong promises' so assuming the promises shop up, we are approaching a full house. Unfortunately, several local musicians cannot make the show due to vacation and other commitments. For the Workshop the response has been disappointing, and it is likely to be canceled unless there is a surge in the interest. Just this week I received, from, a book entitled The Rough Guide to Irish Music. It would nearly fit into your pocket if it weren't an inch thick (literally). Gearoid is one of only ten concertina players profiled in the book, where we are reminded of his 5 All-Ireland Championships on concertina! Finally, I have been actively promoting the evening by visiting local jams, two of which I should start frequenting as a new/learning player. It's been a pleasure to get out and hear all of you play.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Montreal Session Festival - 17-23 June

The Montreal Celtic Music Sessions Festival has smacked me right square in the forehead out of nowhere! It is coming up very soon. This festival promises to be a great week of music learning and music making. I am not sure of the exact details these days, but I know for those on a budget, that you can stay at McGill U. in their summer hostel program. I did it years ago as a student and it was a clean safe room, downtown, and not much budget required. Of course, Montreal is only a 2 hour drive away, it would be a great day trip. If you read the FAQ & Comments section you will see they are looking for both audience and players.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Jerry Holland Benefit - June 17

The Ottawa Cape Breton Session (OCBS) will be dedicating the Sunday June 17 session to Jerry Holland, an amazing fiddler, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. As with most musicians, he has no health and drug plans and was counting on the summer festival series and fiddle workshops for his primary source of annual income. We'll be passing the hat for him at the Royal Oak Pub at Bank and MacLaren from 2-5pm on
Sunday June 17.
-Beth MacGillivray

Monday, 21 May 2007

Review: 16th Annual Chris Langan Traditional Irish Music Weekend

The first blog posting is a summary of my May 18-20, weekend in Toronto at the 16th Annual Chris Langan Traditional Irish Music Weekend. Read about Chris Langan here. The featured performers are listed here. Check them out, quite an impressive array assembled for this weekend.

I arrived Friday night on the train from Ottawa, and soon after was registering at the Tranzac club on Brunswick St, very near the Spadina subway stop. It’s in a neat area, busy with shops and restaurants, so getting food quickly is easy. That’s important, because except for the ‘full Irish’ excellent breakfast Sunday morning served up at the Tranzac, they don’t serve food there during the weekend, AND, there is SO MUCH MUSIC going on all the time, there is little time for messing about on the sustenance end. The full weekend pass is $95, and gets you into the works.

Friday night had an informal, laid back feeling, stage concert from the beginner level session musicians, up to the top talent (e.g. Ena O’Brien, Deborah Quigley, and many, many, others). It was a lot of fun, and great music. After the concert, there was a session in every available room in the joint, at least 3, probably 4. That includes the showers, upstairs. The what?? Yeah, the showers! Great acoustics, even if it is a tiled bog. The sessions are going till 3am so I hear. I got out of there at 2am Friday night.

By 10am Saturday I had to be there for the Beginner whistle workshop with Charles Jevons. The instructor was very good, very patient and supportive of us newbies. He gave great tips to us. Workshops are $20 each, and they are 2 hours, and they can go longer if everybody is happy with that. Pretty decent deal if you ask me, particularly if your instructor is imported from Ireland and possibly an All Ireland piping champion, the premier make of quality flutes, or the like.

At 1:30pm I attended the Beginner Uillean piping workshop with Ray Caldwell as the instructor. I do not have pipes, but I paid for the pass, so I was going to see what the beginners get for a piping workshop and see what I could learn. It was very informative, and even the lone pipe-less attendee was well respected for being there wanting to learn. This is one thing that this weekend exudes, the importance of acceptance and GIVING. This is obvious from the frequent tributes throughout the weekend to the man the weekend honours - Chris Langan. A man who I learned is deeply revered and missed for his giving nature and huge contribution to Irish music. After hearing so many moving tributes to Chris, I felt deprived that I never met the guy. Anyway, Ray gave great advice to the students and again was very patient with everybody, very understanding, and a great piper.

One of the piping workshop students and I hung out for supper, and just made it to the Gala Concert in Trinity St. Paul’s Church. This is a great venue, and also where the baroque performance group Tafelmuzik perform, so it is really a great acoustic space for traditional music (padded pews!). We were assured to not miss the concert for any reason, and I can see why. This concert was amazing. One incredible performance by either a single or duo, or trio, after another. World class. This was of course followed by sessions until 3am or so back at the Tranzac, now with these world class musicians sitting in! So, it was really a great day.

Sunday morning was that great breakfast included in the weekend pass (or $10, can’t be beat), followed by seminars on historical aspects of Irish traditional music and flutes. This was followed by a series of informal performances on the stage by conference attendees, including the imported guests, and mostly concentrating on Uillean pipes. It is primarily a weekend of piping, but they have expanded it to be, essentially, all Irish traditional instruments. Even after this concert, Brian McNamara gave some of us a treat to hear him play more on the pipes (off stage), and then people headed over to Dora Keoh’s pub for….another session! I had to go get the train.

All in all, I highly recommend this weekend as an Ontario based getaway trad music weekend for ALL levels of playing. It was very easy to meet everybody, no matter how famous they are, everybody was very nice, and it was very inspirational. New friends were made. It was a laugh. Thanks to the Chris Langan committee for making it a memorable experience.