Author Archives: Stephen Ducke

Boys of the Lough

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boyslough.jpgThe group Boys of the Lough was formed in 1967, and is still making music today. Their first album, Boys of the Lough, was released in 1972 with Cathal McConnell (flute, song) Robin Morton (song, bodhran, concertina) Aly Bain (fiddle) and Dick Gaughan (song, guitar)

Their music mixes the Irish and Scottish traditions with outside influences like Scandinavian music. In a career spanning over 30 years, they have released 20 albums.

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3 Shetland Reels

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map.gifThe Shetland islands are located to the north of Scotland, 245 km east of Bergen (Norway) and 640km from the Arctic. Given this situation between Norway and Scotland, Shetland music has always been at the crossroads of two cultures, influenced by Scandinavian music and the celtic music of the British isles.

One of the biggest influences on Shetland music was the hardanger fiddle, a type of violin introduced to Norway in the 16th century. The hardanger has 5 strings more than the standard violin, strings that resonate when the melody is played on the upper strings; the practice of letting adjacent strings ring open in shetland music comes from the hardanger’s influence.

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Seamus Tansey – Irish Flute

Séamus Tansey, flute player from County Sligo, playing 2 reels on the Irish flute.  Tansey is one of the references of the “Sligo Style” in Irish flute playing: a fast and ornamlented style with long phrases, and a tendency to variations in the melody. The playing is rhythmic, while still  fairly legato, with phrases articulated by the diaphragm and fingered ornamentation. Continue reading

The Green Meadows (Reel)

Pour commencer l’année tout doucement, je vous propose le reel “Green Meadows” , un petit reel assez simple que j’ai appris de la musique de Fintan Vallely, joueur de flûte traversière au grand style rythmique de l’Irlande du nord. Un morceau qui tombe très bien sous les doigts, surtout en flûte traversière.

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Irish Music – the Instruments


Tin Whistle

gen2a.jpgThe simplest, and most popular, instrument in Irish music. A small 6-holed flute, in D, like a simplified version of the classical recorder. It is easily played in the keys of G and D.

It is simple and robust in construction, affordable and easy to play, and very versatile, it is often used as a repertoire-learning instrument, before progressing to more difficult instruments like flute, fiddle or pipes.

In its present form, the whistle dates from the 19th century, and has changed little since then. The low whistle is the bass version of the tin whistle

Recommended listening: Mary Bergin, Feadoga Stain 1 & 2

The “Low Whistle” is the bass version of “tin whistle”. The standard model is the low whistle in D, which sounds an octave lower that the soprano whistle. There are also other keys, of which the most common are F, G and A.

The low whistle has a very soft sound, and is perfectfor the interpretation of the slow airs and other slow tunes. Recommended listening: The group Lunasa, who use low whistles in F in 3-part harmonies to a unique effect.

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Irish Flute

mecoco4.jpgThe Irish flute date from the 19th century, and the flute manufacturers of the time, such as Rudall and Boosey, are still used as models for today’s flutes.
Six-holed , the flute has the same fingerings as the whistle, it is wooden (often blackwood or rosewood) or polymer (a synthetic material)
Recommended listening: Matt Molloy, Kevin Crawford, Desi Wilkinson, Fintan Vallely

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Bodhran

ang3.jpgThe bodhran (the name comes from the Gaelic bodhar, meaning deaf) is a gat-skinned drum, as is found in many cultures around the world. What makes it special is its playing technique, using a wooden stick (beater or cipin)
It has existed for centuries in Irish music, but became known in its present form in the late 50’s. Since then, it has become a subtle and virtuosicpercussion instrument, especially in the hands of musicians like John Joe Kelly (Flook), Ringo MacDonagh (De Danaan), Frank Torpey (Nomos), or Kevin Conneff (The Chieftains).

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Fiddle

Or violin; similar to the classical violin with a different style of playing and unique bowing techniques. A very versatile instrument in Irish music; there are distinct regional styles (Sligo, Donegal)
Players: Kevin Burke, Tommy Peoples, Liz Carroll


Uilleann pipes

Bellows-blown bagpipes operated by the elbow, with chanter, three drones and regulators, the uilleann pipes (uilleann = elbow in Irish) has evolved from the 17th century bagpipes, and in its current form dates from the 19th century. The standard key is D, but the pipes also exist in C, and B-flat. An interior instrument , it has a soft sound compared to the Scottish bagpipe, for example.
Players: Willie Clancy, Leo Rowsome, Patsy Tuohy, Liam O’Flynn, Cillian Vallely