Thursday, June 24, 2010

Web feature: "Around Swedish America in 548 Days"

Around Swedish America in 548 Days

Chicago - Day 304ff

Quad-Cities, Day 337ff

Andover, Day 341

Bishop Hill, Day 343

Springfield (!), 349 (which mentions "the fictional home of The Simpsons" and Lindberg Field, the old airport off of old Chatham Road) ...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Link to my new wallpaper, Ballinskelligs Bay, Co. Kerry

On my home computer ...

Pictured in the screensaver is Ballinskelligs Bay (thumbnail at left). On last month's tour of Ireland, we skirted the bay on the Ring of Kerry (N70 on linked map of County Kerry). Stopped at Waterville to see the statue of Charlie Chaplin and look out over the bay.

Random pix below from Co. Kerry, outtakes from my blog post of May 28:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Scantling dulcimer at Sugarlands, Smoky Mountain Park

On display at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park outside Gatlinburg ... along with a cigar box fiddle and a gourd banjo ... a Tennessee Music box or "Scantling" dulcimer. The graphics quote John Rice Irwin saying there never were more than a thousand, "with many of them made between 1875 and 1910. It quotes this passage from Musical Instruments of the Southern Appalachian Mountains (1979), "... eighty to ninety percent of the older persons in Appalachia, with whom I have talked, had never even heard of the dulcimer until recent years. It is true that it was made and played by some of the old mountain people, who pronounced it 'dulcymore' or 'delcymore', but its existence was spotty to say the least" (64). A scantling, as I heard the word used in East Tennessee, is a small scrap of wood.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Kate Kearney - lyrics and MIDI file

Lyrics and MIDI file on the Contemplator's website at ... It's an old song, and the University of Minnesota library has a broadside at from the 1820s or 1830s that contains "Kate Kearney" in the left column and "Boyn Water" (CQ) in the right.

Kuntz' Fiddler's Companion has this.
KATE KEARNEY. AKA and see "When the cock crows it is day [3]," "The Big Bow Wow," "The Beardless Boy," "The Dissipated Youth [1]," "Giolla na Scriob," "Seanbhean Chrion an Drantain," "Ta an Coileach ag Fogairt an Lae [2]." Irish, Air or Waltz. G Major. Standard tuning. ABC (O’Neill): AABBCCDD (O’Farrell). The song "Kate Kearney" was written by Lady Morgan, however, the melody previously appeared as "The Beardless Boy" in Bunting (1796) and again in Bunting (1809) as "The Dissipated Youth". Murphy's Irish Airs and Jigs gave the title as “Kate Martin.” O’Farrell (c. 1810) set the tune in 6/8 time. O’Farrell (Pocket Companion, vol. IV), c. 1810; pg. 132. O’Neill (Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody), 1922.
And the tune turns up in Bentley's Miscellany Vol. 2 (1837), along with several parts of Oliver Twist, or, The Parish Boy's Progress, as "A New Song to the Old Tune of 'Kate Kearney'." It begins: "O, SAY have you heard of Duvernay ..." who was a dancer in London, no doubt Pauline Duvernay, a famous French danseuse of the period.

The Minnesota library's broadside is set up in a question-and-answer format. The question is substantially as most versions of the ballad. The answer is as follows:
O Yes I have seen this Kate Kearney,
Who lives near the lake of Killarney
From her love beaming eye what mortal can fly,
Unsubdued by the glance of Kate Kearney;
For that eye so bewitchingly beaming,
Assures me of mischief she's dreaming,
And I feel 'tis in vain to fly from the chain,
That binds me to lovely Kate Kearney.
At eve when I've met this Kate Kearney
On the flower mantled banks of Killarney
Her smile would impart thrilling joy to my heart,
As I gaz'd on the charming Kate Kearney;
On the banks of Killarney reclining,
My bosom to rapture resigning,
I've felt the keen smart of love's fatal dart,
And inhal'd the warm sigh of Kate Kearney.

Link to RTÉ podcasts on Thomas Moore's art songs

Aired in April 2009 on RTÉ lyric fm, My Gentle Harp. ["The Legacy" at 23 minutes.] Here's the blurb:
My Gentle Harp
A new six-part series celebrating Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies which were first published 200 years ago. Twenty-one of Ireland's finest young singers feature in the recently recorded world-premiere archive of all 124 songs and Fiona Kelly talks to some of the people involved in the recordings, as well as to poet Seamus Heaney and Moore's most recent biographer, Ronan Kelly.
Episodes are 1 hour each, apparently beginning w/ news on the hour. First one led with the World Health Organization's response to the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico and the U.S., which

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kitty Tyrell / Caitlyn Tyrell

Arranged by Ken Bloom for the dulcimer orchestra at Dulcimerville, this year's session of Lois Hornbostel's annual dulcimer conference, Friday, June ___, at the YMCA Blue Ridge Conference Center in Black Mountain, N.C. He announced as "Caitlyn Tyrell" and outlined briefly that Edward Bunting took it down from the playing of Denis O'Hampsey after the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792.

Andrew Kuntz has it as KITTY TYRRELL [1] (Caitlin Triall) in the Fiddlers' Companion. O'Hampsey (1695-1807), Donnchadh Ó Hámsaigh in Gaelic, was the last of the traditional Irish harpers. Ann Heymann, who has revived the metal-stringed Celtic harp, has a profile of O'Hampsey with a list of his known tunes on the Harp Spectrum website. She says

There's a guitar version of "Caitlyn Tyrell" on YouTube that gives the melody:

Today is Bloomsday

The Irish Times sent staff writer Rosita Boland out to Joyce's birthplace at 41 Brighton Square, Rathgar. In a feature headed "What does Joyce mean to you?" she reports:
Patty Geraghty lives nearby and walks past number 41 most days but she has never realised that Joyce had any connection with the house. She looks up at the plaque now curiously. “No, I was never aware this was a Joyce house,” she admits. She hasn’t read anything by Joyce. “I think Ulysses is something you probably should have read, but I haven’t. Is it poetry? Maybe I have read it and I’ve just forgotten it.”

The local postman, Gerry Scanlon, who’s worked for the Post Office for 30 years, has been on this particular beat for 15 years. “From the very first day I was delivering post, I knew Joyce was born in this house,” he explains. “That’s because I ran into tourists looking for it. There used to be a lot more of them around. You don’t see so many these days.”

Scanlon has “no interest” in reading anything by Joyce. “I know what Ulysses is about though. It’s about this guy who went around Dublin on June 16th and ended up somewhere else from where he started out.”

Jane Richardson is walking her Westie, Maevy, past number 41. “I love knowing Joyce was born here. It makes my daily walk interesting,” she declares. She has attempted to read Ulysses , but gave up. “I believe it was written to be listened to rather than to be read,” she says. “Maybe I’ll get the CDs and try listening to it this year.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

'Musical mongrels': buzouki, cittern defined by player



by Robin Bullock

(Column originally written for Acoustic Musician Magazine - reprinted on Bullock's website at Following a discussion of Irish bouzoukis in Planxty, Bothy Band, De Dannan, Bullock says this:
However, by this time, these guys and the players who followed in their footsteps were playing newly-made instruments that had flat or arched backs, more like big mandolins than genuine bouzoukis. Some continued to call them bouzoukis anyway, while some took the suggestion of legendary luthier Stefan Sobell and started calling them citterns. (Cittern seems to have been a loose family name during the Renaissance for smallish, double- or triple-course, wire-strung fretted instruments. I played a concert with Helicon a few years back at the Shrine to Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota, where I got to see some authentic Renaissance citterns...and they didn't appear to have a lot in common with one another.)
And this:
It seems safe from all of this, and the lack of any standardization of the whole thing, to make the following general statements: If it's a mandolin-like instrument, basically teardrop-shaped, flat- or arched-backed, more or less the size and range of a guitar but with eight or ten (or twelve...all right, all right) paired strings, then it can be called either a bouzouki or a cittern with equal historical
inaccuracy, given that both terms were borrowed from other instruments in the first place. (I suppose a case could be made for "cittern" being marginally less inaccurate than "bouzouki" since "cittern" refers to an instrument family while "bouzouki" is the name of a specific instrument, but let's not split hairs.) ...
And this:
The best story I've heard about all this comes from my pal Beth Patterson, bouzouki (or whatever) player with the New Orleans Irish group the Poor Clares. At ZoukFest (yep, there's a whole week dedicated to these things) in Weston, Missouri last summer, she told me that one night she had just been asked "What's that instrument called?" one too many times, and replied in all seriousness, "It's called a tractor!" The rest of the band picked up on the joke, and were asking for more tractor in the monitors and so on for the rest of the night. Just goes to show: we've got to call it SOMETHING, and given that it's a bit of a musical mongrel, there's no point in getting too hung up with the nomenclature.
Bullock plays acoustic guitar, cittern and mandolin. Click here to hear an exerpt from his version of Carolan's "Fanny Power."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Here's what caused all the traffic on the way back to our hotel from Comhaltas last month in Dublin

It was an association football match (we'd call it a soccer game) between Ireland and Paraguay on May 25 at Dublin's RDS sports arena.

The stadium, off Merrion Road in the upscale Dublin 4 area, is part of the Royal Dublin Society complex. Our bus went past just as the game was over and traffic was thickest, and several large groups of fans wearing green-and-orange hats or jerseys crowded onto the bus. Debi and I were seated toward the front of the upper deck, just in front of the steps leading up from the entrance, which made for some pretty remarkable people-watching.

Our visit to Comhaltas, taking a No. 7 city bus from upper O'Connell Street out to Monkstown, was one of the highlights of the trip. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (which means the Society of the Musicians of Ireland in English and is known as Comhaltas - pronounced KALT-us - for short) is located on Belgrave Square in Monkstown, a suburb on Dublin Bay east of the city. We were welcomed graciously, although there weren't any public sessions going on the evening we were there - a Tuesday - and we were able to watch a group of youngsters practicing for summer competitions in the 12-year-old and younger category leading to the all-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in August. The kids had been playing together once or twice a week since early fall, and they were pretty accomplished. Several fiddles and tin whistles, an accordion or two and a transverse wooden flute ... one boy maybe about 10 played bodhran, who was so good and his rhythms so intricate I fully expect to be hearing his recordings in another 10 years or so.

Father of one of the girls explained how the classes and the summer competitions worked, and introduced us to his daughter as a couple "Americans who have come all this distance to hear you play." She was about 10, and she didn't believe a word of it, of course, but she was equally as gracious as her elders. When the kids wound up, perhaps a dozen adults filtered into the practice hall, which was set up rather like a pub with plenty of chairs in the session room and a pub bar in the room adjacent, where I could order a Club Orange soda and Deb a club soda while we watched. I was told the adults, who played a mixture of fiddles, whistles and accordions with a banjo and a guitar, were mostly trained musicians who wanted to branch out and learn a traditional style of playing, consulted the Comhaltas fakebooks - they have several on offer - in between numbers but put them away as they began to play because they were learning to play by ear.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Notes on sean-nós, Irish 'big songs' and Appalachian 'high lonesome' ...

A primer on Irish Song Tradition by user Derfel on the website. Excerpts:
To generalize about the Irish song tradition - or even, perhaps, to call it the "Irish" song tradition - is difficult. There are obvious stylistic parallels between some Irish vocal techniques and those of, say, Western Scotland (whether it be Presbyterian hymn singing or a Catholic song of unrequited love); the "high lonesome" style of the Appalachian mountains is not a million miles away, emotionally and technically, from that of some Donegal singers; and it has become fashionable, in recent years, to suggest links between Eastern and Irish music ...
And this:
If Ireland is part of a wider cultural community, Ireland itself contains differing communities. It is likely that a particular community will have built up a repertory of song from very diverse sources, on a wide range of topics: songs of love, unrequited love, emigration, war, drinking, soldiers, sailors, tinkers, tailors; music-hall songs, blackface minstrel songs, classic "Child" ballads, songs written in praise of the locality, hedge-school compositions with intricate and absurd rhyme-schemes, nonsense songs; songs of English, Irish or Scottish origin.

The tradition, in other words, is not static, nor is it confined to one genre. A distinction is often made between so-called sean-nós singing in Irish and singing in English; yet the singer of the "big" songs in Irish may often include all of the above material in his repertory. In a night's singing in the village of Coolea in the West Cork Gaeltacht, for instance, you will hear elaborately-ornamented songs which might indeed remind one of a North Indian raga; chorus drinking songs, sporting songs, songs from the classic ballad repertory, and newly-composed songs on local incidents.

And in-between a set or two might be danced, a story told, some drink consumed. The situation, in fact, might be the genre: a context which allows a varied emotional range, in which the music and singing is itself part of an ongoing conversation, a debate between the community and itself and the concerns of the wider world.

And of course, in other communities, sectarian or "party" songs might be sung, though never, in my experience, to the exclusion of other material. ...
Also an interesting discussion of sean-nós, which I'm not qualified to judge but seems to be both contrarian and knowledgeable.

Friday, June 04, 2010

CD to Breandan Breathnach, 'Folk Music and Dances of Ireland'

Available as a CD from in the U.K. Companion CD to Breandan Breathnach, 'Folk Music and Dances of Ireland' that I picked up last week at Celtic Notes on Nassau Street in Dublin.

Interesting inventory overall.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Bishop Hill - events calendar - 2010

On the Bishop Hill website ... also a beginners' dulcimer workshop June 12 at the Colony Hospital B&B. Instructor is Jerry Barton of Geneva, Ill.
Midsommar Music Festival. June 26, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Music for the entire family. Workshops and Jamming. Main Stage Concert in the park line up:
  • 11 a.m. Morningstar
  • 12 p.m. The Templeton Family
  • 1 p.m. Mark Dvorak
  • 2 p.m. Black Hawk Pipes and Drums
  • 3 p.m. Chris Vallillo
  • 4 p.m. Procession to the Colony School and Maypole decorating.
Also June 26: Midsommar Celebration - Procession to School and Decoration of the Maypole. Music and family activities, Swedish Music and Dancing, Refreshments 4 p.m. Barn Dance with Hammer and Pick 7 p.m. Sponsors: B H Vasa Lodge #683, Vasa Order of America National Archives, B H Heritage Association., B H Old Settlers' Association, B H State Historic Site.

Later in the summer: A Pie and Ice Cream Social, 1-4 p.m. Aug. 14, a fund-raiser for the Bishop Hill Heritage Association. Village park. 309-927-3596.

Fall events:
  • Sept. Old Settlers' Day. Celebration of the 164th anniversary of the Bishop Hill Colony and the 114th year of the Old Settlers' Association. Traditional Chicken Dinner 11:30 a.m. High Society Band Concert 12:15 p.m., Program featuring Bishop Hill Colony Descendents 1:30 p.m. Sponsor: Bishop Hill Old Settlers' Association.
  • Sept. 25-26, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Jordbruksdagarna Agriculture Days
    Celebrating Bishop Hill's agrarian heritage, this event features traditional 19th century harvest activities and demonstrations, hands-on activities, music, farm produce, vintage base ball, and Colony stew. Sponsor: Bishop Hill State Historic Site.
  • Nov. 26-28, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Julmarknad Christmas Market. Sights, sounds, and aromas of Christmas past. Swedish folk characters roaming the village. Special Music, Swedish food specialties, handmade wares, folk art, antiques.
  • Dec. 10-11. Lucia Nights. Festival of Lights. "Lucias" serve coffee and sweets in museums and shops. Special music at various village locations. Performers include the Peoria Cooperative Academy Chorale. Sponsor: Bishop Hill Arts Council.