Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Planxty Irwin": A Carolan tune for Clayville-Prairieland jam sessions before St. Patrick's Day

D R A F T (and a very rough draft at that)!

Mark Gilston - "Planxty Irwin" and "Munster Cloak" (at 1:25) on mountain dulcimer

Blast email sent this afternoon to Clayville and Prairieland mailing lists.

It's (almost) March already, and we have two sessions of the Clayville-Prairieland Academy of Music coming up this week:

-- Tuesday, March 1, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Atonement-Grace-Luther Memorial Church, 2800 West Jefferson.

-- Saturday, March 5, from 10 a.m. to noon at Clayville Historic Stage Coach Stop, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains.

In addition, our "third Thursday" session, at the church on West Jefferson, will be 7-9 p.m. March 17. That's St. Patrick's Day, and that' s got me thinking about Irish tunes. Let's be thinking of tunes we'd like to play on St. Paddy's (Irish or anything else that strikes your fancy), and make a night of it.

In the meantime, here's a link to "The Parting Glass" in B minor:


Also a standard you may already know by Turlough O'Carolan, called "Planxty Irwin" -- this lead sheet, actually dulcimer tab by Mark Zuckerman) is in D:


Here's a YouTube clip [...] by the 1970s trad Irish band Planxty:

(Nobody knows exactly what "Planxty" means. Carolan, the 18th-century harp player who composed it, invented the word in his song titles; it probably means "in honor of," in this case a tune in honor of Col. John Irwin, for whom he composed it.)

Andrea Fanciulli - "Planxty Irwin" -- Celtic finger-style guitar

Mikaela, of HarpKit, plays "Planxty Irwin" on one of their harps

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Contemporary selections for blended service, Faith-Atonement-Luther Memorial, Sunday, March 13

Here is the music that we will be doing for the blended service on March 13th.

Opening/Call to Worship: "That's Why We Praise Him"

Hymn of the Day: "The Wonderful Cross"

The Lord's Prayer (Willow Creek version - our normal)

-- "The Table"
-- "Remember" (Jamie solo - hopefully! - if not, we'll find another)

[And a bonus track:]

Matt Redman - 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord). Congregational song for Sunday, Feb. ___.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Advice for Lutherans "blending" three congregations into one -- or for anybody taking on a difficult job with a lot of moving parts

It comes in a poem called "The Old Man Said (One)" by Carroll Arnett, "Gogisgi," a poet of Cherokee heritage who taught creative writing at Central Michigan University for 30 years before his death in 1997. It's the first of several poems distilling Gogisgi's take of the wisdom of the elders -- hence the title. It's short, and to the point.

"[E]very single thing matters," he says. "And," he adds,

... nothing good
happens fast.

Available at:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

You've probably never heard "Solveig's Song" by Edvard Grieg played by a crwth and a hardingfele ...

... but it works.

(Hat tip to Chuck Clark, who saw it on YouTube and asked what the odd-looking stringed instrument was.)

Here's the song, from Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, as arranged by J.L.Lenoir of the French quartet Boann and and performed by Céline Archambeau (on vocals and harp), Lenoir (crwth), Eléonore Billy (hardingfele), and Gaëdic Chambrier (guitar):

Boann is named for a Celtic goddess associated with the River Boyne in Ireland. According to their Facebook page at, Boann is "est un quartet dont la musique est tournée vers la mer du nord, à la croisée des cultures scandinaves et celtiques" [a quartet whose music faces the North Sea and the blending of Scandinavian and Celtic cultures]. So "Solveig's Song" is right up their alley.

Solveig, who is named for a Norse goddess, is a character in Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt, a Romantic-era bricolage of trolls, dairy maids and other figures from Norwegian folklore. She is Peer's own true love, with whom he unites at the end of the play, and Grieg's song is especially lovely.

So is Boann's interpretation of it, and the odd stringed instruments fit right in.

The hardingfele, or Hardanger fiddle, looks like an ornate violin, but it is a Norwegian folk instrument with four or five sympathetic, or resonant, strings beneath the four strings of a standard fiddle. Played well, it has a distinctive modal sound that's perfectly adapted to Grieg's melody. The crwth (pronounced "crooth") is Welsh, not Norwegian, but it comes out of that North Sea cultural area that Boann interprets.

According to Wikipedia, which has an unusually detailed article at, the crwth was once played widely in Europe, although it was especially associated with Wales. It is similar to Scandinavian lyres of the Viking and early medieval periods. (See Gjermund Kollveit's article at Whatever its provenance, it fits right in backing the other instruments in Boann's interpretation of "Solveig's Song."

There isn't much of a market today for medieval Welsh instruments, but there are people who play replicas. They're especially well suited to playing backup, but English luthier Michael J. King, who makes crwths, plays a simple melody toward the end of a video demonstrating one of his instruments.

Lent II (Saturday, Feb. 20), contemporary service, Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial

Hello team -

Here is the plan for Saturday:

Gathering/Call to Worship: instrumental

Worship Set:

Special Music: "Someone Worth Dying For" (Adam + band)

spoken creed (pastor will select Apostle's Creed or Nicene Creed)

sung Lord's Prayer

Sending Song: "Love the Lord" --

Lead sheets are attached. We've done all of these at the blended church except "The Wonderful Cross" (and I just sent that out to those singing and playing for the blended service on the 13th).

Sunday, February 14, 2016

"Songs of the Bard" -- Thistle & Shamrock brings Robert Burns into the 21st century

Tribute to Robert Burns on NPR's "Thistle & Shamrock" -- Feb. 7 -- modern versions of Burns' songs ...

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Patriots ... surrounded by ducks" -- ballad of self-styled militia standoff at Oregon bird sanctuary, video and lyrics


Laura Sams and Garrett Palm sing "Ballad of the Malheur Patriots"

Cutlines: The Ballad of the Malheur Patriots

An original song spoof of Ammon Bundy and the band of patriots that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon in an armed protest about the government, the constitution, ranchers and other things.

Print Email Joseph Rose | The Oregonian/OregonLive
By Joseph Rose | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on February 11, 2016 at 7:27 PM, updated February 11, 2016 at 8:51 PM

The lede:

The Oregon standoff is over, but the surreal cultural zeitgeist born from the 41-day anti-government occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge lives on.

In addition to an Ammon Bundy donut, late-night monologues and thousands of Internet memes, the showdown has inspired a satirical, Johnny Cash-esque ballad.

A group of Portland comedians called "Fit to Print" finished recording the Johnny Cash-esque "Ballad of the Malheur Patriots" on Thursday morning.

Comedians Laura Sams and Garrett Palm perform improv comedy based on news stories at Curious Comedy Theater in Northeast Portland.

Some lyrics:

Patrioooooots, Patriooooooots,
Stormin' a building surrounded by ducks,
They didn't stand down, they vowed to stand uuuuup
Even if they didn't know for what.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Some videos and preliminary notes on playing the langspil


Icelandic langspil. A quick introduction by Chris Foster. He and his partner Bára Grímsdóttir perform as the duo FUNI, have a website at They were at Common Ground on the Hill the last time I was there, in 2013.

Michael J. King, luthier of the UK, demonstrates one of his langspils. "This is a little clip of a newer version of the Icelandic Langspil model I make. The melody is tuned to a, the middle drone to f# and the bass to B."

FUNI (Bára Grímsdóttir & Chris Foster) perform an Icelandic love song at the Mystic Sea Music Festival 2012. This song is called Man eg þig mey text by Jónas Hallgrímsson, The tune is a traditional tvísöng melody that would normally be sung by two people singing in parallel fifths. The langspil plays the second voice here.


Ryan Koons performs the song "Stóðum tvö í túni" on the langspil, a type of zither from Iceland. Langspil built by Ken Koons.

Hildur Heimisdóttir. Langspil and Icelandic Fiðla: The history, construction and function of the two Icelandic folk-instruments. Candidate studies in the violincello, 2012, No. 2010122. Det Jyske Musikkonservatorium, Aarhus, Denmark.

Being a string player myself, I thought langspil might be similar to the cello, my main instrument. I found soon out that there are indeed some things in common but other things are very unlike. The hand position was the first thing I struggled with. Cello players use all five fingers on the left hand to press down the strings, and there are no frets to show the player where the note is. On langspil, the player only uses the left thumb to press down and the rest of the left fingers support the instrument so it does not move while playing. The first thing I had to do was to train my left hand and get used to the new position of it.

* * *

After using the chop sticks for a while in my playing, I tried to use my spare cello bow to play the instrument. That bow is unusually light and has little amount of horse hair, and is therefore not so good for cello playing but more convenient for the langspil. It was however difficult to control it, since it is longer than original langspil bows. I personally think the sound from the pin is more pleasant but I want to be able to play with more variety so I will focus on getting the right bow technique the next days. The bow grip is different from what a cellist is used to, since the direction to stroke in is not the same. A cellist strokes the bow to the left and the right but while playing langspil, one has to stroke forward and back. Therefore, the langspil player has to hold the bow in a hand position that reminds of how people hold pencils.

Hildur Heimisdóttir and Júlía Traustadóttir in 2013 put up a Facebook event page promoting a concert in Reykjavik: "Júlía (voice) and Hildur (langspil) will perform their own arrangements of Icelandic folk songs, selected so that the delicate and rare sound of this special instrument can be enjoyed." Wilfried Ulrich commented, w/ pix of a bowed hummel.

Icelandic-language blurb on the langspil on the website for Iceland's national museum looks like it might have some interesting background on hymns, etc.:

"Gripur mánaðarins: „Þó ekki væri nema langspil“ March 2014. Þjóðminjasafn Íslands [National Museum of Iceland].

Lang card (A-14545) from pine wood and two on top of each other and the strong and a bottom chord. It is often referred to string instruments is best to have the tape, but may not have been such for all households in the golden age long game (from about the middle of the 18th to the mid-19th century). This string instruments on the other hand no table. Two strings are the frets and frets have a router that is mounted on top of the tree. One "drones" or organ tone string is above the one ómstrengur (resónans or string) as the Hardanger fiddle, Indian sitar or the Norwegian instrument lange game often ribbon with string instruments. It would be possible to play two notes against the note bass, not only as the most long games. Moreover, movable frets that must be considered unique among the instruments that have been preserved. Curved with horse hair and the bow compartment of the instrument. The instrument was struck string as received by the string instruments are said to have either had the horsehair strings, messínstrengi or brass strings.

By the mid-19th century was to string instruments throughout the country, many of them home-and of different types, but in the second half of the century seems Gaming decreased. In the early 20th century was hardly the person who knew how to play string instruments. Play music technology and tradition has not survived and it is impossible to say how the music played on string instruments have sound. Find the Election Ere described this however: "And I have seen such unique people in youth my is played so the string instruments, they were finger play a little back and forth on each note, they supported on, and they called it the" let sound wag ". This meant that the singing of these men became little more than a sincere little rings and small boats. "Perhaps this could be related raddtækni employed in poetry law, but there was talk of style the like jerk, jolt or wiggling which was an important part of the style the that was common in at least introduce the rímur Breiðafjörður early 20.öld.

Maybe people have not even long card fine when new music was emerging. In itself the golden age long game in the middle of the 19th century was the clergy at Thorsnes Thing singing in churches to be lacking and would rather send someone teenage abroad to study, to learn singing and preferably also a musical instrument, "if only string instruments." But nowhere would probably be a better place at the time to study string instruments than here.

Langspilið (A-14545) er úr furu og eru tveir stokkar hvor ofan á öðrum og því sterkur og mikill hljómbotn. Oft er talað um að langspil sé best að hafa á borði, en ekki er víst að borð hafi verið til á öllum heimilum á gullöld langspilsins (frá u.þ.b. miðri 18. til miðrar 19. aldar). Þetta langspil þarf hins vegar ekkert borð. Tveir strengir liggja yfir þverböndin og þverböndin eru með beini sem er fest ofan í tré. Einn „drón“ eða orgeltónsstrengur er ofan við og einn ómstrengur (eða resónans strengur) líkt og á harðangursfiðlu, indverskum sítar eða hinu norska hljóðfæri langeleik sem oft er borði saman við langspil. Því væri hægt að leika tvær nótur á móti bassanótunni en ekki eina eins og á flestum langspilum. Þar að auki eru þverböndin færanleg sem verður að teljast einstakt meðal þeirra hljóðfæra sem varðveist hafa. Boginn er með hrosshárum og er sér hólf fyrir bogann á hljóðfærinu. Hljóðfærið var strenglaust þegar tekið var við því en langspil eru sögð hafa ýmist haft hrosshársstrengi, messínstrengi eða látúnsstrengi.

Um miðja 19. öld voru til langspil um allt land, mörg hver heimasmíðuð og af ýmsum gerðum, en á seinni hluta aldarinnar virðist spilamennskan hafa dregist saman. Á fyrri hluta 20. aldar fannst varla sú manneskja sem kunni að spila á langspil. Spilatæknin og tónlistarhefðin hefur því ekki varðveist og ómögulegt er að segja hvernig tónlist spiluð á langspil hefur hljómað. Finnur á Kjörseyri lýsti þessu þó þannig: „Þannig sá ég t.d. einstöku menn í ungdæmi mínu er spiluðu þannig á langspil, að þeir létu fingurinn leika lítið eitt fram og aftur á hverri nótu, er þeir studdu á, og kölluðu þeir það að „láta hljóðið dilla“. Af þessu leiddi, að söngurinn hjá þessum mönnum varð lítið annað en einlægir smá ringir og trillur.“ Kannski gæti þetta tengst raddtækni sem beitt var í kvæðalögum, en þar var talað um stílbrigði eins og rykk, hnykk eða dillandi sem var mikilvægur partur af því stílbrigði sem tíðkaðist í rímnakveðskap a.m.k. á Breiðafirði snemma á 20.öld.

Kannski hefur mönnum ekki þótt langspilið fínt þegar ný tónlist var að ryðja sér til rúms. Á sjálfri gullöld langspilsins um miðja 19. öld þótti prestum á Þórsnesþingi söng í kirkjum vera ábótavant og vildu helst senda einhvern ungling erlendis í nám til þess að læra söng og helst einnig á hljóðfæri, „þó ekki væri nema langspil.“ En hvergi hefði líklega verið betri staður á þeim tíma til að læra á langspil en hér á landi.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Contemporary service, Saturday before the First Sunday in Lent (Feb. 13), Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial

Gathering: piano

Worship Set:

  • "Amazing Love/Word of God Speak" (may not do all of the repeats)
  • Prayer
  • Announcements
  • "Shout to the Lord" - V, Ch, share peace, Ch
  • "How Deep the Father's Love for Us", connecting right to
  • "For These Reasons"

spoken creed

sung Lord's Prayer

Sending: "Shout to the Lord"

Video links:

-- Amazing Love/Word of God Speak --

-- How Deep the Father's Love --

-- For These Reasons --

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Á Sprengisandi ("Ríðum, ríðum ..."): An Icelandic song to get started on with the langspil?

Á Sprengisandi ("Ríðum, ríðum rekum yfir sandinn")

Community choral performance (7 átthagakórar) posted Oct. 14, 2014, by Leifur Geir Hafsteinsson.

Words and music --

Melody in ABC notation in E minor at:

Lyrics (in Icelandic) scrolling while audio by Islandica plays at:

... and with a literal English translation at:

Lyrics and chords (in A minor) at:

Ríó Tríó, Icelandic pop group, has this background --

Sprengisandur is remote part of the Highlands of Iceland between the glaciers Hofsjökull and Vatnajökull. Sprengisandur is a very old connection between the north and the south of the island. It has been known since the times of first settlement. But it always had a rather bad reputation. People had to cross the desert fast with their horses, to "spring" over it, so as to get new grass and water for themselves and the animals. There has also been a lot of superstition about it. Stories about bad ghosts and criminals were told and the old tracks fell out of use for some time.

Here is their arrangement, of two related melodies for the song. (Picture on video shows a man playing a fiðla, another Icelandic bowed folk instrument):

Other arrangements --

By the Icelandic rock band Pelican (note singer riding push broom like a horse:

By a school choir:

By German band "Savoy Truffle," after a lengthy intro in German. (Music begins at 1:00):

Friday, February 05, 2016

UCD Choral Scholars' video of "Mo Ghille Mear"

Posted today to the UCD (University College Dublin) Choral Scholars' Facebook feed, just in time for tomorrow's jam session at Clayville Historic Site --

The bodhran is a little hyped up (IMO), but soloist Mark Waters has the style and intonation of traditional Irish sean nos singing.

Published [to YouTube] on Feb 5, 2016
Traditional Irish arr. Desmond Earley
Text by Seán Clárach Mac Dómhnaill

From the album ‘Invisible Stars – Choral Works from Ireland and Scotland’
The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin
Artistic Director: Desmond Earley
Solo: Mark Waters
Bodhrán: Tristan Rosenstock (track) / Brian Garvin (visual)
Released on Signum Records
Available to order on Amazon and iTunes

The UCD Choral Scholars released their debut international recording on Signum Records on 11th December 2015 (USA and Canada – 12th February 2016). The disc, entitled Invisible Stars is an enchanting collection of traditional and contemporary choral music from Ireland and Scotland and features arrangements and new compositions by some of Ireland’s most celebrated composers for choir, including Michael McGlynn, Brendan Graham, Ivo Antognini, Bill Whelan and the group’s artistic director, Desmond Earley.

Monday, February 01, 2016

"Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" -- a gospel song for February's Prairieland-Clayville jam sessions

Blast email I sent out this morning. -- pe

A song and a schedule for the Prairieland-Clayville Academy of Music jam sessions in February --

Here's our schedule (please note I have to change the date of our third meeting from the third Thursday to Tuesday, Feb. 16, in order to accommodate another meeting at the church -- hope it doesn't inconvenience you). So the revised schedule is:

-- Tuesday, Feb. 2, from 7 to 9 p.m., at Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial Church, 2800 West Jefferson, Springfield.

-- Saturday, Feb. 6, 10 a.m. to noon, Clayville Historic Stagecoach Stop, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains.

-- Tuesday, Feb. 16, 7-9 p.m. at the church.

Last spring Dan brought us lead sheets for an old gospel song called "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," and we played it a couple of times. Let's play it again to kick off Tuesday's session, then go around the circle calling tunes.

I posted a couple of video clips to Hogfiddle at back in the spring, and here's another one -- by the Gaither family of Southern gospel singing fame -- that shows the song being sung like it ought to be sung:

The video features Bill & Gloria Gaither performing "Leaning On the Everlasting Arms" (joined by Buddy Greene on harmonica, Jeff & Sheri Easter and Charlotte Ritchie).

"Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" has become a bluegrass gospel standard, but it has quite a pedigree -- it dates back to the very beginnings of gospel music in the 1800s. According to the fount of all human knowledge (Wikipedia), it was published in 1887 with music by Anthony J. Showalter and lyrics by Showalter and Elisha Hoffman. Showalter Music Co., of Dalton, Ga., was a major publisher of "new book" shape-note gospel tunebooks that shaped the emerging genre well into the 20th century -- and, some would argue, beyond. Adds Wikipedia:

Showalter said that he received letters from two of his former pupils saying that their wives had died. When writing letters of consolation, Showalter was inspired by the phrase in the Book of Deuteronomy 33:27 "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."

For all of that, as the Gaithers' session attests, it is not a dirge.

Lead sheets with dulcimer tab at:

There's something really very cool that didn't make it into the written dulcimer tab. As you listen to the group on the Gaithers' show again, notice how some of the vocalists are singing "Leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus" while the others are singing "Leaning, leaning" in half-notes. That kind of thing is sometimes called Arkansas counterpoint, and a lot of people like to sing it that way, especially down South. We can do it too.