As we have members here now, from all over the place, I thought it might be interesting to get an idea of just how many different ways there are for folks, from musical & non musical, Irish & non Irish backgrounds, to become inspired enough to, at first, take an interest in this music & then, secondly, to go that extra mile & want to actually learn to play it.

If nothing else, this'll be one way of paying tribute to & saying thanks to, your inspiration.

So to get us started, here's my story, which will hopefully inspire you to want to tell your story here, too.

 

I spent my first 18 years living in Scotland & although my Great Grandfather was a Fiddler & my Grandfather played Fiddle & Highland Bagpipes, I only ever heard my Grandad play his Fiddle once. So, although I may have had music in my genes, my inspiration clearly had to come from elsewhere. Like the rest of the World too, I also had a little Irish blood in me, with my maternal Grandad being from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, but one of his talents wasn't music. ;-)

I always instinctively loved music, whether the small Orchestra that played at the annual Circus (Yes, they really did use live musicians back then!) or the wonderful sound of the full size Church Organ & all those lovely Hymn melodies or Scottish Music which was on the TV & Radio regularly back then. However, when I left Scotland at 18, musically speaking I was only really interested in listening to Singer Songwriters like Bob Dylan.

Dunsany Castle, Co. Meath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, in the summer of 1970, while working as a Gamekeeper on the Dunsany Estate, Co. Meath, I found myself listening to Ciarán Mac Mathúna & his wonderful show Mo Cheol Thú around 8 am every Sunday morning. Now that might seem like an early start to some folks, but of course, as a Gamekeeper, I'd already been up & working since 6am, so I listened to Ciaran as I ate my breakfast.

Ciarán Mac Mathúna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So when most other 18 year olds would have been into Pop & R&R, I found myself being drawn more & more towards traditional music.

For those of you who have never heard of Ciaran or his radio show, which incidentally ran for 35 years, I have posted a YouTube video/audio clip from one of his last shows.

 

 

 

Now I know it's very hard for young folks today, to think themselves back into the way Ireland was 40 years ago, but believe me, it was a very different world back then. Dublin was more like a big Market town, full of magic, charm & innocence, than the sprawling, drug gang ridden metropolis it is today. Out in the country where I was, most folks went to Chapel twice a day, back in the days when the Church really was feared.

In any case, I found his shows absolutely magical & looked forward to them eagerly each week. They were a real education to me, a stranger in a foreign land & opened up a wonderful new world of music to me & not just the music either, but Ciaran brought all aspects of Ireland's culture into those shows.

Certainly, I have heard & seen hundreds of great musicians since the summer of 1970, who have inspired me, but only for Ciarán Mac Mathúna, I might never have been exposed to them.

It was because of Ciaran, that I went along to my local session there, in Dunshaughlin, a few times & to my first Dubliners Concert the following year, while working as a Falconer in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary & at was at that concert, that I was finally inspired to think about actually learning to play this music myself, thanks to one Barney McKenna.

 

 

 

 

 

So I'd like to say a huge THANKYOU to Ciarán Mac Mathúna, only for him, I probably wouldn't be playing music today.

 

So who or what was your first & most important inspiration?

 

Cheers,

Dick

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Several years ago, I was invited to a local Celtic Festival and instantly connected with the music.  Four years ago, I decided that I wanted to learn to play the fiddle.  I have always wanted to learn to play an instrument, and back in high school I tried to learn to play guitar.  My teacher figured out that I was memorizing the songs and not reading the music and wasn't very happy, so I quit.  I could never convert those dots to where my fingers should go, so I found a fiddle teacher that could teach me without using the music.  I started out with tabs, but have since found it's easier to learn by ear.

It seems like I can't get enough traditional music - it's in my blood, and honestly, I have Irish roots on both sides of my family.

 

Kathy

Thanks Kathy .... short & sweet, just like yourself, no doubt! :-)

Yes, it saddens me a little when I hear of inflexible music teachers. Of course, we all know about the strict Classical teachers who insist on students learning by the dots, but you also find them amongst Trad teachers too. Although we all know that learning by ear is by far the best way to learn, there is surely nothing wrong with a child learning in the beginning, to use the dots, if they need that visual stimulus & anchor. I know some kids do feel more comfortable when they have something in front of them & after all, the only rule in Trad is that there are no rules. What works well for one person, just won't suit the person next to them, but unfortunately some teachers want to work their class like a bunch of robots, which must surely go against the grain of what the music is all about, namely the freedom for each musician to express themselves through their music.

Anyway, it's good to know that you have strong roots on both sides of your family, that should save you from falling over! :-)

Cheers

Dick

Hey Dick:  Nice to hear fifes are occasionally welcomed to sessions there.  My mentor taught us trad tunes playing in the lower registers.  I have run across dozens of tunes in sessions that I learned on fife back then.  I have a nice 42 year old boxwood "C" fife I have played a few times at sessions when folks get out their "C" whistles, chanters, flutes etc.  I play it only in the lower registers with all the same ornamentation and styling as with a irish flute or whistle.  One time, the folks at session convince me to play a "Quickstep" in the upper register, everyone one in the bar spun around in shock and I got a terrible glare from the Publican who looked about ready to jump over the bar and strangle me. But, usually "fifers" are very used to only playing in the upper registers with very straight staccato articulation, that's necessary with 15 or so fifers marching down the street.  Would cause even further agony to spectators to hear 15 fifes all playing different ornamentation at one time, LOL!  Maybe one day I'll get to visit with a f&d band in Ulster (-:

Aye Russ, I know exactly what you mean by the piercing 2nd & 3rd octave on those wee Fifes. One of the Fifers who joins us can't resist diving up there sometimes, but the bar where he usually joins us is so noisy that it works out OK for the odd tune.

There's a very good Fife maker down the coast in Larne & we got a lovely one of Holly Fife from him one time. Not the loudest but a very nice sweet tone. 

By the way, take care who you ask to play Fife with over here, cause the Fifers here usually play with Lambeg Drummers & those big noisy brutes would deafen a stone! :-(

See what I mean: :-(

Cheers,

Dick

 

Incidentally Russ, the tunes in that video were Jackson's Return & Open the Door.

By the way, when you do get over here & when you are on the West coast, make sure you track down Flute & Fife player Gary Hastings. He wrote a cracking book: With Fife & Drum, in which you'll find 50 of these great wee tunes & some fascinating information on the Fifing tradition up here in the North.

Here's Gary playing one of those tunes, Young Men in their Bloom, first as a Fife tune & then as a Flute tune ... if you know what I mean. ;-)

My mom tells me that my love for Irish traditional music started when I was still in the womb! She played all kinds of it while she was pregnant with me. But I actually didn't start playing until I was about 14 or so...I was sitting in a tiny music room in a town that was even smaller than the blink of an eye, watching Athena Tergis, Mick Moloney, and John Doyle doing what they do best! After seeing Athena play the fiddle, I knew I was hooked! In one boisterous whoop! I knew....it was all over :)

 

-Amy

 


Thanks Amy & hey, what a great surname.

I used to visit a huge old Anmal Feed Mill, Bannermill in Aberdeen, where they had a Paternoster Lift system which was about 100 feet high & consisted of a 200 foot long thick rubber belt with little wooden platforms to stand on every few yards & a metal handle about 5 feet above each of those. Anyway, when you tugged on the rope, the motor started & this belt started moving & as a little platform appeared below you you stepped & grabbed the handle. There were just a series of square holes in each floor of this Mill & as you reached your floor you just stepped off & pulled the other rope & it stopped moving. It was always fun to try & stop the thing when your mate was between floors & watch him panic! :-)

However, there was no safety cage so if you stepped off or let go the handle you had a long fall below you. A little on the scary side & I know lots of folks who were afraid to use it. I doubt if Health & Safety would allow those to be used today.

I visited a College in Edinburgh one time which had another version of the Paternoster Lift, which consisted of a chain of boxes which were open & moving all the time & you just jumped into a box & waited until it reached your floor.

Sorry, not much to do with music, just a trip down memory lane for me.

Cheers,

Dick

Hi Dick,

Thanks for your reply! That's funny about the "Paternoster Lift"!  My eldest sister lives in Vienna and she's seen quite a few versions of these lifts.....I've heard they call it Paternoster (in Latin it's translated to "our Father")  because of the way it's structured, like the loop of rosary beads. We actually didn't know much about the name until my sister moved to Austria and discovered that my family is originally from a region in that area called South Tirol. The landscape is really steep and surrounded by mountains, so the lift that you described probably still exists there!
Dick Glasgow said:

Thanks Amy & hey, what a great surname.

I used to visit a huge old Anmal Feed Mill, Bannermill in Aberdeen, where they had a Paternoster Lift system which was about 100 feet high & consisted of a 200 foot long thick rubber belt with little wooden platforms to stand on every few yards & a metal handle about 5 feet above each of those. Anyway, when you tugged on the rope, the motor started & this belt started moving & as a little platform appeared below you you stepped & grabbed the handle. There were just a series of square holes in each floor of this Mill & as you reached your floor you just stepped off & pulled the other rope & it stopped moving. It was always fun to try & stop the thing when your mate was between floors & watch him panic! :-)

However, there was no safety cage so if you stepped off or let go the handle you had a long fall below you. A little on the scary side & I know lots of folks who were afraid to use it. I doubt if Health & Safety would allow those to be used today.

I visited a College in Edinburgh one time which had another version of the Paternoster Lift, which consisted of a chain of boxes which were open & moving all the time & you just jumped into a box & waited until it reached your floor.

Sorry, not much to do with music, just a trip down memory lane for me.

Cheers,

Dick

Ah yes, the Lambeg Drums, quite a joyful Racket!  I think I might quite enjoy a tune or two with those fellows, as long as I remember to bring ear plugs, LOL!

Here's a recent clip of the group i trained with, er...hmm...a mere 34 years after I left:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nqIUNEft8A

There's even a little dance music and perhaps a few familiar tunes.

I began to learn to play the fiddle pretty late in life (52).  I was learning Appalachian Old Time tunes.  I was also listening to Irish traditional music and really enjoyed it and was trying to learn a tune or two.  I heard about a Tuesday night session at a local pub and went to experience the music live.  Well, I got caught up in the driving force of sound all around me.  I haven't been able to put to down since.

Hey Russ, at least with your old they have the balance right ... i.e. more Flutes than Drums! ;-)

Cheers,

Dick

 

Hi Bill, thanks for joining in.

52 eh ... well you know what they say ... Better Late than Never! :-)

Oh yeah & just for the record, I do believe that Old Dogs can learn New Tricks! :-)

Hey, I'll be 60 in a couple of weeks myself & I plan on learning a lot more tricks before I'm done .... if I'm spared!

Cheers,

Dick

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