Sat, 24 Sep 2005

I am your Worst Nightmare

There's a definite hierarchy to instruments in a session, and the bottom is taken up by bodhran players. There's something about that little skin-covered circle that seems to bring out the worst in some people. A little tip for the tipper folks - if you can't sing (or lilt or whistle) the tune, you shouldn't be playing it.

Here are a few words from Patrick Ourceau, via Mike Todd (who's actually a good bodhran player, and doesn't feel compelled to play every tune)

this middle age woman came into a session [Parick] was at with maybe Jack Coen....and she asks to play....the only place to put her was between Coen and Patrick...and they looked meaningfully at each other...but it seems either she was too scared to play much or barely played at all. So anyway, after a few tunes Coen turns to her and says [apparently he was famous for his oblique remarks] "Indeed, you're one of the best bodhran players I've ever met -- you hardly played at all." Apparently her eyes lit up and then a look of puzzlement crossed her face. patrick said it was one of the funniest things he'd ever heard

[S]ome old boy described a terrible bodhran player at a session in Ireland that Patrick was at as "did ye get a look at that lad now [motioning to the bodhran player]..... doesn't he he sound like an ass trying to kick through a door?"

but i think the best was, when Patrick told me he was playing at some feis, and all these girls were there with the wigs, and elaborate dresses...[they can go a little overboard sometimes....I was saying to Patrick how you always knew you were in trouble when people showed up at sessions with bodhrans that had "celtic" designs on them...always a bad sign]. Anyway, Patrick turns to some other old boy fiddler in the circle and says "Now, Tom, what do you think of that? "[meaning the elaborate design one on the girl's dresses]. And the old boy says, "Well, you know Patrick, to me it seems to me like she swallowed the whole Book of Kells and then vomitted it up over herself."

And you'll know you're really in trouble when you look up and find somebody's brought one of these to the local session...

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Mon, 12 Sep 2005

Back online again

I've had a fairly eventful summer, starting with having my laptop stolen in May - more of that later. Anyway, I'm back, and have a bunch of reviews coming up, as well as some mp3s that I've had permission to post. Enough for now - housekeeping time, including updated the events and teachers sections, and cleaning out the scum (comment spam).

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Thu, 19 May 2005

Victoria Day Weekend musings

Greg James points out that

Roger Landes and Randall Bayes will be appearing on this Sunday's RTE program [The Late Session].

Randall and Roger's recent CD House to House (sound clips available) is a truly excellent recording, recorded in a series of house concerts over a period of a few months.

Greg Dahms is an Ottawa bowmaker, one of whose bows is being used by Martin Hayes. My main bow is one of his - in fact, I think it might be the first one he sold. I just never gave it back... He's just put together a web page with some photos of his bows (plus others that he carries), some interesting links and contact info.

Maureen Mulvey-O'Leary sends out a regular newsletter, which reminded me that there are a number of Toronto area radio stations that have regular Celtic music features:

Irish radio shows in Toronto

Thursday evenings 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. Atlantic Ceilidh CIUT 89.5FM with Pat Simmonds

Saturday mornings 11:00-12:00 noon CHKT 1430AM Ceol agus Craic with Eamon O’Loghlin

Sunday mornings 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. CHIN 1540am Songs from Home with Hugo Straney

Sunday afternoons 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. AM740 with Frankie Benson

Sunday evenings 8:00 - 9:00p.m. The Long Note CKLN 88.1FM with Colm O’Brien

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For Sale (Toronto area)

Hill Bros of England fiddle, bought at Heinl's Toronto. Circa 1940s. full size. 4/4. Red/brown varnish. $1200. Case and bow included. If interested contact Michael Todd, mtodd [at] yorku [dot] ca or 416-736-2100, ext.22090.

Double Bass - half size, plywood student model, with neck repair. $800. Contact wil [at] syndesis [dot] com.

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Tue, 12 Apr 2005

Brief Notes

I've been playing with Google Maps, which is a very nice piece of work. Not only does it have a very clear map display, it also scrolls and zooms very well and has a lovely bonus - you can switch between map view and satellite picture view with one click. So I spent a little time adding a map link to some of the sessions.

I was reminded that RTE has archived copies of The Late Session on Wednesday - a series of live concerts with some outstanding traditional musicians. Check out the concert by Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. Note: RealAudio player required. Music starts after about 4 minutes of news, weather and sports...

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We've been reviewed

Doug Murray, whom I met a couple years ago at Zoukfest, was in Toronto for a family function, and dropped in at the regular Thursday session at the Victory Cafe. We had an unusually good turnout that night with about 25 regulars and irregulars. Doug wrote about the session.

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Wed, 30 Mar 2005

More Favourites

Barachois - Peter, Helene, Louise and Chuck Arsenault - brother, sister and cousins. Their style of Prince Edward Island Acadien music blended French Canadian and Cape Breton sounds. The group recorded three CDs and toured extensively over nine years before retiring at the end of 2003. Far and away one of the best concerts I have ever been to was one of theirs at Hugh's Room.

One of my favourite recordings, however, is not strictly speaking a Barachois CD, but is a recording of a house party at the home of Eddy Arsenault, father of Peter and Helene. Simply called "Party Acadien", this is great driving fiddle music, with the whole family on various combinations of fiddles, guitar, harmonica and cardboard box. Still available along with the Barachois CDs from the Barachois website.

Thanks Greg J for reminding me of this omission from the previous favourites list.

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Tue, 22 Mar 2005

St Patrick's Day Hangover

According to, here's how St Patrick's day works. Here's how the Onion views Irish history at a glance (scroll down) (thanks Greg).

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No St Paddy's Day hangover for Dewi Sant

My mother would be upset with me for forgetting to mention the other Celtic Saint whose day is in March. Yes, I'm referring to Dewi Sant, or Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, whose day falls on March 1. No green beer for Davy,

St David himself drank only water, and is sometimes known in Welsh as 'Dewi Ddyfrwr' (David the water drinker).

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Mon, 14 Mar 2005

Reflections on the session

Traditional music sessions can be awful strange beasts altogether

Reflections from Belfast. Can we get just a little too comfortable with the same tightly knit group of friends, playing the same tunes over again? Maybe it takes a little push to get us out of the rut, somebody else whose playing forces us to listen a little closer, to respond to the music instead of going through the motions.

Passed on by Michael Todd.

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Just in time for St Patrick's Day

A large selection of celtic lyrics, traditional, contemporary, in English and Gaelic.

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An Leabhar Mòr - The Great Book of Gaelic

Contemporary Celtic art and literature:

The Great Book is a major contemporary artwork, a 21st century Book of Kells, that brings together the work of more than 200 visual artists, poets and calligraphers from Scotland and Ireland.

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Sun, 06 Mar 2005

Green Linnet CDs on sale

Green Linnet has a 3 for 2 deal on CDs - buy 2 at $12.50 and get one free. Deal is good until April 19.

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Fri, 04 Mar 2005

Downloadable Celtic Music Starting to Emerge

Downloadable music services haven't been really interesting to me up until now, because the kind of music I enjoy hasn't been available. However, that seems to be changing rapidly. According to their website, the Green Linnet catalog is now available on iTunes (US store only), and a quick check shows that at least some of it is availabler on Napster. Even more interesting, the Smithsonian Folkways recordings are now available at their own site - including, for example, Kevin Burke's first recording, Sweeney's Dream. emusic seems to have most of the shanachie catalog, including Solas, Silly Wizard and Steeleye Span.

With all this frantic scrambling to get their catalogs online, there is still a lot of inconsistency between formats, support of Macintosh and/or Windows and whether your own favourite MP3 player is supported. Over the next few weeks, I'll check out a few of them and report back.

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Tue, 01 Mar 2005

Fiddler's Retreat

Got an email from Theresa Bourke, who tells me that she has started up a new Irish music school for fiddlers in Loughmore, County Tipperary. Looks nice.

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What does it all mean anyway?

Ah yes, the embarrasment of pulling out a tune at a session and being unable to pronounce the name... The BBC has an online course on learning Scots Gaelic and another for Irish, as well as Welsh.

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Mon, 28 Feb 2005

A change of face

I thought I would try to get some feedback from the millions - well, thousands - well, a few people who drop by occasionally. In order to do that, I thought I would try to move some of the more dynamic content to a blogging tool. This means that anybody who's interested can post comments by clicking on the writeback link below. Sometimes that backfires, since there are lots of people who take advantage of comment links by posting spam. If that starts to happen, I'll have to change how I do this, but for now I'll see what happens.

Let me know what you think!

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Loretto Reid nominated for Juno

Thanks to Maureen Mulvey O'Leary:

Congratulations to Loretto Reid who has been nominated for a 2005 Juno Award for her CD "Celtic Reverie"! Loretto shares the nomination for Instrumental Album of the Year with Dan Gibson, for his nature sounds.

This is the second Juno nomination for Loretto. In 2004, she was nominated for her recording of The Children of Lir - a retelling of the classic Irish legend for which she composed, arranged and performed the music, and produced the recording.

For those who don't know Loretto Reid (and it's difficult to imagine who doesn't!), she is a multi-talented musician and composer, specialising in whistle, flute, concertina and button accordion. Originally from Sligo, Loretto and her husband, Brian Taheny (also of Sligo and a master of all stringed instruments) have recorded over 10 CDs of traditional Irish music together. They have performed, composed and/or arranged music on over 100 other recordings in the past 10 years. On many of their recordings they have been joined by their son, Leon, and daughter, Rowena Taheny.

You can get Loretto Reid's music at

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Sat, 12 Feb 2005

RIP Martyn Bennett

Piper Martyn Bennett is dead at the age of 33. Born in Newfoundland, raised in Scotland, he mixed samples and urban beats with the pipes to produce a unique blend of Celtic and urban sounds. CBC's Global Village has one of their audio postcards available here (RealAudio - may not play on Macintosh). His CDs Bothy Culture and Grit are available through Amazon.

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Sun, 28 Nov 2004

New Paris (Ont) Music Shop

Charlie Cares, who's a fine musician and singer in his own right, writes from Paris Ontario:

As most of you know, I've been preparing to open my own CD shop here in Paris. Well the moment has arrived - we are now open for business!

If you've enjoyed the concerts at Paris Plains Church, the Burford Armoury and the Edgar Farm and have wondered where to find recordings of great roots music, this is the place! Come down and check it out. We think you'll like what you find.

Ground Floor Music
31 Grand River St. N.
Paris, ON N3L 2M3

(519) 442-0040

-- Charlie Cares charlesc at sentex dot net

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