Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Recent Great Musical Craic (Fun)!

The past few days have been filled with several great times musically speaking. It began last Wednesday or Thursday, I've forgotten which now, with being able to help daughter Heather learn the Irish jig, Cliffs of Moher, on concertina. I played it on fiddle and mandolin numerous times, at slower speeds, breaking down parts so she could ferret them out by ear as that is the way she learns.

On Friday night I got to play a barndance with a Welsh and Cornish theme as it was St. David's and St. Piran's feast days. They are the patron saints of Wales and Cornwall. As such, all the dances were traditional dances from Wales or Cornwall. I've played tunes for this event for many years now and last Friday was the first time I felt really good about my playing of that music. Just one of those nights when everything jelled. Or, I've just gotten much better at playing fiddle for dances or this particular group of dancers. Other musicians played electric bass and cello. The dancers were "on." Music and dancing ended together all night long. It was a good mix of ages, too. High schoolers through senior citizen folks.

Saturday night was a local Unitarian Church's annual fundraiser "Occasional Coffeehouse" at which I joined two guitarists, a percussionist, and a harmonica player to perform 20 minutes worth of music. It was great fun!!! We tore it UP!!!!!! Played and sang tunes such as "Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay," "Hot Tamales," "Trip to Pakistan," "La La Blues," and "Key to the Highway." John, Steve, John, and Bill were a great group of guys with which to make music!

It's funny how performing 'freebies' is, seemingly more and more, a much better, more gratifying time than performing for money. Maybe it's the fact that the whole reason for the playing of the music is much more for the fun of it than for the money. It definitely evens out those times of feeling frustrated, fed up, and overwhelmed.

Finally, I've sat down and figured out a tune which fascinated me because of the key changes. The tune is "Pinch of Snuff" which is a popular Irish reel played at sessions in Ireland. I love stories behind tunes and this is one that has a good story behind it and is as follows:

Known as a northern Irish reel, and especially one from County Donegal where it is particularly popular. Caoimhin Mac Aoidh (1994) recounts the origins of the tune in the faerie folklore of Donegal (Seamus Ennis appears to have told the same story). It seems that the fairies were trying to abduct a bride at a wedding in the Teelin, southwest Donegal, area by trying to trick her into uttering the magic words which would bind her to them and seal her fate. As luck would have it, hiding in the rafters was a young man who had been her suitor, but whom had lost in the bid for her hand. He saw what was about to happen to his still-beloved (who was dancing below), and from his high hiding place he thought to shake down some snuff upon her. The bride breathed it in, sneezed, and was greeted with a polite chorus of “Dia agus Muire dhuit” (God and Mary bless you) from members of the wedding party. This was anathema to the fairies, who took flight. The tune the fiddlers were playing while the bride was dancing at the time of her rescue was dubbed “The Pinch of Snuff.” - From Andrew Kuntz's The Fiddler's Companion

The recorded source for the version of "The Pinch of Snuff" I've worked out is from a Irish banjoist on YouTube. He and his wife upload videos from time-to-time which are quite good, imho. They are dulahan-irl, a traditional irish music duo based in County Kildare, Ireland.

Hopefully, and in the near future, I'll be posting my rendering of this piece on fiddle (I'm thinking), but for now here's the YouTube video of "Pinch of Snuff" by the banjoist from dulahan-irl...

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