Friday, July 10, 2009

Willie Week - Friday

This morning it was raining pretty hard, so Lauren drove the car down to the flute class. As you recall, today we were all to play separately and receive individual comments from Conal and Tara, our teachers. Everyone was nervous; some were more prepared than others. Sometimes the comments focused on breathing; we were advised to leave out rolls (an ornament similar to a turn in classical nomenclature) or even melody notes to create enough time to take a breath. Other comments emphasized rhythm or pace. We were cautioned never to play faster than we are able. Speed will come. Playing slower will allow us to get the half-beat in the right place, essential for crisp rhythm. I was advised to keep a firmer hold on the flute and press it more solidly into my lip, also to blow at a deeper angle down into the flute's embouchure hole.

Among today's tunes were a Highland Fling and a Barndance. To give the tunes context, Tara had invited two dancers to demonstrate the Scottish Highland dance for us. I recorded a short video with my camera - forgive the quality, it's not a video camera. Using iMovie for the first time, I managed to add the recording I made of Tara playing the dance tune. The sound and the picture are not in sync though. I'm afraid that's beyond my iMovie capabilities at the moment!

After showing us the steps, the girls invited some of us to learn the dances. I let myself be persuaded, and I did pretty well if I do say so myself! Unfortunately I didn't appoint anyone to take a picture of me dancing, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

After the flute class I attended the lunchtime piping recital. The piping tradition is very strong in Miltown Malbay, as you would expect from the place that produced Willie Clancy. The Summer School offers a variety of courses for uilleann (pronounced IL-ee-an) pipers. Besides learning tunes and techniques, pipers learn how to make parts and do repairs. They also had listening classes and gave daily recitals. I have never heard so many excellent pipers in my life. The uilleann pipes are cranky, difficult instruments, but when played well they can be amazingly expressive and moving, probably as close to the human voice as an instrument can get.

Back at the library, I managed to accomplish my online Ryanair check-in and print the boarding pass. That was a relief.

Next I went to a beautiful song recital entitled Traditional Singing in Irish and English. Each singer was better than the one that came before. Very enjoyable, and very intimidating on a personal level. During Willie Week I came to the full realization that if I am ever to play the Irish flute really well, I had better focus just on flute. There are only so many hours in the day...

My roommates Lauren and Danika left in the afternoon to go back to Dublin, but Gail and Dan Neely, friends from the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra, took their place. Gail and Dan were in Ireland for 6 weeks while Gail participated in a summer session abroad. They spent 3 weeks in Belfast and had just begun a 3-week stay in Dublin. We met around 8 pm, and after they brought their things into the B&B, we went out to find some music. We sampled the music and atmosphere in various pubs up and down the main street in town. We even walked down to the dance pavilion in the drizzling rain to check out the scene there and look for Lisa, another WSHSO friend who is here this week. She was nowhere to be seen. We found out later she was dancing in Spanish Point, a town nearby that also hosted dancing every night. We didn't play in any of the sessions - it was just too crowded and wet to lug the instruments around. (Dan's banjo is a lot bigger than the flutes Gail and I play.) We had a great time, and I was really glad they could make the 4-hour drive from Dublin to hang out with me for one night and get the flavor of Willie Week.

Dan wrote a blog post about their trip to Miltown Malbay. His post contains 39 pictures and a couple of recordings made during sessions we visited. Since my pictures from that night are not very good, I raise my glass to him and invite you to check out his account of their trip to Miltown Malbay and our romp in the rain that night.

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