Saturday, July 11, 2009

Willie Week - Saturday

Today is the last day of Willie Week. Gail and Dan, who had come from Dublin for just one night (see Friday's post), left immediately after breakfast. I headed off in the opposite direction to attend the final flute class. It has been a good week. I have 30 new tunes to work on and some new techniques to incorporate into my playing. In the final class, Conal and Tara played through most of the tunes we learned for the benefit of someone whose recorder broke, but it was a good way to review all the tunes. There was ample time for Q&A about all sorts of things -- how to practice more efficiently, how to get a stronger sound, the most important elements of traditional Irish flute playing, etc. Overall, this class is probably the single most helpful set of lessons I've ever had in Irish traditional flute playing. Here is a picture to commemorate a terrific flute class.

After purchasing a few gifts for my family at a local antique store, I went to the ad hoc Willie Week store which had been set up in the Community Center. All the teachers brought CDs to sell; there was also a good collection of CDs and books as well as Willie Week T-shirts and book bags. I bought 4 CDs and 2 books. One of the books deserves special mention: The Irish Flute Player's Handbook, a Comprehensive Guide to the Traditional Flute in Ireland by S.C. "Hammy" Hamilton. This book is THE definitive reference book for the Irish flute. At the time I bought this heavy hard cover edition, I considered it a "must have" despite its weight. Writing this blog post, I discovered the book is currently out of print, as it was part of a limited edition. And mine is a signed copy too! Apparently another printing is planned, so if you're interested, contact Hammy Hamilton using the instructions on his website. (see the link above)

After dropping off my purchases at the B&B, I set out to find Willie Clancy's grave. Last Sunday the festival opened with a memorial at the grave site. Since I wasn't able to attend, I wanted to make my own pilgrimage to visit the man whose playing inspired this festival. The Ballard graveyard was about one mile out of town, on the same road as the library. It was a nice uphill walk with views of the countryside sloping down to the Atlantic Ocean that just got better and better as I got farther out of town.

Just before reaching the cemetery, I met an elderly man carrying a small plastic bag. He was very old - in his 80's perhaps - and very poor. His back was hunched under his threadbare coat spotted with dust. He was wearing a tweed cap. I asked him if I was going the right direction. I could barely understand his answer -- he had a very thick accent and no teeth. Yes, he said, I would see the graveyard soon, just at the top of the hill and to the right. With pride beaming from watery old eyes that peered out from under the peculiar clumps of wiry gray eyebrow hair, he asked -- word for word -- the same question that all the townspeople had been asking me all week: "Are ye enjoyin' the festival?" Everyone took such pride in the fact that people came from far and wide to Miltown Malbay to celebrate the musical tradition that produced Willie Clancy. Coming from this fellow, however, the earnestness of his question made it more poignant. Aware of the difference in our accents as well as our economic status, I graciously assured him that indeed I was enjoying the festival and that I had had a marvelous week. Proud and satisfied, he repeated the directions to the cemetery. I thanked him again. As we parted ways, he turned down a footpath and headed across a field, presumably to his home although there were no buildings were anywhere to be seen. Despite his pronounced poverty, here was a man who knew how rich was the region's musical heritage. Though our conversation had been brief, we had made a strong connection based on mutual appreciation of the music.

The cemetery was a mixture of old graves and new, with the majority of markers erected in the twentieth century. The tombs from the nineteenth century were especially fascinating. Willie Clancy was buried in a family plot, but there was a special memorial plaque adjacent to the family plot. I took lots of pictures of the panoramic views as well as the graves.

(To make the pictures larger, double click the first one.
Then, on the Picasa Web site, click on Slideshow.)

My evening's activity was the 3-hour recital in the Community Center. The hall was packed, and there were many wonderful performances by instructors and others from the region. The audience seemed to consist of townspeople as well as festival visitors. The final musical offering was led by the local choirmaster; the singers were adults as well as children from the town - another illustration of the fact that music is an integral part of the life of the town.

After the recital I picked up fish and curry chips one last time from the chipper (see Thursday's post), and headed back to the B&B to pack. Tomorrow starts a new adventure!

© 2009, Linda Mason Hood
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