Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Catskills Bound

The title of this post is a throwback to a similar one written last year as I prepared to go to Ireland. As a matter of fact, at this time last year I was already in Miltown Malbay, having the time of my life at Willie Clancy Week. I've been reliving many fond memories and wishing I had gone back this year. Life (and finances) dictated otherwise, so this year I'm returning to the humble hamlet of East Durham, NY, for the Catskills Irish Arts Week (CIAW) - which is, after all, the best the US has to offer when it comes to traditional Irish music festivals. I leave on July 11th and, truth be told, I'm getting pretty excited about it!

It should be a fabulous week. I will be taking a flute class with Conal O'Grada, the teacher I enjoyed so much last year at Willie Clancy Week. I will also be taking a class in enameling on copper taught by Catherine Crowe who made the crown on my new flute. I love the nightly performances in the open-air pavilion at the Michael J. Quill Festival Grounds, where the beer I'm sipping helps disguise how uncomfortable folding metal chairs can be. When my backside needs a break, I browse the crafts and music booths erected around the perimeter of the pavillion and spend more than budgeted on CDs, telling myself what a bargain it is not to have to pay shipping and handling. Although I don't dance, I do pop into the nightly céilí (pronounced KAY-lee) to hear the bands and watch the dancers. I'm also looking forward to hearing some fine singing at the singers' circle and playing in the late-night sessions all over town.

As a musical preparation for the Catskills, I resumed my flute lessons with Mike Rafferty. Even though he teaches at CIAW, I never take his classes there because I prefer my own private time with him at his home in New Jersey. Ever since he won the National Heritage Fellowship, I have been wanting to go see him as my lessons with him have been rather sporatic over the last two years. No matter how many classes I have with other teachers, I always come back to Mike because when all is said and done, that's how I want to sound. Mike's playing is just magical. I never ceased to be amazed at how beautiful he can make a tune sound. Getting back to the point, though, I was able to book time with Mike every Saturday in June. I learned 13 new tunes and, with the help of Transcribe! software, I was able to study a few key aspects of Mike's ornamentation. This motivational technique worked: I practiced nearly every day!

I am also trying to revive my singing. I haven't sung much this past year. One can't do everything, and I decided to give flute the priority. However, the singers' circle in the Catskills is wonderful, and I like to be able to participate. I'm brushing up on my standard songs and a couple of the newer ones that I think I can sing without embarrassing myself. The most recent is Free and Easy to Jog Along. I heard Roisin White sing it in 2007 (the year I took her CIAW singing class). Actually, it's the title song of her CDs, called The First of My Ranbles.

I have attended CIAW so many times that I know lots of people there, friends from New York City plus others whom I see only at CIAW. I'm looking forward to all the socializing as well as the gentle Catskills landscape. As always, my reflections will end up here, with a few pictures as well.

© 2010, Linda Mason Hood
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