Monday, October 31, 2016

31st October 2016 - Keep it up

This was a hard week for practice.

On Tuesday I did my mini-tour of Ireland to pick up the flute and Thur/Fri I was away from home for both nights.  Going from work to another house means (for me) I can't practice.  You can't just say .. hi .. yes I'll a have a cup of tea .. but first I have to tinkle on my flute for an hour.

That really presents a problem - not when it's one day but when it's a few.

This presents a few questions.
Is there a 'schedule' to all of this?  Can you fall behind?  How to recover when you fall behind?
How to keep it up?

There isn't a schedule but there is a schedule.  I'm going for a new tune each week.  I'd be disappointed not to keep that up.  It would be too easy to let one week flow into the next without a new milestone.
So really this is about setting a milestone (a new tune) and reaching it.
The achievement of that encourages the next week and not getting it discourages.

How to recover.  My first guess is to do things to avoid falling behind.  After last week I've a few ideas on that.

First - try to conquer the new tune quicker in the week.  Even if it isn't being perfectly played .. even if slowly .. it's better to have the tune worked out on Tuesday night rather than be putting part one together perfectly on Thursday then moving to part two on Friday.  Even if not perfect it's a lot better solid progress quickly than perfect slowly.

Second - if you miss time you have to pay it back quickly.  By Saturday I'd not completed a good practice for three days that week.  I did play each day .. it just wasn't the usual session.  If you're behind pay the time back as soon as you can to avoid the problem getting bigger.

Third -  be ok with it.  If life gets in the way don't worry too much about it.  Just start again.  Don't feel too bad and just start again.

Lastly - whatever happens - keep it up.

30th October 2016 - Where to go?

I know they can sometimes be cheesy but they also can say simple things that make sense.
I'm talking about those 'thought for the day' calendars.

I saw this one a few years ago and liked the idea ..

What does "You must begin to think of yourself as becoming the person you want to be" mean?

Firstly, one thing it doesn't mean is the concept that if you believe hard enough in yourself it will magically happen.
The daily mantra as you brush your teeth of 'I am the flautist which Matt Molloy dares to dream he can become!!' may have limited effect.
I really hate the Simon Cowell school of philosophy which goes along the lines of 'if you dream hard enough you can have anything'.  He's poisoned  a generation with that message and has profited handsomely doing so.

What I think it means is someone subtle akin to 'if you believe you can or can't you're right'.  In other words it is belief which primarily drives our work and ultimately our achievements.

This phrase is about permission.  Giving ourselves permission to try out a new definition of ourselves.

It would be very easy for me to say approaching 50 that I can't become proficient with the Flute.  Why bother?  etc.  I have to give myself permission to become the person who practices daily, gets better, can play in a session .. deserves to be be in that space.

Blowing notes out of a stick in front of people doesn't make sense.
But very little does.
You have to give yourself a gentle permission to believe you can be the person you want to be.

29th October 2016 - Ennis Trad Fest

Not sure what the next great bit of music I get to attend but with the Ennis Trad fest starting soon I have a few great options.

Would love to see Michael McGoldrick perform with John McSherry, Donal O’Connor & Tony Byrne on 11th November or Kevin Crawford with Lúnasa on the 12th.

Looks like a great few days music.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

28th October 2016 - Quick week

That was a quick week.  Perhaps the adrenaline of my mini-circuit of Ireland picking up my new flute (I'm still looking at it and admiring it like its Christmas Morning).

A week ago I went back to see the 2016 Comhaltas Tour of Ireland, Macalla na hÉireann.  It was the last night of the tour and they were performing in the Clasac in Clontarf (Dublin).

What's that old joke or story about a person in New York asking for directions and asking someone 'how to you get to Carnegie Hall?'
They get the reply  'Practice'

Just shows you where hard work can take you.

I hope the show goes on to tour the UK and the US.  These lads deserve the praise for their hard work and talent.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

27th October 2016 - Patience

Doing scales.

Moving through the second octave.

Moving from the low to the high register.


Looking up Arpeggios on google.

They say it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of an needle than a rich man go to heaven.

They say that your embouchure should be the size of a grain of rice on the side.

I'm picturing that camel.  No bigger than a grain of rice.  I'm  playing a second register G and puffing the little guy through my new Olwell.  But he knows the parable (who told him?) and he won't always go.  He gets stuck and makes a low G honk in annoyance.

Patience.  I'll win him over with kindness and time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

26th October 2016 - Anything but Pong!

So first evening with the new Olwell.

I was worried that it might not be what I hoped it would be.  What would happen if it was just the same as my old, super cheap, 25 year old flute?

What would happen if I couldn't get a note out of it?

What would happen if I simply didn't like it?

It isn't an exaggeration so say this was a bit like a blind date - will she like me .. will I like her .. will we 'click'?   Or like opening a present Christmas morning when you sort of expect the box is just the right shape to be an Atari 2600 .. is it or isn't it?  Please don't be Pong.  Anything but Pong.

And there's a lot riding on this.  I don't believe that a flute will make me a better player - not even by a small percentage - but if I'm on a road to be a better player I'd hope that my playing will - once improved - sound better on a decent flute than on a kids shop recorder.
So yes .. no miracles .. but you're hoping to get the sense of something that might take you somewhere if you can take it somewhere ..

The low notes are just beautiful.  Deep.  Resonant.  You can feel each note in your hands and on your fingers as the instrument responds.  This was a new sensation.  I don't want to get too mushy but those low notes are just wonderful.  You don't need to play a tune to feel their clarity and power.  Cuts and taps feel hard and acoustic.  All just lovely.

The second register.  This is where things got interesting.  After three hours playing I began to think of my old flute like a bottle.  You can blow over the opening and make a note - it won't be pretty or powerful or in tune with anything but you can get a note anytime.  The Olwell wants you to control your embouchure to hit a sweet spot.  When you get the right place you absolutely get that beautiful sweet, fulfilling note but miss it by even a touch and you've nothing.  Ironic that my cheap bottle top flute can make a windy, leaky note no matter what you do but the Olwell demands control.  This is counter-intuitive (reputation says the Olwell is easy to play) but also it makes sense.  You have no control over the bottle top but it won't let you down.  The Olwell wants that second register G to be just so but it will reward you in a way the cheap flute won't when you get it right.

My thinking on this challenge - if it even is one - is happiness not frustration.  I realise that I'll have to work hard to master something a lot more precise and subtle but ultimately with a reward once achieved.  I could blow on the old flute for another 25 years and the tone wouldn't improve.  So it's all learning and pushing myself to another level .. and that's all great.

Now past midnight and I've spent the evening on a great first date.  But I've work in the morning so will have to call it a night.  That was fun .. let's do it again ..

25th October 2016 - My Precious new flute

So after putting a post up on Chiff and Fipple I got an email to see if I'd be interested in buying an Olwell keyless D with a matching Eb body/foot ...

After a bit of looking into it and mulling over the finances I decided to purchase.

And so started a crazy 48 hours of getting all my blackwood dominos in a row.  I was originally moving on my '54 Fender 50th edition to pay for that 'Decent Flute' I mentioned in my post (the one I was going to use while waiting for the 6-key Olwell in 2019).

To get down to the flute in Clare I ended up doing a mini-circuit of Ireland after work.

First to Kilkenny to wish a fond farwell to my Fender then on to Clare.

Scene of the crime.   The very inauspicious location where I met my first Olwell flute.

I'd always pictured the scene of my first Olwell purchase as being a tad more cinematic .. but .. who cares about the set if the soundtrack is decent.

There we were .. the garage owner locking up .. turning out the forecourt lights .. perhaps wondering if the two men dimly lit by the dashboard lights were planning some dodgy infiltration of the Clare Trad community.

Had a look at my new Olwell for the first time.  Instant impressions - compared to my 25 year old cheap flute it was heavy - you could see the density of the wood and the careful craftsmanship immediately.  I listed to him play a tune.  That was the next impression.  The lovely tone - depth - deep earthy bark of the low D (flute players can be rightly mocked for trying to over describe a good low D so I'll stop now).

All I can say was that with his playing of The Steampacket I was delighted to know that I'd soon by leaving with my new flute.

For a second the thought crossed my mind that with playing just those few notes he'd fall back in love with the instrument, change his mind, boot me out of the car and screech away leaving me with a clutch of cash and a wasted journey shouting 'Noooooooooo!!' into the bleak October Clare darkness ..  ..  I wanted to throw the cash at him, grab the instrument and drive quickly home with my precious flute.

But .. no such drama.  The deal was done.  We shook hands and I parted on the long road home with my new D and Eb Olwells.  An embarassment of riches flute-wise for a beginner but I'm not complaining.  Was delighted.

Sadly no time to practice when I got home.  I could have played a tune but I was tired and didn't want to spoil it.  After work this evening .. watching the day go by .. I'll be home soon .. there are Silver Rings on the flute .. Precious.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday 24th October 2016 - The perfect boat

I recon it's a basic fact of evolution to eventually be unhappy with what you've got.

We get something.  This might be something like a house, car or a boat.  Equally we might obtain something like a job or a skill or even a new friendship.  The day we get it and we're happy.

But .. give it a little time .. and we start seeing the better job, the bigger house, the cooler car or the longer boat.  People can't sustain contentment - it just isn't in us - and I think that's by evolutionary design.

Now I'm going to annoy some people with my Anti-Panda propaganda but I recon that the Panda's biggest problem is that he's happy sitting on his butt chewing bamboo.
New food source strolls past .. nah .. I got my bamboo.
Lady Panda saunters past .. nope .. yum bamboo.
There's nothing like a literal or existential thorn in your paw to motivate you to change and perhaps sadly we need that.  I say sadly because when you stop and notice all the things on the evolutionary ladder who have thorns in their paws they all tend to be predators.  And by 'all' I mean the boat owners and flute players as well.

Without it we'd all be sitting munching the bamboo and not carving them into flutes.
With it we want to get to the newer pasture and to make a better bow.  This gets us to explore, change, improve, master .. everything from Mr Olwell's flutes to Picasso's were born in that urge.  But it also fires malice, gluttony, Ashley Madison and very big boats.

Like everything it's probably neither good nor bad .. it's what you do with it.
Me?  I'm very slowly playing Pigtown this week.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

23rd October 2016 - Play through the rough

Really strange what difference a day makes.  Which sort of tells you how much of things are going on not in the outside world but the space between your two ears.

My last blog I was feeling things weren't going well.  I was a bit fed up with the practice.  Not that I didn't want to keep doing it but I suppose I wasn't seeing the payoff.

Today it was great.  I put on some session tunes and played along and really loved it.

Just shows you that you have to keep playing through the rough (eh .. sorry) days.

22nd October 2016 - Joy

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, 
which sustained him through temporary periods of joy." 

(William Butler Yeats, 1865-1939)

Should we take our tone Seriously?  Should be be Serious about our playing?

I'm not enjoying a lot of the playing at the moment if I'm really honest.  I've decided to stop playing tunes for enjoyment and slow everything right down for practice.  To get things right.  To practice.  Seriously.

It's all a bit rubbish if I'm honest and not fun.

But I don't see the alternative.  If I play for fun I'll be doing the equivalent of one finger typing .. it will get the job done but the technique won't be right.

Be Serious and get the job done or have fun.

I'm sure there's a graph somewhere that illustrates practice over time to competence?  

When learning to touch type you have to go through the pain barrier of slow speed to get the benefit of a lifetime of touch typing.  Same here.  But it feels a bit like playing a jig with my fingers in casts at the moment. 

Is it wrong to sneak in a faster tune for fun .. or do all the little errors in that tune undo the good habits you've paid so dearly for in the hour before it?  
Is it immersion or nothing?  Sadly I sort of suspect so.

When do you get the upswing of awesome?  When is the temporary period of joy?

Friday, October 21, 2016

21st October 2016 - Neal Petersen's ship in full sail

I updated the FAQ on my About page.

I wrote about Neal Peterson overcoming a childhood physical disability, poverty, Apartheid to a become a solo yacht racer  

I met Neal at a MySQL conference in Orlando a few years back.  Lovely guy.  Great speaker.

Going through the fog in the Atlantic he was struck by a Russian freighter.
Rather than turn back because of the leak in his boat.  He had to pump water manually out.
15 to 20 minutes each time.  15 times per day.  15 days of pumping water out of the boat.
He came second in the race.
Hard work does pay off.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

20th October 2016 - Eamonn Cotter

I'd previously used a quote from this interview but I read it again today.

A few things stood out for me.

"When you’re surrounded by fiddle players, your style is influenced more by fiddle playing"

Maybe more than anything there's a truth in there that is the heart of this blog.
I didn't grow up in a very musical house.  I'm not in the middle of players.
For whatever reasons I want to play the flute to a reasonable degree .. I suppose I'm chasing that feeling you can get when you play the tune and you're in the middle of it and it feels great.
That takes a lot of work.  The work takes commitment and disciple.
When you're surrounded by fiddle players - or players - it soaks itself into your DNA.  You listen a lot.  You play a lot.  You're surrounded by it.
I think that the blog is a way of finding connections to that place.  Looking for those opportunities and not letting them go.  Then telling the story along the road.

"You need to practice tone separately from everything else"

Sometimes I hate slowing things down but you have to don't you?
Years ago when I was working in the Library I was cataloging books as a part time job.  I couldn't type at all and pecking out my work daily didn't appeal.  I started with the home keys .. the asdf and jkl; you'll see under your fingers if you're at a PC now.  It was boring and slow but it worked.  Once they were done I added a key or two at a time until I could pretty competent touch type.  That was twenty five years ago so the bit of slowing down has really paid off in my life.
So now when I do the tunes I make sure to get the tune right piece by piece - try to get the tone well - my cuts nice and neat etc etc.  Hopefully it will pay off in the end.  But - yes - boring now!

"you have to practice each aspect of flute playing"

Kind of like the previous - but just shows the need to slow it all down and do the work.
What do the golfers say - drive for show but putt for dough? (Is dough another theme in this blog?)

"Put very few rolls in jigs, because when you put a roll in a jig it takes up half a bar"

Interesting to hear how a Clare player sees the world.  He mentions his legato style.  I wonder how Sligo players feel?

19th October 2016 - 30.5mm!!

Interesting video I found with Pat Olwell again talking about heresy and finding your own answers.  Great stuff.

Been thinking about getting a decent keyless flute in D.  Had a look at Hammy Hamilton, Martin Doyle, Olwell, Glen Watson but came dwon to Eamon Cotter.  I think he hit a sweet spot in terms of price, wait time and most importantly tone/easy of filling.  I might have gone for a Hamilton but you hear a lot about his Pratton's being hard to fill?

Made a call to Eamon Cotter  Have to say I like the sound of his flutes.  Wonder if there's anyone in the area who plays them?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

18th October 2016 - Flute in one month (unlikely)

Have you heard the idea that you need 10,000 hours to master something?

I saw a video about how talent or genius is really a myth and that essentially it comes down to practice, practice, practice.  I think that while there are obviously some people more gifted naturally at, say, complex math or hitting a tennis ball or singing a tune I tend to agree with the overall hypothesis.  As someone who is fond of evolution as an explanation of, well, pretty much everything it would make sense to me that it would be, in evolution terms, less favorable to have a few people brilliantly gifted with everyone else incapable of mastery.

Evolution, it seems to me, would prefer to have a species who - once stuck with intelligence rather than strength or sharp teeth - can learn to do things well rather than sprinkle genius dust throughout the tribes.  Skills like cookery to boat making to hunting to herbal medicine would need to be mastered each generation for the evolutionary advantage to stay with the tribe/species and it wouldn't make sense to allow the randomness of the village genius to appear .. "we can't cross the fjord to the nicer pastures" said Ug to his village "but just you hang on a few years and a gifted child may be born".  Unlikely.

I see us as a clever bunch of grafters.  Toiling away every day with our fishing and hunting and pottery making - getting a lot wrong but trying and trying until we master it.  Then passing it down.  Cheese was an accident when milk was left in an unclean animal gut-sack allowing the rennet to do it's magic (yum right?) .. but once it was discovered it was refined and refined and .. well you should go to the Sheridan's summer food festival.  I'm sure the flute was based on a lot of accidental discoveries and tweaks.  Even in Keymaster Pat Olwell talks about taking years to tweak and assemble his abilities.

So what about the 10,000 hours?  Is that true?  Do we need so long?
Had a look at this video where he says you only need 20 - which is a month of daily practice.

I'm not sure .. maybe to do something very simple to to get it to the point you can get away with it.
But for the sake of argument I'll accept one of his points that you shouldn't be put off starting to learn something.
He makes a good point that learning something new is an emotional barrier - often we're afraid to get things wrong and feel bad/look silly.

I also like his idea of not being blocked or finding reasons not to practice.  I have to admit that I can be guilty of wanting to read every manual on something before I try it .. the idea of knowing just enough to 'give it a go' is a good one if you suffer from 'analysis-paralysis'.

I could go on about Habits and stuff .. but perhaps another time ..

Back to the practice.  I've only 3 weeks left in my month to master this.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday 17th October 2016 - 40%

"One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits"
  from The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg.

Had a nice quiet evening so got a chance to play Rolling in the ryegrass and Blackhaired lass loads of times.  I find you have to balance a bit of fast play along to a session recording (the comhaltas book or a youtube video or whatever you have) with slowing things down.
The fast is pretty much for fun - maybe it also brings up your confidence and breathing - but really for me I'm just having fun (which is good otherwise I should stop now!).
The slow is to really get the technique right.  Making sure the tone of every note is as good as I can make it .. working on each cut and tap to get it nice and clean.

Then I do some very boring breathing and cut exercises.  I don't enjoy these but I think they will eventually help.

You have to balance out these things but more than anything I think you have to keep doing it every day.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

16th October 2016 - One step at a time

Well that's almost the end of my first week of this blog.  You don't climb a mountain all at once - you just put one foot in front of the other.

Has this week helped me along the road to Massies Mill?

Likely it's much too early to tell but it has given me a bit of focus.
Over the week I've made a bit of progress.  Most likely done a few too many things if I'm honest but I feel I've put in a good foundation.

There are three things I'll look at each week .. playing, listening and things that encourage my links to the habit of playing/music.  Play a lot, listen a lot, feed the good wolf.

Play a lot -
That's all a lot of obsessive collecting unless it's useful.  What I'm now able to do is find a tune in the Foinn Seisiun collection and slow it down in VLC and play along to it.  There're also great to suggest sets.

Listen a lot -
I've got a lot of tunes together this week.  Months or years of listening and definitely a lot of really good session tunes.
I've gathered a lot of useful material - Matt Molly 'Heathery Breeze' on download (for Fisherman), Matt Molloy 'music at matt molloys' coming from Amazon, Matt Molloy 'shadows on stone' coming from discogs.  Bought Foinn Seisiun 1 to 3 books and CDs.

Feed the good wolf -
Going to the Tullamore session on Friday was great.  I also talked to Ciaran and we agreed to lessons shortly.  I also contacted a few local Comhaltas branches and know where/when there are lessons.
I need to work more on this but it's a start.

On tunes ..
I've not finished with the blackhaired lass but I've also started on rolling in the rye grass.
I won't really start that tune until tomorrow but giving myself a little preview.

So .. I think a good start .. a good week .. here's to week two!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

15th October 2016 - Skipping The Bridge

Last night went to the 2016 Comhaltas Tour of Ireland, Macalla na hÉireann in Tullamore GAA.  It's difficult to describe how great a group of musicians perform in a writing.  Videos also don't do it justice.  You just have to be there.

Ciarán Mac Gearailt 2016 Comhaltas Tour of Ireland, Tullamore GAA

While listening to some amazing musician do something magical I kept thinking how lucky I was to be right here, right now and about all the people who were far afield who couldn't be witnessing this tonight.  I know that's a bit heavy and I perhaps at the back of my mind I was thinking about Pat Olwell talking about how eventually he had to go to Ireland to see the music.  So many people far afield who don't get to pay just €10 to see what so many perhaps might take for granted.

Great selection of tunes.  Great vibe in the place.  They played from 8 to 11:30.  Had a quick chat with Ciarán afterwards.  Agreed we'll organise lessons when the madness of the tour is over.  He said they were all going to the Bridge House for supper and then they'd start a session (this wasn't that session but to give you an idea) up there and probably play until 4am.
Unfortunately I had to get home so I had to skip the bridge this time but .. there'll be a next time .. and maybe that next time I'll bring my flute.

To help me get there ..

I'd been thinking for a while of getting Foinn Seisiún 1 to 3 so picked them up for a good price on the night.  If you don't know them there're a lot of the popular Comhaltas/session tunes in Ireland.  Very conveniently they group the tunes into sets.
In the three books you end up with 328 tunes and on the 3 double CDs you have them played in a session environment.  Great resource to get your practice, bravery, confidence up for a session!

Friday, October 14, 2016

14th October 2016 - Feeding time

It's said that the more you practice the luckier you get.  I've always liked that saying.

It's very similar to "80% of success is showing up".

We tend to think of success as being down to the big things.  Maybe that's because movies and stories tend to revolve around big set pieces and ignore all the little but important things.  I'm sure that opening the Arc of the Covenant is a lot more cinematic than 'Indy .. the college/study years'.

I believe that by showing up things happen.  You're in the room when someone says 'does anyone know anything about ....?'  Now maybe you spent 20 years working away, learning but if you were under the duvet at the time that door wouldn't have opened for you.

When you don't show up nothing can happen.  When I wrote about starting to play flute in the 90's there just wasn't enough grist to that mill.  Not enough 'stuff' to keep up momentum.  This is why I'm chucking grist at that that the old flute gods  .. tunes, sessions, people, practice, lesson, comhaltas.  I'll write more about habits and nudges another time but - for now - enough to say that you don't stick at anything .. keep showing up at anything .. in a vacuum.  All good intentions and ideas fade over time unless you feed them.

A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us                       which are always at war with each other. 

One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery, love and excellent embouchure. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred, fear and unnecessary ornamentation.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed


Tonight I'm going to the 2016 Comhaltas Tour of Ireland, Macalla na hÉireann in Tullamore GAA.
Ciaran (potential tutor) will be performing.  No doubt a few others on the list I might eventually cross paths with.

From The Session I also found out a Kildare Pipers event tomorrow night.  Interestingly it's in the same house pictured on the cover of Christy Moore's Prosperous album

Thursday, October 13, 2016

13th October 2016 - Slow Thursday

“To get a good tone you need a tight embouchure. You need to practice tone separately from everything else. Play long notes, and keep adjusting your embouchure until you get a nice tone.”
—Eamonn Cotter

Got a message back from Ciaran Fitzgerald.
He was in Omagh last night for the Comhaltas Tour of Ireland (same Tour I'm heading to on Friday) but can give lessons from Celbridge.

With a bit of luck Saturday might be the first lesson.

I might hold off on the Comhaltas decision until I meet Ciaran.

Read an interview with the late Jack Coen  .. interesting to see his reflections on over ornamentation and importance of melody/musicality.  Looks like an outlook from an older style where flashy ornamentation and speed was less important than the music.  Taking your time to learn a tune right seems to be the lesson here.
I'll have to go back this evening to the Fisherman's Slip Jig (see Tunes) and take it nice and slow.
Burning all my Matt Molloy CDs tonight.
Ok .. not doing that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

12th October 2016 - lessons

“Always play with someone who’s better than you are. That way you can only get better.”
—Jack Coen

Today was a day to think about lessons.

First I contacted Attracta Brady - came first in the 1989 Fleadh.  She was my first thought for lessons because of her experience (father Fleadh winner 1967).

Then contacted most Comhaltas branches in my area to see where there were lessons.
Ardclough - got a reply to say branch closed down
Eadestown - called me back but when I called her back went to voicemail
Kilcock - lessons Monday
Edenderry - Full up at the moment but maybe after Christmas
Clane - Tuesday
Maynooth - emailed Karen Tracey.  Had lessons before from Karen in CCE Clane.

Pros and cons about going to Comhaltas classes -

Great to be part of a community.  Great to have a session.  And of course great to do anything that enforces the habit of tune/practice.

Like most group classes they can be of a general level and the pace can be too fast or too slow.  Also the sessions tend to be twice a year so you might not get as much community as you think.
I'm a big supporter of Comhaltas so will still sign up - perhaps after the Christmas.

Attracta did come back when I asked about a recommendation and suggest Ciarán Mac Gearailt (Ciaran Fitzgerald) from Celbridge/Leixlip CCE.  Wonder if he'd be available?

I'd happily go to Comhaltas instead or as well.  Would be great to be part of that community .. get involved with sessions that are on etc.

Also spoke to guys in Killeigh CCE and there're tickets for the gig on Friday

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

11th October 2016 - Dough Ray Me

Maybe it's because I'm hungry this evening .. maybe it's because I'm heading to the middle of the week and it's now been a few days since I was in Galway .. but whatever the reason I've been thinking about the pizza and the story of the Dough Bros

When I said "if they can get that crust perfect 2013 to now then I can manage a tune somewhere on the rocky road from Galway to Massies Mill in the next three years" I wasn't joking.

But earning that Olwell Flute or making Great Pizza .. doesn't it always come back to believing in what you're doing ..  doing what you love .. and really immersing yourself in it .. 

Would I make it to Galway before closing time if I leave now?????

11th October 2016 - Keymaster

Being a heretic.

Should we be bound by a set of rules or a canon to learn or do we find our own way?

Keymaster (Patrick Olwell documentary) ..  he was speaking about the rigid process of rules and duplicating classic flute designs and his desire not to follow rules that didn't make sense to him.

I'm sure there are a lot of people  happy to tell us how to do something and even more people happy to tell us when we're wrong  (obviously wrong by their rules).

If we're reverent to rules then maybe we don't follow our own path?

Here's an idea ..... Whatever works.

Essentially doing what works for you.  And obviously NOT doing what doesn't work.

What works - a simple but powerful concept.

I recon as I go through this blog and re-read my ideas perhaps the whole point of it might be 'why' and 'how'.  Exploring why I'm taking this journey and what's the best route to get there - what works for me.

What's your journey?
What works best to get you there?

The Old Orange Flute tells the story of Bob Williamson, a weaver of Dungannon, who is considered a "stout Orange blade" by his associates. However, "he married a Papist named Brigid McGinn. Turned Papish himself, he forsook the ould cause" and was compelled to flee to Connacht, taking with him his flute. Enrolled into a Catholic church choir, he finds that the flute will only play Protestant songs such as The Boyne Water. Eventually the priest buys him a new instrument and the flute is condemned to be burned for heresy, though in the flames a "quare noise" can be heard as the flute still whistles "The Protestant Boys".

Follow what doesn't work or burnt for heresy? 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday 10th October 2016 - Tell me why I don't like Mondays

Was having a look around the Comhaltas site.
It's great that the resource exists but I have to say that both in terms of navigation and content it isn't all it could be.  It's all a bit netscape (if you get that joke you might have designed the site).

If you go into Blog and Fleadh dates you get entries from 2010.  The 2010 results are the most up to date on the site.  Anyway what I was really looking for was up to date activities I could get involved with ..

My local choices for branches are Clane and Ardclough but I can't really see anything on Comhaltas or anywhere else about them.  Back in 2013 they brought their flute teacher in from Maynooth so would be great to join a branch with a good flute history and teacher.
Offaly's Killeagh has the history with Attracta Brady.  Best thing might be to call each local branch and ask about flute classes .. who does them ..

I'm not going to start Oct-Dec.  Will start with a Comhaltas early 2017.  That gives me about 3 months to brush up on my own.

Was also interested to read about the SCT (Scrúdú Ceol Tíre) - maybe again this is something to aim towards.  Perhaps when Comhaltas breaks for the Summer?

And also - most importantly - practice of the Fisherman's Slip Jig

Catchy tune ... er .. sorry

Got an email reply from a chap on adverts about a flute for sale he replied "I do have an Olwell boxwood 6 key that I will be selling. I paid around $4,500 for the flute. It's a gem."
He sent me a few pics - beautiful flute - but I have my flute booked so I'll have to wait to earn it.

8th October - Galway

Took a drive into Galway via Clifden.  Really nice drive from Roundstone to Clifden.

Last summer spent a few days in Galway with kids and went into Kieran Moloney's shop .. he mentioned the CD of his Father's collection and I intended to pick it up by ended up going back to Kildare without it.
Made it my business to drop in a pick up Eddie Moloney's CD this time.  Had a read over the slieve notes .. interesting and talented man .. will look forward to listening to it.
Listen a lot.

Had a look around the Comhaltas website to see where I might pick up some lessons around Kildare.  Noticed Attracta Brady and Killeigh Comhaltas .. a bit further than Clane or Sallins .. but perhaps some great teachers/experience?

This might be a good night

7th October 2016 .. first steps

Ok so .. Birthday.  Decision made.

So a lot of clearing the decks and getting things in order.
Play a lot.
Listen a lot.
I think these are basically the two rules that should guide me.

Play a lot.  So I have some tunes from the Online Academy Of Irish Music which I'm going to be going through.  Starting basic and building up.  This week is the Fisherman's slip jig.  Working on getting my cuts nice and clean.

Listen a lot.  I think you have to get involved with the world of Irish music not just pick up the flute once a week so to get involved with the world ..
Birthday present to myself was downloading 'Keymaster - Patrick Olwell story'  Here you'll see a lot about the unique Mr Olwell who I hope is putting aside a lovely piece of blackwood for me.

Cleaned up my iTunes/phone music.  Have Stony Steps (maybe a mistake as the genius on that is just intimidating but so beautiful) .. Deiseal (more on this later - love this album) .. Kirsten Allstaff's Gallow Glass (from OAIM).

More house cleaning.
Thought about improving my Flute.  A few years ago I thought it was an Arie de Keyser but I emailed him and he said no .. so I recon it's some type of very cheap thing.  Now I don't mind it .. but wonder if a better flute might be more rewarding in the next three years .. not like I will always want to bring my Olwell (again fingers crossed I end up deserving it) everywhere so won't go to waste ..
I sent an email to Glenn Watson and Martin Doyle who both kindly replied.  Heard that the Hammy Hamilton's were excellent (if you have the air) .. saw one on
And yes I know that these aren't practice temporary flutes .. but buy it once and buy it right has been a good motto for me.

My birthday so .. went to Roundstone in Galway for the night.
A bit colder than Port Navalo but Ms Le Guil seemed to like it
Not a bit of music to be had (October?) but the beautiful Dog's bay beach made a lovely stroll and driving through Connemara listening to Matt Molloy not too shabby either!

Talking of not too shabby - would be a shame not to mention Dough Bros new shop in Galway - amazing pizza and if they can get that crust perfect 2013 to now then I can manage a tune somewhere on the rocky road from Galway to Massies Mill in the next three years!

Dreaming of the Perfect Do

Thursday, October 6, 2016

7th October 2016 - Immersion as a Birthday Gift

Today's my birthday.  I'm sure from my name you can do a little math.

A birthday is as good a time as any to take a little stock and see what you're doing and what you need to get doing.  So I suppose this blog, diary, confessional is just that  - a small way of taking stock and giving myself a nudge in the right direction.

When I was working in the college library the college librarian, an imposing man but whom I found very friendly, Thomas Kabdebo made what, to him, was perhaps a casual remark but to me stuck (funny how the strangest things stick isn't it?).
He told me that men collect or try to master something.  He collected dictionaries and I was later to work with him on the second edition of his Dictionary Of Dictionaries (an interesting idea - a reference of things to be referenced - were we working on the book form of google?) .. anyway .. I always liked that idea of mastering and collecting.  I thought about it often since.  Maybe it is to do with the evolutionary need to master a tool .. create a better utility .. collect a useful implement.  I don't really know .. but I have observed it to be true.  Men's sheds and all that.

That's all a long winded way (both a pun and perhaps a theme of these blogs) of getting onto what this is all about.  Where did the idea start?  My Mother used to talk about my Grandfather Patrick Daly playing in a pipe/fife band in Corduff in Monaghan.  He was also a beautiful whistler - a local man who went off to the US to join the priesthood on his return years later requested to hear Patrick Daly whistle .. apparently he could be heard whistling the mile or two up the dirt lane from the road to their farmhouse.

I'm not sure where the idea started but when I was in that college I mentioned I bought a wooden flute.  Still have it.  Just a cheap flute from Walton's in Dublin.  I put up a notice on the Music department board and a chap (I sadly can't think of his name now - but a lovely fellow) replied saying that he'd give me free lessons on a Wednesday night if I could stay over in our student house (9 of us staying in a 4 bed house!).  To a poor student this was a win-win and I started lessons with him - this would have been around 1992 or 1993.

To my shame I didn't keep it up.  Flute playing or perhaps anything that involves a real skill is one of those things that you have to both immerse yourself in and 'break the back' of.  You have to be part of that world - playing, knowing the tunes, going to sessions, knowing people etc.  And you have to get good enough to make all of that worthwhile.  You can't play so badly that you're afraid of taking out the instrument.  I did neither.  I didn't know anyone playing .. didn't know sessions .. didn't get involved with a group .. and most importantly didn't master the instrument well enough to be able to pick it up and bang out tunes.  There's a moment when you're learning to drive when it's all gear sticks and peddles and you're panicking trying to multitask and not die.  Then comes a eureka moment when you forget you're actually controlling the car and you're able to observe and drive - the 'trick' of the driving slips away and you're just travelling down the road.

A few years ago I felt the years go by without my doing anything.  I still had the same flute.  I'd pick it up.  Try again.  You can always find excuses - I'd a demanding job, kids, was doing courses, relationship etc etc - but you can always find time if you really want to - so I'm not allowing myself to wallow in those excuses.  I joined comhaltas in Clane, Kildare and that was great progress.  I set myself a target - by October 2019 I'd deserve a decent flute.  Well - I'd never deserve the flute I was aiming for but I said to myself that life is short - if I set that bar high I'd at least setting myself a very high bar to play towards.  It would be terrible to try to get a decent flute with bad playing.
Now I admit that I'd also just love to own this particular flute - it's a thing of beauty in itself - but I also aim to spend the rest of my days enjoying this instrument by being able to knock a half decent tune out of it and when I slip off this mortal coil it will be a decent memento for the offspring (did I mention my Mother was from Monaghan - that is definitely the Monaghan in me to be talking like that!)

So here I am again.  Three years after first contacting him I wrote to Patrick Olwell again asking him if I was still good for that 6 keyed blackwood flute for October 2019?

So the road to Massies Mill is the story of my final stretch towards the Olwell flute on my 50th birthday.  Hopefully it will be a story of practice, tunes and embracing the world of Irish music and culture.  You have to immerse yourself or there's no point.

Have you given yourself the gift of immersion in something you truly love?
get stuck in!