Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Star above the Garter

 This tune has been sitting in my head for some time now, although I didn't quite put it in my fingers until recently after listening to the recording, The Star above the Garter, Fiddle music from Kerry, played by Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford.  Here, you will hear two gorgeous fiddles, a brother and sister team playing tunes synonymous with the Kerry/ Cork tradition
     Slides are not to be mistaken as hornpipes, single jigs, polkas, or double jigs.  As you will hear from the video, I slowed down the tune for your learning pleasure, but keep in mind that this tune is to be played quickly, at about 150bpm for set dancing.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Off She Goes

This tune, “Off She Goes” was popular throughout the British Isles and North America. One unnamed source gives that in the days of sail it was a tradition for the fiddle player to sit on the deck of the ship playing “Off She Goes” as the ship departed harbor.  It is played at Irish sessions and Contra dances here in the States.    (source: The Session)   If you are looking for the notes for the tune, here they are: 

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Blackthorn Stick

So, here is a video of the tune, The Blackthorn Stick. This is another one of those "staple" tunes that is widely played in most sessions.  You can practice "rolling" the first second octave G after you have the notes of the tune memorized first.  Credit: John Dallaire

Here is the manuscript for the tune:  The Blackthorn Stick

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Words cannot express how truly grateful we are for your support.  Two and a half months have passed since we lost our home to Hurricane Sandy on Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY.  We were fortunate enough to find residency here in Brooklyn, a furnished sublet close to my husbands’ employment, although our rent has almost doubled in price since we have evacuated, which has been a hardship financially. 
      We were located on Beach 102nd street, on the ground floor in a two bedroom apartment.  12-14 feet of water came rushing down our street with 200 feet chunks of boardwalk debris and dozens of floating automobiles.  The ocean water met the bay water, and unfortunately, the water rushed in our apartment with all our possessions (except our instruments, including our piano which we moved out the day before) inside.  Luckily, we evacuated the night before to Brooklyn, where restaurant owner and friend, Andrew Wandzilak took my family of four in during the storm.  
     It really didn’t sink in until we started seeing the news reports the day after the storm.  See, we were comfortable with heat, comfort, and electricity in Brooklyn.  We watched our only reference point during the storm, a lone tree swinging violently on the sidewalk.    The day after, I recollect hearing CNN news announce that all bridges to Rockaway peninsula were closed and there was no entering.  My husband and our friend, Andrew entered the peninsula after the second day.  Needless to say,  report from them was bleak.  Andrew called it a “war-zone” and my husband didn’t say much at all, and if you know my husband, Jarad , he is an outspoken character.  I didn’t go in until the third day after the storm.  When we crossed the Marine Parkway Bridge to Riis Park, I couldn’t even believe what I saw.  This was my first true experience dealing with “trauma.”  My trauma came like so many others who lost so much after this storm; it came with tears, and many of them.
    Four days later, we called every rental truck company in 4 states requesting for a rental so we could remove what we could from our apartment.  We had no luck reserving a vehicle of any kind.   If it were not for our friends, we would have lost EVERYTHING.  Another restaurant owner, Wade Hoegardot, of Prospect Park Beer Works donated his beer truck along with himself to help us salvage what we could from our home.  Luckily, we were able to save some things.  I am truly thankful to the crew of selfless individuals who came to our aid.  I had a rough go of throwing out all of my children’s furniture, our couches, bed mattresses, books, pictures, and toys to the curb.  It was really painful, but I gained a lot of perspective through all of this.  I have renewed faith in the human spirit.  You see, I love people more than I thought I ever could.  I know that if tables were turned, I would do the same for others, especially having experienced this myself.
    And that is what we started doing: helping.  My friend, Andrew, who took us in during the storm saw the devastation and just started cooking.  He opened his restaurant earlier on November 1st 2012 and set up a soup kitchen with volunteers ready to cook and distribute hot food outside of his Park Slope restaurant, Two Boots of Brooklyn.  Mind you, the donations didn’t even come yet!  Andrew Wandzilak is a catalyst for us all who want to live a fulfilling life, a true person, not looking for reward or merit, just a man who wanted to help people.  You know the statement, “If you lead, people will follow;” Andrew set the tone in this neighborhood and the outpouring of donations flowed like water. We delivered fresh hot food and supplies to the heaviest hit area in all the five boroughs: Staten Island, Rockaways, Brooklyn, and the displaced folks in hotels in Manhattan.   Even now, after two and a half months after Sandy, he is still at it.  This organization is called, Hurricane Sandy Relief Kitchen.
    Lastly, I have to commend the Irish community, organizations, and the groves of musicians who came to the aid of so many hit by this wretched storm.  Personally, I would like to thank the Brothers of Erin, based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, The Boulder Irish Session, The New York Irish Center, Jami Lunde, The Chiff and Fipple Irish Music Forum, Bernard Keilty, Mike Enright, Maureen Donachie, Cathy Hornberger, Paul Finnegan, The New York Post, The Aisling Center, The Irish Voice,  John Whelan, and many more who continue to help my family during this difficult time.   Some of you helped us financially, while others offered a helping hand, or gave us encouraging words.  We are forever grateful to you all.  Bless you.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Hurricane Sandy and life as I see it

     It only took one night to change everything my family deemed as real and tangible as Sandy landed straight for us that Monday night.  Ourselves and countless other families on Rockaway Beach, NY  have since been displaced and fatigued beyond belief.  Two months later, I have learned some very valuable lessons that I would like to share with you all:

1.   LIVE IN THE MOMENT because that's all it is, a moment.

2.  Gratitude is one of the best ways to feel contentment.  Instead of focusing on what you            
     don't have, rely on the beautiful gifts you have: your loved ones, friends, your talents, your
     health.  Remember these things and you will be grateful everyday.

3.  Get some perspective, let it go, then move on.  Life has the ability to drastically throw you a curve
     ball;  don't forget to stay in the game.

4.  Giving feels so much better than getting.  In a situation like mine, giving was necessary to help
     my community.  Keeping that feeling of giving feels pure and beautiful.

5.   Love your children and watch their cues; they are wise beyond their years.  We have so much to
      learn from them.

6.   You cannot motivate people, although you can set the tone and inspire them.

7.    Sip your tea and savor it!

My youngest, Riley and I:  The New York Post



Thursday, October 18, 2012

South African tin whistle


 It was a Thursday evening while cleaning up the dishes that I  recently heard a recording on  KBCS 91.3 here in New York City.  I was  listening to the tin whistle present itself like I have never heard before.  It was Spokes Mashiyane, tin whistle player from South Africa playing a tune called, Kwela Kong.  Have a listen for yourself here:

  It is  street music, called Kwela. This word, Kwela is taken from the Zulu language, meaning to "get up."  So, you would "get up" to dance in the local bars, or "shebeens," which were similar to the American speakeasies during the prohibition era.  The origins of this style comes from "township music," a genre of music created by musicians residing in government housing during the Apartheid in South Africa during the 1950's.
     Kwela music has an instrumental leader: the tin whistle.  This was of real interest to me.  I never came across whistle music, except in Ireland, Scotland, and the  Celtic regions of Spain and France.  Apparently, whistles of all kinds were traditionally played in the northern areas of South Africa. The whistles were also economical and easy to travel with, but more importantly, they served as a strong solo instrument (and gee, isn't that the truth).  These traditional melodies thus translated into this Kwela style, with it's footwork heavy in American jazz swing forms supported by a three chord progression: C-F-C-G7.

(This clip above shows Willard Cele from the 1951 movie, The Magic Garden.)   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Polkas are great and user friendly

Today I leave you with a simple tune called, Britches Full of Stitches.  I challenge you note readers to skip the notes today and just listen, or " hum along" to the tune several times before picking up the whistle.  As with honing any skill, I promise that it does get easier to learn these tunes by ear.  You just need to dive in and start.