Monday 27 March 2023

Some Irish Folk Music (from Newcastle upon Tyne)

One of the transformative resources of my mid-teen years was the Bristol City Record Library (with its fierce guardian librarian whom we nicknamed Tape, short for "Tapering Suit" - which suit was mustard in colour). 

This was a tremendous (free to borrow) collection of Classical Music LPs - plus a smaller, but very well chosen, collection of Folk Music - both of which I explored voraciously. 

From the Folk section came an LP called Flute for the Feis; featuring the Newcastle upon Tyne piccolo player John Doonan.

He had swapped this unusual instrument for the more usual flute, because he played a good deal for Irish set-dancing competitions (The Riverdance kind of stuff), without amplification - and the smaller and shriller instrument's sound carried better. 

You can hear how he had developed a remarkably effective and delightful playing method, in which the breathing is incorporated into the rhythm:

I think you will find the above version of the jig The Ace and Deuce of Piping to be a real ear-worm - in the best kind of way.

Doonan also featured on a strange, but surprisingly* compelling, collection of Irish music played on small instruments by a variety of musicians. Like Flute for the Feis, this was one of many inspired productions of the remarkable Topic Records company. 

(*Surprising because I do not usually appreciate folk - or any other - music played only on treble instruments, and generally feel the lack of a bass rather keenly.)

Considering this album features heavily the Jews Harp; it was not something I expected to enjoy; but when that smallest of small instruments is played by John Wright - then the instrument's limitations are forgotten, and a peculiar hypnosis affects me, such that I am forced to keep listening! 

No comments: