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Irish Traditional Music on the Duet, Crane, English concertina


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#19 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 11:00 PM

Once apon a time, in Ireland ,there was a young piper who, although he was a member of a club for young musicians, did not like to play his music with the other young people.He was, of course, rather special being a carrier of the real tradition, in his opinion, being a piper. The others thought he was a little aloof.

It happened, during his teenage years, that one of the young ladies in the club 'fancied' him but as he did not mingle with the rest she was not able to make those little 'chance encounters' that girls do that stimulate the male to make an approach.
She spoke with her, more knowledgeable, girlfriends, asking for suggestions, to which the most common answer was that she would just have to make the first move. So she drummed up the courage one day and started a conversation with the, in her opinion, rather shy piper.

" Would you like to 'go out' with me ?"( be my boyfriend, have a date, here put in your own terminology) . He thought about this for a few moments, maybe he needed time to formulate his response. Then he asked "and what instrument do you play ?" Her reply really took him aback.... "Oh, I play the Piano Accordion"..... another pause... looks of shock (or horror) on the piper's face.... then he said "I am sorry but, you know I am a piper... it just would not be 'right' for me to have a girlfriend who played one of those things".

Then he took a good look at the girl, thought she looked fine, maybe he would not mind starting a relationship. So he asked his next question "Do you play anything else?".... "Oh, yes", she said," I play a bit on the fiddle"...... another short pause for thought..... "Well, if you were to drop the Piano Accordion and just play the fiddle.... then we could get together".

Well.. to cut a long story short, that is exactly what she did and they lived happily ever after. They now have two sons (both pipers) and two daughters (both fiddlers).

This is a true story. I have played with this piper on several occasions, with my EC, we get on fine,musically.

The story illustrates, though, how precious the real tradition is in some peoples eyes.

My own view is that of many of the responders here... it is not what you play but the way you play, that is important! I will admit to a detestation of the 'way' Irish tunes are played by many people, on all types of instrument, including all forms of Concertina, but when they air their horrible renditions on Youtube, I cringe.

The way of playing Irish Traditional dance music, as we know it today,stems from the rhythmic necesities of the pipes (bagpipes). On these instruments it is hardly possible to make notes louder or softer (use volume dynamics) to emphasis rhythm. Therefore rhythmic pulse has to come from a lengthening and shortening of notes.This is not really possible to depict on a music score because it is more subtle than the use of dotted notes.It is in the taking and giving of time from note to note within the bar that creates the style, as much as anything else.
The Hornpipe is the easiest dance type in this respect as its internal rhythm is closest to a dotted four time.

The Reel, as played in Ireland, also has an internal pulse not unlike a Hornpipe, but more subtle and difficult to describe. Some play with more weight (length) on the main beat and others prefer an off beat stress.We just have to listen to GOOD playing to absorb this.

The 6/8 Jig is the most difficult to get right because, in Ireland, a very definate length emphasis is given to each group of three notes. This has an approximate time /length value of 5-2-3. The middle note in each group is very short, one might suggest saying a word with a similar rhythm,like... Jo-seph-fine... making the 'Jo' quite long.

The 9/8 (or slip jig) is played with a similar internal rhythm to the 6/8's.

The Slide (12/8) is usually not played with this type of length emphasis but that could be because it is a newer form that was introduced after the golden age of piping ? I am not sure.

These internal rhythms are the basic framework of this music, ok they may differ from region to region and player to player but without them......... this is why Welk's orchestra gets away (reasonably) with a hornpipe but if they had chosen a reel or jig.... hmmmmm!

Once these rhythms are established it is possible to move on to embelishments like the 'Roll' which whilst being like a 'Turn'(clasical ornament) is not a Turn. The Roll has (in its long form, in jig playing) also the same internal rhythm and is used to best effect on the Flute, whistle and pipes. The Roll is also used by fiddlers but is very difficult or impossible to get 'right' on a keyboard instrument. Other forms of 'grace noting' are preferable on the Concertina.

With out this 'Internal Rhythm' the music sounds wrong and if it is then emphasised by volume changes instead then it is horrible. Using Internal Rhythm and some volume emphasis is the normal way for most instruments these days.

Much ITM is played far too fast ,it is ,after all, an exquisite musical form when played at a listenable pace.
If it is to be used for the ever increasing speed of Set Dancing then the types of tunes need to be chosen well.

A lot of people who do not have access to original source players, those who live isolated from it, can tend to listen only to the modern recordings of the new generation of young Irish 'wizz-kids'. These musicians are super players who may have begun to learn at the age of 6 or 7 years.To try to copy these players could be a recipe for disaster, unless you are one of them.

I would encourage all to listen to the old players.

I am, probably, a more savage critic than David and often deplore the way that, even some of the most famous musicians,play Irish music but I am also extremely self critical and never happy with my playing either.
As for the Welk video... I thought it was fun and not really any worse than some I have heard from people who should know better.

Geoff.

Edited by Geoff Wooff, 20 October 2010 - 01:03 AM.


#20 Daniel Hersh

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 11:36 PM

Then there are people who are part of ITM. For these people Irish music is a dead historic thing which can never change because all change is bad, they think like this because they are also dead, brain dead at least.

Are you capable of saying anything without including some sort of insult?

#21 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 12:24 AM

Then there are people who are part of ITM. For these people Irish music is a dead historic thing which can never change because all change is bad, they think like this because they are also dead, brain dead at least.

Are you capable of saying anything without including some sort of insult?


Yes Daniel,
he does appear to be a little abrasive!
Geoff.

#22 David Levine

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 04:22 AM

Thanks Geoff. I agree with all that you say.
You are a diplomat and a gentleman.
David

#23 RatFace

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 07:06 AM

Thanks Geoff. I agree with all that you say.


Really? He says:

"My own view is that of many of the responders here... it is not what you play but the way you play, that is important"

you say

"It is the present tradition that concerns us ... the English concertina, the khene, and the old German two-row, are on the fringes rather than at the center of the tradition"

#24 JimLucas

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 07:40 AM

The Anglo German concertina is not a traditional Irish instrument.

Yes, it is.

And it has been for more than 100 years. It has not been and is not now the dominant traditional Irish instrument, but it has been generally accepted as an element -- and a very "Irish" element -- of the tradition.

The most suitable concertina for Irish music is the English...

Ridiculous!

While I disagree strongly with David's opinion that the English is unsuitable, the music is about sound and feel, and that comes from the musician, not from the instrument itself (claims about the "bounce" of the anglo notwithstanding). I think the video Stephen posted of the khaen player shows this excellently.

...because it has the same range as a violin, a traditional Irish instrument.

So does the trumpet. But the flute and whistle don't, and the violin doesn't have the same range as either the pipes or the harp. So surely, there's more to being "suitable" than "the same range" as some particular other instrument.

I dislike the use of the Anglo concertina in Irish music, it gives an unnatural false oompa oompa sound...

"Oompa"? Are you sure you're not confusing the Irish style with those who play for Morris dancers?

In any case, that's your personal taste and opinion. I doubt that you have any more authority than I have to set the rules for an Irish tradition, or any other.

You have to remember that in any form of music there is good and bad....

Not just music. Also debate.

Just because some old man in Clare has been paying the Anglo concertina since 1955 which may be before you were born, that doesn't make him an important part of the tradition. He may be a lousy musician.

Or he may indeed be a great musician. Many Irish concertina players are, in my opinion.

But without knowing who you're talking about, I can't express an opinion about your "example". (Can't be Noel Hill. Wikipedia says he wasn't born until 1958.)

Irish music did not start in 1850...

Quite.

...and O'Carolan never heard an Anglo concertina or a melodian or a harmonica.

Neither did Irish music stop in 1738.

Let us thank God that O'Carolan wasn't a part of ITM if he was he would never have written a single tune.

What a claim! :o

Creative as he was, he might have inspired and been revered by ITM. Isn't that what he did in his own time?
(Then again, in our day a vaccination would have saved him from smallpox and blindness, and he might have pursued a completely non-musical career, for reasons having nothing to do with ITM.)

In the end there are people who love music and people who love Irish music and because they love Irish music they want to preserve it and to continue it.

But they don't all agree on just what it is that deserves to be loved and preserved.

Isn't that why we've been having these discussions/debates?



#25 hjcjones

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 07:51 AM

The key words are the tradition "as we appreciate it today". A tradition is constantly changing, perhaps not always in ways we would like. What you see as today's tradition is merely a snapshot in time - things were different in the past, and will be different in the future.

As for "indigenous", neither the harp nor the pipes were invented in Ireland, and found in cultures throughout Europe and the Middle East. Like the fiddle, they were probably foreign innovations which no doubt provoked much tut-tutting at the time :)

#26 JimLucas

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 08:01 AM

As for "indigenous", neither the harp nor the pipes were invented in Ireland, and found in cultures throughout Europe and the Middle East. Like the fiddle, they were probably foreign innovations which no doubt provoked much tut-tutting at the time :)

What? King Tut played Irish music on the harp and pipes? :o ;)



#27 Ruediger R. Asche

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 11:47 AM

...

The way of playing Irish Traditional dance music, as we know it today,stems from the rhythmic necesities of the pipes (bagpipes). On these instruments it is hardly possible to make notes louder or softer (use volume dynamics) to emphasis rhythm. Therefore rhythmic pulse has to come from a lengthening and shortening of notes.This is not really possible to depict on a music score because it is more subtle than the use of dotted notes.It is in the taking and giving of time from note to note within the bar that creates the style, as much as anything else.
The Hornpipe is the easiest dance type in this respect as its internal rhythm is closest to a dotted four time.

The Reel, as played in Ireland, also has an internal pulse not unlike a Hornpipe, but more subtle and difficult to describe. Some play with more weight (length) on the main beat and others prefer an off beat stress.We just have to listen to GOOD playing to absorb this.

The 6/8 Jig is the most difficult to get right because, in Ireland, a very definate length emphasis is given to each group of three notes. This has an approximate time /length value of 5-2-3. The middle note in each group is very short, one might suggest saying a word with a similar rhythm,like... Jo-seph-fine... making the 'Jo' quite long.

The 9/8 (or slip jig) is played with a similar internal rhythm to the 6/8's.

The Slide (12/8) is usually not played with this type of length emphasis but that could be because it is a newer form that was introduced after the golden age of piping ? I am not sure.

These internal rhythms are the basic framework of this music, ok they may differ from region to region and player to player but without them......... this is why Welk's orchestra gets away (reasonably) with a hornpipe but if they had chosen a reel or jig.... hmmmmm!

Once these rhythms are established it is possible to move on to embelishments like the 'Roll' which whilst being like a 'Turn'(clasical ornament) is not a Turn. The Roll has (in its long form, in jig playing) also the same internal rhythm and is used to best effect on the Flute, whistle and pipes. The Roll is also used by fiddlers but is very difficult or impossible to get 'right' on a keyboard instrument. Other forms of 'grace noting' are preferable on the Concertina.

With out this 'Internal Rhythm' the music sounds wrong and if it is then emphasised by volume changes instead then it is horrible. Using Internal Rhythm and some volume emphasis is the normal way for most instruments these days.

Much ITM is played far too fast ,it is ,after all, an exquisite musical form when played at a listenable pace.
If it is to be used for the ever increasing speed of Set Dancing then the types of tunes need to be chosen well.

A lot of people who do not have access to original source players, those who live isolated from it, can tend to listen only to the modern recordings of the new generation of young Irish 'wizz-kids'. These musicians are super players who may have begun to learn at the age of 6 or 7 years.To try to copy these players could be a recipe for disaster, unless you are one of them.

I would encourage all to listen to the old players.

...
Geoff.


Dear Geoff,

I would like to sincerely thank you for this contribution. Even though what you write will be trivial knowledge to people who grew up with ITM, to me it is a revelation that, among other things, makes it crystal clear to me that there are subtleties in that music that will forever be barren to outsiders like me (very likely your elaborations are merely the tip of the iceberg, so I don't even dare to think about what it means when folks of your caliber get into the really subtle details...).

Nevertheless, I'd like to dig a wee little bit deeper, if you don't mind - was the 5-2-3 in above paragraph a typo? To me it would seem a fairly not-so-subtle deviation of a strict rhythm if one part was more than twice the length of the second and almost twice as the third - shouldn't that rather read 3-2-3 or 4-2-3? Do you happen to have a pointer to a recording that one could use as a starting point for studying those issues?

Thanks again!

#28 Peter Laban

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 12:00 PM

Although written for pipers, you'll find this article useful.

#29 ZiziAllaire

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 12:39 PM

Dear Geoff,

I would like to sincerely thank you for this contribution. Even though what you write will be trivial knowledge to people who grew up with ITM, to me it is a revelation that, among other things, makes it crystal clear to me that there are subtleties in that music that will forever be barren to outsiders like me (very likely your elaborations are merely the tip of the iceberg, so I don't even dare to think about what it means when folks of your caliber get into the really subtle details...).

Nevertheless, I'd like to dig a wee little bit deeper, if you don't mind - was the 5-2-3 in above paragraph a typo? To me it would seem a fairly not-so-subtle deviation of a strict rhythm if one part was more than twice the length of the second and almost twice as the third - shouldn't that rather read 3-2-3 or 4-2-3? Do you happen to have a pointer to a recording that one could use as a starting point for studying those issues?

Thanks again!


Knowing Geoff, I doubt it was a typo. I don't say that because he never makes a typo, but almost three decades ago he got me listening more carefully to what pipers do in jigs and I seem to remember that 5-2-3 proportion from that time.

I'm just chiming in here - and not wishing to preempt any pointers Geoff might add on the subject - to say that, because of my own experience of learning and later teaching, I advise you to beware of "studying" these relative note lengths too intently. I don't think you need to determine their exact proportion in order to learn to play jigs well. Indeed, getting hung up on such nerdy details could very well hinder you from learning to play jigs well.

And there is no reason why as a "foreigner", these subtleties will be forever barred to you. I speak as one myself. Anyone can learn to speak a new language with a native accent, or something very close to one, if they listen attentively enough, for long enough, and practice accordingly - listening to themselves in the process. And the same goes for learning Irish music. Listening is the key.

I always remember being astounded, in the early 1980s, when I called on an ethnomusicologist I knew. He was writing a PhD thesis on regional styles in Irish fiddling and I found him determining the relative note lengths employed by different players by marking the starts and ends of notes on reel-to-reel tape with a crayon and then measuring their duration with a ruler. I came away struck by the incongruity of somebody knowing so much about these micro-details and yet being next to useless as a fiddler. OK it wasn't his main instrument, but still... In my teaching of Irish music, I've often found that those who like to talk most tend to progress least.

To your thanks to Geoff I'd like to add my own, for all that I learned from him all those years ago, and for steering this thread into a profitable direction. Cheers Geoff, and where's the pint icon?

#30 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 12:43 PM

[
Dear Geoff,

I would like to sincerely thank you for this contribution. Even though what you write will be trivial knowledge to people who grew up with ITM, to me it is a revelation that, among other things, makes it crystal clear to me that there are subtleties in that music that will forever be barren to outsiders like me (very likely your elaborations are merely the tip of the iceberg, so I don't even dare to think about what it means when folks of your caliber get into the really subtle details...).

Nevertheless, I'd like to dig a wee little bit deeper, if you don't mind - was the 5-2-3 in above paragraph a typo? To me it would seem a fairly not-so-subtle deviation of a strict rhythm if one part was more than twice the length of the second and almost twice as the third - shouldn't that rather read 3-2-3 or 4-2-3? Do you happen to have a pointer to a recording that one could use as a starting point for studying those issues?

Thanks again!
[/quote]

Well... my estimate, of 5-2-3 for the note length values of each of the two groups of three notes in each 6/8 jig bar ,may not be mathematically correct. It is just a suggestion to get started, a way of looking at what is happening.

It is noticeable, visually, when watching a fiddler's bow , when this internal rhythm is that player's regime. Each note will not be made with a full bow stroke ,as in up-down-up, but that the middle note is formed by almost stopping the bow before continuing in the same direction. To the casual observer it could look as if the three notes are produced by just two bow movements.So, the middle note is quite short.

This is not the only method of 'jig bowing' in Irish music but is one I often observed in the older players in County Clare. My wife learned to play the fiddle by watching what the fiddlers did. In Donegal the bowing is quite different again and thus the internal rhythm is too.

I suggest finding a copy of John and James Kelly's seminal album, originally on Vinyl ( Tara 1008) or cassette No. 4TA 1008 made in 1976. Their playing of Jacksons Jig and Up Sligo track 4 side one... fairly beats this rhythm into my thick head.I am sure their father made sure the boys learned their music well.

Another method; take pipers like Seamus Ennis and Willie Clancy, put a disc into your computer and use a slow down programme to listen to them play at half speed. You should notice a marked difference between these two,it is just personal taste on their parts.

Try also Kitty Hayes and Peter Laban (they'll be good yet) track 5 shows how they shuffle along their jigs.

Listen to as many as you like, or those you like best and try the 'slow downer' programmes to hear the fine detail.

However, as you so rightly say this is just the tip of the iceberg and although it is the foundation block there is so much more.

The old piper and fiddler Martin Roachford (from east Clare) used to say "some play reels and some play airs". What he meant was that those who were good at one were often not good at the other. Amongst the 'Reel' players (and amongst the Reels as such) there are those who play only dance music and those who play dance music for listening and in so doing like to draw out the fine nuances, as a singer or Air player would.
Those players put the passion of the air player into their dance music and for me that's art.

Happy listening,
Geoff.

Edited by Geoff Wooff, 20 October 2010 - 12:54 PM.


#31 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 01:03 PM

Knowing Geoff, I doubt it was a typo. I don't say that because he never makes a typo, but almost three decades ago he got me listening more carefully to what pipers do in jigs and I seem to remember that 5-2-3 proportion from that time.

I'm just chiming in here - and not wishing to preempt any pointers Geoff might add on the subject - to say that, because of my own experience of learning and later teaching, I advise you to beware of "studying" these relative note lengths too intently. I don't think you need to determine their exact proportion in order to learn to play jigs well. Indeed, getting hung up on such nerdy details could very well hinder you from learning to play jigs well.

And there is no reason why as a "foreigner", these subtleties will be forever barred to you. I speak as one myself. Anyone can learn to speak a new language with a native accent, or something very close to one, if they listen attentively enough, for long enough, and practice accordingly - listening to themselves in the process. And the same goes for learning Irish music. Listening is the key.

I always remember being astounded, in the early 1980s, when I called on an ethnomusicologist I knew. He was writing a PhD thesis on regional styles in Irish fiddling and I found him determining the relative note lengths employed by different players by marking the starts and ends of notes on reel-to-reel tape with a crayon and then measuring their duration with a ruler. I came away struck by the incongruity of somebody knowing so much about these micro-details and yet being next to useless as a fiddler. OK it wasn't his main instrument, but still... In my teaching of Irish music, I've often found that those who like to talk most tend to progress least.

To your thanks to Geoff I'd like to add my own, for all that I learned from him all those years ago, and for steering this thread into a profitable direction. Cheers Geoff, and where's the pint icon?
[/quote]

Sorry Zizi,
I think that I learned far more from you than you did from me. Was it not you who told me to listen to the John and James Kelly album?

Sorry also about the lack of 'Pint Icon'... I am off the drink at the moment, well saving the odd glass of Vin Rouge.

As long as someone does not get me started on the subject of "Inharmonic phrase endings in Irish jig playing" we will be safe.

A big hello to you my friend!
Geoff.

Edited by Geoff Wooff, 20 October 2010 - 01:06 PM.


#32 Peter Laban

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 01:08 PM

I suggest finding a copy of John and James Kelly's seminal album, originally on Vinyl ( Tara 1008) or cassette No. 4TA 1008 made in 1976. Their playing of Jacksons Jig and Up Sligo track 4 side one... fairly beats this rhythm into my thick head.I am sure their father made sure the boys learned their music well.


Try also Kitty Hayes and Peter Laban (they'll be good yet) track 5 shows how they shuffle along their jigs.


That lp was also (re-issued as?) Outlet solp 1041. Mine is dated 1980

As for the other example, I don't know now...

#33 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 01:27 PM

As for "indigenous", neither the harp nor the pipes were invented in Ireland, and found in cultures throughout Europe and the Middle East. Like the fiddle, they were probably foreign innovations which no doubt provoked much tut-tutting at the time :)


That's why I put inverted commas around the word "indigenous", though I did expect my remark to be taken in the context of a discussion of the use of instruments in Irish music; inferring that I meant the Irish (or "Celtic") harp and the uilleann pipes. Or are you saying that they are not indigenously Irish? :huh:

On the other hand, the fiddle has not been developed into a uniquely Irish form...

#34 Peter Laban

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 02:41 PM

On the other hand, the fiddle has not been developed into a uniquely Irish form...



They had a shot at it though with the box/'russian' fiddles and the brass ones

Edited by Peter Laban, 20 October 2010 - 02:41 PM.


#35 ZiziAllaire

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 04:39 PM

We've gone around and around on the issue of playing traditional Irish music on instruments that are on the fringe of the tradition: concertinas other than the Anglo being the center of intense debate. My point is that playing an Irish tune is not the same thing as playing Irish traditional music. Case in point:

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=-Fj-1CqhHMk

Is this Irish Traditional Music? I don't think so. I don't care for it, any more than I like hearing an Anglo concertina playing an air, or a Bach violin partita played on the English concertina. It can be done, of course, but it doesn't seem appropriate to me. It doesn't do justice either to the music or to the tradition.

Am I beating a dead horse...?


I just watched the clip, expecting to see Mr. Welk or someone else playing a Crane Duet or an English concertina. Instead I see a bunch of short-sighted clarinetists, apparently cloned, various gurning musicians including a PA player, and at the end a couple of guys prancing around displaying the family jewellery in tights.

A case in point? What were you smoking David? I'd say you're not so much flogging a dead horse as milking a bull.

However I enjoyed watching the clip, so thanks. I especially liked the iron tonic commercial (I want some) and the bit where the presenter says, "Welcome to the Holid... er, the Diplomat Hotel".

#36 JimLucas

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 05:09 PM

But Irish music can be played extremely effectively on instruments that are totally alien to "the tradition", as I think this YouTube clip powerfully demonstrates:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asLxqOV0rbQ

I have seen that clip before, and it is impressive.

It's more than just "impressive".

Though I doubt very much that the khaen will become established in the Irish music culture soon or even ever, I do feel that this particular player truly captures the "feel" and "essence" of contemporary Irish "traditional" music. So much so that I suspect that a high percentage of Irish musicians of all ages would, if they had neither seen/heard nor even heard of the video but then heard it without being able to see it, 1) not question that it was "Irish", and 2) debate both the type and number of instruments being played, without guessing the truth.

David, I wish I could test my hypothesis on you. :) But it's too late; you're already familiar with the video. :(




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