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Notes From East Durham, Ny

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So, I am just back from a week away and you all seem to be fine. I don't own a digital camera (spent all the dosh on concertinas long since), but will start the thread (social, so here, rather than pedogogical report, which would go in Teaching and Learning) with a few observations:


Concertinist most likely to smile: Greg Jowasias (even or especially, with eyes shut, when playing a tune that he doesn't know yet for the teacher. Me, I suspect I frown!)


Reports she wants to take the January 2006 Carribean cruise featuring Irish music: Britt (can I come along?)


Didn't even blush when I kissed her on first meeting, which I did because I knew C-netters would have wanted me to do so: Helen C. (she's more multifaceted than her comments might suggest)


Amazing to talk to: Michael Reid (great dinner company)


Enthusiastic even as he falls asleep: Mike D. (fiddlersgreen, who recruited several people for the geology trip. I never got around to getting out the telescope)


Polymath of concertina: Scott C. (caj)


Monomath of concertina/olympic concertina-playing muscles: Lisa from Michigan. (Not a member yet, but coming to join us soon I bet. Has just started concertina and is so determined she was practicing 6 hours a day.)


No longer a lildog, but now one of the Big Dogs: lildogturpy (Robin B., who is neither little nor a dog. Wowed us, and I suspect some of the pros, by his memory for tunes during sessions)


Those who make me wonder why I thought I could play concertina: all the students under age twenty


Unfailingly real and realistic approach to learning: Kevin from D.C.


Thinks one teacher/class may be enough next year, owing to schedule and playing overload from two classes this year: me


Others who may lurk but don't post much here but we saw during the week included Mike Pendergast, Joe Fox, and several folks whose names I don't know. Apologies to anyone I forgot. Fun to spend a week with the varied likes of Fr. Charlie Coen, Professor Gearoid O'hAllmhurain, Michael O'Raghallaigh, and Edel Fox as teachers.


I'll let others add the real wisdom.


Ken (left the festival a day early to finish moving house!)

Edited by Ken_Coles
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Glad you got back safely Ken :)


I had a great time. Didn't take any classes, spent the day learning tunes I'd been meaning to get around to (Cup of Tea), relaxing (Glass of Beer), enjoying the weather (Give us a Drink of Water, Jump at the Sun) and fine food (Shepherd's Pie at Furlongs - has anyone written that tune yet?) Also tried to get around to putting notes together on adapting for the EC, Frank Edgely's Ottawa workshop on ornamentation for the Anglo. If Frank doesn't mind I might try giving it as a workshop at the NE Squeeze-In in September, with my own version of the notes, rather that just plagiarizing Frank's hard work :ph34r:


Having been to a couple of Comhaltas, where everything is in one hotel with sessions breaking out within 10 meters of each other, the extended geography of East Durham needed some getting used to. On the first day I was there couldn't understand where everyone was, next day I got hold of a program and everything became clear, I was just out of step time-wise with the Arts Week schedule and out of synch with the shifting location of the sessions.


Camping at the Blackthorn Resort was pretty comfortable. Facilities are basic (believe me I'm being polite) but if you're not fussy they were no problem. The open air showers had hot water on demand and the pool was nice in the hot weather. Couldn't do much about the torrential downpours on the three or four occasions they happened but they didn't last too long.


As for Wowing the Pros, I think you must be referring to the Faux-pas of the week - thinking I was in a do-it-yourself session, starting a tune and wondering why everyone else went quiet and started looking nervous while the session leaders twiddled their thumbs. The tune was called "Ass in the Graveyard" quite appropriate thinking back on it <_<


Thanks to P Allender, who taught me the Mountain House waltz by Jay Ungar. Definitely my favourite tune of the week. Most common Polka I heard: the Maid of Ardagh, most common Jig: Willie Coleman's, most common reel: Cup of Tea, most often heard (elevator style on CD in the stores) song all week, every where I went: The Fields of Athenrye. In the words of Vin Garbutt "In fact it sickens me that one".


Great to meet all the concertina players, always a pleasure. Nice playing with you Al, glad we could meet up. I still have my sunglasses Helen, the new owner never came to pick them up :P Britt, nice meeting up again, I'll pick up my CD next time we run into each other maybe if you pass through Montreal in a few weeks. Mike D, lots of fun playing with you. Did you ever recover from those pints of neat Gin they were serving in Furlong's? :blink: Didn't have a pen to give Will my email address so could you pass it on for me?


Quote of the week, on seeing my EC, "when are you going to get a real concertina?"

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And a few more to add:


Most likely to have a spare instrument in his vehicle: Alan (There were several Alans, this is Alan with a camper/caravan full of bouzoukis. I must get one of those caravans, you can fit everything in there)


Worth listening to when he makes observations on the concertina scene: Al Ladd (usually he is practicing)


Remembers everything he has ever heard about free reeds: Bill McHale (you'd never believe he was just starting on anglo)


you get the idea. ;)


[Edited names]

Edited by Ken_Coles
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Comments from a newcomer’s perspective. This was my first Catskill’s Irish Arts Week, and hopefully there will be many more. The talent and options were overwhelming. One of many highlights for me was the nightly concerts. One night Gearoid O'hAllmhurain, Michael O'Raghalaigh, and Edel Fox were on stage (separately). Then there were the sessions after the concerts at approximately six different locations. There were sessions in the late afternoon that were supposedly geared to the skill level of the participants, and were mostly led by the teachers. These conflicted with lectures on topics such as Leitrim Music and Women in Irish Music. The only thing missing during the week was sleep.


I was in the two “Basic Workshops” which were taught by Fr. Charlie Coen and Edel Fox respectively. Fr. Coen was easygoing and most gave us easier tunes, including several airs. He did not structure the classes into discrete teaching topics but was always open to questions and was quite helpful. Edel Fox is an amazing performer and excellent teacher. It is hard to believe that she is only 19. But that may be what gives her energy to teach after staying out till “half five” as she admitted she did. She is enthusiastic about virtually everything, and has a great sense of humor. She was on many of the performance programs. As a teacher she was incredibly patient with a bunch of struggling students. She liked to discuss all parts of playing, including the structure of tunes. She is in my home town (Boston) next week for a house concert and some appearances at the Burren. She is worth seeing.


All of the people I met were truly friendly and fun to be with. A few of us from Boston are going to stay in touch for practice sessions. Because I really did try to practice, I didn’t meet many other c.netters other than Helen who was in our class with Edel Fox, and Bill McHale who was in our class with Fr. Coen. Helen certainly is multi-faceted, and a pleasure to be with. I am not sure whether her first passion is the concertina or the PA, but I think we have a good chance to keep her interest up in the concertina—she clearly enjoyed it. Bill McHale is a true student of ITM and everything related to it. I believe that this was his third Irish Arts Week. Like Helen, he is multi-faceted and was also attending a BA class (which I think was for advanced students). Bill clearly has talent, and I think we will be seeing him in the “advanced” concertina class before too long.


Next year I hope to “graduate” to the intermediate classes and meet more c.netters. In the meantime, I plan to go back to the Catskills in two weeks for the Noel Hill School. That school is really what got me started on the concertina last summer, and I now respect Noel’s workshops even more. They serve a completely different purpose than Irish Arts Week but are just as valuable. I can’t think of a better summer than one week at Irish Arts and one week at NHICS.


Alan Miller

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Well I got home a couple of hours ago and just got around to checking C-net. In general I agree with everything everyone said. I am an annoying know it all some times and I appreciate the fact the no one told me to shut up :). In part I attribute what I know about concertinas to belonging to this list for more than a year before I got my first one. As for my studies of Irish Music, well.. if you take accordion lessons with Billy McComiskey you will find that he not only is a fantastic Button Accordion Player but also has a wealth of stories to share about the history of the music.


In particular I would like to single out Michael Reid and Ken Coles. Everyone was truely friendly (Well I am sure there were some grumpy people but they must have stayed in their rooms practicing instead of coming out to join the fun). However I particularly enjoyed breakfast and other conversations I had with these gentlemen. I would have loved to join you guys for dinner as well but since my Parents were also up there I didn't want them to think I was neglecting them. It was also fun to take Father Charlie's class with Alan.


Also had a chance to meet Tom Law who seems to be too low key for how well he actually plays ;). He did let me have a go on his beautiful C/G Edgley and it matches up with I have come from playing mine this past month or so.


From a music front I would have to say that the highlight of the week came from getting a chance to listen to Micheal O’Raghallaigh several times. The Listening Room he did with Billy McComiskey, Liz Carroll, Joanie Madden, Mary Coogan and Gabriel Donahue was truely remarkable. The next day Billy told those of us in his class that he was doing all he could to keep up with Micheal but that Micheal still had more to give.


Anyway to all of you I met, it was great spending the week with you and the other new and old friends from up there. May we all be so lucky as to enjoy another great week next year.




Edited by bill_mchale
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Now that I'm home and finally unpacked, some Catskill Irish Music Week observations and comments:


Yes, Helen is just as sweet in person as in her posts on cnet. She can certainly carry her own share of the conversation on a twelve hour car trip. It was a pleasure to have her as a traveling companion.


The teachers, performers, attendees and organizing committee provided opportunities for non-stop music making the entire week. I enjoyed both my concertina classes with Michael (That's pronounced Mee hawl) O Raghallaigh and Gearoid (ga Row) O hAllmhurain. Michael made the instrument and ornaments accessible; Gearoid provided history and background to the Clare tunes he showed us. I spent a lot of my free time practicing (taking two classes might have been a bit much) but I enjoyed listening at the sessions I got to and particularly enjoyed seeing the residual effects on those who were compelled to attend every available session; exhausted but happy is the way I might describe them.


The week long evening concerts were wonderful. Many students departed Friday night but Helen and I stayed on through Saturday. We were rewarded by a concertina workshop with Michael O Raghallaigh, Gearoid O hAllmhurain, Edel Fox (do not miss her if you have the opportunity!) and Micheal Rooney. There was some brilliant individual playing and a stunning tour de force with all four playing a 5 minute medley.


The Saturday day and early evening concerts were great. Some of my favorites were Liz Carroll, June McCormick & Michael Rooney, Baholla and the finale of many of the women performers playing ensemble as "Cherish These Ladies".


I regret I didn't get to the Listening Room which featured a more intimate setting to hear some of the featured performers. And I'm sorry I didn't get to meet and hear more of the concertina students from the beginner and advanced classes.


I did get to meet some cnet regulars including the inimitable Ken Coles; Robin (lildogturpy) and his amazing repertoire; Smiling, but always thinking Mike Reid; and of course, Our incomparable Helen. Nice folks. Great time. We'll do it again.


Greg J

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So, I am just back from a week away and you all seem to be fine. I don't own a digital camera (spent all the dosh on concertinas long since), but will start the thread (social, so here, rather than pedogogical report, which would go in Teaching and Learning) with a few observations:


Concertinist most likely to smile: Greg Jowasias (even or especially, with eyes shut, when playing a tune that he doesn't know yet for the teacher. Me, I suspect I frown!)


Reports she wants to take the January 2006 Carribean cruise featuring Irish music: Britt (can I come along?)





I don't know what you are talking about. You must be on "craic".

It was fun meeting you & other cnetters at the concerts; I wasn't in any of the concertina classes as I play the "wrong" type. Sorry I didn't get to your geology walk -- it overlapped with my extended afternoon class -- but Helen reported that it was good though exhausting. She's already making plans for next year. Let's all do it again :D

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Well, I had a great time, even if I play EC. That shouldn’t stop anyone. I couldn’t beat them so I joined them and took fiddle lesson by day and played EC at the sessions by night. I always tried to sit next to Robin (lildogturpy) so that everyone would assume that I was as good as him (if they would have looked closely they would me pressing buttons but the bellows hardly moved). Thanks Ken for the field trip to the “new cut”. On the way home I almost rear-ended someone on Interstate 81 looking at the rocks in a big cut near Hazelton PA. It was nice to meet Helen and some of the other folks. Hopefully I can go next year. Of course, maybe I should also try the NE Squeeze-in. Mike

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This was a great festival. I had lots of fun. It was a little confusing in the beginning because the classes were held all over the town. Fortunately Greg helped me find where the PA class was held the night before as it was a little tricky finding it. I am not saying that the organizers were making any kind of a statement, but it was located so far away that it was in the next town.


I can now put faces to some of the Cnet members which is great. Greg only suggested throwing the PA in the dumpster once. In his defense, those were mighty fine shelves that we found by a dumpster, but had no room to scavenge. Of course had we tossed ...


Britt is a wonderful roommate. We had a lot of fun together. I am not saying the room we shared was tiny, but she had to take her hammer dulcimer outside every time she wanted to tune it. And then be accosted by the nonmusical neighbors, who asked her every thirty minutes, now what do you call that again? I kept telling her if she told them *George* they would remember that, but she was too nice.


My only regret is that I did not see more of Mike aka fiddlersgreen because I enjoyed talking to him so much. Nice talking to you after the session and on the geology hike.


Well, Ken has already told you that he hugged and kissed me on our first meeting. We Cnet people are very friendly. Enjoyed chatting with you in person instead of via typing messages, Ken.


And what's this about Cnetters expecting me to look like my avatar? That's supposed to look like my DOG, you turkeys.


Alan Miller was the star of our concertina class. We were all quite proud of him. And he has an Edgley so you know that he is a discriminating player.


Alan (Allen?) P was super fun and quite the tease. AND he hung out with TWO, count them, TWO PA players. Ha ha ha. But he is strong, he can take the grief.


Robin can sure play that EC. Now I understand why people keep talking about concertina reeds. Of course, it was his lovely playing that stood out, but the reeds were nice too. Lots of good playing centered around wherever Robin was hanging out. And we could hear some tina players early in the morning at the camp. Sometimes Robin or Greg would be playing and probably some others.


Well I am missing at least one person. I met 8 people, I think, maybe more. Sorry to whomever I have forgotten. Seems to me I met another Mike too. Hm, more sleep less work and maybe it'll come back to me.


i'd recommend this camp to everyone. Lot of fun, lot of learning, lots to do and hear, good friends old and new. Great teachers, great concerts, great sessions.


So next year, let's all go.

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Of course, of course, Michael Reid. I knew there was another Cnetter and I remembered the name Mike.


Michael, do you prefer Mike?, has had lots of experience playing the concertina and going to places like the Squeeze-In. You seemed to be enjoying the concert on Saturday. I'm glad that we stayed. Lots of fine players throughout the day (12 - 8something) and I got to meet you too. Yea Mike.


Good, I can rest tonight, I have remembered.

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Aside from all the great people from here and elsewhere that I was able to meet up there, one of the high lights of the week was being able to try a really broad selection of concertinas. To the best of my recollection I tried:


2 Dippers,

2 Suttners,

2 or 3 Morses,

A couple of Edgley's besides my own.

1 Herrington

1 50s vintage Wheatstone.

1 Kensington

1 Guens-Wakker Baritone Anglo.


I was able to draw a couple of conclusions. Mind you these are based on my own limited experiences with the instruments and I would not be suprised in the least if others drew different conclusions.


1. In terms of build quality the Mid Range Accordion Reeded instruments give up nothing to the Dippers and the Suttners. These instruments are all very well constructed and most of them are reasonably fast to very vast mechanically.


2. Ok, the tone of the Dippers and the Suttners does have that sort of undefined quality that we all love about concertinas and I am seriously thinking of putting a down payment down on one (with a 4-5 year wait I should have plenty of time to save up).


3. In terms of mechanical speed, the Edgley's felt the fastest of all the instruments I tried. The others were also very good and the difference was small... but I think it was there. The Dippers and the Suttners seemed to sound at a slightly lower air pressure.. but again the difference was very small. In terms of reed response, the Morse seemed to trail the Edgley ever so slightly, still I believe it was a fair bit faster than the Marcus which is my current second instrument and it certainly was faster mechanically.




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I had so much fun in East Durham that I must have exceeded my quota, for by the time I arrived home early Monday -- after a long, horrible airline experience -- I was thoroughly ill -- sore throat, sinuses, the whole nine yards. I only went back to work today.


Thanks to Ken Coles and everyone for excellent reports. This was my first time in East Durham. If future editions have teachers of the caliber of Gearoid O'hAllmurain and Micheal O'Raghallaigh, I expect to be there.


Before going again, though, I'm going to have to do some serious late-night training. As Jim Besser would attest from the days when we played together in Virginia, I start to yawn about 10 pm. So sessions that are only getting underway then, and are likely to last until 2 am or later, are quite a stretch.


It was great to meet C.Net folks and to reconnect with those I had met before. Bill McHale and Ken Coles were fine dining mates in the sumptuous elegance of Shamrock House. Bill, I'm forever grateful to you for suggesting that we check out the late session scene at Stack's on that last night -- it was really special, with Micheal O'Raghallaigh and a great cast of other players.


Helen, I prefer 'Michael,' but it's one of those names that people shorten no matter how you introduce yourself, so I happily answer to either.


I can't imagine a better opportunity on this side of the Atlantic to immerse one's self in Irish music and concertinas. Thanks to the organizers and all the participants, and the friendly warmth of all C.Netters.

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