Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Practice Room

My practice area before I bought the wooden music stand.

New Music Stand

This is my new music stand (called a "desk" in Great Britain), made of wooden, a fitting material to complement my handmade music books and 18th-century Baroque-Celtic music that I play.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Historical Music of Scotland Site

I was searching for a tune and found it here: I heard the tune on the Puirt a Baroque CD "Bach Meets Cape Breton", and searching for it led me to this site, which has digitized versions of Scottish books. I found the tune, thanks to this site.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Capt. Pearl R. Nye

Capt. Pearl Robert Nye was born on Feb. 5, 1872, on a canal boat docked at Chillicothe, Ohio, and grew up on the Ohio and Erie Canal (in Ohio). After the canal closed in 1913 he collected songs sung by canal workers, and he wrote his own, often using traditional and popular melodies, including a lengthy, detailed description of the Ohio and Erie from Lake Erie to the Ohio River, comprising 80 stanzas on a brown paper scroll,. More about him is at

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Learning Irish Fiddle With Dale Russ

I can play Irish fiddle ornaments effortlessly, naturally, it seems, but it wasn't so in the beginning. I had lots of help from Dale Russ.
Ornaments, the extra little grace notes, help to create Irish fiddle's charm and distinctive style. An example is a quick note above the main note,  then returning to the main note. In classical music the violinist clearly delineates all three notes, but Irish fiddle ornaments, called a cut in this case, are more rhythmic than sounded. The ornamenting finger brushes across the string rather than playing it firmly.
I love those little touches, and I learned them by studying Dale Russ's "Basic Irish Fiddle" on videotape when I began playing Celtic music in 1990. I studied his finger movement in slow motion and practiced those ornaments slowly to develop the necessary coordination. In concert with this study I listened to tapes of Irish fiddling to understand the placement of ornaments within the main note. It's a series of notes that can't be precisely notated, and depends on the player's understanding of the music.
If I had grown up in a Celtic fiddle tradition I would have had that sound in my head from youth, but I did not so I had to embed the style in my brain. I was playing in a community orchestra when I found Celtic music, and after a year those ornaments began inadvertently entering my classical playing. Knowing which way the wind was blowing -- a decidedly Gaelic gale, it was -- I left the orchestra and committed myself to the traditional music I had long sought.
Dale's tape was sold through Lark in the Morning, and my friend Tom had loaned it to me. Dale now offers online lessons through Peghead Nation at I recommend his clear teaching and playing style for the person wanting to learn Irish fiddle.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

My Second Mandolin

Tom Perkins started coming to our house in July 1990 to play Celtic tunes and educate me on stylistic points. He helped me with mandolin embellishments and loaned me a video on Irish fiddle. He had recently formed a Celtic trio, and I suspected he may have been working toward adding me to the group.
At one of our sessions he mentioned that he owned a mandola he would be willing to sell, and I knew sight-unseen I wanted it. I asked why he wanted to part with it, and he said, "I can capo the bouzouki at the fifth fret if I want to play in mandola range." I was still puzzled why he would give up an instrument in the mandolin family because I was feeling drawn to those instruments, but he did not have the calling that I possess. Thus did I learn about a third member of the mandolin family.