October workshop roundup

FluteFling October 2016 workshopThe FluteFling Autumn workshops got off to a great start with ten flutes and two low whistles exploring a range of techniques while learning an air and a reel.


We looked at issues around jumping octaves as both of our tunes begin with E-e octave jumps. On the flute, don’t overblow, but use your embouchure to get the upper notes – a fine air stream is required and raising the jaw for the upper notes will push your bottom lip forward very slightly to help achieve this. On the low whistle, ensure breath support is strong to avoid going out of tune.

We looked at using the diaphragm for breath support.

We explored using flat surfaces such as a wall to provide an acoustic mirror and help with understanding our own sound.

Decoration and pulse is used to help emphasise the rhythm. By giving more air to notes on the beat we bring out the colour of the tune. The decoration we looked at began with cuts (single or multiple grace notes from above), strikes (grace notes from below) and rolls (multiple grace notes typically formed by a cut followed by a strike).

The breath can be used as the voice in traditional singing, to provide inflection and context. In the slow air Tha Mi Sgith for example, the breath can be increased and decreased over a phrase or section of the melody

The tunes

A revised PDF of the music we played can be found here: FluteFling_oct_2016_tunes. I recorded them both but have not been able to upload Sweet Molly to Soundcloud due to technical problems at Soundcloud. I will update it when it becomes possible. However Tha Mi Sgith was successful (see link below).

We had a look at two tunes: Tha Mi Sgith is a slow air that is often played as a strathspey, a march and even a polka. In a modal key, it is the melody of a lullaby commonly played in A Dorian (two sharps), but occasionally in E Dorian (two sharps), which is how we played it. By transposing it down, we brought out the sonority of the flutes and whistles.

Here’s a version I recorded on a whistle previously:

And here’s the version I played in the class on the flute:

According to TuneArch, the strathspey first appeared in the Athole Collection and the Skye Collection of fiddle tunes, both published in the 1880s. There’s some interesting archived discussion at the Mudcat Cafe web site, which includes various translations at a suggestion that it is a fairy love song, with a published version in the 1870s. Marjory Kennedy-Fraser seems to have had a hand in making it popular with her influential Songs of the Hebrides.

I first heard this tune played on Silly Wizard’s Wild and Beautiful, where Phil Cunningham played on a low whistle at a time when the instrument was still relatively unknown. There is a discussion on That Mi Sgith on The Session web site. There’s a recording and some background archived at BBC Alba and the same again here at Learn Gaelic; both sites take you line by line through the song and help with pronunciation.

The second tune was Sweet Molly (or Hopetoun House), published in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland as The Youngest Daughter. The Tap Room is another closely related Irish reel and the opening of Sweet Molly is very similar to the well-known Drowsy Maggie. It appears in various collections, including Kerr’s Merrie Melodies for the Violin, which every Scottish musician should own. Nigel Gatherer has indexed Kerr’s collections and transcribed some of the tunes. Take a look at the alternative titles and variants cited at the Tune Archive website.

Scottish band Sprangeen recorded this in the 1980s as a slow reel, with Ann Ward playing the melody on the flute.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore this tune deeply, but the breath can again be used here to bring out the jumping rhythms of the first part. After some technical issues uploading the file, here’s the recording I made at the end of the workshop:

Thanks are due to Anna from TribePorty for making us so welcome and for sharing the photo.

The next workshop will take place on Saturday November 19th 1-4pm. The following one on Saturday December 17th 1-4pm. Please note that places for both of these will be limited to 15.

FluteFling Autumn Workshops

Gordon Turnbull teaching flute (c) Ros Gasson

Gordon Turnbull teaching flute (c) Ros Gasson

FluteFling returns to Edinburgh this Autumn with a series of three workshops on traditional flute and whistle playing led by Gordon Turnbull. The afternoon workshops will take place at Tribe Porty in Portobello and evolve out of both the successful regular fortnightly classes that had previously taken place up to 2015 and the popular ongoing all-day annual Scottish Flute Day events that will return in 2017.

The workshops will take place on:

  • Saturday 8 October
  • Saturday 19 November
  • Saturday 17 December

There will continue to be a relaxed, supportive and informal style to the teaching, which will not only help develop repertoire from Scotland, Ireland and beyond, but also focus on aspects of technique. As before, the workshops are open to adults already playing whistle, low whistle or wooden flute in D as well as metal classical flutes (Boehm sytem).

Musicians returning to the instrument after a break are most welcome, but the workshops are unfortunately not suitable for complete beginners at this stage.

You can find out more about the workshops on the dedicated page of the reorganised web site, including online booking details.

I hope to be able to accommodate beginners in the near future; if interested, please get in touch and also sign up to the FluteFling Newsletter

Classes, workshops and tuition Autumn 2016

Flute and whistle mural

Classes for traditional flute and whistle in Portobello, Edinburgh are set to return this Autumn but details are currently on hold until September.

I am looking into options for resuming flute and whistle classes in Portobello, Edinburgh this coming Autumn but this continues to be tricky due to personal circumstances, albeit different ones from the past year. I expect this to become clearer over the coming few weeks so will have more news in September.

Regular group sessions

I am currently considering monthly Saturday workshops or fortnightly evening classes (as before) and while I have a venue in mind, will need to confirm this.

Individual tuition

Unfortunately I am unable to offer individual tuition at this stage. This is purely due to time.


If you are signed up to the FluteFling Newsletter, then details will be announced there first.

Image: Musical mural at Ormeau Park, Belfast (c) Gordon Turnbull 2016

FluteFling Great Scottish Flute Night

Flutenight5Some of Scotland’s top traditional flute players are set to perform at a special charity concert on Friday 6th May. The concert, arranged in conjunction with the 3rd FluteFling Scottish Flute Day, is in aid of SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and will take place on Friday 6th May. This event is the first of its kind to showcase the flute in this way and is part of a big weekend of traditional flute music in Edinburgh.

The lineup so far features:

Hamish NapierThere will be a session afterwards and others over the weekend too on the Saturday and Sunday. And of course there is the main FluteFling Scottish Flute Day of workshops on Saturday too. Nuala will also be performing with her band on Saturday 7th, making it a great weekend for flute music.

Venue and tickets

The Great Scottish Flute Night will take place at:

City of Edinburgh Methodist Church
25 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh EH8 9BX
7.30 – 10.00 pm (doors open 7pm)

Tickets £12/ £8 (concessions) on the door or online from Brown Paper Tickets http://scottishflutenight.bpt.me
24 tickets hotline: 0800 4118881

Please note there is no alcohol allowed on the premises. A cafe is available and there are lots of pubs nearby!

Updated 15 April to include venue and tickets


SAMH logoProceeds from the event will go towards supporting the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), an important charity dedicated to mental health and well-being for all. Given that 1 in 4 people are affected by mental health problems at some point in their lives, this is an issue that touches the lives of us all.

FluteFling 3rd Scottish Flute Day: Tom Oakes joins tutors

Tom OakesI am delighted to confirm that Tom Oakes will join Sharon Creasey and Kenny Hadden as a tutor at this year’s FluteFling Scottish Flute Day on Saturday 7th May.

Tom is currently principle Flute and DADGAD guitar teacher at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and plays with his own trio ‘The Tom Oakes Experiment’ as well as the much in demand duo ‘Ross Couper and Tom Oakes’ The latter gained a Scots trad award nomination in 2011 and have performed sell out tours of the UK, Norway, Denmark and Australia.

Tom is a dynamic and accomplished flute player, performer and composer based in Edinburgh. He performs in many settings and genres and brings nimble keywork and a rich tone to his music.

More about Tom and links to his music and videos at his website: http://www.tomoakesmusic.co.uk/

This is the third annual event, following on from the successes of previous years. Look out for more information as details of the day and related events become firmed up.

Photo: (c) Tom Oakes