Workshop dates Winter 2018

FluteFling trad flute and whistle workshops will continue with dates now fixed for January to March 2018. Tickets are not yet on sale, but will include discounts for multiple workshops.

The workshops are usually on the third Saturday of each month*:

  • Saturday 20th January 1-4pm
  • Saturday 24th February 1-4pm*
  • Saturday 17th March 1-4pm

(*Update: The February workshop is now on the 4th Saturday of the month)

The team are meeting after the December 16 workshop (still some spaces!) to decide on dates for the next Edinburgh Scottish Flute Weekend. After the success of last month’s Aberdeen event, there will be another one in November 2018.

Into the slip jigs

Bog cotton on Owenreagh Hill - geograph.org.uk - 201316

Davy Maguire included the slip jig Na Ceannabháin Bhána in his concert set in Aberdeen and this became the inspiration for looking at this and other slip jigs at the FluteFling November workshop.

Recordings and sheet music for the workshop can be found on the Resources page. This includes music in ABC notation. For more information on this, see the ABC Notation web site.

Na Ceannabháin Bhána

Na Ceannabháin Bhána (roughly, “na kan-a-van won-ya”) is in G (“The people’s key!” – Davy Maguire) and so fits nicely onto the flute. The title translates as The Bog Cotton, but is often erroneously referred to as The Fair Young Cannavanssee a discussion on The Session. As with many slip jigs there are words associated with the melody and these are to be found in that link as well.

We looked at ways of varying the breath, tonguing issues, use of diaphragm, glottal stops, vibrato (or not), flattement (or “ghost trills” as I call them) and simple decoration on the beat, accompanied by a little more air to help accentuate the rhythm.

I mentioned the Irish band Cran and here is their version of the song alongside other slip jigs:

A Fig for a Kiss

A Fig for a Kiss is a fairly well-known tune that can be found in many collections but the version I play has come out of playing it with Absolutely Legless Irish Dancers for many years. I first heard it on a cassette of music by Leeds fiddler and box player Des Hurley. It has evolved to be a little different, but the two versions can be played alongside each other with no significant issue. To compare, again see The Session.

Another flute-friendly tune, it lends itself to variations, particularly in the first part and these were demonstrated in the workshop. Some of these were melodic, but others were rhythmic and produced by varying the breath — punchy and staccato one time round, subtle and legato another.

It needn’t take very much to explore and bring out interest in a melody. Playing a tune many many times over was also a theme and something that Davy mentioned in Aberdeen. Let’s drop the play it twice and move on thinking and instead do the music some service. Three times is good, but why not four times or even five or six? It builds up the rhythm, lets you explore the tune and others then get a chance to pick it up.

Slip jig variants

We had a digression in which I talked about and demonstrated 9/8 slip jigs, which of course feature in the Scottish tradition, hop jigs and other variants, such as Barney Brallaghan. Also there was a look at 3/2 hornpipes, common in the Scottish Borders and Northumbrian traditions (and occurring elsewhere in England), as are 9/8 tunes. Malcolm and I duetted on Aly Anderson’s Dog Leap Stairs and I played Go to Berwick, Johnny (3/2) and The Berwick Jockey (9/8) side by side for comparison.

The 3/2 hornpipe is clearly an old form, which Händel famously used for the Alla Hornpipe in his Water Music of 1717.

James Byrnes’ Slip Jig

In the sessions I tend to play at, (Monday nights, Sandy Bells — less often recently due to work; Captain’s Bar, third Saturday of the month), Donegal and Scottish influences feature and we tend to follow A Fig for a Kiss with James Byrnes’ Slip Jig.

We didn’t have time to look at this, but I demonstrated a breathing variation in the second part, which emerged out of playing in sessions (we occasionally go under the name of Cauldstane Slap; Facebook page here). Here again, a relatively simple melodic part can be enhanced through breathing — in this case leaping octaves to create a counter rhythm. I have included this in the resources and then remembered that The Mooncoin Jig features something similar in the last part and may have been part of the inspiration.

December workshop

Next month’s workshop will take place on Saturday 16 December and there are plans for Kenny Hadden to come from Aberdeen to co-teach. We may make the Dalriada session afterwards (ends at 6) and then the Captain’s Bar in the evening and you are welcome to join us.

If you made the November workshop, you should have a discount code for the next one. If not, please get in touch. I am currently looking at dates for January-March 2018 and will announce these first in the FluteFling Newsletter.

Autumn news roundup

It may be the Edinburgh Fiddle Festival this weekend, but there is also something for flute and whistle players as Saturday 18th November sees an afternoon workshop at Tribe Porty in Portobello 1-4pm.

Davy and Alice in Ma Cameron’s, Aberdeen, November 2017

Inspired by Davy Maguire’s performance at the FluteFling Aberdeen Weekend earlier in the month, the focus will be on Irish slip jigs, breathing and phrasing.

So if you fancy a break from the strings for a few hours and maybe a stroll by the sea, this could be for you. More details are on the Workshops page. There are still spaces left, so you can let me know if you plan to come but online booking has closed.

I’ll be writing up the FluteFling Aberdeen Weekend very soon, but there was a great turnout and thanks to everyone involved who helped make it so memorable. We will certainly be doing it again and are already beginning to think about the Edinburgh one in 2018.

Saturday 16th Dec will be a jointly taught workshop by Kenny Hadden and myself. Kenny teaches regularly in Aberdeen and while we collaborate on the FluteFling Weekends together with Sharon Creasey, we rarely teach together, so this will be one not to be missed.

Sharon Creasey and Kenny Hadden leading the set #fluteflingaberdeen

A post shared by Gordon Turnbull (@gordontheflow) on

Mullindhu: an ambiguous tune

September’s workshop looked at a version of Mullindhu, which translates as The Black Mill. A Scottish tune with Highland origins, there are a few different versions and spellings about in the main collections (Skye, Fraser and Athole are ones I regularly refer to). A reel in A Dorian, our version is slow and stately, more like a march, and was recorded by Jock Tamson’s Bairns.

Resources for this and the two other tunes we looked at (PDF, ABC and MP3 formats) have been added to the Resources Page.

Alba Low whistle in D (c) Gordon Turnbull

The story I originally heard about this melody from Edinburgh fiddler Doug Patience (now in County Clare) was that the mill in question stood on disputed land between two rival families and was burnt down by one of the sides. The composer was local and diplomatically wrote a tune that could be seen as either celebratory or in lament, depending on the point of view of the listener.

On The Session.org, a discussion on the tune quotes a story from Cape Breton Island about the Mill as a clandestine rendezvous for romance that similarly divides opinion:

Apparently, on Cape Breton Island the tune/song was not allowed to be played in certain parts because it was so closely associated with the MacDougalls of Margaree, who apparently were extremely touchy about hearing it played within their earshot! It appears that one line of a stanza of the puirt a beul set to the melody goes “Tha nead circe fraoiche ‘s a’ mhuilean dubh.” (In the black mill is the heather-hen’s nest). The offense to the Margaree MacDougalls was due to a joke that was told about hens at the expense of the clan, and they were so sensitive to any reference to the joke that they could not tolerate mention of poultry of any kind, and took the playing of the tune to be a veiled insult against the clan.

More on the tune background and stories can be found at the Fiddler’s Companion, including one story that includes devilish dealings.

I was pleasantly surprised that a bit of playing about with the tune reveals it to be a version of The Oyster Wives’ Rant, a reel I have known for many years but not often played. We also had a look at this in the workshop. The Fiddler’s Companion informs us that the earliest printed version is in Bremner’s Collection of 1775 and that it is part of a family of tunes and variants from Scotland to England and Ireland — so our Mullin Dhu connection is no surprise.

In searching about for a possible companion piece, I came across the distinctively titled An Oidhche Bha Na Gabhair Againn (The Night We Had the Goats) in the Athole Collection, a book which handily orders the tunes by key. This is in the relatively rare G major and I have adapted it slightly to my playing style. We didn’t have time to look at it properly, but it bounces nicely off the Ds and Gs and lends itself to short sharp spiky rolls. Interestingly, it resolves on to A, which lends it a whistful, inconclusive feel to my ears.

While it is described as a pipe tune, and printed versions may go back to 1795, the origins may be in puirt-à-beul. The odd title might be explained by another translation, The Night the Goats Came Home.

Here’s a version played a few years ago by then 17 year olds Hannah Stockley and Brad Murphy at the Gaelic Society in Sydney, Cape Breton.

After the workshop, myself and Malcolm Reavell rounded off the day by walking along to the Dalriada in Joppa and joined in the regular Saturday afternoon session for a couple of hours. Thanks to Sean Paul Newman (guitar) and Robert Chalmers (concertina) for their hospitality.

Reminder: FluteFling workshops take a break in October, but goes on the road in November with a big Aberdeen weekend featuring tutors Davy Maguire, Sharon Creasey, with a concert and sessions. And to keep the momentum going, regular Edinburgh workshops resume in November and December.

FluteFling Autumn Workshops 2017

Some quick FluteFling news to let you know of some trad flute workshop dates coming up between September and Christmas, including a minifest in Aberdeen in November.

The Aberdeen minifest is an exciting chance to take the flutes on the road and is a smaller version of the main annual weekend in Edinburgh. It will be great to catch up with the many flute players who visit Edinburgh and play some tunes with them on their home turf for a change.

The regular monthly workshops in Edinburgh will continue, but September and October see some changes due to diary clashes.

  • Saturday 23 Sep 1-4pm at Tribe Porty in Portobello (4th Saturday of month)
  • October: no workshop
  • Friday-Sunday  02-05 Nov FluteFling goes to Aberdeen: Sessions Fri, Sat, Sun; all-day Saturday workshops with Sharon Creasey and Gordon Turnbull with special guest speaker and concert. Details, including tickets, to be announced very soon.
  • Saturday 18 Nov 1-4pm at Tribe Porty in Portobello (3rd Saturday of month)
  • Saturday 16 Dec 1-4pm at Tribe Porty in Portobello (3rd Saturday of month)

Tickets for these will go on sale very soon with limited places. Signing up to the newsletter ensures you get to hear about it first. I hope you can make it and look forward to seeing you on one of the dates.

Photo: Órlaith MacAuliffe, Sharon Creasey, Cathal McConnell and Laura MacKenzie at Jeanie Deans Tryste session during the 4th FluteFling Weekend, Edinburgh June 2017 (c) Gordon Turnbull