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 Aberdeen Weekend 3-5 November

FluteFling goes on the road this November as traditional flute playing in Scotland focuses on Aberdeen. Following 4 years in Edinburgh, the successful format of weekend workshops, concert and informal sessions over 3-5 November will give you and your music a boost ahead of the winter months. Come and join us on the excursion to the first FluteFling Aberdeen Weekend and be part of the traditional flute revival in Scotland!

The weekend’s tutors will be Davy Maguire from Belfast and Sharon Creasey from Dumbarton. Davy has a wealth of music from Ireland, including the northern tunes that cross over into Scotland and music from the distinctive Breton tradition.

Davy is in great demand as a teacher, from Belfast to Brittany and Italy — he will arrive immediately after teaching and playing in Brittany — while Sharon is one of the foremost exponents of traditional music on the Boehm flute in Scotland and returns with her Fermanagh, Irish and Scottish repertoire. Regardless of the type of flute you play, you will be in excellent hands.

A concert on the Saturday evening will be headlined by Davy Maguire with support from many others including Kenny Hadden, Sharon Creasey, Malcolm Reavell and Gordon Turnbull. And there will be plenty more music too with sessions on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday — a great opportunity to let your hair down and catch up with everyone. We hope to see you there.

Tickets for the weekend and the concert will go on sale in the next day or two. The event’s web page has further details, including links to tickets.

Davy Maguire has taught with Belfast Trad since its inception and teaches and performs regularly both in Ireland and abroad with various groups and as a solo performer. A frequent visitor to Brittany, Davy has toured and played at the Festival Interceltic de Lorient and the Festival de Cornouaille in Quimper with several different line-ups, including Dealán Dartha and Commonalty as well as in duo with Jamie McMenemy. In Ireland he has been adjudicator for several county Fleadhanna Cheoil and has recorded a CD of music for traditional set dancing along with the cream of Northern musicians.

As a taster, here he is (extreme right hand side) with Harry Bradley, Michael Clarkson, Tara Diamond and Brendan O’Hare at the Gradam Ceoil Irish Traditional Musician of the Year Award 2014:

 

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

FluteFling Summer news roundup

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the 4th FluteFling weekend in June. An amazing weekend of traditional music on the flute, topped by workshops and performances from Órlaith McAuliffe, Niall Kenny and Elizabeth Ford in addition to those of regulars Sharon Creasey and Kenny Hadden.

With people traveling from Tain, Oban, Newcastle, Lancashire, Aberdeen, Moffat, Galloway and Minnesota USA, we all continue to be impressed with how committed people are to coming to the weekend and being part of things.

I have been without my laptop since then and am only now beginning to catch up, but I will be adding some photos and videos as I get a chance to sort through them.

Aberdeen FluteFling weekend November

While the dust is still settling, a special FluteFling weekend is being planned for Aberdeen so please pencil in 3-5th November in your diaries as we go on the road. More details to follow, but this is an exciting trip back to where it all began in 2001.

Quite a few flute players in Aberdeen regularly travel to Edinburgh for events and this is not only a chance to visit them on their home turf, but also to meet up with the many others who play in the area.

Edinburgh monthly workshops

Monthly workshops will resume in Edinburgh in September, with dates to be confirmed very soon.

FluteFling Traditional Flute Concert 16 June 2017

FluteFling Traditional Flute Concert 2017

A charity evening of unforgettable traditional flute music, featuring Irish Young Traditional Musician of the Year Órlaith McAuliffe with supporting guests including Niall Kenny, Elizabeth Ford, Sharon Creasey, Kenny Hadden and Gordon Turnbull, more to be announced.

The concert on 16 June kicks off the 4th FluteFling Scottish Flute Weekend in Edinburgh and is in aid of Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH).

This is a rare Edinburgh opportunity to hear Órlaith, who at the age of just 22 has been crowned All Ireland Champion no fewer than 19 times, including on both flute and whistle in 2011. Órlaith is the current holder of the title of Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2016 from the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Awards. As well as being a highly accomplished performer, Órlaith is also an original and prolific composer many of whose distinctive compositions feature in the sets of CrossHarbour, with whom she also plays.

Órlaith will be teaching at this years FluteFling Scottish Flute Weekend, which takes place on Saturday 17th June. She will be supported by the other tutors and others are to be confirmed.

Confirmed so far:

Venue and tickets

The FluteFling Traditional Flute Concert 2017 will take place at

City of Edinburgh Methodist Church
25 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh EH8 9BX
7.30 – 9.30 pm (doors open 7pm)
16 June 2017

Tickets £10/ £8 (concessions) online in advance* OR £12/ £10 (concessions) on the door. Online discount available with a workshop ticket bought in advance

Buy tickets from Brown Paper Tickets http://fluteflingconcertjune2017.bpt.me/
24 hour tickets hotline: 0800 4118881

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

There will be a free session at Jeanie Deans Tryst afterwards and you are welcome to attend.

SAMH

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.