FluteFling Scottish flute day 2015

Tickets are now on sale for the second Scottish Flute Day as Kenny Hadden, Sharon Creasey and myself return to Portobello in Edinburgh on Saturday May 9th following last year’s successful event.

A day of workshops and tunes focusing on Scottish traditional music on the flute, plus some sessions, a chance to meet other like-minded souls and other related events.

All details can be found on this page, which is continually being updated. Tickets can be found at the Tradfest website.



A rare Scottish Jig: The House of Gray

After the flute activities of last weekend, it was back to normal this week with the regular FluteFling classes in Portobello. After putting some of the finishing touches to The Braes of Mar (to be revisited), we moved on to a tune that I had in reserve on the FluteFling Scottish Flute Day workshop.

The House of Gray is a tune in A minor that I came across in Kerr’s Merry Melodies some years back and appears to have been largely overlooked in my experience. A quick look online shows no recordings of it, for example.

Besides being a good tune, The House of Gray is useful for developing a few techniques:

  • The A to C’ natural transition at speed, found in many tunes, both Scottish and Irish
  • A decent-sounding C’ natural, which is generally weak and problematic on a simple system flute
  • Playing three C’ naturals at speed together in a tune and what can be done about this (tonguing or gracing for example).
  • Handling syncopation within a tune, a feature of many Scottish tunes

The tune itself leaps about a fair amount and can be regarded as typically Scottish in that regard. Very chordal in structure, some of the phrases are built directly upon arpeggios (broken chords).

The music for the tune can be found on the new Workshops resources page. A recording is on Soundcloud, found via the Resources page for the classes.

I was intrigued to see on Tune Archive that the jig is older than I thought, being first published in Aird’s collection of 1788. Gray House appears to be near Dundee and is currently abandoned and in need of its own revival.

Photo: Gray House © Copyright James Allan and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Summer term begins this week

Pentland Spin by Barney, on FlickrA quick update to remind everyone that the Summer term resumes this week with the Slow and Steady class. The Improvers and Beyond class resumes next week.

There are five classes and no mid-term break. All dates can be found on the Diary page.

A reminder to book for the Scottish Flute Day on 10 May if you haven’t already done so. Booking is not through me, but through Tradfest. The response has been promising and spaces are limited, so make sure you aren’t disappointed.

Image: Pentland Spin by Barney, some rights reserved.


The Sailor’s Bonnet

So we finished the term with the concluding tune of The Tarbolton Set of reels associated with Michael Coleman.

The Sailor’s Bonnet sits pretty solidily in D with some B minor phrases. The first part is repetitive and rhythmic, with the B part flying out high from this with high B rolls possible. The leaps can be quite demanding for the wind player, flutes especially as the notes can easily go out of tune if not shaped correctly. However, it makes for a strong finish to the set and the phrases are relatively straightforward, especially when compared with The Tarbolton Reel.

While it is quite common for D and Bm to go together in tunes, the structure of this reel is unusual as the B part is twice as long as the A part. Certainly it is often played that way.

Alan Ng suggests that the earliest recording is Coleman’s of 1934, however while he certainly popularised it, The Fiddler’s Companion puts Leitrim flute player John McKenna and Sligo fiddler James Morrison as getting there first, citing musicologists Harry Bradshaw and Jackie Small. The alternative title The Highlander’s Bonnet hints at a Scottish connection, but it could simply refer to similar styles of hat.

Resources are up for this tune. Term begins again 24th April. In the meantime, sign up for the Scottish Flute Day on 10th of May while sitting back and enjoying the last two tunes of The Tarbotlon Set:

Image: Sailing on the North-Sea, Germany by Peter Femto, some rights reserved.