flutes in Scottish music
Sorry if that has been discussed before, but what is the place of the flute in the Scottish tradition? Are ‘sessions’ part of the Scottish tradition, or something adopted from the Irish?
Sorry if that has been discussed before, but what is the place of the flute in the Scottish tradition? Are ‘sessions’ part of the Scottish tradition, or something adopted from the Irish?
Hi Emily - Nigel Gatherer, who is also a member here, talks about this on his very informative website:
It’s in there somewhere, possibly in the whistle section. It’s all worth a read anyway.
Flutes are probably a part of tradition everywhere. Irish music seems to be the best at keeping it alive … except where I live?! Anyhoo found this little bit about the history in Scotland. http://www.theflow.org.uk/styles/styles_scotland.html
As far as the Irish tradition of sessions being adopted elsewhere I always (try to) defer to the wisdom of Jerry Holland. In an interview he discusses playing in Irish sessions vs the capers version of a session. I keep trying to get people to read his interview.
Picture of "our" Kenny there!
I’m not an expert, but I doubt that the flute is a part of Scottish tradition. Of course, there are flute players from Scotland, but most of them mainly play Irish music. When they play Scots music, they often switch to the whistle(s).
"Ptarmigan" once told me that "sessions" in Edinburgh was synonymous with "Irish music sessions" at one time. But now Scots folk music is coming back to the scene thanks to a bunch of young talented musicians. Oh, poor old generation Scots musicians who haven’t learned many Scots tunes!
I don’t know if Chris Norman ever visits this site, but he plays quite a bit of old Scottish music on the wooden flute. I went to see him in concert once (great show BTW) and he claimed that the flute was once much more common in Scottish Trad music, before, as he put it, "the military took over the music" and established "rules" as to what was "correct of or incorrect" based on the military piping tradition.
As far as sessions go, I think you’ll find even Irish music sessions are a relatively recent phenomenon.
There are certainly plenty of sessions here in Scotland that feature Scots music although plenty also lean towards Irish music. In terms of the flute in Scotland you do see it in sessions and there is a great flute maker here in George Ormiston. It is probably true to say that it is not as popular here as it is in Ireland.
Some great Scottish flute players would include Iain MacDonald (The Whaler), Niall Kenny, Kevin O’Neill, Hamish Napier and of course, as has already been said Kenny from this site. There are of course more, but I am suffering a mind blank. Remember of course that individuals like Cathal MacConnell, Nuala Kennedy and Claire Mann are all resident flute players in Scotland now even if they came from elsewhere before. :-)
It is true though that flutes do not appear in as many of the professional bands here as in Ireland. There is definately a greater popularity with the fiddle. Whistles are also popular with many of the pipers playing them.
Forgive my pedantry, but I was of the view that:
Scotch - refers to the drink, ie whisky. Also an older, more Victorian term for the following….
Scots - refers to the language, ie the cant, Doric, Lallands. Also refers to persons, ie a Scotsman.
Scottish - near enough everything else, including the music. Except:
Scotts = porridge.
But I could be wrong.
Nowt to forgive. You are of course right. I just got caught up in it because slainte used the term ‘Scots’. I did think at the time that use of the term with the music was out of the ordinary but ‘what if it is right?’ :-S
I went with the crowd. I was, momentarilly a sheep! It will not happen again.
On the other hand, not wanting to be pedantic, but ‘Lallans’ would be the more correct spelling and not ‘Lallands’, although I can see that some people spell it this way. :-)
Yes, I do believe you are correct in this instance, Professor Alarm.
One thing to keep in mind is that the flute was not equally popular in all areas of Ireland. In some regions the fiddle was king and there was little in the way of a "wind" tradition (flutes and pipes). Other areas- Clare comes to mind- had a very strong flute tradition.
If you look at the places where the Scots settled, such as Donegal, Cape Breton Island, and North Carolina, you will see mainly fiddle-based traditions with some Highland piping as well. Blaming the British military for the lack of a flute tradition is absurd- there were a lot more flutes than fiddles used in the military, and we see fiddles everywhere there was Scottish influence.
the fiddle replaced the bagpipes during the clearings when the pipes were outlawed (along with kilts and tartan) as the instrument of choice because the gentry already knew how to play them and that migrated to the country folk
The fiddle’s always been played in Scotland. The Pipes were banned in 1746 after the failed Jacobite uprising of 1745.The old mediaeval fiddle with a simple structure and a short bow, as elsewhere in Europe was replaced by the violin, and by the 18th century the violin was well established in the highlands. After the pipes were banned the pipe music was preserved in fiddle playing. As in Ireland, it was common to play both instruments anyway, and many pipers took up the fiddle after the ban on pipes. According to Aonghas Grant the great west highland fiddler writes: “In the Highlands, even to the present day, many fiddlers play the pipes and vice versa.” From: The Scots Fiddle (volume 3): Tunes, Tales and Traditions of the Western Highlands, Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland, by J.Murray Neil, page 94 The highly pipey West Highland fiddle style may have become more pronouncedly pipey due to the 1746 ban, but, according to Alastair Hardie, the style was in existence prior to the earlier 1715 Jacobite uprising. (see Hardie’s book The Caledonian Companion, page 118).
Very few Scots settled in Donegal, the movement went quite the other way. Donegal itself experienced extensive clearances to make way for sheep. Scottish influence on Donegal music came mainly from Donegal folk doing seasonal work in Scotland rather any movement of Scottish people there. Into the 20th century war pipes and uilleann pipes were played in Donegal but the tradition largely died out there in favour of the fiddle.
The transverse flute (as opposed to the whistle) is a recent addition to Irish traditional music. According to Hammy Hamilton, it was practically unheard of before 1850. What stands in need of explanation is rather the adoption of the flute by Irish musicians, rather than its comparative absence from Scottish music. The flute’s absence from Scottish traditional music (until comparatively recently) is accidental as far as I can see.
One of my favourite Scottish flautists is Eddie McGuire, an avant-garde classical composer, who plays Scottish music on a wooden Boehm-system flute with “The Whistlebinkies.” (They are a remarkable band, who dig up old gems from Scottish musical history and also compose music in the Scottish style that is really worth listening to!) And Eddie McGuire’s playing is full of very crisp snaps, grace notes and trills, nice!
I think that flute playing goes back pretty far in Ireland. It is very likely that in the mid 19th c. it was not difficult to come by a wooden flute. The classical musicians were willing to give them up once Theobald Boehm introduced his improvements. The ‘traditional’ musicians (farmers, carpenters …) probably grabbed the undesirable instruments ~ "for a song". These were interesting times for music.
For sure, they became available when they became practically obsolete. But they did seem to be taken on board in a big way in Ireland. They must also have been available in Scotland, but don’t seem to have made much of a dent in the tradition. Is it that Irish musicians were perhaps more cosmopolitan in their choice of instruments? Or is it perhaps that fiddles were increasingly hard to come by in Ireland?
I’ve just come across this discussion, having been away for 10 days, so here’s a belated contribution, if you’re still around Emily.
As Gordon Turnbull’s website says, the late Ronnie Williamson of “The Corries” was probably the first Scot to record traditional music on a wooden flute. I learned both “The Munster Cloak” and the hornpipe generally known as “Dinny O’Brien’s” from a recording the made probably in the late 1960s. One of the Corries’ records has him on the front cover playing a boxwood flute. I actually came across a copy of that very record in a charity shop yesterday . He learned much of his flute and whistle playing from Finbar Furey who was a good friend, and lived in Edinburgh at that time. Apart from these 2 tunes, and the occasional song accompaniment, he didn’t play it on stage or record very much, though, and I’m not aware of him playing a Scottish jig or reel on any of the Corries recordings. A few months after he died, there was an auction of some of his instruments, and I went to it hoping maybe to pick up one of his flutes, but they certainly weren’t selling the good ones. I think I did bid on 2, but was outbid, as most of the instruments seemed to be being bought up by fans. His favourite Bb whistle – a brass Generation on which he’d scratched his initials - sold for £260.
I began taking an interest in Irish and then Scottish traditional music around 1970. There were only 2 prominent flute players on the Scottish scene at that time, but both played metal Boehm system flutes – they were Eddie McGuire, still playing with “The Whistlebinkies”, and also Sean O’Rourke of the folk-rock band, “The JSD Band”. Cathal McConnell arrived in Edinburgh around 1971 and started playing both Irish and Shetland tunes on flute with “The Boys Of The Lough”, and he very quickly gained a large number of admirers. I was lucky enough to get hold of a flute in an Aberdeen junk shop for £10.00, and if Ronnie Williamson was the first Scot to play wooden flute in a long time, I reckon, through pure luck in being able to find an instrument, I was the second.
At this time, I’m sure there would have been flute-players in the Irish communities of both Glasgow and Edinburgh, but they would have played almost exclusively Irish music and not Scottish. If you want to stretch a point, there were certainly hundreds of flute players in the Orange flute bands found mainly in the west coast of Scotland. There are also to this day one or two flute bands existing some 40 miles North of Aberdeen, associated with the temperance movement I think from around the 1940s.
These last 2 groups play Bb fifes, and not the concert-pitch flutes associated with traditional music today.
The big leap forward in flute playing in Scotland came when Matt Molloy became well-known through “The Bothy Band”, and in particular after he recorded his first solo album. Phil Smillie, who had recorded on the very first “Tannahill Weavers” album switched from Boehm-system to wooden simple-system at that time. Another prominent player was Jimmy Young in Edinburgh, now resident in New Zealand.
Sean O’Rourke switched to wooden flute I’d guess around 1975, and made an LP record along with bagpipes and fiddle, and the late Tony Cuffe on guitar. The group was called “Alba”, and that would be one of the first records to feature the wooden flute in an equal role along with fiddle and pipes, although I’m not 100% sure, but I think the “Whistlebinkies” might have made a record before that, so they were possibly the first.
There are quite a few omissions from the list on Gordon’s website, and I must contact him sometime to have them added. John Gahagan played flute when he was with the “Battlefield Band”, Brendan Hyde in Edinburgh has always been an excellent player, and recorded with a band called “Malin Head”, which at one time also included Iain McDonald. The late George Jackson played flute when with “Ossian”, and his brother Billy plays as well. Malcolm Reavell, here in Aberdeen , has been playing flute in ceilidh bands for years. There are several fine players in the various branches of Comhaltas in Glasgow and Motherwell, and these days many pipers in particular also “double-up” on flute. There are also many players around who aren’t that well-known outside of Scotland but have been playing constantly in sessions at festivals over the years.
There are probably more musicians playing traditional music on wooden flute in Scotland at the present time than ever before, which is very encouraging, but we’ve still a long way to go before we catch up with Ireland.
Hope this has been of interest. Good luck.
jaysus Kenny, you’re fecking brilliant.
Emily linked me the discussion, a subject which is very fascinating to me. My motive is utterly ulterior - I’m trying to convince her to play some Scottish tunes with me!
I’m a new member, but have been playing Scottish music for a few years with a fiddle instructor whose main interest is 18th century music, and reenacting as well, so the concept of "tradition" to me has a bit further historical horizon.
Kenny’s remarks are all quite true, but they’re looking to the recent past. If one looks at the 18th century Scottish tune collections, the title will often run along the lines of "A Curious Collection of 36 Scottish Airs and Melodies arranged for…" followed by a list of instruments. And it’s not at all uncommon that these lists include "German Flute". The "German Flute", or Traversos, now called the "baroque flute", entered Scotland from the continent in the 1720s or so (around the same time as the Guittern/English Guitar). As such, it is certain that the instrument was known in the cities, and was considered appropriate for the playing of Strathspeys, reels, and jigs, at least in the ballroom-influenced style of the major cities. The continental influence on 18th century ballroom style of Scottish music was considerable - a dance card would often begin with a minuet, and then follow the rest of the evening with native dances. As such, an orchestral instrument like the wooden flute would have not been at all alien. That said, this was still very much a fiddle/cello (later fiddle/pianoforte) tradition. I’ve seen no references to flutes per se in the Highlands. The gap in its use from the 18th century on probably has as much to do with the overwhelming dominance of the fiddle in the 19th century, and its largely being replaced by the accordion in the 20th, until the fiddle revivals of recent decades. David Johnson’s "Music and Society in Lowland Scotland in the Eighteenth Century" touches on the variety of instruments played during this period.
(Oh, and a clarification or two: neddiescotus, the pipes were never banned or really even suppressed by the disarming acts - John Gibson’s "Traditional Gaelic Bagpiping ,1745-1945" deals with this in considerable detail. And Key Maniac Lad, your definitions are correct but modern. In older writings, the spellings and terms you list were often quite interchangable!).
German Flutes are actually later instruments than Baroque/Traverso Flutes. German/Early/Romantic Flutes had tuning slide, eight keys or more (sometimes less) while Traversos had only one key, three piece body and no tuning slide. Traversos are asociated with late 17th C. and 18th C. while German Flutes appeared early 19th C.
Read more at www.oldflutes.com
javivr, that may be the modern naming convention, but I have a CD-ROM copy of James Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion, the first volume of which was published 1743, and it’s explicitly for the "German Flute" (the violin isn’t even mentioned until later volumes). So I’m pretty sure that in 1743 "German Flute" was synonymous with "traversos".
I have a copy of that CDROM too and thinking of it carefully you must be right but as Romantic flutes developed naturally from traversos I do think the name German Flute went from one instrument to another. I´m not sure but I think traversos went out of use during the 19th century as Romantic flutes were used all over Europe in their different shapes, pitches and number of keys.
Most of the 8-key flute old methods I have name it "German Flute"
Have a look at some of them here: http://www.oldflutes.com/facsimiles/index.htm
I just would like to add that the best flutes ever manufactured, which have been used as models in Ireland, Scotland and many other places around the world, were produced/developed by two men, George Rudall (from London) and John Mitchel Rose (from Edinburgh) establishing the prestigious R&R brand since 1821. According to Robert Bigio in his book "Readings in the History of the Flute" (http://www.bigio.com/readings.html) it was estimated in 1829 that one man in ten in London played the flute so I don’t see why it should have been different in Edinburgh or Glasgow where players may have played classical and folk music without considering that such a big deal.
"but what is the place of the flute in the Scottish tradition?"
In my experience, it’s next to the fiddle player, and usually in front of the accordion player.
No - as far away from the accordion player as possible.
Sorry, I don’t know what you mean by "next to the fiddler" but from my point of view the flute as it also happened with the cello tradition disappeared somehow at some point during the last part of the 19th century (the cello probably before). My theory is that with the Boehm boom - an instrument much less appropriate for reels and strathspeys than the wooden flute - perhaps flutists gave up playing folk music focusing just on "classical". Somebody should write a dissertation or a thesis about it but it won’t be me.
Look at the collection on my site which I used to sell as a CD-ROM:
Sorry, but I don’t know what you mean "don’t know what you mean by "next to the fiddler" " - It’s pretty obvious, and if you read Kenny’s lengthy, and very articulate semblance on the modern state of playing in Scottish, you’ll find that the Boehm is not much of a contender for the style, given that many of the tunes are piping tunes (of a sort) and require the assets of a simple system flute, and little of the nuance of the classical Boehm instrument.
You’re describing a rather depressing state of historical amnesia.
Scottish flute music has a far longer and more varied tradition than Irish. No way does it need to be confined to recycling Highland bagpipe music in a style borrowed from the Irish revival of the 1960s. And for almost all of the older Scottsh flute repertoire, the differences between a modern "Irish" flute and a Boehm flute don’t matter at all.
"historical amnesia" - nicely put Jack. Would be very interested to hear more about the history of flute in Scotland. To be honest, my experience of flute is as Kenny and Peter Walker have described. Here in the West Highlands I didn’t see a flute player, other than with a visiting Irish band, probably until about 15 years ago. There was not one flute player that I know of on Skye until quite recently.
I won’t be so ignorant as to say there were no flute players in Skye or the West Highlands because I haven’t heard of them, but if there were they must have been bedroom players. I would be most interested in what you can tell us.
Yes, Calum Stewart, brilliant. Flute may not been widely played in Scotland in the recent past but there seems to be a new generation of players now. It just wasn’t an instrument that many would consider here until recently, which is odd as it’s great for Scottish music.
Sorry, a language misunderstanding :) Well I think the big problem witn flute and scottish musci and which noone mention is that playing scottish music on the flute is foar more difficult than playing in the irish style (whether irish or scottish music) First of all a keyless might be fine for Irish music but you won’t be able to play a lot of the Scottish repetoire with that so you will need to learn to play with keys if you really want to play in keys such as Amajor, Gminor, Bminor, etc quite common in this reperoire apart from developing a good tonguing technique (double and triple) as well as the use of trills and many other techniques normally asociated to classical music but widely used by Scottish fiddlers and even pipers. Rolls, cuts and crans are not very appropriate for Scottish music or at least that’s my point of view.
Bagpipe music is full of "cuts".
"Rolls, cuts and crans are not very appropriate for Scottish music " - sorry javivr but the opposite is true.
The vast majority of tunes you would hear at a Scottish session are fairly straightforward on a keyless flute. Some styles of Scottish music have a classical edge to them but the great majority have more in common with the Irish styles.
Sorry, cross post but yes, bagpipes don’t work without cuts and taps. Also there are a wider variety of crans played on Scottish pipes than Uilleann.
Well, yes…. probably I agree with regards to cuts and taps absolutly necessary for instruments such as flutes and pipes based on closing holes but crans and rolls are very distinctive ornamentations from Irish music. In Spain for instance they also started to be played by Galician and Asturian pipers although there is a certain current now to recover the old ornaments highly influenced by the Irish boom. I’m not saying anything against finger ornamentation yet they should be accompanied by tongue ornamentation as fiddlers use their bow as well as finger ornamentation.
All of the Scottish pipers that I know, who double on flute, tend to play in the Irish style when they change to this instrument. I keep saying that it’s not easy to play the fute with a Scottish taste.
And not to forget the use of the third octave almost forgotten in the Irish tradition. Breton musicians tend to use a lot though.
I didn’t know you could call crans to birls, taorluath, throws or doublings.
On Scottish pipes you would usually separate three root notes, A for example, with three gracenotes, (cuts or taps) g,d,e. On Uilleann a cran example is A,G,F, to separate three D’s, so essentially what we call birls and doublings and so on the Irish would call crans.
You seen to be referring to a specific older style of Scottish music probably Skinner tunes and such like. I think it’s fair to say the majority of Scottish tunes in A are actually A mix with the natural 7th. Pipe tunes in particular. This is perfect for a keyless flute or a whistle. You couldn’t want the tune to be in a better area of the flute/whistle.
One thing is true, a lot of pipers who double up on flute or whistles will often play more Irish tunes on flute as they tend to play Scottish tunes on pipes.
Also, as an aside - why would the key of B minor require a keyed instrument? It is the same notes as a D scale - two sharps - C and F.
Yes, I meant keys with three sharps and one or two flats. Bminor of course is not in that case. I wanted to say what we call in Spanish "Si bemol mayor" (Bb, I think). Skinner but also Atholl and Skye collections, among others, are full of these type of tunes, aren’t they?
A lot of fiddle tunes are written in A major not A mix.
A major is not a problem either, cross fingering for the lower G sharp and half holing for the top one. Very true there are a lot of tunes in these two collections with more unusual keys but in the majority of Scottish sessions you’ll find session friendly tunes. It’s handy to have an F whistle, which sorts out the tunes in F and Bb also an E whistle is handy as there are a few common tunes in E and also for A maj tunes that have lots of high g’s. I would say that 95%, at least, of the tunes I’ve heard in Scottish sessions are perfect for keyless flute or D whistle.
You can also cross finger for the high G sharp on most D whistles. There are also cross fingerings available for notes like Bb in the rare occasion when they come up.
It is true to say that it is generally easier to play in G major on a D whistle than A major but that doesn’t mean it can not be done. Indeed it is done with great regularity throughout Scotland.
You can even play in Amaj on the uilleann pipes. Just sayin’.
Irish players can play a "cran" or a "birl" or whatever on any note they want — if it’s not on a low D or E, it tends to be called a double cut.
I just meant that there are many more posibilities on a keyed flute being a three octave cromatic instrument. It’s not intention to bother anybody but try to play this with a whistle.
It’s not Scottish but French traditional music played on the wooden flute by breton flute player Malo Carvou who also plays Scottish music with wegian Jamie McMenemy
Sorry, I just don’t see the relevance of that clip to this discussion.
Re the queries about exotic keys: look at my Scottish flute pages. I include all the Scottish-originated fingering charts I could find. They are all for keyless or one-key flutes, they cover every chromatic note possible, and there are some interesting divergences between them. Some of them explicitly suggest using different fingerings for G sharp and A flat, as you find in meantone intonation (this being as late as the middle of the 19th century, when not many people were still recommending it as a systematic practice).
I also have a historical introduction, quite short but it will probably be new to some people here.
The style of that clip javivr linked to is nothing like Scottish, but the technique is not much further out than things committed to paper in Scotland before 1800 (some of Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion, even). Okay, not the fluttertonguing.
When you’re talking about porting Highland pipe music to the flute, remember that pipe music itself has undergone some fairly rapid evolution. The earliest manuscripts of light music for the pipes have the absolute minimum of gracenotes required to articulate the tune. The present style (as in the military tunebooks) dates only from about 1880. So, essentially all the anonymous, traditional light music repertoire - the stuff people danced to in Highland villages - wasn’t originally intended to have any "expressive" ornamentation at all. It doesn’t belong there and buggers up the timing for the dancers.
Apparently the pastoral pipes could, via cross-fingering, play a nearly chromatic scale with a bottom C. That’s suggested as at least one reason why several old piping manuscripts have some tunes in C or in other keys that seem awkward on union or uilleann pipe chanter.
My point with Malo Carvou’s clip is that the wooden flute was meant to play in all posible keys and it’s a shame to relegate it only to "session friendly" tunes as you called them when the Scottish repertoire is so rich.
For instance, you can’t play the Scottish tune "Tullochgorum" properly without the use of keys.
Yes you can javivr. Tullochgorm is relatively straightforward. And there is a huge repertoire of session friendly tunes too. The more complex tunes are more often heard on recordings or solo performance.
Jack, in general I agree with you but you can’t deduce that there was little ornamentation just because early manuscripts don’t show it. Otherwise God help trad in a couple of hundred years. Also the pipes are used by some of the best ceilidh bands to great effect using all the modern (if that’s what they are ) ornaments. They only interfere with the timing if badly played. Look at the Gunn collection for example, no shortage of ornaments in dance tunes that are still popular today.
I would not agree that the present style is as in military tunebooks. 20 years ago I would say that would be fair statement but look at pipers like Fred Morrison, Allan Macdonald, Gordon Duncan and on and on… They play very differently to the military or competition style.
Or played as in GD. RIP. But is pupils carry on his style.
"I include all the Scottish-originated fingering charts I could find. They are all for keyless or one-key flutes"
The keyless/one-key flutes you mention are Traverso/Baroque flutes with very small finger holes that allowed the use of cross fingering. Early Romantic/wooden flutes, as we call them now, don’t allow cross fingering because of their physical construction.
Here you can find fingering charts and methods to play these kind of flutes. There is also an arrangement of the Scottish tune "Roslin Castle" by flute player Charles Nicholson, probably the best flute player at that time who was also in love with Scottish musical tradition.
I like this method especially . On page 6 "bis" there is a picture of a musician playing a fully 8 keyed early Romantic flute:
Dressler’s method is quite good too: http://www.oldflutes.com/facsimiles/dressler/dressler.pdf
Yes, but Charles Nicholson was an English classical player. The vast majority of Scottish tunes don’t need a lot of cross fingering.
Scott Skinner, Simon Fraser, Robert Mackintosh, William Marshall, William McGibbon, Niel Gow, Nathaniel Gow, James Oswald…..
Would you say they were "classical" or traditional composers?
I don’t think the border line was so clear in the past.
There are no spring chickens there………
Yeah!! That’s very true :)
Speaking of flutes, bogman, have you got yours yet? ;)
I have, arrived a couple of months ago. still got an embouchure like the back end of a camel but making progress ;)
Does it get to come out to the session yet?
I can’t get flutes to make noise. That’s why I don’t play. :)
Crickey no, just treating it as a hobby just now. The fingering is fine but it’ll be staying at home till I get a good tone.
To get back on the point. one of Scotlands finest flute players, Iain MacDonald http://www.myspace.com/iainmacdonald
He plays a lot of tunes from the collections you mention javivr, well worth a listen.
Iain is very good indeed but I think he’s a better piper though. I prefer Calum’s or Chris’ styles but that is just a matter of personal taste. Thank you for the link anyway. :)
"you can’t deduce that there was little ornamentation just because early manuscripts don’t show it"
I’m thinking of manuscripts from the 1820s or thereabouts. There was precedent for writing down very complicated ornamentation in piobaireachd - Joseph Macdonald’s treatise (1750ish) has things more intricate than anyone plays now. So the compilers of those MSS could have written complex ornamentation in the light music too, if they’d wanted. (Also, they were writing tutorial material - it was meant to be one-stop shopping for technical info). I believe the compilers of these manuscripts knew what they were doing.
"The keyless/one-key flutes you mention are Traverso/Baroque flutes with very small finger holes that allowed the use of cross fingering. Early Romantic/wooden flutes, as we call them now, don’t allow cross fingering because of their physical construction."
The upmarket flutes Nicolson pioneered may have been like that, but they were vastly outnumbered by German flutes with a strongly conical bore, on which those cross-fingerings work fine. I have an 8-key flute like that, and I can mostly just ignore the keys and use crossfingerings. They are generally regarded as uncool in the ITM scene today, but they must have been by far the commonest kind of flute early Irish players had available to them in the late 19th century - cast-offs from the British Army, mainly.
I mostly agree with Jack Campin in his explanations concerning the growth and history of concert flute in Scottish. I’ve played in an SCD (Scottish Country Dance) band for many years - on the flute - with much success. The music is different than ITM in that it has, of course, a different feel, a more classical bent. But that said, there is quite a lot of cross-over.
There are clearly flute friendly keys - and there are flute friendly tunes. Not all tunes in simple keys are flute friendly - it really depends on several variables. Some tunes in Eb, Gm, Dm, and Bb are OK - some are not - depending on the ornamentation and my ability to play them convincingly. ( I typically stay away from keys with 4 or more flats or sharps, as a rule). I also try to avoid tunes in the key of C as my instrument (an astounding 6 key post mount Hamilton) has the wrong overtones to make the tunes sound even remotely convincing.
I specialize in Strathspeys on the flute, and have had lots of success in playing them lyrically. I also play hornpipes and jigs on whistle and flute, and they flow well - and sound great. Reels on the flute?, while I love them, and sometimes play them on the flute, band requirements are that I mainly play them on the banjo.
Unless you’ve actually had the experience of performing this music, mirroring off of a couple of other instruments (accordion and/or fiddle), matching notes and tuning, there’s little to discuss - it’s great music and works well on the flute. It’s complicated and requires a very good ear and/or the ability to carefully read sheets.
As to the DOT detractors on these mustard pages - it’s well and good to learn a few tunes by ear, and play them confidently, but in a normal SCD evening the band plays a minimum of 72 different tunes in an evening. Each gig requires that you play different tunes. If you play 12 gigs a year - that’s 864 different tunes - or tunes in different arrangements. I say, good luck with your memorizing everything, or learning it by ear. In reality, that system doesn’t work. I’m an adult with a life, and can’t move in with my band mates (who also have a life) and play music all day and night, until we have enough repertoire to play a gig. You must - in order to do it at all - learn to read sheets really well.
I just had a slug of Lagavulin.
Scottish music on the flute is excellent - there are no great mysteries about it - other than your commitment to playing it, and the excellent joy that you’ll get from doing it well.
So which band do you play with, Toppish ? I’d like to hear you some time. By the way, to my way of thinking, if you play 72 tunes in a night, and you have 12 gigs, you only need 72 tunes - not 864. Or do you never play the same tune twice in a year ?
The band is The Music Makars. We’re US based and have been going for about 20 years in different configurations. There was a Highland and Islands tour in the late 90’s before I joined. Other than that our playing dates are all in the US. Some of our recordings are on iTunes and sold by Music in Scotland.
Briefly, here’s how it works playing for this kind of gig: Each program is different, based on what the presenters want. The dancers may study the dance program for as long as 6 months, while the band will, generally, rehearse the music for about 6 weeks. The band leader picks the tunes based on the programmed dances - usually with a named tune (named for the dance) as the lead tune and the following 3 tunes, in the style, being at the discretion of the band leader.
As you can see, while 12 of these gigs doesn’t seem like a lot in a year - there’s a lot of work in rehearsals. The instrumentation is Fiddle, Accordion, Piano, Bass, Flute, Banjo, Whistles, occasionally Drums, and Guitar.
So, to answer your question: " do you never play the same tune twice in a year ?"
Yes and no. While we may repeat a set, it rarely happens more than once or twice a year. Since the programs are all different, they mostly require all different music. Because of the cycle of the tunes in these sets (1234, 2341, usually), there is little chance to memorize everything.
Everything, that is, being Jigs (single and double), Reels, Strathspeys, Hornpipes, Medleys of Strathspey/Reels, Dancing Airs, Pipe Marches, Grand Marches, and some other quirky odd bits, too. Lots of this music is in the standard repertoire, some is more obscure, some of it is composed because the right tune couldn’t be found, some of it is written as a tribute to a person or an event. Some of it is Irish, some original, some French Canadian, most of it is Scottish.
This is not to say that every band that plays for Scottish Country Dance does it this way. Over the years this is what has become the standard for what we do - and it has worked very well.
Thanks for the question.
I forgot to mention this other fine flute player from Nova Scotia, Brian Berryman (http://www.ricordanza.com/brian/index.html) who recorded Scottish tunes on an original 8-key cosuswood R&R. Here you can listen to some of his outstandig Scots airs (http://www.ricordanza.com/brian/crossing.htm) His techinique on Irish music is quite improvable on this recording but Chris Norman told me that he can be seen on sessions around his native country and he is now really improving in this aspect.
On the other hand, taken account of the lack of lists regarding exclusively flute and Scottish music I have just created one (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/scotsflute/join) and there you will find some links and sources I have uploaded so far (eg. Chris Norman Scottish Flute Workshop recordings) and I will keep adding more stuff in the future. If you want to join in just send an email.
BTW, the long awaited CD (LET ME IN THIS AE NIGHT) by Chris Norman & David Greenberg in already on sale:
"The upmarket flutes Nicolson pioneered may have been like that, but they were vastly outnumbered by German flutes with a strongly conical bore, on which those cross-fingerings work fine. I have an 8-key flute like that, and I can mostly just ignore the keys and use crossfingerings. They are generally regarded as uncool in the ITM scene today, but they must have been by far the commonest kind of flute early Irish players had available to them in the late 19th century - cast-offs from the British Army, mainly."
As far as I know you are talking about "classical flutes", similar to traversos but with more keys and which also allow cross fingering.
On the other hand, I don’t think tradicional Irish musicians ever played traversos nor classical flutes - perhaps formal trained ones did - since all old flutes found in Irish homes are normally early Romantic instruments so they were used as models to develop the modern Irish flute.
The name "German flute" is somehow confusing as it can be seen written in 18th as well as 19th century flute methods. For instance, in "Monzani’s Instructions for the German Flute" (published in 1813) the fingering chart provided is certainly for a Romantic flute and not for a Baroque-Classical one: