Sean Potts

Re: Sean Potts

Thank you, bogman.

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Re: Sean Potts

Just simply beautiful — A lovely Post !

jim,,,

Re: Sean Potts

No problem Random, only passing on something that’s worth hearing and seeing.

Re: Sean Potts

Again, no problem Jim, do you know the air at all?

Re: Sean Potts

yep. it’s also on one of the first Na Fílí records.

Re: Sean Potts

Nice. Also found on The Boys of the Lough "Far From Home " album. They do it with "The Eagle’s Whistle"

Re: Sean Potts

Interesting to note that, despite the fact that today many people seem to be quite happy to spend 3 figures on a fancy wooden Whistle, Sean is using a simple £4 Generation Whistle, which looks like the plastic mouthpiece is being held together by sticky blue tape!

I hasten to add that he is of course doing a lovely, lovely job with what is clearly a very simple & cheap instrument!

Cheers
Dick

Re: Sean Potts

I agree Dick. But funnily enough my personal opinion is that only the very best players get that sort of sound from a Generation. I seriously have never heard a Generation in a session that I didn’t think was terrible, basically because your average player plays them so badly out of tune. Strangely I think it’s better for learners to get a medium priced whistle and try a Gereration when they have good breath control and a good sense of tuning.
Also, I think it can’t be understated how much the experience and understanding of a player like Potts has on the tone of his instrument.

Re: Sean Potts

bogman..
I am afraid I Dont know the Name of this Lovely Air —
Slow Air’s, Not being my speciality… But I wish I could play them like this -
jim,,,

Re: Sean Potts

amhrán has given us the name "Geaftaí Bhaile Bhuí" Jim. Being from an area rich in Highland Scottish Gaelic airs I’ve only ever learned a handful of Irish airs but this is a lovely tune. As with any air it’s largely down to the playing of course.

Re: Sean Potts

It is, of course, highly likely that he had to spend hundreds of pounds to find a Generation that sounds like that. I wonder if there’s a big pile of rejects gathering rust in his back garden?

Re: Sean Potts

I had the pleasure of hearing him play in person, the man is a master of the instrument. He didn’t play this air, but the one he chose brought tears to my eyes.

Re: Sean Potts

I may be in a minority of one, and I’m perfectly happy to be shot down, but I thought the bloody guitar completely ruined the beautiful playing of the air. Sorry. Back to me bunker… 🙁

Re: Sean Potts

O the pain I feel when I have to agree with Steve…Ouch!!

Re: Sean Potts

Can I change my mind?

Re: Sean Potts

🙂

Re: Sean Potts

I’m pleased to say that I was in the audience when this recording was made at the Wexford Opera House/Gradam Ceol Awards earlier this year, and yes, you could hear a pin drop. A beautiful air.

Re: Sean Potts

I have to admit, the guitar on the YouTube link did nothing for me either. Not bad, but just not necessary. It is so so hard to accompany a well played air, especially when the melodist is being free with the meter, which is the way it should be with an air. So most times, it is better to let the beauty of the melody shine with its own light…

Re: Sean Potts

FWIW:
I do not think Mr. Potts needed any accompaniment, either. And I would have loved to have heard how he phrases and interprets that tune when playing solo -
I know that I do nothing the same with a backer as I do without.

IMHO, though, I do not think the guitarist made a bad job of it, however. Different tastes, that’s all.
🙂

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Re: Sean Potts

There is no doubt that Seán Potts didn’t NEED accompaniment, as is the case with any air player. But perhaps he WANTED it. It may have been, as much as anything else, for support. The large crowd on such a night may have been intimidating. In which case the guitarist, i.e. John Blake, would naturally out of courtesy and respect play with him, if asked. Besides if any guitarist understands the role and function of the accompanist in Irish music it is John Blake.

As they say
Bíonn dhá insint ar scéal agus dhá leagan déag ar amhrán
(There are two sides to every story and twelve version to every song!)

Re: Sean Potts

Part of playing the whistle is assembling a collection of cheap Generations and Feadogs and the like, and eventually finding the one or two that you really like. The other part is playing for long enough that you get to know one or two of your cheap throwaway whistles well enough that you can get that kind of sound out of one. Two sides of the same coin, I think.

I wonder if the blue tape was holding the mouthpiece together, or just marking "the good one" so he could find it easily? I’ve done that before - put a little tag on the one you’re most likely to reach for, so you can find it easily. Helps a lot.

Re: Sean Potts

They do often split just where that tape was

Posted .

Re: Sean Potts

That’s true, too. Maybe it was a preventive measure, who knows?

Re: Sean Potts

It was nice to hear them stop after the air, as was discussed in an earlier thread, instead of bursting into the reel. Lovely music. Thanks bogman.

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Re: Sean Potts

Or the feckin strathspey and then the reel.

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Re: Seán Potts (not sean)

Don’t forget to get the spelling right, it’s : Seán Potts (with a síneadh fada on the A). ‘Sean’ means ‘old’, Seán is the name.

also,
"Love the look of respect on Paddy Glackin’s face."???… Eh?
How do you know what his look expressed? It looks just like a dumb smirk to me!

You can find the notes for Geaftaí Bhaile Buí at The Fiddler’s Companion here:
http://www.ibiblio.org/fiddlers/GAA_GAL.htm

Re: Seán Potts

Blimey! Actually, you’re right. It’s a damned awful transcription, everything about it’s wrong. My very bad. Please ignore it!

Re: Sean Potts

Skip the dots and learn it by ear. If you can’t learn a slow air by ear, the dots won’t improve your playing of it any.

Posted .

Re: Sean Potts

"Seán Potts (with a síneadh fada on the A). ‘Sean’ means ‘old’, Seán is the name."

So in this case, either would work.

Re: Sean Potts

I recorded one of Sigerson Clifford poems ‘The Red Haired Tinkers Son’ some years ago. Looking for some background music for my recitation, I had a friend play a Sean Potts composition ‘The Piper Remembered’ on a low whistle. Have to say it worked very well. Incidentally for the non Irish speakers Sean as in old is pronounced shan, and Seán as in the name (Irish for John) is pronounced Shawn.

Re: Sean Potts

Cracking level of pedantry there by ed_boot

Re: Seán Potts (get it right!!)

"Seán" is not typically pronounced with a ‘w’ sound. The best I could recommend is Shaan (with one syllable). For ‘sean’ (the Gaelic for ‘old’) shan is a fine pronunciation (provided you keep the ‘a’ short as in the english word ‘flan’).

And I don’t think it’s at all pedantic to ask that Gaelic names be spelled correctly. ‘Sean’ is not his name, it’s the Irish for old. Seán is his name (it’s the Gaelic form of the French name Jean).

Re: Seán Potts - Playing Slow Airs

Will Harmon writes: "Skip the dots and learn it by ear. If you can’t learn a slow air by ear, the dots won’t improve your playing of it any."

In the case of Seán Potts it’s clear what the tune is. He plays it as it is sung, in the old style. But there is often good reason to learn slow airs from notation these days. Many players recently (since the 1970s) have adopted a completely structureless way of playing slow airs, so that it is impossible to tell what the original tune is like (what time signature is it? where do the bar lines occur? what is the phrasing of the song it’s based on?) People are even writing tunes down now without time signature or bar lines in the badly mistaken belief that this will approximate the original; in fact it just guarantees that the tune will be played wrong by anyone who attempts it.

So learn from an Irish singer, or someone who plays the tune in the old style (i.e., as it is traditionally sung, like the Seán Potts does) or learn it from proper notation that shows the bones of the original tune. If you try to learn an air from many well known Irish musicians today (who just string notes together with supposedly dramatic silences) you will get a sequence of notes without any discernible structure or rhythm, and this will be as far from the traditional slow air as it is possible to get.

Here’s a useful old post from whistleblower on playing slow airs:

Slow airs are very difficult to play well, they are the most difficult part of the Gaelic repertoire. And it may be necessary to be somewhat familiar with Gaelic song in order to do them justice. Irish slow airs have been the victim of the increasing tastelessness and lack of subtlety of Irish players. To play the phrasing in Irish airs it helps to look at the words of the Gaelic song (if there be words). Many modern players have absolutely dire phrasing, often placing a pause right in the middle of a word. Many fiddle players break up the tune into dozens of micro phrases so that there is no way whatever of knowing what the actual melody should sound like, add to that the recurring ‘goat-trills’ (uneven trills that sound like a goat bleating) and you have a clear example of how an ancient art is decaying at their hands. (I’ve no idea where this terrible way of playing airs originated, but some exponents of it include Seán Keane, Paddy Glackin & Tommy Peoples.) Listen of the best fiddlers of the early to mid 20th century to see how it should be done (though of course not every fiddler played slow airs at all.) My favorite players include Neillidh Boyle and John Doherty; they’re playing might sound rather rough to modern ears not used to traditional playing, but their command of the melody & phrasing and their expression are unsurpassed. You can hear the melody! (not just a sequence of notes.) If you compare for instance the Neillidh Boyle or John Doherty playing the air Tighearna Mhaigh Eó (Lord Mayo), with Paddy Glackin’s version you can see that the playing of slow airs has suffered terribly in recent times. With Neillidh Boyle and John Doherty you can hear a beautiful and haunting melody, with Paddy Glackin you get a sequence of unconnected notes separated by long pauses and embellished with goat-trills.

Irish slow airs are nearly always played ‘rubato’(which is also quite common in Classical music), the rhythm is fairly free and the length of notes is altered for emphasis and expression, but recently the rhythm has been so messed up by players (and on occasion singers) that there’s no way even to tell what time-signature an air was originally in. (I’ve even seen a tune written out, by a flute player, that had no time signature or bar-lines, just a string of notes.)

If you listen to old recordings of Irish sean-nós singers, and to Scots Gaelic singers, or great highland fiddlers such as Angus Grant you can hear how these tunes are supposed to sound. The fiddle can capture the subtleties, the sadness and the longing of the human voice (but you rarely hear it these days)

# Posted on June 15th 2009 by whistleblower