Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Hi Folks,

I’m looking for some train wreck recordings classical musicians attempting to play ITM,
Like Frankie Gavin teaching Yehudi Menuhin " The boys of blue hill", (although I don’t think there’s a recording of that.. but you get the idea). Clunky phrasing, etc. etc.

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Someone should actually teach the musicians from the LSO in that video how to play Irish music just so they can learn to be utterly ashamed of themselves, and of that recording. It’s dreadfully embarrassing.

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Sorry there’s no recording of it, but this thread reminds me of the time the fiddler in our band went into a local violin shop to buy rosin or whatever. The woman there asks him who he plays with (assuming that he’s with one of the local orchestras) and he replies that he plays in an Irish band.

Her face brightens and she exclaims "I play Irish music too!" and she puts a violin under her chin and starts up playing Irish Washerwoman ‘saltando’ (that is, with the bow bouncing on the strings, one bounce for each note). Our fiddler was amazed.

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This is pretty bad… the guy puts in extra beats here and there, you could never dance to it.

I don’t understand why people always do the speed-up thing that that tune

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpKdRr-1Tt8

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James Galway is sure famous and I very much admire his classical playing and his convictions about the gifts we are given… but I squirm whenever I hear him play Irish trad, like this

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE-fWvL04j0


BTW is Andre really a ‘famous classical musician’ in other words is he considered a legitimate orchestral violinist? Or does the orchestral world view him as a pop music showman? In the vein that Kenny G isn’t considered a ‘jazz saxophonist’ in the jazz world.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

How about some of the "Worst recordings of famous irish musicians attempting to play classical music?"

A word in favour of Yehudi Mehuhin and his attitude to muisc.

I sincerely hope that the video of Yehudi Menuhin does not turn up. I assume that it’s from the early 1970s.
I believe that, at that time, Yehudi was rare among classical musicians in recognising the unique skills of traditional musicians.
This first minutes of this audio clip of Tom Anderson may give you an idea of the respect that Yehudi had for traditional players, especially for the fiddler’s bowing.
http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/79823/7;jsessionid=F10E242875E5F10B1E2B0BD5DFF9DFF0
I remember a TV made in Shetland in the early seventies, inwhich he played along with traditional players. It was clear that he had not grasped the bowing technique in the short time he had to try it. Well it was clear to me, but not to the classical music lover I spoke to about the programme.

Yehudi know he was not playing in the traditional style but was game enough to be filmed anyway. He was not humiliated, neither did he break into a Bach sonata or suggest playing the double violin concerto with one of his hosts.

There is no doubt that there are classical music lovers who are strongly biased against the music we love. and fail to hear its subtleties or recognise the skill and musicality of players. We do not have to be narrow minded. We should rather emulate Josie McDermott who played other genres of music and who appreciated classical music too. The classical musicians I know have a prodigious technique devloped through thousands of hours of practice. To try to find video evidence that ridicules their attempts to play a genre that they have little experience of is cruel and pointless.

I have very little time for any traditional music played by an orchestra, and avoid all such pieces, with the exception of Bartók’s Romanian Dances. However I listen to traditional music from several countries, jazz from all the eras as well as a range of classical composers. I appreciate the beauties of them all and the skill of the musicians.

(I very much regret listening to a prom in 2012(?) in which Kathryn Tickell and her band played She[herd’s Hey with an Orchestra. Doubtless a well meaning commission, but quite a waste of time for all concerned.)

Yehudi was one of the great musicians of his time, with a phenomenal natural ability and technique. He was able to recognise talented musicians and rich musical traditions very different from the one he trained in.

Let’s try to be as open minded as he was.

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Richard raises a good question: Rieu may fit the "famous" criterion, but he is by no means a classical musician. In training, yes, I believe. But he basically plays movie music etc., and Richard’s word "showman" is apt. Same goes for Galway. Way back in the 1980s he performed Bach etc., but it seems that I recent decades he has been doing lots of movie music and crossover. In other words, both of these would raise as many quivers and shivers with classical musicians. And with the exception of the LSO, I don’t think the others, as interesting as they are, are renowned.

Though my first thougt too was Galway. Danny boy. Sounds like he’s got a wawa pedal on there.

There are grey areas to be had between genres—-one would not want to think anything popular could not be classical—-but these two examples are not part of the classical milieu. Yo Yo Ma’s recordings of traditional and ‘folk’ music, too—dunno if there is any irish, but there is some Japanese—can also fall in here: basically, taking an overblown movie-music playing style—which is not necessarily classical to begin with—and applying to the skeleton of the notes as if the tune is the music. (Ma, though, can still be called a classical musician.)

I’m curious to hear other examples. Maybe starting by composers arranging would help. With these sorts of show people, the player’s image takes over, but it helps to remember that classical music is, traditionally, composer-driven.

Bela Fleck’s Bach, on the other hands is quite interesting.

And don’t forget my piano trio premiere Oct. 10, homage to red is the rose. We can have a lively discussion Afterward. ;-)

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I guess I’m different, but being classically trained as well as listening and playing ITM for decades, I really did not find any of the above examples objectionable, just different ways of playing great music; it may not necessarily be my cup of tea but they are playing these tunes better than I can, or ever could. Technically speaking, Winnifred Horan is a classical violinist who plays ITM, and the emotion she puts into her style is quite apparent to me on many of the Solas CD’s.

David E

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

"How about some of the "Worst recordings of famous irish musicians attempting to play classical music?""

I don’t know about worst, but Mairtin O’Connor’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba springs to mind.

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It might be of interest to see what players in niches of classical music that already have more in common with trad do, as opposed to the stadium rockers mentioned above.

For ex. the flute playing here is **not** James Galway:
Lark in the Morning, Arr. Stewart. Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orch.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/lark-in-morning-medley-arr./id463468928?i=463468975

And Jordi Savall, listed here on the session, has 2 CDs of the Celtic Viol. In his case he investigated O’Carolan manuscripts etc. You’d certainly find it to be different playing. Perhaps more copacetic tho.

(Andreas scholl (countertenor) also has a whole recording of "folk music.")

If of interest, below are some classical *composers*’ approaches to trad music (not all Irish). I hope some meet with your, um, expectations!

Frank Bridge, Londonderry Air (old recording!)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/irish-melody-londonderry-air/id525799803?i=525800326

Percy Grainger, Scotch Strathspey and reel
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/scotch-strathspey-and-reel/id567906536?i=567906586

Benjamin Britten, salley gardens
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/volume-1-british-isles-i./id62182345?i=62181997

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With classical violinists, I think it’s probably just that they haven’t bothered to learn the style properly - not that there’s any technical difficulty with the music (doesn’t work the other way, though) …

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I strongly disagree with that. I’ve yet to find a classically trained violinist who didn’t start trad as a kid and who can do the ornaments. Those, and the rhythm, frankly seem to be beyond them. And those are technical matters.

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Jim writes: "With classical violinists, I think it’s probably just that they haven’t bothered to learn the style properly - not that there’s any technical difficulty with the music (doesn’t work the other way, though) …"
Totally agree!
Most of the classical musicians I’ve had the pleasure of playing with pick up the style very quickly.. It usually does not work the other way though. Anyone who can play Pagannini’s Caprice 24 should have no problem with a bowed triplet once they practice it a few times.

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That was my first post on this forum, and it that was an epic adventure.

Phillip W, I’m with you on the Yehudi thing, it might be a shame to see it come to light because he was such an excellent cat, but then it might just go to show that we’re all terrible at the thing we don’t know anything about.

Tøm: epic. And she keeps smiling the whole way. Reminds me of this…. http://youtu.be/Pr7ifB8JF-w



And andre rieu… well… who can say.

Keep em coming.

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I think it is a mistake to judge how an Irish tune sounds when played by a classical musician. Try as I may, I can’t find a rule book that says Irish music must (should I put MUST in caps?) be played in a traditional style. Here’s a song I love that is certainly a blues number. But would a traditional bluesman cringe at the orchestra and background singers?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vAyitZPcMo


Now, it would be a different matter entirely if a classically trained musician thought he was doing the tradition justice in his or her rendition of a traditional tune as opposed to doing the tune justice in the classical style.

Anyone who thinks that James Galway (Irish lad, when last I looked) couldn’t play in the traditional style in a manner that would make Matt Molloy jealous is really just letting their envy show. He knows exactly what he is doing and it is a choice. He is a classical musician who played first flute the Berlin Philharmonic when it was considered to be the premier orchestra in the world under Herbert van Karajan. He plays in the style he does because he is a classical musician. He then applies that style to the music he is playing, whether it is a John Denver song or an Irish reel.

So, except for sheer fun, let’s retire the ITM Snob Police, shall we?

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{*I strongly disagree with that. I’ve yet to find a classically trained violinist who didn’t start trad as a kid and who can do the ornaments. Those, and the rhythm, frankly seem to be beyond them. And those are technical matters.*}

Like everything else, there are good ones and bad ones. I’ve met the good ones, you’ve met the bad ones :)

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Isn’t "Rieu" that sound you make when you’re on your knees in the bathroom, after 9 Coronas and a chicken Madras?

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There is an interview with James Galway (I think it’s in a documentary about the Chieftains) where he corrects the interviewer and says that he plays Irish tunes rather than Irish music and says that whenever he picks up more of the fingerwork Paddy Moloney jokes that they will get him there yet, or words to that effect.

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[*So, except for sheer fun, let’s retire the ITM Snob Police, shall we?*]
Agreed. Arrogance is a two-way lane that no one need walk down. ;-)

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" I’ve yet to find a classically trained violinist who didn’t start trad as a kid and who can do the ornaments. Those, and the rhythm, frankly seem to be beyond them. And those are technical matters." says Ben H.

I have loads of respect for good classical musicians, they have fantastic technique at their disposal, way beyond anything needed to play trad. The stuff they play is so damn hard, and they are expected to be able to express "the composers intention" across a range of countries, sub-genres, and centuries. Carping because they cannot play one specific genre of folk music authentically does no one any credit.
BUT
All that said, and in agreement with Ben, a lot of classical musicians do play in a way that suggests notation is deeply embedded in their musical psyche, even when they are not playing from the dots. It’s as if you can hear them mentally going, crotchet, quaver quaver, dotted crochet, quaver, rather than playing the phrase as a whole.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

"All that said, and in agreement with Ben, a lot of classical musicians do play in a way that suggests notation is deeply embedded in their musical psyche, even when they are not playing from the dots. It’s as if you can hear them mentally going, crotchet, quaver quaver, dotted crochet, quaver, rather than playing the phrase as a whole."

I can’t think of any classical musicians for whom I have any respect that does that. Amateurs come in all stripes. I go to sessions where I hear players do all the cookie-cutter ornaments so that every tune they play sounds the same. I don’t think one can generalize about one musical discipline over another. One thing I have noted, though: I can enjoy listening to a trad player of only modest talent, but for classical, anything less than very good is painful to endure.

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It seems to me that in all of these clips these gifted musicians aren’t trying to play "Irish music," they are simply playing a traditional Irish tune in the style in which they are accustomed to playing. I equate it to a Shakespearian actor reading from Brendan Behan. They’re not going to sound the same as if Colm Meaney was reading it are they? However, I would also imagine that with a bit of time spent studying the music, an orchestra player easily could cop a pretty fair impression of what it was suppose to sound like. For example, just as the Irish actor Colin Farrell can do a spot-on American accent, I’m certain somewhere out there, there are classically trained folks who can play Irish music without a noticeable "foreign accent."

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"Celtic Thunder" was on TV a few nights ago. I watched about for 5 minutes, came to the conclusion there was nothing particularly Celtic about it and changed channels. For some odd reason, I do the same thing to "Celtic Women". I like sessions, the music doesn’t get the life sucked out of it even if it is blemished by the errors of mere human musicians that aren’t classically trained.

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"the Irish actor Colin Farrell"

Not to be confused with the Irish traditional musician Colin Farrell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swvUy1iRYsw


Perhaps they should take a leaf out of the Gerry O’Connor book.

Colin "Fiddle" Farrell
Colin "Phone Booth" Farrell

There. Problem solved.

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@rosemarie: Your reference to Bela Fleck brought to mind this old video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uxX6uydY20

Bela was a classically trained musician as youngster before he "branched out".
I’m not particularly fond of these renditions of "Banish Misfortune" or "Maid Behind the Bar" but certainly there’s no limit to the technical ability of either Bela or Gerry!
;-) RTH

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Ailin: Galway "knows exactly what he is doing and it is a choice … He plays in the style he does because he is a classical musician. He then applies that style to the music he is playing, whether it is a John Denver song or an Irish reel."

I thought Eamon was asking about recordings that were disappointing, not whether they were by choice. May be not. And its’ not accurate Galway does not play that way "because he is a classical musician." As Tom noted, they (we) don’t just play one way.

Though Tom, as much as classical music relies on notation, it is often overemphasized by others. It’s still a somewhat oral tradition—one learns from one’s teacher, memorizes music, etc. A good musician goes beyond the written notes. There are, as usual, subtleties, but it is not so, um, black and white. (Hat tip to me.)

Jim: "Like everything else, there are good ones and bad ones. I’ve met the good ones, you’ve met the bad ones :)" As usual, your moderating and grounding influence threatens to ruin everything. ;-)

Really, if you want to know about this for real, as an experienced classical musician. Or just read what she wrote above already. Hugs to all! (If you want.)

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RTH: thanks for that! I will look forward to checking it out after I am done with my gig tonight butchering some Irish music with my dotty fingers. ;-)

Meantime, I had wondered whether he was classically trained but had not explored yet. Interesting.

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Hey, Eamon, I have been curious as to why you are looking for bad recordings, if you feel like sharing …

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I’ve seen some classical sheet music offered as "traditional irish tunes" I found a recording of "for the star of County down" and I was really confused because it sounded almost nothing like the tune I know. I heard little snipets of parts I know, but it was heavily embellished.

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"I thought Eamon was asking about recordings that were disappointing, not whether they were by choice."

He said he was looking for "train wrecks." That implies to me that he is looking for recordings where someone was attempting to do something and not succeeding. More than that, destroying what they were attempting to elevate. Galway could easily play in the traditional style, I’m quite certain. His goal, often stated, is to make the classical style of playing something that people will not just "appreciate," but truly enjoy. If he were to play in the traditional style, he would in effect be implying that that switch in approach is necessary to do justice to the music; that’s the opposite of what his life’s work has been about.

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"His goal, often stated, is to make the classical style of playing something that people will not just "appreciate," but truly enjoy." Specious and patronizing on his part. Some enjoy classical music more when it is not drowned in syrup. And as I already said, he is *not* playing in a classical style. The fact that he chooses the syrup does not keep it from being too sweet. Syrup can have pretty disastrous consequences. Perhaps only Jim and I remember the Great Molasses disaster of 1919?

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-OfTrVzHlKoQ/UPbGjkFKgrI/AAAAAAAAAHs/nos19e5tavA/s1600/BostonMolassesDisaster.jpg

Yum. Time for a snack.

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I’m going to be an oddball here and say that I, personally, found that LSO video pretty cool. I do tend to enjoy some classical ensemble pieces based off of Irish tunes. However, I have to put them in a totally different mental/musical compartment than real Trad music. I grew up pretty much all my life devoted to classical music. I have a natural, in-born attraction and fluency with music, so after I humbled myself past the hump that classical musicians tend to face when they try Irish music, I was able to quickly pick up the tunes as well as the style, in equal measure. (To give you an idea of that measure, I was *almost* asked to be a guest musician with a local trad Irish group. It didn’t happen because of my age)

Back to the near-original topic though, I appreciate classical renditions of supposed "Irish tunes" in a peculiar way. I appreciate the melody and arrangement, but can’t give it any association with real Irish music. Plus, I may be wrong here, but I would wager to say that many of you probably underestimate the amount of sheer skill and technique that it takes to play "Irish tunes" like a die-hard classicist would, all the while keeping steady and accurate.

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@an fidleir:
Not to worry about age fiddler.
Gymnasts are gone by late teens.
Tennis players terminate in their late twenties.
Footballers finish in their early forties.
Cricketeers are done before the game ends.
Fiddlers can fiddle well into their late hundreds! (and some would say beyond!)
8-)

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@rosemariemcsweeney - You are entitled to your opinion, but it is really not germane, is it? Whether or not you like his approach is immaterial. He succeeds in what he does and there is obviously an audience for it. If we are looking for train wrecks, I think we need a less subjective evaluation. If you think he is drowning his music in syrup, Enya must leave you choking and heaven knows what you think of Loreena McKennitt. Better stay inside tonight war it’s safe. :)

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{*As usual, your moderating and grounding influence threatens to ruin everything. ;-)*}

Glad to help, Rosiemarie ! Er…you mentioned Frank Bridge - do you by any chance know of a recording of his Moto Perpetuo? I can’t find one anywhere.

I think there is a fair amount of opinion difference on what constitutes playing Irish music badly. I agree that the clip (posted above) of ‘Toss the Feathers’ by members of the LSO showed a lack of understanding of the style, but they certainly didn’t ‘murder’ it.

Most of what I’ve heard in the way of ‘bad Irish playing’ has been along those lines - note perfect, but lacking in the ‘foot-tappy’ rhythm and in dynamics too. As I said before, it’s simply because of a lack of experience in playing the music as is expected, and nothing to do with a lack of technique. Nothing that couldn’t be put right after a little time spent in a few good sessions, or a short spell with a mentor.

There have been debates on here before on this and related subjects, and there was often talk of "immersion" in "the music". Nothing wrong with that in itself, if that’s what you want, but I can’t help get the feeling that in some cases it prevents one from appreciating anything above the "surface". As a result, it got to the point where some of the immersants would not accept some players’ playing of ‘the music’ - simply because they were "trapped in the bubble", and could not accept anything outside of a relatively small style-set.

I posted this here before - it’s a highly skilled classical violinist playing a few tunes. The general consensus was that it was pretty good, but then it was not so good when they found out who it was :)

http://worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/some-bloke-playing-diddley-etc.mp3

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Give me MacDara O’Raghallaigh over "Some Bloke" any day.

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I admire any musicians with talent and dedication, and adore classical music. But I really reject the idea that ‘classical players can play trad if they want to’ simply because they are classically trained. Not just because it implies a hierarchy of musicianship, but because it’s wrong.

As a piper, the standard teaching we learn is to spend at least (if not more) time listening to good pipers that we do practising. That’s because the music is not notes on the page. It’s swing. Timing. Ornamentation. Feel. Most of the fiddlers I admire most (and here I speak personally of Donegal fiddlers) would be laughed out of most classical lessons. But have a classical player try playing some of the rhythms, double stops and alternative turnings that John Doherty played, for example. They wouldn’t even have the experience to hear and understand what he is doing, let alone replicate it.

Nothing against the players in the videos above, but they are playing notes on a page not Irish music, no matter how talented they obviously are.

I’ve played with more that one fiddler who grew up in trad households but took classical lessons as kids, and were told again and again that what they were playing (ie trad bowing and fingering techniques) was ‘wrong’ and had it beaten out of them, only to ‘relearn’ it again as adults as they rediscovered trad music.

I’m all for everyone having a go at playing Irish melodies, on any instrument they choose. And enjoying the melodies. But it is just playing melodies. Not trad playing.

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Whether or not someone can play trad is a matter of if they know the music and have studied and applied the style. Classical players may have a leg up because of a discipline already mastered. They say if you can speak more than one language, learning more comes easier and faster. I believe it’s the same with music. I play in a variety of styles because I listen to the styles I play in. Very few of my musical friends can do that because they are self-taught in essentially one style.

Let us remember that the Clancy Brothers are no more traditional than James Galway. Take a song like Brennan On The Moor. Listen to their version and then listen to a trad version. Night and day, my friends, night and day.

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Some of us want to hear an old guy sitting in the corner of the bar playing his fiddle, or Matt Molloy up on stage. Not someone acting out the part of the old guy or Matt Molloy.

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Well I guess my scope of what is ‘traditional’ spans well beyond the Clancy Brothers and James Galway, so perhaps not a good example. No disrespect to either of course. But there is a big difference in consciously creating Irish music for wider popular consumption via record sales, as both were doing, and what was going on ‘off the radar’ in sessions around Ireland, England and elsewhere.

In fairness, total respect for those who can play in more than one style. I know I can’t. But don’t assume that playing an Irish melody is the same as playing ‘the music’.

Following on from the last post, I couldn’t agree more. Some of the most moving nights of Irish music I’ve had have were when in lived in the North West of Ireland, listening to the late James Byrne playing solo on a stool in the corner of a pub in Gleann Cholm Cille, Donegal or the late Peter Horan playing solo or is duos Coolaney, Sligo.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Here is Sailor’s Hornpipe - by studio musicians - classically trained.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0LqfnA8FI8


When I hear even non-ITM fluent Classical Musicians and even Great Galway playing ITM, it all sounds cartoonish to me - no more than that - it grates against the soul for me. I am sure some like it and there is an audience for it but it is so silly and foreign-sounding to me. I am thankful for what people call the "pure drop" philosophy and that ITM still survives and has not morphed into these cartoonish versions played by famous or unknown non-ITM musicians who are poorly trained or far removed from the authentic genre.

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@Jim I recall you first posting that clip and had (erroneously as it turned out) understood it to be someone from your personal acquaintance. Not bad, I thought, in the sense of someone who I’d be happy to sit in a session with. Not someone I’d ever take to be a really good player of traditional music.Finding out who it was hasn’t made me revise my opinion upward or downward, and as Tom suggests, anyone that couldn’t tell the difference between that and MacDara O’Raghallaigh is not to be taken seriously (not to imply that you can’t, Jim)

The snobberies certainly run both ways, I recall this fiddler www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-KbJ97Krg8 saying how some people in the trad scene in Ireland told her she’d never be a proper fiddle player because she’d learnt classical; well you can judge….


However that’s someone who knew and learnt traditional music from early on.

This clip I’m sure has been posted before /www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItZuGpqIUCc but I have to say it shows Galway in a poor light; where he says he doesn’t need to play ornaments because he can get the note without them he comes across to me as both patronising and ignorant. Matt is of course a gentleman and politely demurs, I can’t for a minute believe that he’d ever be jealous, still less that he’d have a reason to be. All the technique in the world won’t help you if you don’t actually understand what the music’s about.

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It’s interesting how that last clip you posted about James Galway keeps popping up in these kinds of threads.

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Wow. That last clip is embarrassing (for James Galway). Matt Molloy sits there quietly listening to James’s patronising nonsense, then owns him on the flute demo. Up Sligo!

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Yeah, Sir James missed a great opportunity to keep his mouth shut. Dig Matt’s sly smile after he finishes his runs at the end of the clip. I wish they’d let it go a few more seconds. "You were saying, Mr. Galway?"

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The thing that makes me cringe is how many classical musicians articulate every note in a different manner (tongueing or vibrato), over-emphazising the bounce (compare James Galway and Matt Molloy playing Boys of Bluehill), clearly basing the performance on a written source (ignoring any kind of ornamentation - if it’s there, and treating the notation as THE version - as if it was a classical piece). BTW, to my ears, I don’t find The Corrs’ version of Toss the Feathers a lot more interesting than LSO’s. A simple "Ad (3ddd Ad (3ddd" would be a lot more Add2 Add2 (clearly a simplified version of Ad~d2 Ad~d2).

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"Anyone who thinks that James Galway (Irish lad, when last I looked) couldn’t play in the traditional style in a manner that would make Matt Molloy jealous is really just letting their envy show. He knows exactly what he is doing and it is a choice. He is a classical musician who played first flute the Berlin Philharmonic when it was considered to be the premier orchestra in the world under Herbert van Karajan. He plays in the style he does because he is a classical musician. He then applies that style to the music he is playing, whether it is a John Denver song or an Irish reel."

Bull****. There’s no way someone would play ironically badly so as not to show Matt Molloy up. He doesn’t have traditional playing in his repetoire, which is why every single thing about his whistle playing is a complete abortion.

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Does anybody happen to have the rest of that documentary with James in it and the Chieftains? I’d love to take a listen to that.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Nicola Benedetti has had a couple of airings on Radio Three recently playing a set that starts with Spey in Spate (it’ll be on iPlayer from yesterday morning, the 14th, Essential Classics, some time in the first half-hour). Sounds like a bunch of fun to me! Scott-Skinner might have approved.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

he’s like ‘i can play a chromatic scale.’ Wow. *sarcasm*

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

How facinating and musical of him, chromatics FTW!

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

He should be kissing Matt Molloy’s a*** rather than patronising him.

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What happens after that, though?

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Lets put it this way, it’s on my unofficial bucket list to go to Matt Molloy’s, have a couple of swift pints and maybe a tune: wouldn’t watch Mr. Galway if he was playing in my shed!

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

"Anyone who thinks that James Galway… couldn’t play in the traditional style… is really just letting their envy show."

I’m not envious of Galway’s manner of playing Irish trad in the least. I’ve heard dozens, hundreds, of American orchestrally-trained fluteplayers and recorderplayers who sound just like that. I’ve given workshops and private lessons to loads of them and I’m familiar with all the stylistic things they tend to do.

I’m a massive admirer of Galway the classical musician, and Galway the man. He has a special tone on the Boehm flute that many imitate but none can approach. His musicality is tremendous, as is his work ethic. I love his playing of Bach (though I do prefer hearing Bach on period flutes, played by people who play those flutes fulltime). The fact that he’s become something of a showman/ambassador for the flute doesn’t diminish his tremendous ‘chops’.

As people are saying, it’s all over the map, with some ‘classical’ players enjoying listening to traditional music of various types and earnestly learning to play it in a traditional manner, and others turning up their snooty noses at anything nonclassical and viewing all traditional players as being incompetent musicians.

There are plenty of people like Barnaby Brown who have advanced music degrees and extensive orchestral experience but who also play traditional music at the highest level.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

The world is big enough for all types of musicians, playing in all types of styles. And what others play, and how they play it, does not diminish my own enjoyment of the music I play and listen to.
So why fuss about it?

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

@ Steve Shaw: Nicola Benedetti is a different kettle of fish. I think she’s just brilliant. She had that series of interviews (were they shown as programmes? I can’t remember) with Ali Bain. She freely admitted that there were loads of things that Ali could do that she simply couldn’t do, and she was fascinated by that. And she’s someone who *has* grown up with the music.

I think if she plays any trad-ish stuff well (I haven’t heard her attempting trad except in the Ali Bain interview thingies), it’s likely to be because of the humility she clearly displays, and not assuming that she can do anything just because she’s brilliant in another genre.

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

"I think if she plays any trad-ish stuff well (I haven’t heard her attempting trad except in the Ali Bain interview thingies), it’s likely to be because of the humility she clearly displays, and not assuming that she can do anything just because she’s brilliant in another genre."

I have. I went to see her in concert with Phil Cunningham, Duncan Chisholm, Julie Fowlis and co. at the Guildhall in London a few weeks back. Admittedly she played a fair few Scott Skinner tunes (which are a bit "classical" by nature), but she played them well.

That said, she also played a duet with Duncan Chisholm of "The Gentle Light That Wakes Me" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z36tHtzLVHI which was absolutely breathtaking.


If the concert was anything to go by, then her album "Homecoming - A Scottish Fantasy" is well worth a listen: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Homecoming-Scottish-Fantasy-Nicola-Benedetti/dp/B00JLZVJSM

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

I watched the programmes with Aly Bain and Nicola Benedetti and enjoyed them very much. I think they are e both very good musicians in their own right.

I do think it’s worth pointing out that Aly Bain’s fiddling has a lot in common with the classical style, much more than Irish fiddling has. There’s more importance attached to good tone and intonation, plus other stuff like avoiding the open E when playing slow airs, etc …

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

I’m glad I started that bit off! ;-)

As for James Galway, I remember how he was flavour of the month on Radio Three way back in the ’80s. On a lot of his records the flute was way too far forward in the mix (which seemed deliberate) and I often found his tone to be grating - super-sweet and very full of vibrato. I don’t want that Classic FM thing of a flute sounding louder than the rest of the symphony orchestra put together! He made a record of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto adapted for flute. He had the nerve to change its catalogue number from K622 to "K622G"! Pretty awful it was too. Fair bit of ego showing through at times, I thought. My two favourite classical flute players are William Bennett and Jean-Pierre Rampal, who both have a lovely, unforced, lyrical tone.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Thanks for those great exchanges between Aly and Nicola. There always seems to be more mutual admiration and respect between the great masters of the different musical genres than exists between members of their respective fan bases. Might that be a distinguishing characteristic between the "great" and the "not so great"?
:-)

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Ailin: I am very impressed at those trad self-defense skills ya got there, right in the tradition. "Better stay inside tonight war [i trust you mean "where"] it’s safe"—I trust there you did not intend to play in the tradition of a critter who, when feeling threatened, turns threatening. Because that would be bad. I’ll keep my own travel schedule thanks. Hugs!!

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Roads, got to listen to Béla—-thanks. I am interested in that sort of thing. It seems misfortune refuses to be banished.

An f. brave to speak up about LSO, :-)

Tom Connelly: yeah , cartoonish. There are lots of exx. Like that to be found. That sort of thing can be described as a "musical topic," in the stricter terminological sense. Its like a shorthand that points to something artificial, not something real. I think the sailor’s Hornpipe was used a lot in this way?—like the top 40 of the deracinated signifiers? :-)

Kind of like how the irish washerwoman is the jig people who don’t know any jigs know?

Classical version: first four notes of beethoven 5.

Steve Shaw any more info on that radio show for a foreigner? Also the the about Galway in the mix (a good title?) is in lots of classical recordings. Concerti especially. It’s like the dialogue between solo and orchestra becomes "hey, look at me!" I’d be curious to know if Galway participated more than other soloists in such decisions given his stature.

Incidentally, I had blocked this traumatic memory—but—when I heard galway ca. 1983 (symphony hall, boston, ma) he was even kitschy with Bach: started a piece, stopped, shook his head, went off stage, came back with a different flute, having traded gold for silver. And then I **think** he did an encore playing two whistles at once?

I was blissfully unaware of the clarinet concerto!!

The incriminating video of him with Malloy seems to have disappeared? I’d be curious to see it.

Frank bridge ahoy.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Is anyone familiar with matthew Mcallister? I ran across him sometime ago in a clip of him playing Neil gow’s lament for wife v. 2.0. Classical guitar. As some have pointed out, some of this music is closer to classical to begin with. Anyway, that’s all I know of him. I liked the clip a few months back, but I am sure I will see the error of my ways when I watch it again. ;-)

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

"Kind of like how the irish washerwoman is the jig people who don’t know any jigs know?"
Re Irish Washerwoman - personally won’t play it. Seems insulting - like it would be if there was a tune
"English Bath Room Attendant Lady" - or "African American Sanitary Truck Man".

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

"The incriminating video of him with Malloy seems to have disappeared? I’d be curious to see it"

Was it the last two or three minutes of this ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZkyr8HXJmk

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Wowee, thanks David50. That’s something to marvel at. Thing is, there are some points in there worth discussing, but it can’t happen of galway does all the talking including for molloy, eh? Although it comes of as superior for sure, I would not want assume galway fuLly means to say that having all those boehmian keys is better….

I for one much prefer Molloy’s non-chromatic filibuster that follows to the smooth regularity of the boehmian. I only hope galway hears its allure. If not he is really missing out.

Some might say … Man … Flute …pissing contest … Overcompensating … But I would not.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Well put, tom. And what about I buried my wife and danced on her grave? We could go down a long rock road here …

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Boy, I would never want my non-trad friends to see this thread. Kind of embarrassing, it is. Exposes the classic (you should pardon the expression) insecurities of trad players. "Oh, oh - those uppity classical players just can’t play the Pure Drop, can they, now?" What utter nonsense. Perhaps we should all have a tune and not worry our little heads about what other people do, shall we?

There’s an Italian saying that roughly translates to, "We always abuse what we can’t have."

Good for a laugh, but not much else.

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

OK, this isn’t at all relevant, but it is 100% true.

Chatting with friends in a pub car park, my lovely partner, who’s from Dublin, bent down to pick up a small metal disc with a hole in it, then another, and another…

"Oh no!" says she "I’m the Irish washer-woman!"

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

I am curious about the notion of snobbery—If it’s coming from actual classical folks, bummer. If from an idea of classical musicians being snobby, please reserve judgment. Many are anything but. Those who play "contemporary classical" and/or early music are especially likely to be interested in other stuff. "Factory musicians" (playing in orchestras) are possibly less likely to be open, but who knows? In any case, I think any alert classical musician is aware how small a niche they inhabit.

Another one that may be of interest, speaking of baroque players:
https://thesession.org/recordings/2727

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Jim: I’m not a music librarian, but I play one on the session. (Not sure if that USism is familiar?)

here is some messy info. (Violin and viola diff. or same pieces?)

I hope that helps—curious to know what arises from this.

VIOLA
http://search.alexanderstreet.com/view/work/380394
composed by Frank Bridge; produced by Michael Ponder; performed by Louise Williams, David Owen Norris and Jean Rigby
(ASV), 1:11:27 mins
Bridge: Music for Viola
asv GB-EPC-05-02387

(Are you familiar with "amaryllis"?—also on there.)

VIOLIN
Violin Recital: Mitchell, Madeleine - ELGAR, E. / BERG, A. / BRIDGE, F. / COPLAND, A. / PROKOFIEV, S. / BRIDGE, F. / MASSENET, J. (Violin Songs)
Naxos Online
http://www.naxosmusiclibrary.com/catalogue/item.asp?cid=DDA25063

(I also ran across a Britten Moto Perpetuo for Cello and piano which is kinda interesting.)

Also a few on iTunes but mostly orch.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Wow. Galway is insufferable on that clip.

G:
These (trad) ornaments are meant to get from one note to the next. But on my flute, I don’t need to do that, ‘cause I can get very well from one note to the next, the same way that a great, great singer can just stand up and sing Danny boy without any inflections on the notes at all.

M:
Well, it’s done for variety as well…

G:
Yes, of course.

M:
…one time you hit the note straight. Next time you bend it.

G:
Yes, that’s true. So, you know, all over Ireland we have different ways of playing…

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Yeah. I want to know what else they had to say in that clip, simply because it cuts off after the chromatic scale and such.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Did anyone notice that Mr Galway didn’t actually manage to play a full chromatic scale, after saying he would? He got about halfway there, then just fluffed and puffed his way through partials, above and below, after that. Not a very good example. He could have at least done that 3-second snip properly :).

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Well, notes, right? Rather than partials. Indeed, I prefer Molloy’s flutey reply, without all those mucky sharps and flats in there. It’s like he cleaned up after Galway. I mean, Galway *could* have said Molloy’s flute is *unencumbered* by all those keys.

One of the best advertisements I ever heard for early music playing, which has a resonance here, was a fortepianist saying that "we" improved on the horse and carriage with the automobile. "But there are a lot of advantages to the horse and carriage."

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

He didn’t play a full chromatic scale? ha!
I didn’t know that Mr. Moloy was replying to him on the flute, was hard to tell who was who in that video. Is the really grough sounding fellow Paddy?

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

randy says "all technique in world will not help u if u don’t understand what the music is about"

What is the music about?

Posted .

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

If this thread is any indication, Irish music is about feeling you are superior to other musicians…

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

I must have missed some of the thread. Where does it say that?

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

I try to really have respect for Galway and his technical ability. I enjoy what bits of humour he tries to inject but in the end he just talks down to Matt. Luckily Matt is composed enough to not be baited and remain the gentleman. Real shame as it could have been a lovely conversation without the condescension.
All that said Galway’s personality is probably the drive of his musical and commercial success.
Just miles from the humility of many traditional musicians I have met.

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Meeting the "man with the golden flute" for chat and having your long-F key taped shut must say something. I am not sure what though.

Not expecting a p*ss*ng match over a chromatic scale maybe.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Pretty much 95 percent of recorded itm is "worst recordings of famous classical….." If we really want to look deeply.

The analogy of the motorcar and the horse and buggy is great but it forgets about donkeys, mopeds, flying jet packs and a good ole pair of shoes versus barefoot, etc.

I prefer the run swiftly method but as we can see some like cars and some like buggies.

All our racket is tweets compared to what might be out there, what IS the music….. about? Ey?

Posted .

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

[*randy says "all technique in world will not help u if u don’t understand what the music is about"
What is the music about?*]

[*All our racket is tweets compared to what might be out there, what IS the music….. about? Ey?*]

[*If this thread is any indication, Irish music is about feeling you are superior to other musicians…*]
Al, have you only just noticed? :)

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

@Rosie - thanks for the links :
http://search.alexanderstreet.com/view/work/380394
http://www.naxosmusiclibrary.com/catalogue/item.asp?cid=DDA25063

… unfortunately, I can’t access them unless I’m logged in (and have to subscribe first).

Never mind - as luck goes, today I met a violinist today who actually did play the Frank Bridge Moto Perpetuo some years back, and she remembers how it went. So, all is good!

Why am I interested in Frank Bridge Moto Perpetuo ? I started to learn that with my teacher in the mid 80s. I travelled from Southampton in England, to Glasgow in Scotland, four times a year, for violin lessons (each lesson a full evening and following morning in duration).

We got half-way though that piece, and in the middle two months, he passed away. So there’s a gap …

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Looking at this thread I see the idea "classical musicians have the technique to play Irish music, the only reason they can’t is because it’s not in their culture" expressed a lot.

This creates a bullshit distinction, separating and elevating technique from the rest of music. Ultimately, we are all human and though having more ways to express something (through greater technique) can’t be a bad thing, it doesn’t magically give you anything more interesting to say.

You can call it sour grapes and misplaced arrogance if you like, but I think it super important to stand up and say "all these traditional arts (music and dance in particular), that have been looked down upon, culturally appropriated, and bastardized by the supposed higher arts… They have the ability to express all there is to express about the human condition. No better than high art, but no worse.

In turn, I suspect people who disagree with trying to rationalize countless hours spent developing ultimately useless technique instead of going out and living life (and finding things to say about it).

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Well said, Tirno. And much nicer than I would have put it! :-)

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Well said, Tirno.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Very well said, Tirno.

I would very much agree that so-called "folk music" — as the term itself implies — has for several centuries, been patronizingly relegated as a quaint and lesser art form, inferior to what was regarded as "high art" in its requirements of skill, dedication, and education. The former seen as associated with people and cultures regarded as generally inferior and less intellectual and enlightened.

I for one am glad that there is increased recognition of traditional music as being expressive and skillful in its own right.

A lot of people still buy into the old 18th and 19th century hierarchy. Including some on this board, I reckon. Like Tirno said, when we read it, we just sit and shake our heads behind our computer screens.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

@jim—glad you found what/who you needed/wanted. What a sad and poignant story!

Yes, I meant to say that you need subscription — not sure how that works! Anyway, onward—-

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

@Tirno: I’m not sure I have seen a hierarchical distinction or any implicit suggestion that classical technique is more developed or superior to trad technique. It seems you took the word "technique" in a different way from what I did—as if it applied solely to classical playing, maybe? Having played the thorniest of contemporary classical music and then starting trad, I for one marvel at trad *technique*—the ornamentation in flute playing, for example.

Happy modality to all!

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

I’m not sure that the patronising relegation view is entirely true DrSpear. In late 18th and 19th there seem to be lots of places where folks in the big house and cottage kitchen were dancing to the same tunes, possibly played by the same musicians. Composer’s of ‘art music’ for the concert hall have regularly borrowed melodies and rhythms from ‘folk music’ which I think is an acknowledgement of the creativity that went into them.

The snobs are there and I guess always have been but I wonder if they are/were in the middle ranks of expertise and in celebrity-following audiences.

Contrary to what has been said by some above I think that what people at the top skill-level in ‘art music’ say and do shows that *they* don’t regard their skills used in the concert hall as being enough to play traditional music in an idiomaticaly correct way. That includes James Galway (the interview where he mentions whistle technique seem to have gone from youtube). No-one thought any less of Yehudi Menhuin for getting a televised ‘lesson’ on Scottish fiddle technique did they ?

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

(crossed with rosemarie)

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

@rosemarie:
"Is anyone familiar with Matthew Mcallister? "

I once saw a concert with a Martin McAllister (accomanying the singer Briege Murphy). He played classical guitar. Same guy?

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

@jeff_lindqvist
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPLC7v_vsVk

Are there two with simile names??

@kook "The analogy of the motorcar and the horse and buggy is great but it forgets about donkeys, mopeds, flying jet packs and a good ole pair of shoes versus barefoot, etc."

Lovely idea! This guy might’ve been a bit limited from his vantage point at the fortepiano bench! ;-)

You also remind me (kook): I;ve been thinking of my shakuhachi comrades throughout this discussion, because that instrument is even harder to navigate than a keyless Irish flute. (Before anyone freaks out: it’s got five holes, modal pentatonic scale, but the traditional rep favors a different scale. Breathing also harder than transverse. Sure, playing anything expertly is hard. Etc.) And with less "payoff," at least in some ways. Anyway, some of my shaku-buddies will play a chromatic scale to show it’s possible. And some people play jazz or classical music on it—but some of us think, "Why bother?" So to me the naked holes, with lots of semi-holing and even finger percussion, as well as virtuosic head motion, are in many ways preferable (if not superior to) clarinet. The way classical instruments have been standardized (in a way not dissimilar to notation’s standardization) makes things convenient and reliable, and portable, but keyless flutes (just happens to be what I have) offer something very special that is not available on classical instruments. (I rue that I have only one naked hole on my clarinet.) And my classical cohorts often go mad with delight when they hear instruments that are *not* fashioned to play that chromatic scale—because they offer something very special.

Anyway, kook, my shakuhachi cohort with the naked keys is also a marathoner who prefers barefoot running! ;-)

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

@Rosie - I think you should post that recording of you playing your shehnai in the bathroom at your girls night out (was it Planxty E Coli? I forget) … OK just kidding, but can you imagine what a jig would sound like on one of them? Two reeds an’ all ….:)

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Ok, Jim—you did turn my bamboo into an oboe on purpose, right? And I am squeamish about bodily functions—but thanks for given me an opp. to challenge myself. Trying …

Actually, you give me an idea of something to share … maybe …

Re: This is an aural tradition, so use your ears

As the OP was "Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music", I thought I’d post this one. All I can say is that there’s a well-known classical violinist playing along with an Irish fiddle player, and other Irish musicians. What do you think?

Sorry, but you’re going to have to listen to decide :)

http://worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/classical-violinist-playing-with-irish-musicians.mp3

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

There’s one very loud instrument in there - a fiddle played in weird rhythm. Doesn’t sound as if s/he quite understands what’s going on. But I can’t really hear any of the other musicians, so it’s a bit hard to judge overall. Was the mike placed beside one particular player? ‘Cos that’s what it sounds like. You can hear the one, but hardly anything of anyone else.

I can hear the pigeon, but he sounds a bit of a foreign pigeon to me. Pigeon English? ;-)

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

I forgot to ask: what was the point of that clip, Jim?

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Is he playing with live musicians or a recording?

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Yeah, when some classical player(s) goes into some other ethnic/trad (or popular music - rock, jazz, R&B) genre(s) and are smugly under the delusion that they are really nailing with all their "superior" classical technique, it can be pretty obnoxious. When it’s someone who freely admits, they are out of their genre, but are willing to give it a try even though it’s liable to sound really stitled, I’m a lot more tolerant. They are playing an "Irish tune", or a "bluegrass fiddle tune" or…or.., and making no claims to be playing the particular genre.

Itzhak Perlman is pretty cool in this respect….when he did the project with all the Klezmer musicians, he freely admitted that he was the student and just trying to hang in there with the "pros" without botching it up too badly.

No doubt classical players would also cringe to hear Irish players doing classical tunes (with ITM articulation). To them…as horrible as hearing Galway’s classical hornpipes to the ITMers. Personally, I would like to hear some baroque musicians take on O’Carolan pieces. I’d also like to hear an ITM take on Satie’s "Gymnopedies/Gnossienes", or some Ravel or Debussy pieces.

Classical flute players are almost always disparaging jazz sax players that double on flute. "Terrible technique/tone blah blah, not a ‘real’ flutist, blah blah blah". Actually, I’d rather listen to a sax doubler than one of the dedicated jazz flute (only) players like Hubert Laws who have obviously had a lot of classical technical training. That prissy super clean tone is great on classical stuff, but my ear wants something with a lot more grit on jazz/blues. The criticism that the doublers are merely "playing the saxophone on the flute" is probably the very reason I prefer them!

For my tastes, I really don’t want to hear bluegrassers doing Irish tunes, or more recently, Scandinavian stuff. (Though I have a couple CDs (which I really did like) by a Norwegian group, the Earlybird String Band, who were working the fusion from the other direction, but with a completely different hybrid sound.) On rock stuff, I don’t want to hear all the redneck bluegrass fiddlisms, and would rather hear someone who had a more of a classical violin background ("Baba O’Reilly" - the Who, or Sid Page with Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks). Violin works better in a rock band than putting in the country fiddler (with a few exceptions like Vassar Clements)
HOWEVER … I always cringe seeing the Kronos String Quartet "getting down" on some Jimi Hendrix!

Fairport, RT, Ry Cooder, David Lindley, Garmarna, Hedningarna, Malicorne, Stivell, Shoukichi Kina, Moving Hearts…. when the hybridizations work (and I suppose that depends on personal tastes), it’s just great music.

I guess a major component of whether I really dislike some cross-genre playing (or attempted playing) is the answer to the question: "How far up their own ass does that player’s head go?" !

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

To address the original topic from the opposite direction, I just heard a recording of "The Minstrel Boy" on the radio, done by the Western Ocean String Quartet, and their rendition was so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. Anyone else have examples where classical and traditional music is blended in a way that honors both traditions?

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

rosemarie - your Matthew is a different guy. Funny coincidence, though.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

[*Anyone else have examples where classical and traditional music is blended in a way that honors both traditions?*]
First person that came to mind on Al’s question was Derek Bell (RIP) whose musical talents spanned the entire musical spectrum from the ancient music of Turlough O’Carolan, through what we now call Irish traditional music with the Chieftains and well into the classical realm where he composed and performed in orchestral settings. (BTW, he was a great friend of James Galway.) He was as comfortable with a philharmonic orchestra as with the Chieftains. Here’s a clip of him playing Carolan’s Favourite… maybe not the best example but I’m sure there are others that demonstrate his remarkable talents.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOVRZdKRrwg

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Good example, Roads to Home. He was a great talent.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Very good clip, Roads. Thanks!

@Ben and David - that clip I posted above was audio only, because I didn’t want anything to distract from the sound and the listening to the music. Here is the video of it, complete, with full context :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q76fDZVyKjU&feature=em-subs_digest


As you can see, it’s actually Professor V. If you play it on Youtube, there are a load of comments (it’s more of a discussion really), and there are some points covered which have been discussed here on other threads, eg the value of learning from recordings, etc. He’s quite honest and open about everything.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

OK. This is something that has always puzzled me about a lot of classical players trying to play trad, including this Professor V chap: why is their rhythm so poor? Do you have an answer for that, Jim? Because I find it a real puzzle. You’d think it would be good, but it almost always isn’t. As here. Mind you, playing along with recordings, rather than with other, live musicians, is very very difficult. I don’t really know why that should be, but it is.

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@Ben : "Why is rhythm so poor?" Well I wouldn’t call it poor, but I can see what you’re getting at. I think it’s just to do with not having spent enough hours playing the tunes, and getting the rhythm ‘right’. I think it usually shows up in the ornaments, rolls, timing not quite right, little things like that.

You’re right - it is very hard to play along with a recording, when there are no visual cues from the other musicians. In any case, to make a proper assessment, I think you’d really have to hear him playing solo, or with non-melodic accompaniment.

In this case, the Prof would have absolutely no difficulty in any of the technical aspects of the music, but as everyone knows, it takes time to really soak up the all the little nuances. That would apply to anyone learning the music, classically trained or not. The fact that he posted it on Youtube (to me) suggests that he wanted some constructive feedback. He obviously likes the music, otherwise why would he put up a clip? Especially someone with his reputation and success rate in his own field.

Then again, who can judge? To the average listener, he sounded like he did a good job overall, but when he comes under ‘scrutiny’ of trad musicians, several things are revealed. I can understand that.

It’s a serious question, " who can judge?" - there are some who would say that a player could never be good enough (although I’m not referring to you, Ben).

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I agree, you’d have to hear him play solo to get a better feel for what he can do. I’m somewhat surprised he didn’t do that. He’s probably done so elsewhere, but, if it were me, I wouldn’t consider putting a recording of me out there playing along with a recording.

Funnily enough - yet another thing we agree on - I also think that no-one can ever be "good enough" as a musician. There’s always more to do.

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Talking of which, have we had the Casals quote yet? Asked by an interviewer, when Casals was 95, why he still practiced 6 hours a day, Casals replied, "Because I think I’m making progress."

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Interesting that one criticism of Galway’s fluteplaying is that he uses vibrato. For better or for worse (and it’s often for worse) vibrato seems to be considered an integral part of flute tone nowadays. Ditto on violin.

But it reminds me of a conversation I had in the wee hours after much playing and alcohol with a prominent uilleann piper who went on a bit of a rant against fiddlers using vibrato when playing airs. I had heard this piper play airs many times over the years and he tended to play vibrato on just about every note, so I challenged him (being that he had his pipes still strapped on) "so why don’t you play me an air just now with no vibrato?" and the man couldn’t do it! He took a couple stabs at the beginning of a particular air but the vibrato kept popping up, on nearly every note. After these failed attempts he grumbled some dismissive retort and took off his pipes in disgust. For him, precisely as for the ‘classical’ fluteplayer or violinist, vibrato has become habitual.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Nowt wrong with a bit of vibrato on the fiddle for airs!

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@Ben Hall: Casals’ comment a classic! An essential attitutde in a musician’s psyche?
@ David50: Thanks for the Galway clip. Very interesting and informative.
Richard’s comment on vibrato made me think of something I hear occasionally at session.
I tend to think of it as "ornament clash". All the melody players are playing the same tune (hopefully,) but have different ideas about how the tune should be ornamented… sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t.
Same thing with vibrato.. might work if only the piper is using it but it could sound awful if a fiddler chimed in at a different frequency.

What might sound really cool if you play it solo with accompaniment, might grate the soul if played in unison with other melody players. I’ve heard Gerry O’Connor play some terrific banjo tunes heavily ornamented when played solo, but toned down quite a bit when played in unison with other melody players.

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@RichardDCook: Galway is not unusual in *using* vibrato; pretty much all classical flute players use vibrato almost all the time. But there are different types, and his tends to be woozy. If you think of stereotypical objections to classical singing (especially opera singing) they often/usually focus on vibrato, but that’s not because singers in other idioms never use it but because classical singing uses a particular approach(es). More closely related: early-music violinists use *less* and different kinds. Bcs of the presumed default setting, it may sound like zero vibrato. I work with plenty of classical players who can play without vibrato. One is a violinist who can play quite different sorts of sounds. Once I asked him to play without vibrato to get what I thought would be a "folky" sound—and he played with **zero** vibrato, which made me hear I wanted not zero, but less, and a different kind.

One of the things sometimes said about big and not-so-varied vibrato is that it emphasizes the player over the music. There was a NYT review about this comparing Renée Fleming and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (RIP) that made some interesting (if compact) points.

Gunther Sculler uses (coined?) a term for the particular envelope of vibrato in some jazz playing/singing: "terminal vibrato." He means to indicate at the end of a sustained note, but …

;-)

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Al, there are some answer to your question before you asked it . . . David Greenberg might interest you.

I mentioned earlier that sconce classical music is composer-driven you might think about composers as well as players.

Judith Weir has done a lot with traditional music. She’s a Scot living in london and has at least familiarity with trad. Studied bagpipe music early on and wrote bunch of pieces in response. The beginning of the first movement of "The Bagpiper’s String Trio" has a somewhat less classical sound in re: vibrato.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/bagpipers-string-trio-i.-salute/id217849235?i=217852339

On the performer side, my favorite classical singer is Ian Bostridge:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/la-belle-dame-sans-merci/id696348281?i=696348600
Again, early music background.

On the same album is bostridge singing Britten’s arrangement of Salley Gardens, which .
. . Well, see for yourself.

I do have a "classical" version of Planxty Irwin somewhere …

Oh, is that my flute wrming up on her own? How nice her to get started without me …

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I’m curious to hear more about the rhythmic challenges of classical musicians picking up trad. Can anyone be more specific? Jim you mention ornaments, which I could see hanging someone up … Ill spend more time with Professor V-string to see if I can get a better idea.

My flutes still warming up,,,,but she’s started on chromatic scales. Egad! Gotta go rescue ‘er.

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"I’m curious to hear more about the rhythmic challenges of classical musicians picking up trad."

Hey, piece of cake! lol…not!

@Rosemarie, for a string player those challenges would be all about years of bow arm training and what’s in the ear in the first place. Fifteen or so years ago my then fiddle teacher would shake his head and say "yeah, you’ve got that Bach bow arm". Although there’s not really a "Bach" arm, there is generally a ‘classically trained’ one that has to be overridden a LOT to play Trad.

Almost all rhythm/phrasing is in the use of the bow, as in length, pressure (even dynamics…eek!) Lots of stuff that is used marginally or not at all in this genre. It is truly like learning a new instrument. A classical player may spend decades counting ONE two ONE two, or ONE two THREE four and so on…to have to play it (no, FEEL it) reversed (and often only sort of) and at 120 to 160 according to that clicker thing, and in 1-4ish inches of bow, AND it’s nothing like what’s on any printed page, which for us is a major source of doing that pesky thing called counting/rhythm; well, oh my… :)

The jig rhythms are not new, (phew!) as 6/8 does have the emphasis on one and two, but bowing can still be a mystery to figure, and will mess up a fiddle player in a nano second until they are used to the feel of making changes on the fly. That’s just not the life of a classical "violinist."

So bowing has to literally be learned anew to incorporate the differences in rhythm. I won’t say unlearned, just added on. And it’s up to the string player to be willing to change that left arm technique and embrace the different sound and feel. Persistence (desire) seems to be the chewy caramel center for successfully playing Celtic music. Sorry for the length, does this answer a little of that?

Others mentioned Andre Rieu. He actually is a very well trained classical player who loved waltzes, had a dream and went with it. He fits a particular musical genre now, although certainly not Trad. Good for him, in my opinion! ;)

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Rosemarie, if you listen to James Galway and Matt Molloy playing Boys of Bluehill, you’ll hear that Molloy plays the tune pretty straight while Galway has that over-emphazised(/misinterpreted?) dotted rhythm. I’ve heard other classical (flute) players do that, even in reels, and I know at least one music teacher who once thought he composed a jig while it was clearly a hornpipe with way too much bounce.

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You might be forgetting that James Galway comes from the North of Ireland. There’s more than one way to play Irish music.

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Here’s another way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT9x9SBBDaQ


And if anyone can find he clip of James Galway talking about whistle technique what he quotes Paddy Moloney saying is relevant to this.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Thanks for the 2 cellos clip Rosemarie. Sometimes music’s goal is to knock complacency off it’s stool.

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Diane, thanks for taking the time to write that much detail. Yeah, I can certainly see the bounciness in JG’s whistle. I have been considering rhythmic placement alongside note duration and inflection/accent, and to my ear his staccato and square accents exacerbate the "dotted" rhythms (pun not intended). The consistently unequal values (!) remind me of when classical musicians play written-out "jazzy" arrangements and are informed that all eighth-note pairs are played like 2+1 triplets. It also seems that another aspect is the "local" phrasing, in that JG seems to play, sort of, each measure as a unit, rather than connecting across phrases—which is odd, because "the long line" is such a priority in classical music. Similarly, the accents chop up the tune, were as Molloy is more continuous, even with all the detail. I wonder if that corresponds to what you are talking about

No (additional) offense to JG, but more generally, I wonder sometimes whether classical players (1) misconceive the rhythm as so bouncy because of the nature of the tunes (consistent rhythms etc.) and (2) even though we do not play really *from* the paper, doing so could certainly allow one to misconceive, even subconsciously. I know that’s certainly been true for me, even when I learn by ear, there can be a ghost: "a foolish consistence is the hobgoblin of little ears."

If you have an additional minute, Diane:

—About bow changes on the fly, do you mean as opposed to having them planned out as in classical music?
—And the bow arm, that makes sense—I guess I just wonder to what extent it is about the placement in time of the attack and to what extent maybe other factors.
—(I’m also told positioning of hands etc., including where holding vis-a-vis frog and also LH can vary, and it seems (here I go again) that that might have something in common with how bow grip differs even within different periods of classical music.

(I;m still trying to grasp the thing of stressing which beats—I hear plenty of downbeat accents, but also a lot of variety. [Not as offbeat based as jazz, maybe why I am not to ally following that yet.] Thats my homework.)

One of the things I am intrigued by in trad music is exactly that, that the note *values* are markedly consistent, and that the linear patterns, though, suggest shaping within/around that. And since that is true too of classical music,—you don’t want to hammer out the downbeat all the time—I find it odd to hear that classical folks play squarely, if that is in fact the case.

Part of why I am asking all this—besides the 86 other reasons—when I was only a month into the whistle, my trad (not classical at all) friends were complimenting my rhythm. And I could not figure out why, so even since I have been looking to disabuse them of their misimpression. Not joking!

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@fredlyr: Glad you saw it! My only wish is that they did not fall into the tried-and-reue depiction of the audience. But it’s cool; I am eager to see more from these guys.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

I think a lot of classical players who attempt ITM are more influenced by Irish-American vaudeville performers and the likes of Bing Crosby who perform a parody-like stereotype of ITM. It is that jovial bounciness that trad players cringe at. What classical musicians hear in the instrumental accompaniment - especially when an orchestra is used - is certainly more familiar to them that what they’d hear in a pub.

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@Richard, that story about the piper being unable to play notes cleanly (without vibrato) is the pattern-locking that I keep banging on about (although to be fair, maybe the piper had a lot booze too?) I notice it with fiddle players - some of my students play Irish music really well, but they sometimes have trouble playing long sustained notes cleanly - not using vibrato, but cutting / rolling and otherwise interfering with the notes instead of just letting them breathe freely, just from ingrained habit that’s not easy to break at will.

@Rosie - (for classically trained players) the ornament I was thinking about is the ‘long roll’ (or ‘Mozart’ roll) - quite often it’s played with all the notes sounding cleanly, but the timing and placement are often wrong, making it sound like it’s something bolted-on rather than part of the tune. This also happens with the bowed treble - often behind the beat and conspicuous just because of that.

@Tom Zero (sorry, cant find the ascii character for ‘zero’) - I agree with you about vibrato on a slow air (so long as it’s not too wide, or overly throbbing ) :)

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

It’s not the "jovial bounciness that trad players cringe at" when classical players attempt trad. It’s the poor phrasing, the lack of understanding of the structure of the tunes, the poor timing and the awful tone - sickening rich, instead of simple and pure. Also, there is an assumption amongst a lot of classical players that there is no new technique in trad music to be learnt that they don’t already know. This attitude effectively denies the whole of trad music.

There are a few other features as well, but "jovial bounciness" isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. :-/

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Ah.

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@Ailin, that’s an interesting thought. Or, themselves, playing arrangements through the years. (pops concerts.) again, depends on whether an ensemble, and orch., composer/arranger-driven, etc.

@jim, that makes a lot of sense—there is a lot to ponder about ornaments, I suppose. I was just looking at Grey Larsen’s book, and he proposes to think of same as articulations rather than ornamentations. Which, incidentally, is what my NOT AN OBOE pal says about his rep. I need to learn more about those intricacies in trad, and yet that does make sense that the nuances would read differently to a classical player…I hesitate to generalize, but the way the hierarchy of consonance/dissonance intersects with graces etc. could certainly hinder a classical player’s understanding. meantime I play Japanese ornaments on my whistle. Not joking.

@Ben: which classical player embodied that arrogant attitude? We can get her kicked out of the union, you know. ;-)

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"the likes of Bing Crosby"

Sorry, this is nothing to do with the thread, but just thought I’d tell you about a registration plate I spotted in Bude this afternoon: CR05BY B :-D

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@Ben Hall:
"It’s the poor phrasing, the lack of understanding of the structure of the tunes, the poor timing and the awful tone - sickening rich, instead of simple and pure. Also, there is an assumption amongst a lot of classical players that there is no new technique in trad music to be learnt that they don’t already know. This attitude effectively denies the whole of trad music. "

Agreed. I’d add the performance approach/posture (or whatever I should call it). Especially classical fiddle players assume an exaggerated pose, play a tune like it was a solo perfomance in the Royal Albert Hall, doing shifts and all that - and somehow it still looks sloppy, as if the result isn’t anywhere close to the effort put in. I witnessed exactly this in a session earlier this summer. The musician had this "I know everything" posture (only the note stand was missing…). I sat fairly close to her but couldn’t hear a single note until she started a tune herself. She may have known the notes of the tune, but she played way over her level and was out of tune like you wouldn’t believe (maybe she was no classical player after all?).

End of rant.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Oh, it makes me sad to think that someone’s posture could signify such an attitude. Perhaps she studied Alexander Technique? (And for her, it would probably be a "music stand." The notes are what one plays, not what is written. But no worries there.).

There are many comments here about attitude, but one cannot always be sure of the underlying attitude that goes with a behavior. That said, one of the things I like about the trad community is that is is less ego-driven and exclusionary. (Ahem.)

I am reminded of something Matthew Fox Said about the Eucharist (not meaning this religiously): "it’s not a reward for good behavior but sustenance for the journey." Perhaps this misguided prima Donna will benefit from sustenance from the more community-minded, humble, not to mention musically gifted trad folk. Perhaps then she would sense the error of her ways and leave out those sloppy shifts.

Or, perhaps she should just be excluded from all trad activities henceforth.

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That’s curious. I had not come across ‘sheet’ as an abbreviation for ‘sheet music’ until I read in on the internet. I assumed that it was what folks on the left-hand side of the Atlantic did because ‘music’ (the abbreviation often heard here) was what one played and heard, not what was put on a stand.

Notation ?

or dots ;-)

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I think, nobody can say, that the following examples are badly performed Irish music - unless he can speak:

Nr 1. Even David Garrett makes a mistake now and then. Here’s one - it’s the whole concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KP7rLU3SswE (I’ve not yet grasped the idea of girls wearing kilts and a tie over a muscle shirt and dancing Can Can to a Celtic Rondo …)


Nr 2. is a classical performance of sheet music-jigs and polyphonic reels, proving, that "sheet music" often is not very far away from "sh*t music" (Pardon!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrSXIuivztE


Of course Celtic Woman seem to have deserved a parody as well, but they are four, so they can share the pain (Besides: Why aren’t they named Celtic WomEn?):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I55HdYkN_d8&list=PL78C4F850857B8967&index=6 (Note the *Bodhran* ;-)


Well - the following may not belong to the worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play Irish music, but it could be the worst attempt of composing "Irish Songs" by a master of classical music that has ever been recorded: Beethoven’s "Irish Songs": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIPofMNHrMM

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BTW, Jeff, I also mulled the thing of this player laying back and playing inaudibly. I can imagine someone from another idiom cdoing that bcs of not wanting to intrude; trying to get to know the tunes quietly.

@David: There’s not one way. Over here we often refer to "parts and scores" (individual and complete, respectively). "Sheet music"not so much said by classical musicians, but totally correct. "Notation" is what I like to say after having explored outside of classical. Or "paper." But neither is typical I’ve never heard anyone here say "sheet," "or notes," or "dots." None of these bothers me; just different terms. We might even say, "I need the music for my next concert," and that would be understood.

Max, I’m glad to check out those exx. The Sonic Escape Trio: I can see how that performance would be disappointing. FWIW, I "get" what I think they are trying to do, which is to put Bach’s Baroque forms (Gigues, for ex.) alongside the "real stuff." Also, for what it’s worth, I find their classical playing quite good, even though that sort of smoothness is not my personal preference even in classical music. Interesting here that the arranger is the violinist; since there could be more remove in many cases. Within *some* classical circles, their playing would seem to be daring, with all that portamento etc., and it has something in common with trends in so-called post-minimal music; but I can hear the gulf. One of my own disappointments as a composer is when classical players are extra-smooth—there are those who will go out on a limb and tear ‘er up, but they are not the norm.

Was the "Woman Question" rhetorical? I think it is meant as a mythic evocation of her-ness. Hey, Lacan used it too, but in a grimmer way. I happen to find it icky for all sorts of reasons I will save for the gender scholarship group. ;-)

I was waiting for someone to mention Beethoven! He also has Welsh and Scottish songs, and I do not like them either. But it’s important to remember that this is an interpretation of the score, not the only possibility. That said, I have not heard a recording I like of any of these. Though I did an arrangement myself where I took out all the chromatic notes! Sounds much better. "Lovely Lass of Inverness" becomes "Lonely Lark of Central Park." I have leads on the originals but have not found ‘em yet. Eager to compare with my cleaned up version.

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Sometimes a classical player will start it is what ye be talkin about, and I particularly enjoy "code switching," playing at their likeness, figuring out the weirdness of their turns and transitions, in the end it makes me appreciate the pure drop when I get it, and furthermore, it makes me more malleable, or liquid, as a musician.

If u know what it is supposed to sound like, then there is no harm to accompany them, and more oft times than not, it took a tiny bit of musical manipulation to bounce them in the right direction so maybe it didn’t sound alright at the start, but with your EXPERT input, it turns into trad within a few measures to a few weeks

The problem isn’t them, it’s u!

The music didn’t originate in tradition, neither is it namely yours in which you can dictate.

Othertimes, if I learn a certain northern bounce or "jovial bouncyness" gets under a musicians nerves who is ignorant, I will start playing in that step just to piss them off and keep them grounded to earth.

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Celtic Woman

@ rosemariemcsweeney - The "Woman Question" was not rhetorical but earnest. And not grim in any way. I’m a fan of Celtic Woman, and yet a bit puzzled about the name. Same with Elton John: Why not John Elton? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nl0HqlbX7dc

In Wikipedia, there’s an explanation for Elton John’s name, but not for Celtic Woman, that’s why it’s not a bad question, I think.

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Oh, so now I am more uncertain about earnest/polking, but I do think it is a sort of mythification/essentialization of "the eternal feminine." There is the old song that begins "I am woman: hear me roar" (Helen Reddy), which seems sort of in line with what CW could be up to. The grim Lacan I was thinking of is "Woman does not exist." However, he also claims that Woman makes the phallus exist. Then there is Luce Iragaray—but I digress into the conversation on the transgendered note.

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Excuse me - you don’t have to. Your explanation of the name as a mythic evocation is great, I thank you for this. The eternal feminine is a blessing after this never ending masculine thing we had to endure the last 2.000 years. I’m so glad, women exist in Irish music and are admired as anybody else, who pleases our ears with good Irish music (and not one of the worst recordings of …)
And so will I.
Have a nice evening, Rosemarie

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Ah, well, the eternal feminine is something subject to legit. feminist critique, but your comment is so heartwarming I’ll just go all essentialist for the eve. :-)

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"—About bow changes on the fly, do you mean as opposed to having them planned out as in classical music?"

@Rosemarie, I would say yes to that, btw -I’ve seen folks just write Rosie…what do you prefer?

So, if it isn’t written in the music (er, sheet music) then it simply isn’t played. And playing "wrong notes" in performances can have consequences of Biblical proportions in classical genres. Well, almost. :) In short, we don’t know what the hell to do with the freedom to play a basic tune that is different in every session, and every group you join in with. (I think it’s absolutely delicious!)

"—And the bow arm, that makes sense—I guess I just wonder to what extent it is about the placement in time of the attack and to what extent maybe other factors."

The length of bow used, factors in here for one. Way less, and hanging out more in the mid/upper, rather than making use of the lower half - almost never! Airs are different of course, anything slow and hauntingly beautiful, more bow is appropriate. But still no traveling to and from the frog throughout the tune, vs…it is drummed into a classical string player to use that stick, frog to tip. As well as other bowing techniques just not needed in Trad, like the marcato stroke or spicatto. The hardest to get right are smooth bow changes (or no changes) to allow for more emphasis on notes that are not on the beats we normally aim for. The key to most of the style is right there, and that part’s done with the bow.

"—(I’m also told positioning of hands etc., including where holding vis-a-vis frog and also LH can vary, and it seems (here I go again) that that might have something in common with how bow grip differs even within different periods of classical music."

Ahh…LH and bow grip. These could take a pot of coffee to write about, but not at 11:00 pm. <g> However, suffice it to say that a well trained, tension free LH position itself would never be altered. But some of what we do with those fingers, yes. I personally got really hooked by 2 tunes I love, Foxhunters, and Farewell to Ireland. When those tunes (and many others really) were somehow not easy for to me to play well, I was frankly astonished. Sure I could sightread the dots at tempo first reading, but it wasn’t really what was on that page anyway. Oops…now what? :D

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

"Way less, and hanging out more in the mid/upper, rather than making use of the lower half - almost never! Airs are different of course, anything slow and hauntingly beautiful, more bow is appropriate. But still no traveling to and from the frog throughout the tune"

There’s nothing wrong at all with using lots of bow though!

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I think I note a bit of inferiority complex in the mocking tones of this discussion topic.

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I’m still looking forward to rewinding through the examples I missed after I finish my work today, as well as Diane’s helpful response. Meantime, here is another tidbit. Two classical violinists—not trying to sound *like* trad musicians, but working with a tune(s) within their own idiom. If I remember correctly, the first violinist/composer arranged this so that he could play with his (classical) students.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/xphv5lvsbxtsb36/ViolinDuo.mp3

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"There’s nothing wrong at all with using lots of bow though!"

@Tom… yes, thanks for adding that! I couldn’t figure else how to say to reduce much of the bow length but still say to use lots of bow. Well…you’ve said it! :D

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"I think I note a bit of inferiority complex in the mocking tones of this discussion topic."

I don’t think that’s true, although it may be for some people. For me, I love classical violin; I love to watch the master classes on Youtube; I’m fascinated by the technique. But I’m no more jealous of a violinist than I am of a pro baseball player. I admire what they do, but it’s not something I particularly want to do or that I would want my son or daughter to do.

On the other hand, playing Irish fiddle is the thing I aspire to every day. I love to see myself learn and progress, and I find that the more I learn, the more there is to learn, if you know what I mean. And I’m every bit as enthralled, if that’s the word, hearing Gerry O’Connor play the Yellow Wattle as I am hearing Perlman playing the Four Seasons. More, even.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpAkgNhImjU&feature=related


But no one likes arrogance, and when someone like Galway steps in to announce his trad greatness — or David Garrett poses with his Celtic chops, and props — it’s OK to call them out.

Speaking of that, I’d like to ask if any classically trained players here have an opinion, or have heard someone else’s opinion, about Mark O’Connor morphing from bluegrass fiddler to classical composer and violinist? I haven’t heard that much of what he’s written, but it doesn’t lift me off the ground. I’m wondering how he appears to the classical world. Is he welcomed as a new composer, or not so much?

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Where precisely did "Galway announce his trad greatness ?" I must have missed that.

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Since he is mentioned again this may be of interest: http://www.robertbigio.com/galway.htm He started off with a simple system Bb flute in a ‘melody line only’ band. It doesn’t say, but maybe the various flute-playing older family members mentioned also played simple system flutes.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Ergo: interestingly enough, as highly as I think of Perlman in many ways, he would be my 54th stop for four seasons. :-). Point being that the rep/practice/taste will inevitably be different depending on how immersed we are in the niches.

Egad, I am glad my language group is not seeing now I am writing.

In re: o’connor, that’s an interesting questions. I had a quick listen to some bits. Are there certain compositions that you recommend to check out? I have some thoughts about this more culturally as well as musically but would not want to jump to conclusions …

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Anyway, jim wins the prize! Bonus points for pissing off the classical curmudgeons with your inverted triad at the end. That’s the sort of things Brahms’s students used to to do to make him get out of bed in the middle of the night and come down to the parlor to correct it. :-)

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Kenny - In the video with Malloy, above. You didn’t hear it?

Rosemarie - Perlman’s not my favorite either, for that matter. But I love the piece whenever I hear it.

As for Mark O, I don’t have anything in mind, and I’ve only heard a few things. I actually find that with Mark it’s hard to separate his playing from the music itself because he’s so proficient with his playing. But that said, I actually prefer his early Texas-style playing to anything else he’s done. So I guess I’m wondering if his playing is considered up to snuff by classical violinists, and how do people view his compositions? I’m wondering if there is any resentment because a bluegrass musician is crossing into classical.

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Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

@Ergo. Galway and Molloy are talking about flutes and agreeing but placing a different emphasis. I don’t recall a simple system flute player even talking about the role for ‘ornaments’ that Galway, from his perspective as a Boehm player, is highlighting. So even though he does do most of the talking I thought his observations were fascinating. He is talking about the greatness, for his purposes, of the Boehm flute. Not himself.

I wonder if the minute or two before that clip set the context, because as it is you almost need to know what he is talking about to follow the meaning.

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

@Ergo : Mark O’Connor was always playing other highly advanced stuff as well as bluegrass. He’s composed a fair amount of modern classical music, both for violin and for string quartet too. You can find more about this on his website : http://markoconnor.com/

As to his compositions, I’m not particularly fond of any of them, although some require supreme virtuosity on the instrument, eg his Six Caprices for Solo Violin (actually, I can’t really think of anyone else from the fiddling world with this level of skill).

As for being considered up to snuff by classical violinists, I’d say without a doubt. Look at this :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4nMHhxRA2g


I think his main strength, apart from his playing ability, is his skill in improvisation and in teaching too.

This one does it for me : his solo starts at 02’55

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVl1ibykWZU

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

"Can it get worserer than this? hehe ….

I know I’m not famous, but all the same : http://worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/boys-of-bluehill.mp3"

Oh my, Jim….Yee Haw! Or something. Not often speechless but well…ok, moving right along…:D

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

@Jim…love the O’Conner clips. I am familiar with the caprice. Yeah…wow. ;) I’ll put in my 2c about Mark, and add a couple of clips you might enjoy. In the classical world he’s always been known (if he was at all) as "just" a great fiddler. Most people don’t know that he was the undefeated flat pickin’ champ by which all others were rated for decades. And Mandolin too I think. And fiddle, well, as you know it even smokes his guitar playing. He’s pretty well a musical genius and we’ve needed someone like him for years in this country to celebrate - and now teach ‘seriously’, our genres of folk. He has his own method book series out now, up to book 4 and the pieces are great. I took his teacher’s training class last winter and have since added that to my studio. The workshop I was in was taught by a violinist from NY who has done work with him, and Mark came the 2nd day to share a bit for an hour. The hour turned into about 3 and I could have listened to 6 more of his stories, playing and just stuff.

I can say that he is garnering a lot of respect now from the classical community that earlier on barely knew his name. He recently ran the first fiddle Master Class at Julliard. Lordy Pete to be a fly on someone’s stand during that "session!" :D He lectures all over the country at universities to teach the history of American music and how important it is as our national music - American classical music, as he calls it. I don’t think anyone in any musical camp has a problem acknowledging his expertise - certainly not after they hear him. Nor his ability to segue from one musical genre into another. There remained some Suzuki trained diehards in the teacher’s class I was in, but even they wanted to add his materials. And everyone was suitably impressed with his out of the box teaching philosophy, and definitely, his chops!

One of my favorites is a fun little tune that is in all his method books with graded arrangements from very basic to well…almost what you hear here!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyt646v4hxA


This one is a lovely piece he wrote, that is one of his earlier signature pieces, and taught in book 1.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL7D4C78D6C024C1D7&v=ajkgNEO_Yeg

The full orchestral arrangement is gorgeous.
Cheers,

Re: Worst recordings of famous classical musicians attempting to play irish music

Philip W made one of the few thoughtful comments.

Menuhin loved Irish & Scots music. He wasn’t a great player, but he loved it.

But he was possibly the world’s finest jazz fiddler. His skills and inventiveness put him up there with the very best Irish musicians.

This ‘car crash’ league table is infantile and thoroughly unkind. Menuhin was a genuine and gentle man, and this sort of sniggering is shameful.