Clare Session key signatures.

Clare Session key signatures.

I’m going on my first trip to Ireland and hope to join a session or two in Clare. I play flute, whistle and a bit of piano. I have a younger friend that goes every summer (school teacher) and she loaned me some of her ~ two hour session recordings. I was noticing that quite a lot of it is not very flute friendly e.g. CM. D Dorian etc. much more than what I’ve encountered in the states. I was just wondering if this is a "Clare Thing". I couldn’t l find anything specific in my searches. Thx

Re: Clare Session key signatures.

C and the flat keys tend to be favoured somewhat in E. Clare and E. Galway. But you’ll also hear plenty of tunes in D, G and related modes. Speaking as a non-flute player, I don’t think you have much to worry about as I have played with plenty of simple-system flute players and whistle players in Clare. When you encounter the odd tune in an challenging key, look on it either as an opportunity for growth or an opportunity to sit back and listen.

Re: Clare Session key signatures.

I was just trying to understand Clare. I had heard that Paddy Fahey didn’t just write in unuasual modes to be different but was a product of his environment but I had never heard anything specific in this matter regarding Clare or East Clare. It’s simply interesting for me and there’s no worry. I understand "Sit back and listen or oppertunity for growth" of course. I have a keyed flute and have started learning a couple of Fahey’s more ‘strange’ mode tunes to work out the awkward finger patterns. I can simply not play in the modes with f naturals with my keyless because the f is simply not there.

Re: Clare Session key signatures.

I played in a number of both East and West Clare sessions around Christmas, and don’t remember too much in the way of strange keys. (At one session, a couple of the sets that I was asked to start included some Fahey tunes, and for those tunes, I was mostly playing solo.)

I don’t consider tunes with F natural to be all that uncommon. Most keyless flute players I know just half-hole those notes… Most of the tunes we play with that note just use it as a passing note, so it’s rarely an important note that you need to hold… So sliding in and out of the note with a half-hole just sounds like part of the expression…

Have a great trip! Clare is generally my musical destination of choice, and I think you will have a great time!

Re: Clare Session key signatures.

I remember this old post from Rob Greenway (16 years ago!):
"I can’t speak about the pipes, but it’s dead easy to half-hole F natural on whistle and unkeyed flute. All it takes is a bit of practice."

https://listserv.heanet.ie/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0112&L=IRTRAD-L&P=R45435

I once met a tin whistle player who was used to play tunes in Ddor, F and so on, and I also once met someone who had met Rob Greenway, and confirmed that he managed such tunes on his keyless.

Is it that unusual to play tunes with the occasional F nat?

Re: Clare Session key signatures.

Jeff, your post of Rob Greenway’s comments caught my eye as I used to play with him some in Atlanta. Tam Lin was a signature tune of his that, as a beginner in those days, I always struggled with. I had thought he had a keyed flute so I’m surprised that it wasn’t. I now play that tune and other Dm tunes on my C whistle.

F natural is tricky on flute and whistle, but can be played reasonably well. I have no problem with a tune that uses it in eighth notes, but I struggle when there’s a dotted quarter note.

Re: Clare Session key signatures.

"Is it that unusual to play tunes with the occasional F nat?"

Depends on one’s skill level at half-holing, and also how that F nat sits in the tune. I wouldn’t call it dead easy, unless you’re an expert player. Not all of us fit that description!

I play a keyless D flute, and I can half-hole an F nat fairly easily if the tempo is slow enough, or if it’s a "landing" note in a tune like the F nats in Maids of Mitchelstown. In the middle of a run of 8th notes and played at a fast enough tempo like Julia Delaney’s, it’s more difficult and I’ll just "ghost" the note.

Re: Clare Session key signatures.

The F on my keyless is dead - as in dead as a door nail. I know how to half hole and it’s not a problem on most of my whistles. I have a decent half hole f on some of my other keyless flutes but I don’t use those anymore. If I say I don’t have an F on my flute please just trust that I don’t like the sound enough to want to use it.
The F natural is not generally a passing tone in most keys where it appears. In D minor it is the featured color tone. In G Dorian (or minor) it is generally the second featured color tone. Even in C Major it can play a prominent voice depending on the type of tune. A lot of reels in C (not that there generally are many) for instance go to D minor or G7 harmony and in that local key center the F momentarily becomes a prominent color note. There are some cases where the F is just a passing tone but this is well less than the norm. Of course if you’re speaking about the key of B major (kidding) it is not used much in trad music though quite a bit in blues and pop. So I guess I’d have to say I disagree (vehemently?) I’ll learn my side fs on my keyed flute thank you very much and just leave my keyless, which I’ve worked very hard on and have made myself aware of what it can and cannot do, out of the equation. My keyless is an awesome awesome flute by the way. It don’t need no stinking f natural.

This is meant to be a bit of tongue and cheek however I am also just a bit annoyed. It’s cold and we just got dumped on by a winter storm here in my little town in Indiana so please excuse my impatience. I’ll be much less sour when I get in Clare and have the time of my life. Thank you for the kind words. All I really wanted to know is if Clare session players like to play in different keys. My friend already told me that the session recording I was listening to has a fiddle player that plays a lot in some different keys and she said that when she did, most people dropped out - which you can hear on the recording.

Re: Clare Session key signatures.

I’ve only ever played in one session in Co Clare - Friel’s in Miltown Malbay, but certainly I encountered nothing odd there. Good playing, but D/G, even with a French visitor (not me).