Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Hi. I have been lurking a while and decided to make an account and post.

I recently watched a video of Frankie Gavin playing the flute, you can see it on youtube if you look up ‘The Mystery Reel’, and he was lamenting that the current players do not play in the proper ‘old style’; his words not mine or there abouts.

So I was wondering what players you would classify as old style players?

Today I was enjoying listening to John Wynne; whether his style is ‘old style’ or not I don’t know but I certainly liked it. His playing to me did indeed feel down to earth and doesn’t have the bells and whistles of say that bald fellow, his name escapes me! Oh yes Brian Finnegan (had to look it up).

Seamus Tansey I like though he can be rather frenetic. The video ‘Sligo Flute Controversy’ is certainly an amusing watch on the contention of opinions regarding what they both see as traditional playing.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Indeed too, what would classify as ‘old style’ if you were to describe it?

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Thanks! Those older videos are great to hear how things used to be as many of the still living players talk about the older style but I only had an image in my mind.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Perhaps he means regional styles that have merged because of the availability of recordings. Same thing happened to Country music. That’s how we got Bluegrass, rockabilly and Texas Swing. Not a bad thing. The older trads persist and live on.

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Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

That was exactly what I was thinking of Kenny!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-blZR7M-DI


It’s my single favourite performance of Irish flute.

I’ve not heard anybody play in quite that style. I especially like when he breaks from his normal style for a measure or so and plays in staccato.

This recording had a big influence on me back around 1980 when I was trying to get my fluteplaying going.

I had been listening to fluters who imitated uilleann pipers and fluters who (it seemed to me) were imitating box & fiddle players and it was a revelation to hear a fluter who made the most of the things that are unique to flute, a fluter who wasn’t trying to sound like the pipes or a box or a fiddle but reveled in being a fluter.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

I listened to one of the Tom Morrison videos. It seems he plays pretty straight-forwardly. I’ve read here long ago a similar thread about old-timers who play more simply like that, less fancy stuff. Often when people find these old-timers they are newly inspired by the way they play.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

"""I’ve read here long ago a similar thread about old-timers who play more simply like that,"""

That is certainly what I was thinking and hoping to find when making the thread and have not been disappointed yet. This fellow Conal Ó’Grada does also indeed play in a nice straight ahead fashion.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Try listening to John McKenna or Mick Woods,
great old style Leitrim flute playing.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

"Country…Bluegrass, rockabilly and Texas Swing… The older trads persist and live on."

Happily yes the traditional music lives on, living a separate (and far less monetized) existence from those four 20th century creations.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

BTW the term is "flutist" in the orchestral world and "flute-player" or "fluter" in the trad world.

"Flautist" was invented in modern times by a poet for one particular poem, and sadly it’s been picked up by non-musicians, the General Public etc. Hopefully the term will fade away eventually.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

I would recommend Kevin Henry from Chicago. He’s a really good example of the Sligo tradition of his generation. Also James McDonagh from the McDonagh family. Keep in mind that players generally adapt the style of the region they live in (especially in the old days) but if your thinking in terms of old flute style I believe that Roscommon/Sligo would be a very good place to start. There is also a Cd, The Flute Players of Roscommon that is very good (2 volumes). It has become fairly difficult to acquire but I think you can still get the first volume.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Richard D Cook: "Flautist" was invented in modern times by a poet for one particular poem, and sadly it’s been picked up by non-musicians, the General Public etc. Hopefully the term will fade away eventually.

‘Flautist’ is the generally accepted term in the UK. According to https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=flautist it is a 19th Century borrowing from Italian ‘flautista’, replacing ‘flutist’ (a much earlier borrowing from French) - I don’t know about pinpointing it to a particular poem. ‘Flutist’ is generally perceived in the UK as an ‘Americanism’ - although, as for a number of other cases wher N. American usage differs from British usage, this is not an accurate perception. As for ‘correctness’, one term may be older but does that make it more correct? By my reckoning, ‘Flautist’ might well eventually yield to ‘flutist’, as the current trend seems to be for British usage to be usurped by American, more than the other way round - so you can rest easy ;-)

Incidentally, in case anyone is in doubt, the first syllable in ‘flautist’ rhymes with ‘bought’, not with ‘bout’ - unlike the original Italian word.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

The only people I’ve ever heard use flutist, which I prefer, are flutists. Flautist is the recognized term and has been as long as I can remember.

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Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

I doubt I would use it if I were chatting in a session. I thought flautist was to flute as violin is to fiddle.

I was unaware of ‘flutist’; I would have thought that to be the incorrect one if someone hadn’t said it is the ‘right’ one above.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Jack Coen was another good example of East Galway old style. I was fortunate to spend a week in his class at Augusta in the late 80s which greatly influenced my flute playing

His playing was clean and relaxed with simple ornamentation. One of his students, Joanie Madden, became the first American to win the Senior All-Ireland Championship on the whistle.

This is Jack playing at Augusta in 1989: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvdMD5UDoOM

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

How about ‘blower’ for flute player and ‘scraper’ for violin player?

Really? I ought to go find something useful to do……

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Yes! loads of great recommendations to explore here :)

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

I’d recommend Kevin Henry too, but, though he lived in Chicago for a long time, he was from a townland near Doocastle on the Sligo-Mayo border between Tubbercurry and Gorteen. I’m particularly partial to the flute-playing of another South Sligo man, Colm O’Donnell - deceptively simple-sounding, but full of subtle twists and turns.

I’d strongly suggest obtaining Kevin’s ‘One’s Own Place’ and Colm’s ‘Farewell to Evening Dances’ CDs, both on the Bogfire label.

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Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Fantastic. These are like a treasure trove :). I do find it much richer learning whistle via flute players somehow. Maybe I just haven’t found the right whistlers -I have struggled with that- but of course the flute itself has a much richer tone than the whistle.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Kenny, what’s your source on the recording of Sonny McDonagh? That’s lovely stuff!

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

In the Boston USA area, Jimmy Noonan and even Michael "Skip" McKinley come to mind. Of course, too, there’s always Mick Tubridy, renaissance man of architecture, astronomy, concertina, dance, flute, and ITM generally, being a founding member of the Chieftains. Chieftains 1-8 feature his playing, though it’s often squeezed into Paddy Maloney’s theatrical arrangements (brilliant in their own rite, but not a pure-drop traditional context). There’s quite a few great solos and tunes in there, though. Mick Hand, one of my teachers, is another great.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EN8F1x71phU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7Eu3s2D80A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfaVq_qy1Sk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkMZEkXUefU&list=PLnJXBCbuG9Yb-N6hmQgUeV_SmEqxDXp-c

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Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Oh, and how could i forget Cathal McConnell? He taught me how to breathe and phrase. He was actually the first ITM fluter I ever heard, and that why I’ve spent the last 47 years doing this.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6AK5vE_urE

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Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Hi Sol - there are 2 possible sources, and I honestly can’t remember which it came from. I had a recording of an RTE programme presented by Maire O’Keeffe which I think had Sonny McDonagh playing those 2 reels. I think at some point a few years back I digitised it.
The 2 reels are defininitely on a UNESCO "Heritage" CD which I once had. This series of CDs were released in France, there is one available on eBay at the moment. I thought I had posted the CD here in recordings, but can’t find it - I’ll look again.
All the best, Kenny

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Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

John Joe Gardiner : https://youtu.be/YaOh2TqCjaY

He has a flute solo on the "Ceol Tire" LP, which I will try to post on "Youtube" soon. I seem to remember he was around the age of 80 when it was recorded.

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Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Can’t beat Micho Russel in my honest opinion

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

*Russell

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Another contemporary player that uses the "old style" is Seán Gavin. He’s spent a bunch of time with Kevin Henry.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

I am fascinated by the recording of Tom Morrison that Richard Cook posted. That recording was made in 1927 and features some mighty bodhran playing against the powerful flute. I have never heard a recording of bodhran before the Chieftains.

BTW, the first time I heard Richard play was in the early 80s with a bodhran player named Tim.

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Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

"I am fascinated by the recording of Tom Morrison that Richard Cook posted. "
I posted it first ! :)
Sean Gavin’s playing certainly has strong links to early styles of playing, as does Harry Bradley, who strangely hasn’t been mentioned yet [ unless I missed it ].
https://youtu.be/a2wPxD-ukCg


Also, here’s a clip I uploaded of Frankie Gavin playing flute on a set of tunes from the "Star Spangled Molly" album :
https://youtu.be/aTQMbSjdgZA

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Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

I’ve always found that the older players seemed to have more obvious regional styles than more contemporary players. I particularly like Michael Tubridy’s Clare style of playing.

But I understand some others have very strong opinions on this matter, even suggesting some region’s musical superiority to others, particularly between Sligo and Clare. In today’s homogeneous world of flute playing, I think a great deal of variety has been subsumed, and gets pretty much overlooked.

Anyway, what do you think…..?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgIsqDYFFn8

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

Glad someone mentioned Michael Tubridy; I was about to.

Re: Hello! And recommendations for flautists and whistlers who play in the ‘old style’?

In the older solo flute style: more percussive approach, both with tongue-ing, and with articulating also from the throat. The style thus sounds a lot breathier. A pure, narrow tone is thus not the aim. There’s also a lot of simultaneous octave-playing, giving a fuller, broader tone ( wider harmonic range ). The style does ‘pump’ more. I would say that this comes from the era before guitar and bouzouki, when the lead instruments had to themselves punctuate the beat, especially if playing for a noisy hall of dancers.
I myself play both the old style. And the newer when I have other instruments to blend with, particularly a rhythm instrument. Both have their place. Brian Finnegan does mostly play in the newer style, and even takes trad playing into new realms. But then, he’s straying into jazz. And has a highly syncopated rhythm section behind him. Brilliant player !
But Brian plays the old style too. I saw him win 2nd ( 3rd ?) in the All-Irelands in 1991. In dramatic fashion !! Ah, but that’s another story