Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Celtic Music: Irish Warpipes

Irish Tunes for the Warpipes, 1911
by William Walsh

The mouth-blown bagpipes, commonly called the ‘warpipes’ in Ireland, have been played here since medieval times, and were the instrument which often led Irish forces into battle.

With the introduction of more modern methods of warfare in the seventeenth century, they lost their military function, and were played only to accompany such recreational activities as dancing, parading, and leading sports teams onto the field of play. By the eighteenth century, their position had largely been usurped by the quieter bellows-blown uilleann pipes, which were usually played indoors. But there was still a social need for a loud outdoor bagpipe for certain public occasions, and the Irish warpipes never quite disappeared. They enjoyed a revival in Ireland in the later nineteenth century, under the influence of the bands of Scottish regiments of the British Army stationed in Ireland. The warpipes continue to be played in Ireland as a solo and as a band instrument, and most commonly in the context of competitions.

Nationally minded Irish warpipers incorporated native tunes in their repertories from the time of the revival, often adapting them from other instruments and existing publications. After 1900, as the revival progressed, printed collections of these warpipe melodies began to be published. Among the earliest and most influential was the 1911 collection Irish Tunes for the Scottish and Irish War-Pipes, compiled by William Walsh and arranged and published in Edinburgh by David Glen, the original printing of which is presented below.

William Walsh, a flute player and dancer as well as a warpiper, and an Irish speaker, was born in 1859 in Oughterard, Co Galway, and was brought to America as a child. Settled in Chicago, he was attracted to the sound of the warpipes, and sought out the company of Scottish players there. He joined the police force in the city in 1891, and was a friend of the music collector Francis O’Neill who was prominent in the force. Walsh was self-taught in music and learned from notation in preference to ear, and his collection of Irish and Scottish tunes for the instrument was in manuscript by 1909. David Glen (b. 1850), one of a prominent family of musical instrument makers and music publishers which had been in business in Edinburgh since the 1820s, added characteristic grace notes to Walsh’s notations. The collection was later reprinted by Glen in a 2/6 edition, and reprinted by Mozart Allan in Glasgow in 1951.

Celtic Music: Francis O'Neill: The Police Chief Who Saved Irish Music

John Callaway narrates the fascinating story of this turn-of-the-century Renaissance man and the wide-reaching effects of his life's work.

Francis O'NeillImmigrant. World Traveler. Chicago Police Officer. Scholar. Author. Historian. Musician. Husband and father of ten children. Francis O'Neill, Chicago's Police Superintendent from 1901-05, is virtually unknown today. Yet this remarkable man not only served as a heroic police officer and reforming chief of police, but also made an enduring contribution to his native Ireland and Irish culture through the gathering and publication of the largest collection of Irish music ever assembled.

The youngest of seven children, O'Neill was born in Tralibane, County Cork, in 1848, the last year of Ireland's devastating Potato Famine. Pushed by ambition and pulled by adventure, the spirited young man passed up a chance to become a teacher. Instead, at the age of 16, he set out to seek his fortune as a cabin boy on an English merchant vessel. On one of his voyages, he met Anna Rogers, an Irish girl he then married in Bloomington, Illinois. The couple moved to Chicago soon after the Great Fire to start a family.

In 1873, O'Neill signed on as a Chicago policeman, and distinguished himself from the start. Nicholas Carolan, Director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin and author of a new book on O'Neill entitled A Harvest Saved, relates: "In [O'Neill's] first month on the police force, he showed his bravery by tackling an armed burglar. He was shot, and carried the bullet encysted near his spine for the rest of his life." O'Neill's intelligence and political savvy helped him rise in the ranks quickly. In 1901, he was named General Superintendent, where he earned respect for his efforts to reform what had been a corrupt police department.

At the same time, O'Neill was also pursuing his other passion, the performance and collection of Irish music. He retained strong memories of his childhood in Ireland where he learned to play the flute and listen to the musicians at Crossroad Dances near his home. In later years, he wrote, "traditional Irish music could have survived even the famine if it had not been capriciously and arbitrarily prescribed and suppressed" by the English and some elements of the Church. O'Neill went to great lengths to unearth the music -- and musicians who could play it. Siobhan McKinney, a native-born Irish musician and co-owner with her husband Brendan of Chief O'Neill's Pub in Chicago, explains, "As soon as he heard of pipers coming to America, he would bring them all to Chicago. And immediately he would snap 'em up, put 'em on the police force, and write down their music." Historian Richard Lindberg adds, "He would travel the streetcars of Chicago in civilian clothing, listening to people on the street cars humming and whistling little tunes. He really collected these songs in much the same way an archeologists digs for things in tombs." O'Neill's great granddaughter Mary Mooney Lesch concludes: "He'd go back to his office and play them for his sergeant, who would write them down." O'Neill eventually published eight books of some 3,500 traditional Irish tunes, most of them after he retired from the police force in 1905 and could devote himself to the cause on a full-time basis. Carolan states, "It was the largest snapshot ever taken of Irish traditional music and we still have it."

Francis O'Neill is revered today, 65 years after his death, because at a critical time for Irish culture, his books helped to keep Ireland's music alive. Noel Rice, President of the Academy of Irish Music, has taught O'Neill's music to his students for the past 25 years. "He did a magnificent job. . .of gathering it together and trying to keep it from dying." Kevin Henry, an Irish piper who plays in the sessions at Chief O'Neill's Pub, says, "I have to take off my cap to the Chief; there was nobody like him." Paddy Ryan, music officer of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, the organization that promotes traditional music in Ireland, concurs. He put Chicago on the map in the musical sense. Chicago is a very important place in the history of Irish traditional music. Extremely important place. Because of Francis O'Neill."

Admiration for the "Music Mad" Francis O'Neill
(from A Harvest Saved: Francis O'Neill and Irish Music in Chicago)

In all his wanderings and throughout his police career and long retirement, O'Neill was obsessed with music, 'music mad' as he said of himself. He continued with his childhood instrument the flute as his main instrument, and privately considered himself 'a fair freehand fluter.' At different times he played the fiddle, the Scottish Lowland pipes and Scottish Highland pipes on which he described himself as 'a tasty performer.' He was also 'an excellent performer on the [uilleann] pipes,' according to his friend the Rev. Dr. Richard Henebry, professor of Celtic at the University of Washington, D.C. The enthusiastic Henebry is likely to have been the anonymous admirer of O'Neill's piping made fun of by the piping historian Seamus O Casaide:

Captain O'Neill is a musician himself, and a good one. He has at least one admirer who places him above all the musicians of the world. If Paderewski were to give one of his masterly performances of a Mozart sonata, or if Kubelik were to play the Hungarian Rhapsody with that wonderful artistic feeling which is so characteristic of his work, and if one were to say to a certain distinguished votary of music, 'Isn't that exquisite?,' the chances are a hundred to one that the reply would be, 'Ah, yes, but you should hear Chief O'Neill play "The Fox Chase"!'

Celtic Music: The history of Irish Dance

The history of Irish Dance
by Arthur Flynn

The early history of Irish dance reveals a constant shifting of population through migration and invasions. Each of these peoples brought their preferred types of dance and music. There are only vague references to the early history of Irish dancing, but there is evidence that among its first practitioners were the Druids, who danced in religious rituals honoring the oak tree and the sun. Traces of their circular dances survive in the ring dances of today. When the Celts arrived in Ireland from central Europe over two thousand years ago, they brought with them their own folk dances. Around 400 AD, after the conversion to Christianity, the new priests used the pagan style of ornamentation in illuminating their manuscripts, while the peasants retained the same qualities in their music and dancing.

The Anglo-Norman conquest in the twelfth century brought Norman customs and culture to Ireland. The Carol was a popular Norman dance in which the leader sang and was surrounded by a circle of dancers who replied with the same song. This Norman dance was performed in conquered Irish towns.

Three principal Irish dances are mentioned often in sixteenth century writing: the Irish Hey, the Rinnce Fada (long dance) and the Trenchmore. One of the first references to dance is in a letter written by Sir Henry Sydney to Queen Elizabeth I in 1569. "They are very beautiful, magnificently dressed and first class dancers," Sydney wrote of the girls he saw dancing enthusiastic Irish jigs in Galway.

Sydney went on to describe the dance formation, observing the dancers in two straight lines which suggests they were performing an early version of the long dance.

During the mid sixteenth century, dances were performed in the great halls of the newly built castles. Some of the dances were adapted by the sixteenth century English invaders and brought to the court of Queen Elizabeth. One of these dances was the Trenchmore, which was an adaptation of an old Irish peasant dance. From this period onward another style of dance called the Hey was popular where female dancers wound in around their partners, in a fore-runner of the present day reel.

When royalty arrived in Ireland, they were greeted at the shore by young women performing native dances. When King James landed at Kinsale, County Cork, in 1780, he was welcomed by dancers. Three people stood abreast, each holding ends of a white handkerchief. They advanced to slow music and were followed by dancing couples, each couple holding a handkerchief between them. The tempo of the music increased and the dancers performed a variety of lively figures.

Irish dancing was accompanied by music played on the bagpipes and the harp. In the houses of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, the master often joined with servants in some of the dances. Dancing was also performed during wakes. The mourners followed each other in a ring around the coffin to bagpipe music.

The Irish Dance Master

During the eighteenth century, the dancing master appeared in Ireland. He was a wandering dancing teacher who travelled from village to village in a district, teaching dance to peasants. Dancing masters were flamboyant characters who wore bright clothes and carried staffs. Their young pupils did not know the difference between their left and right feet. To overcome this problem, the dancing master would tie straw or hay to his pupils' left or right feet and instruct them to "lift hay foot" or "lift straw foot".
Group dances were developed by the masters to hold the interest of their less gifted pupils and to give them the chance to enjoy dancing. The standard of these dances was very high. Solo dancers were held in high esteem and often doors were taken off hinges and placed on the ground for the soloists to dance on.

Each dancing master had his own district and never encroached on another master's territory. It was not unknown for a dancing master to be kidnapped by the residents of a neighbouring parish. When dancing masters met at fairs, they challenged each other to a public dancing contest that only ended when one of them dropped with fatigue.

Several versions of the same dance were to be found in different parts of Ireland. In this way a rich heritage of Irish dances was assembled and modified over the centuries. Today, jigs, reels, hornpipes, sets, half sets, polkas and step dances are all performed. Solo dancing or step dancing first appeared at the end of the eighteenth century.

The costumes worn by Irish dancers today commemorate the clothing of the past. Each school of dancing has its own distinct dancing costume. Dresses are based on the Irish peasant dress worn two hundred years ago. Most of the dresses are adorned with hand-embroidered Celtic designs, copies of the Tara brooch are often worn on the shoulder. The brooch hold a cape which falls over the back. The clothes worn by men are less embellished but steeped in history- they wear a plain kilt and jacket, with a folded cloak draped from the shoulder. Male and female dancers today wear hornpipe shoes, and for reels and jigs, soft shoes similar to ballet pumps are worn.

Today there are many organisations promoting Irish dance. The Feis has been an important part of rural cultural life. Children, teenagers and adults compete in separate competitions for Feis titles and prizes. There are group and solo competitions where dancers are graded by age from six to seventeen and then into the senior categories.

There are dancing championships in all four provinces, and winners of these provincial competitions qualify for the All Ireland Championships. The World Championships are held in Dublin at Easter where dancers from England, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand compete for the World title.

The Irish word céili originally referred to a gathering of neighbors in a house to have an enjoyable time, dancing, playing music and storytelling. Today it refers to an informal evening of dancing. Céilis are held in large towns and country districts where young and old enjoy together group dances. The céili can be traced back to pre-famine times, when dancing at the cross-roads was a popular rural pastime. These dances were usually held on Sunday evenings in summer when young people would gather at the cross-roads. The music was often performed by a fiddler seated on a three legged stool with his upturned hat beside him for a collection. The fiddler began with a reel such as the lively "Silver Tip", but he had to play it several times before the dancers joined in. The young men were reluctant to begin the dance but after some encouragement from the fiddler, the sets of eight filled up the dancing area.

The world-wide success of Riverdance and more recently Lord of the Dance has placed Irish dance on the international stage. Dancing schools in Ireland today are filled with young pupils keen to imitate and learn the dancing styles which brought Jean Butler and Michael Flatley international acclaim.

Today there are many opportunities to watch and enjoy Irish dancing. It is still a regular part of social functions. Dancing sessions at céilis are usually preceded by a teaching period where novices are shown the initial steps. During the summer months, céilis are held in many Irish towns. Visitors are always welcome to join in and with on the spot, informal instruction, anyone can quickly master the first steps and soon share the Irish enthusiasm for Irish dance.

Celtic Music: Tune And Tempo Suggestions for a Feis

Tune And Tempo Suggestions for a Feis

Don’t worry very much about learning these if they are new to you; it’s better to choose tunes you know and are comfortable with playing at a steady beat. (Tempo is the most important part of playing at a feis.) Simpler, catchy tunes are best, at least for lower levels. That said, we do have a few favorites that seem to keep popping up. Also look at other feis musicians’ CDs and MP3s for suggestions, such as those by Pat King, Mike Shaffer, Sean O’Brien, and Dean Crouch.

Reels: 112–116

  • Jenny’s Chickens
  • Chicago Reel
  • Congress Reel
  • Rakes of Mallow
  • Walls of Limerick

Light/Double Jigs
Jigs: 112–116

  • Swallowtail Jig
  • Rakes of Kildare
  • My Darling Asleep
  • Apples in Winter
  • Siege of Ennis

Slip Jigs
Jigs: 112–116

  • The Butterfly
  • Kid on the Mountain
  • Foxhunter’s Jig
  • Boys of Balisadare

Single Jigs
Jigs: 112–116
Advanced Beginner Treble Jig: 92
Oireachtas Treble Jig: 72–76

  • Haste to the Wedding
  • Kesh Jig
  • Merrily Kiss the Quaker

Traditional Hornpipe: 138–144
Oireachtas Hornpipe: 112–116

  • The Rights of Man
  • Pigeon on the Gate
  • Rolling Down the Hill
  • The Boys of Blue Hill

Some Traditional Irish Music For Sale on BandCamp

Kilfenora, Ireland

  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

      $7 USD  or more




Adam's first release "Kilfenora Set" was recorded by Rotary Records, West Springfield, Massachusetts with Adam Sweet (fiddles, viola, mandolin, mandola, mandocello) and Jim Bunting (guitar, bouzouki, banjo)

Celtic Music: Irish Dancing

Irish dancing or Irish dance is a group of traditional dance forms originating in Ireland which can broadly be divided into social dance and performance dances. Irish social dances can be divided further into céilí and set dancing. Irish set dances are quadrilles, danced by four couples arranged in a square, while céilí dances are danced by varied formations (céilí) of two to sixteen people. In addition to their formation, there are significant stylistic differences between these two forms of social dance. Irish social dance is a living tradition, and variations in particular dances are found across the Irish dancing community; in some places, dances are deliberately modified and new dances are choreographed.

Irish dancing, popularized in 1994 by the world-famous show Riverdance, is notable for its rapid leg and foot movements, body and arms being kept largely stationary.

Most competitive dances are solo dances, though many stepdancers also perform and compete using céilí dances. The solo stepdance is generally characterized by a controlled but not rigid upper body, straight arms, and quick, precise movements of the feet. The solo dances can either be in "soft shoe" or "hard shoe".
The dancing traditions of Ireland probably grew in close association with traditional Irish music. Although its origins are unclear, Irish dancing was later influenced by dance forms from the Continent, especially the Quadrille. Travelling dancing masters taught all over Ireland, as late as the 18th and early 19th centuries. During this time, places for competitions and fairs were always small, so there was little room for the Dance Masters to perform. They would dance on tabletops, sometimes even the top of a barrel. Because of this, the dancing styles were very contained, with hands rigid at the sides, and a lack of arm movement and travelling across the stage. As time went on, larger places for dance competitions and performances were found, so styles grew to include more movement, more dancing across the stage as seen, for example, in Riverdance.

Irish social, or céilí /ˈkeɪli/ dances vary widely throughout Ireland and the rest of the world. A céilí dance may be performed with as few as two people and as many as sixteen. Céilí dances may also be danced with an unlimited number of couples in a long line or proceeding around in a circle (such as in "The Walls of Limerick", "The Waves of Tory", "Haymakers Jig", "An Rince Mor" or "Bonfire Dance"). Céilí dances are often fast and some are quite complex ("Antrim Reel", "Morris Reel"). In a social setting, a céilí dance may be "called" – that is, the upcoming steps are announced during the dance for the benefit of newcomers. The céilí dances are typically danced to Irish instruments such as the Irish Bodhran hand drum or fiddle in addition to the concertina (and similar instruments), guitar, whistle or flute.

The term céilí dance was invented in the late 19th century by the Gaelic League. Céilí as a noun differs from the adjective céilí. A céilí is a social gathering featuring Irish music and dance. Céilí dancing is a specific type of Irish dance. Some céilithe (plural of céilí) will only have céilí dancing, some only have set dancing, and some will have a mixture.


The challenges of teaching online

I have been teaching online lessons since the first software was available.  I teach guitar and mandolin, violin and viola, Irish bouzouki and tenor banjo, electric bass and electric guitar.

I also offer Music Theory, Singing and ESL classes. 

I think it was GEOS who had the first graphical user interface that came bundled with America Online, and the first online chat service.  It was slow and inconvenient, but it meant I could stay at my home in Shelburne Falls and teach bluegrass fiddle to students at UMass Amherst.  This was pretty great, because the drive to Amherst from Shelburne could take up to an hour each way depending on the weather.  That was 1989.  AOL maintained it's control over the instant messaging activity online until Microsoft came out with it's version.  I migrated over to that because the software was faster and integrated with other MS products.  In the early 1990s, I took coursework in HTML and web design and learned how to create my own online chat box.  I worked as webmaster for Apple Hill Center for Chamber music from 1998-1999 and there were lots of opportunities to innovate using HTML and later CSS as I managed the website and taught myself how to set up encryption for taking online donations, parsing and bitmanagement for uploading video files (Apple Hill Chamber players would send me videos from concerts in China, Pakistan, Palestine, Egypt to upload and share to the community).  In the early 20s, there was an explosion in online platforms for chatting, but one platform rose above the rest: Skype.  I was an early adopter, and converted all of  my online students to it.  It was fast, convenient, easy to use and free.  But soon enough they started charging for some of the international services, which put a damper on my ESL lessons.  So I started looking around for another free platform.  And there were lots to choose from.  I'm afraid I was a little confusing for a while as I cast around looking for something as solid as Skype, but free.  I finally settled on Google Hangouts, which were offered free to anybody with a Google account (a Gmail address), but later as they phased out their Google+ service, they eliminated the free Hangouts service.  I had to look for another home.  That's when someone suggested I try Slack.  I was skeptical at first, because of its clunky set up, but found it to be quite manageable.  Now my whole studio is on Slack, and I use it also for my family and friends to communicate privately away from social network busybodies on Facebook (Cambridge Analytica) and the cost of using platforms like Hangouts and Skype. 

Some of the other challenges have to do with connection speed.  I have always had a business account  first with dial-up, and later with cable.  Business accounts always get priority in service, have the fastest connectivity, and in a power out, offer a battery backup service so you can stay online until the power turns back on.  They're pretty great.  Sure a business account is very expensive (triple the average retail account), but the added security and service more than makes up for the expense.  My students who experience lag during a session are encouraged to use a cable connection instead of Wifi as it will always be faster.  For students who use hand-held devices like iPads or others may run into trouble as the video software only runs on Chrome and some Apple products don't work well with Google services.  I always recommend using a PC with a cable connection.

Lighting is also a factor.  Students should consider having a light in front (on the desk or wall) and not in the back (like windows, for example).  Back lighting renders the front in shadow always.  If you need to be in a lit room, turn the camera so the light is on your face and not your back.  Get a folding table for your laptop or move the webcam off the PC to a better location.

Even though most webcams offer an internal microphone, I recommend getting a separate one.  I use the Blue snowball microphone, it's great!  You want something that will pick up your instrument AND your voice.

COVID19 / Coronavirus
With the onset of social distancing and the coronavirus outbreak, many people have turned to online classes as they can no longer attend in person ones.  I highly recommend taking lessons online!  It's easy and convenient.


Musicians everywhere are struggling to find ways to teach online, to rehearse with bands and ensembles, and to perform.  I have found some success with the below tools.  Until further notice, I will be offering Group Classes for free.  Here's how it works:
  1. register for a group class by emailing contact@adamsweet.me
  2. I will use your email to invite you to the group/channel where the class will be held
  3. the email that you get should include instructions for setting up your account
  4. you will need a computer with a webcam and microphone.  most laptops have them included
The Software/Platforms
I have found some measure of success with the following platforms and software.  I am currently experimenting with several of them to see what the maximum number of users at a given time is.  So far, meet.google.com seems to be the best platform for multiple simultaneous users.  Google uses this platform for its own employees and claims you can have up to 150 simultaneous users!
  • Meet.Google.Com - this is "enterprise" software and only available to GSuite users.  I have a Gsuite account (sweetmusicstudio.net) and so I can set up and use the service for my studio.  I haven't tested it for more than 1 user at a time.  I plan to test it on Thursday, April 2nd at 7pm.  If you would like to join the group, I need your email address to invite you to the channel
  • Matrix/Riot - this is opensource software that appears to run in the browser as well as a desktop version you can download and install on your computer.  Both seem to work equally well.  I haven't tested it with more than 1 person at a time yet.
  • YouTube LIVE - for performances and lectures, this works very well.  Interaction is by chat/comment only.  It's free for anyone to use, you need a Gmail account to comment, and an invitation link (if the originator wants the group to be private).  I have used this a lot over the years.  It's very powerful and the quality is very high.
  • Slack.com - like Matrix/Riot, Slack is a platform that is available in the browser, or as a desktop app.  It's a very robust  service, akin to meet.google.com, but free to anyone with an invitation.  When I was volunteering for Andrew Yang's campaign, it was used for announcements, discussions, meetups and other communications.  It's very powerful and works with various apps like Google Docs, etc.  I like it a lot and currently use it with all of my students.
  • Zoom UPDATE: this is a strong program that UMass and a few other colleges use to  teach online classes.  You should be aware of what it does when you install it Read this article: https://protonmail.com/blog/zoom-privacy-issues/ A recent article stated that Zoom has disabled the code that reported your data to Facebook, which is promising.  
  • Skype.com - like Zoom, Skype is not very safe.  The company is owned by Facebook and they regularly harvest data like video, voice, text, phone numbers, contact information and biographical info. Because it's owned by Facebook, they connect users to their database and can put together a complete database on users.  They regularly share information with law enforcement and otherwise sell parts of your data.  My advice is to not use it.

Les Poules huppées

CRESTED HENS, THE (Les Poules huppées). French, Bourrée à 3 temps (3/8 time). E Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). Composed in 1983 by French...