I was searching YouTube to hear how a few tunes were actually played because Celtic-style music doesn’t always follow a rigorous application of a written score. As I understand it, most of these traditional tunes were composed and played by ear. Compilations of such scores, therefore, are sometimes called Fakebooks since the written notes are an approximation of the music that has been passed down through oral tradition. In point of fact, I recently came across a Celtic tune played by a good and proper violinist (as opposed to a fiddler) who played it by sight-reading the notes rather than from experience. As nicely as she played, however, it was brought to her attention that she might want to have a listen to “how it’s supposed to be played.”
That’s why it’s good for me to hear someone who knows the tradition actually play a piece that I see in my fakey little booky before I get myself too committed to it. And so, I head to YouTube with fond hopes of elucidation. Scarily enough, I can often find what I am looking for. What a helpful resource YouTube is becoming!
When I came across the following clip, I was delighted, not just because it contained two of the tunes I was searching for, but because it was so pleasing to see and hear a group of eight musicians jamming in a tiny bedroom, two of them being forced to scrunch into the top bunk. One of the bunkies was a fiddler, and with fiddlers usually requiring a modicum of elbow room in order to play properly, I really had to admire her commitment.
Included in the eight are two fiddles — one being the dominant player in the group (and I’ve already mentioned the one squeezed onto the bunk) — two guitars, a bodhran, a squeezebox and a banjo. I don’t know what the heck the eighth is as it’s kind of hidden, and I can’t recognize the small part of it that I can see. The group is playing three Irish slides: slides being a style of music written in 12/8 time. I’m not completely sure what makes a slide different from a jig, which is written in 6/8 time, but I think it emphasizes the beat somewhat differently, partly by using more quarter notes.
I hope you like this set as much as I do.
Edit: Aha! Now that I look again, I’m pretty sure that the mystery instrument is the uilleann pipe, which according to Wikipedia is the national bagpipe of Ireland. I have only actually seen these pipes played once — at a Barra MacNeils concert.