Tag Archives: Irish-flute

Skip Concert #2

Skip Healy
Skip Healy, Mark Bachand and myself will be performing, once again, at the Company of Fifers and Drummers Hall this coming weekend. We played there a few months back, as you can see.
Skip & Friends
You can take a listen to a recording of that evening below.

This Saturday’s performance, as before, is a benefit concert for The Juniors Fife & Drum Camp at the Company of Fifers and Drummers Hall, 62 West Main St., Ivoryton, CT (just up the street from the Ivoryton Playhouse). They are asking for a $10 donation. The concert is on Saturday, October 13th and starts at 7:00 PM. For details, contact ccorduan@fsc.edu or call 978-342-7802.

We Are the Mariners – The Rights of Man

Rights of Man
To break up the monotony of fife and drum during our Swiss concert we mixed in some Celtic music. We performed three sets of tunes. Here is the middle and slowest set that we played, which is a well known hornpipe called The Rights of Man. Evidently this was a real treat for the Swiss audience since this is not a style of music they typically hear. At one point, although not in this set, we had the entire audience clapping along with us. It was great fun. The other interesting point is that half the guys playing this set were Swiss including Sam the bouzouki player. The first time we ever played this tune with them was two days before the show. That being said, I think it went quite nicely.

Skip and Friends

I had a great time playing tunes with Skip Healy this weekend at a benefit concert for the Juniors Fife and Drum Camp. I was hoping to get a good recording hot off the soundboard, but for a variety of reasons was not able to set it up. Instead I had to settle with recording with a single room mic. This is far from a perfect recording but I think it captures the energy. I had to fade the track out because there was some serious feedback in the later part of the track.

The whole gig was lots of fun and well received. I had never performed with Skip before and, therefore, had no idea where any of it was going, which of course, adds to the excitement. In addition, Skip’s style is to play the tune reasonably straight the first time through, but then begin to use the tune as a skeletal structure and move around it. Sometimes it can get way out there, which is really cool. This track stays relatively close to home but you will here some of the improvisational nature toward the end of the track.

In addition to Skip on flute, Mark Bachand on bodhran and myself on guitar, we invited Roger Hunnewell up to play some additional bodhran. Roger starts the track with a bodhran solo, unsure of where Skip will come in. You will hear rattling behind some of the first beats that Roger plays. The rattling is from the twenty, or so, rope tension snare drums sitting behind us on the stage. They were sympathetically playing along. Also, every so often you’ll here Skip pause for a note and call out a key change. Nothing like having a plan.

Concert with Skip Healy

I’m excited to announce that I will be performing this Friday evening with a phenomenal flute player named Skip Healy. Skip is a world class musician who has performed with a variety of legendary musicians such as Paddy Keenan, John Doyle, Kevin Burke and Johnny Cunningham, to name just a few. Skip is also an instrument maker who is turning out some beautiful fifes and flutes at his Healy Flute & Fife Company.

The performance is a benefit concert for The Juniors Fife & Drum Camp at the Company of Fifers and Drummers Hall, 62 North Main St., Ivoryton, CT. There is $10 admissions charge. The concert is on Friday, June 8th and starts at 7:00 PM.

I’ll Mend Your Pots and Kettles ‘O

O.k., a new high def TV and a vacation have stolen me away from blogging in the last two weeks. I know, I know. Lame. The upside is that I have been productive in the Pigtown Fling Studio (the new name I’m giving to my studio space). I have been working on a march called I’ll Mend Your Pots and Kettles ‘O. I learned this tune from the playing of Jimmy Marshall, an accordion player from Worcester, MA, though originally from Ireland. Jimmy and his brother Eamon, who often plays at John Stone’s, have both been playing the accordion since they were children. They are close in age and Eamon is retired, so I suspect they have been playing for fifty-plus years apiece. They are both great and a wealth of tunes.

I started playing this tune on the guitar about a year ago. I always envisioned a nice harmony part to it. In this recording I experimented with using the penny whistle as a melody and using the flute for second and third voice harmonies. I rewrote the arrangement several times before I was happy. In addition, I recorded it three different times in the last two weeks. I have had a lot of fun with both the arrangement and experimenting with how to get a good recording of my guitar. Where I am at with this version is the guitar track is made up of four tracks. On the first two tracks I played identical part and panned one track all the way left and the other all the way right. I then played a melody track that is an octave up and sits in the middle. Lastly I added some light harmonics on the B part.

I also added a snare drum and a bass drum to the mix in one version. Unfortunately I do not really have any decent drums to play on and, oh yeah, I really suck at drumming. For the snare I used an old Eames Drum that my Grandfather gave to me when I was a child. All the snares were off it and I had to jury-rig them back on just to do the recording. It needs a lot of work. The bass drum is a real quality instrument. I found it at the local dump. It is a Magnum ProSound and is part of a children’s drum set. It has that great ringing quality that shouts out, ‘hey, I’m cheap, I’m plastic, but I’m guaranteed to drive your parents nuts!’. My wife was thrilled with this find.

Together the two sound like I’m beating a bag of wet bananas. Good enough for me. It gave me an idea of what a drum track might sound like. I will have to solicit the help of Captain Dan, Biscuits McGillicudy or some of my other drummer friends if I really want to make the drumming work.

Below is the version without the drums. I would love to hear what people think about adding drums. Should they be included on the track or should I nix ’em?

Castaway: Blackwater Tide / Licking the Moss

Back it 2001 I was on a kick where I would go into a studio once a month and record. The one month interval was working well since it would give me time to both save money for the session and plan out what I was going to work on. After several months, however, I got a bit lazy and found myself unprepared for a session I had the following morning. Slightly panicked, I pulled out the flute on the evening before the session and was inspired to write the first of the two tunes included here. The first tune in the set I named Blackwater Tide. The second tune, which I wrote in ’99, is called Licking the Moss. This is one of those recordings that is part of the Castaway album.
Blackwater Tide seemed to be an instant hit. The Sudbury Ancient Fife & Drum Companie started a new medley, called Blackwater Indeed, with the piece. The Company of Fifers and Drummers included the tune in their latest music book with a drum part written by Dom Cuccia, a former Hellcat. Most recently the Bluff Point Quahog Diggers Fife & Drum is working it into a new medley that I think they are preparing for this summer!

It is fun to see a tune make some rounds.

For the first time I am publishing the harmonic arrangement for this tune. When I get a chance I will record the arrangement and post it here as well.

Screaming Wretch

In the mid 90’s I went to New York for the Millbrook Muster. After a lovely day of traditional fife and drum we imbibed a few cocktails and enjoyed each others company as we played tunes around the campsite. As the night covered us in stars our fifing had moved from the traditional jigs, reels and hornpipes into the more exploratory realm of what we called ‘Space’.

Space usually involved a half-dozen fifers playing, without any predefined structure or direction, in an attempt to spontaneously create atonal music. From the outside I suspect it was fairly offensive. But being in the center of it was intriguing. Like an ant colony, it initially appears unorganized, but after a bit of observation, a strange sense of organization emerges. Musicians would react to what the other musicians were doing and the Space would take on a musical dialog of its own. Without a map the participants would begin to gain an intuitive sense of where things were going like ants finding their way to food. Fascinating.

Well, the woman who was trying to sleep with her newborn a few tents over did not find Space to be nearly as interesting as we did and, with a fair amount of energy, she let us know. In an attempt to be considerate we put the fifes away and, instead, decided to continue our musical explorations through group humming. Ironically, this ‘Hum Jam’ attracted quite a crowd and before we knew it we had a dozen or more participants with as many onlookers. It was all very organic and quite exciting. But, once again, our lady-with-a-baby was unable to see the brilliance in the musical and communal phenomena that was unfolding before her. And with more energy than before, she leathered into us with an ear popping, shrill harangue that rivaled any atonal noise we could have possibly produced with fifes. She really killed the mood.

I went home, once the weekend was over, with a spiteful vengeance toward that screaming wretch who ruined our Space, which is ironic since I’m actually a reasonably nice guy. The next day, in a moment of catharsis I wrote this tune.

Screaming Wretch

In a nod to Space, I wanted to write a tune that sounded somewhat random and, originally, left the last note of the tune up for interpretation by the performer. My recording of Screaming Wretch, primarily on bouzouki and tenor banjo, is very incomplete as you will hear instruments drop the second time through. But, I wanted to post it because Plùc is looking for some new material and the best way to learn this tune is to listen to it…repeatedly. Also, you will notice, upon close inspection, that I am playing this slightly differently than how I originally wrote it. This is due to a combination of me softening a few spots, now that the years have soothed my aggravations, along with my fading memory of every accidental that I wrote in.

So, to the lady-with-a-baby: Thanks. This tune would have never been written without all your bitching. Second, I hope you can accept my belated apology for ruining your good nights sleep.
Screaming Wretch by baconworks

Amadán – Scotsman / Paddy Clancy’s

After my last post it occurred to me that in addition to recording Paddy Clancy’s on my own, I recorded it with my old band Amadán back in 1999. The two versions are quite different. This one, being the second tune in the set, is quite lively with a bit of impromptu harmony the second time through by Damon our fiddle player. The set starts with a nice jig called The Scotsman Over the Border.

Here is Amadán, during our Vermont tour, mugging for a shot in the foundation of an old abandoned farmhouse somewhere near Grafton. That is me in the upper left.

Amadan Photo

The track below, as well as four others, came from a CD that we recorded as a demo album. The cover artwork, as I recall, was actually a close-up picture of a pig’s belly inverted and then colorized. I don’t believe I ever told the band where the image came from.

Amadan cover

We were not very well organized and would typically sort out what we were going to record the night before the session. Then, once in the studio, we would inevitably record something that we had not planned. It was lots of fun. Incidentally Amadán is the Gaelic word for ‘fool’, which, given the high cost of studio time and our general lack of preparation, was probably apropos.

Castaway – Paddy Clancy’s

Here is another track from Castaway called Paddy Clancy’s. I first heard this tune on The Bothy Band – 1975 album.

If you don’t already own this album, you should. It is a classic and permanently changed Celtic music. My recording of this tune, which is much slower than how the Bothy’s played it, ends rather abruptly because I had planned on overdubbing another tune after it. Oh well, it is what it is.


Like many artists I tend to be protective of my work until it is complete. Picasso toiled for seasons and changed painting styles several times before unveiling the most grotesque masterpiece the world had seen in El Bordel, later renamed to Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.


Like Picasso, I’m aware that critics are part of the creative game and I generally have no interest in attracting them until the work is complete lest a novel idea be diluted with the thoughts of others. The question, then, is this; when is a piece of work complete? Some critics argued that Picasso’s mockery of modern art was, indeed, incomplete, which implies that maybe completeness is all about personal perception. How can a critic say that Picasso’s painting was incomplete when Picasso himself had packed up the paint and cleaned the brushes? It seems fair to say that, overall, Picasso’s work was not complete but he would not continue that work on the canvas of El Bordel.

Mozart’s Requiem, on the other hand, marked the end of the line for the great composer. His death made sure that there was to be no more work. And yet the world wonders, was it complete? It is common knowledge that Mozart’s friend and pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr ‘filled in the holes’ for his dying friend. Had Mozart lived longer would we have a different masterpiece? Completion was a result of his death and not a desire of the composer to move on to new work.

While all this talk about ‘completeness’ is interesting to ponder, the fact remains that the world is a better place with great works like Requiem and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Their level of completeness doesn’t change what they are or the enjoyment they give us.

With my own work, in which I am certainly not intending to draw any parallels to the aforementioned geniuses, there are pieces in various states of completeness. In particular and as I mentioned in a previous post, I recorded a number of tracks over the course of a few months in early 2000 at a little place called Melville Park Studio. I have kept them hidden away from any real critics because they were incomplete. I have not changed a flawed note on these roughly-mixed recordings since 2000 so it is with great trepidation that I have decided to cast them away and move on. In my mind they are unfinished because they ultimately don’t sound as I intended them. For example, this track has some tuning issues that were to be reworked and I had hoped to add percussion. But they represent a time in my own musical development that I have hopefully passed and I think it would be a disservice to my own work to go back and change anything with the ideas I have today. Therefore, they are complete. Besides, what good will they serve if nobody ever has a chance to enjoy or criticize them?

So, here is the third track, not that they are in any particular order, to Castaway. The track is made up of two traditional tunes. The first is called Devany’s Goat and the second is called The Morning Star.

In keeping with the theme of incompleteness, I whipped up some cover art for this internet album.


I don’t really think the image has much to do with Castaway except for the fact that it was a picture that was taken of me a couple years prior to these recordings. The photographer’s name was Jessica Strauss.

In addition, some have asked if it is possible to buy this recording. It is not. It has never been printed and I don’t really expect it ever will be.