Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Sí Bheag Sí Mhór (Podcast Episode 3)


Find my podcast here on Apple music or here on Spotify!












Welcome to the Fiddle Studio Podcast featuring tunes and stories from the world of traditional music and fiddling. I'm Megan Beller, and today I'm bringing you a setting of Sí Bheag Sí Mór from a session at the Bru House in Dublin, Ireland.

Hello, everyone, I hope you're well. Today I'm going to be talking about Fiddle Camp. I just got home from the fiddle camp that I started way back when I was just out of college in Rochester, New York. It's at the Kanack School of Music. I brought my younger two kids to Fiddle Camp for the very first time. They have some experience with fiddling, but they haven't played a lot in groups. So it's very interesting to watch them. 

They went to camp every day, and they were learning fiddle tunes. From their perspective, they learned some cool tunes, they met some fun people. And that's kind of what they got out of Fiddle Camp. But as a fiddler and a fiddle teacher, I was watching them and wondering what they were going to get out of it. I noticed sort of from an outside perspective, some of the things they were learning that weren't just the fiddle tunes. 

I wanted to share that with you, because a lot of people think about going to a fiddle Camp and wonder what they might get out of it. And if you think you're just going to learn a couple of new tunes, well, you can do that on your own with YouTube. But there are so many more things you can get out of going to a music camp. So here's what I saw. 

The first thing is they were hearing fiddle music all day long. This seems to be expected. Since it's Fiddle Camp, you're hearing a lot of fiddle music, but it's really a lot more fiddle music than they normally hear. Maybe they hear me practice a little bit, they might hear their father play a CD in the car, they might play a tune to themselves, but to be hearing it all day long really gets the sound and the style of fiddling into your ear. 

In hearing these tunes all the time, they were for one thing, learning the tune. Not just learning to play tunes, but they're also memorizing and hearing those tunes that they were learning and a lot of other tunes to that they now have in their memory, whether it's their short term memory, their long term memory. They have so many more tunes that they've been exposed to, and that they've heard a lot. 

In addition to getting used to all the different fiddle tunes, they've also gotten a lot of experience now with the form, the form of fiddle tunes playing the A part, repeating, playing the B part, repeating. it takes a little while before people are very comfortable with that form. I'll notice that a student doesn't really have the form yet when they'll play a tune, and they'll just play one B part and then stop. And they're not looking at me like "Oh, should I do the repeat?" they just thought the tune was over there. And they don't have a sense of oh, there's something missing here. The tune's not complete until I play the B part. 

Again, just being someplace where you're hearing fiddle tunes all day. And always with the proper form A part, repeat, B part, repeat, you're really getting the form ingrained in you to where you aren't going to just play an A part and forget the repeat. At least not every time, you're gonna get that repeat in there because the tune will sound kind of too short without it. 

Another skill is the skill of jumping in. Jumping in is so important to musicianship. So that's when other people are playing. And then instead of starting with them exactly at the beginning of the tune, like 'one, two, ready, go', and everyone starts, they've already started playing. And then you need to jump in to match what they're doing kind of right in the middle of the fiddle tune. It's very hard to learn when you're all by yourself. You can try with recordings, but it's just not the same as having a lot of experience playing with people who aren't waiting for you. 

So it's not your teacher. I probably do this too much where I stop and wait for a student because I do think it's important for people to have time mentally to think through where they are in the tune. But at a camp, they're just going to keep going and you're going to have to jump in. And then if you fall off, you're gonna have to jump in again, keep getting on that wagon. 

When you're jamming a lot, not just going to a jam on Thursday night, but every day multiple jams. You'll have a lot of exposure to noodling, which is what I call it when you don't know the tune or you only know it a little bit. Have your fiddle up on your shoulder and you're trying to pick out a few notes. And if the tune gets repeated, you get to pick out hopefully a few more notes every time. I encourage people to noodle especially when I'm leading a jam, that's a beginner jam or a slow jam. I'll kind of explain what it is and say it's totally fine to do this. 

If you don't know the tune at all maybe don't play as loud as you can while you're trying to get it. But if you want to quietly noodle along, that's highly encouraged. I love to noodle it jams it definitely depends on how tired I am and how much familiarity I have with the tune. If it's the beginning of the night, I might be noodling along on everything I don't know. By the end of the night, a very notey real comes up, I'm much more likely to just put my fiddle down and drink my beer and enjoy the experience. 

Hearing the chords played, and the steady beat of an accompaniment is also a really big asset for going to a camp, we normally don't play with accompaniment at home. In my fiddle lessons, I try to accompany my students every week, it's not a big part of the lesson. If you go to a camp where there's accompaniment several times a day or throughout the camp, you'll really be hearing the rhythm and the timing of the tunes. How a jig sounds and feels different from a real and how a waltz sounds and feels different from an air that's in four. And you'll get a sense of that because you'll be hearing the accompaniment. 

Also just for playing in tune, hearing the chords behind it or how the notes line up with the key. I find that students play much better in tune when they're hearing the chords. And when they've heard them enough that they internalize the key. They have a sense of the resting tone. They have a sense of the dominant tone in the background of when they're playing they're hearing the tonality, and it's really going to help you play in tune. 

The whole immersion experience, I think is why people find going away to camp to be very moving. When you talk to people about their experiences at Pinewoods or Ashokan. Even the kids who have come to my camp, just a little day fiddling camp for many years. They'll say things like 'this was life changing. It was magical. It was amazing.' I think that really speaks to all of the things you learn just beyond a few new tunes. So go to camp. Plan on it for next year.

Our tune today is from the same Irish session I've been pulling from from, that Bru House session. I have this waltz and two more tunes. So this waltz is called Sí Bheag Sí Mhór. It's a very famous Irish waltz in D. It was composed by the blind Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan, the years I have are 1672-1738. 

O'Carolan played for many years as a harpist before beginning to compose tunes and ended up composing a whole repertoire of fiddle tunes and dance music in traditional Irish style. The story about Sí Bheag Sí Mhór is that it was his first attempt at composition. His teacher said it's time for you to start making up your own tunes, sent him home. He wrote this waltz, which is a beautiful waltz. The title could be big hill, little hill or even big fairy Hill little fairy Hill. 

Charley and I are going to play it here for you.I hope you enjoy it.

Hey, thanks so much for listening. You can head over to fiddlestudio.com for the sheet music to this and all of the tunes I teach. I'll be back next time with another tune for you have a wonderful day.

Flowers of Edinburgh (Podcast Episode 2)


Find my podcast here on Apple music or here on Spotify!










Welcome to the fiddle studio podcast, featuring tunes and stories from the world of traditional music and fiddle. I'm Megan Beller and today I'll be bringing you a setting of The Flowers of Edinburgh from a session at the Bru House in Dublin.

Hello, everyone, I hope you're well. Today I'm going to talk a little bit about my website, Fiddle Studio and how that got started. I've had the Fiddle Studio website since about 2009. I went back to see when the date of the first post was. I was teaching fiddle before that, my first job out of college was as a violin and fiddle teacher at the Kanack School in Rochester, New York. 

Teaching at the Kanack School was fun because the kids were already learning by ear and playing music by ear, this was a Suzuki school. They were also learning to improvise, because Alice Kanack the founder of the school has a wonderful method for teaching children a creative approach to improvising. 

So I went in there and started teaching fiddle tunes to these kids. And they just picked it up really quickly. And for years, when I wanted to send somebody home with a reference to practice at home, I had a binder full of photocopies of fiddle tunes, except that they weren't always the exact version that I played. So I'd be crossing notes out or writing in different numbers above. I had the tape recorder, stick a tape in there, make a recording of me playing the tune and give it to my student as a reference. 

Although as time went on, fewer and fewer people had a way to play a tape. Sometimes they could play it in their car only and eventually no one could play it at all. And I really wanted another way for my students to practice at home to be able to look at the sheet music, listen to the tune and have a reference for that. So that was when I got the fiddle studio domain and I started putting sheet music up on the website and sound files that I collected sometimes at school, at Fiddle Camp, or that I recorded and I used it for many years. 

Every time I had a student who was learning a tune that's when I would post it on Fiddle Studio and say go go look it up on the website and practice it there. I would say in later years, I use the website less because I was more likely just to record it on their phone. Okay, get your phone out, press record play the tune for them and have them just take a picture you know if I have the sheet music with me just take a picture of it.

 So that's a little bit about my website Fiddle Studio. Our tune today is from that same Irish session that I went to in Dublin, Ireland at a bar called the Bru House, and this was in June of 2022. They played the Flowers of Edinburgh, played it as a hornpipe. I grew up playing this tune as a New England tune. It's really a Scottish tune but I grew up playing it as a reel but this is a setting of it as a hornpipe. And I've also actually after looking it up, I've see that it's used a lot as a Morris dance tune also, I really liked it as a hornpipe. When we play it will play it a little slow. Try to get that hornpipe sound for you. 

There is a lot of speculation online about what the name might mean. I saw on the Session somebody was talking about the Flowers of Edinburgh being a sarcastic way to refer to the contents of chamber pots being thrown out of the windows onto the streets of Edinburgh. But a lot of tunes are named after the flower of this place or flower of that place. It often would just refer to a beautiful woman who lived there.

So we don't know if it's referring to somebody lovely who lived in Edinburgh or the stench of the city or what else it could be talking about. This is a very old tune. I saw it referenced in John Walsh's Caledonian Country Dances Volume Two out of London 1737. So this tune has been around a lot and it is a Scottish tune, but it was being played in an Irish session. Will wonders never cease. Charley and I are gonna play it here for you.

Thanks so much for listening. You can head over to fiddlestudio.com for the sheet music to this and all of the tunes I teach. I'll be back next time with another tune for you have a wonderful day.

The Lark on the Strand (Podcast Episode 1)


Welcome to the fiddle studio podcast, featuring tunes and stories from the world of traditional music and fiddle. I'm Megan Beller and today I'll be bringing you a setting of The Flowers of Edinburgh from a session at the Bru House in Dublin.

Hello, everyone, I hope you're well. Today I'm going to talk a little bit about my website, Fiddle Studio and how that got started. I've had the Fiddle Studio website since about 2009. I went back to see when the date of the first post was. I was teaching fiddle before that, my first job out of college was as a violin and fiddle teacher at the Kanack School in Rochester, New York. 

Teaching at the Kanack School was fun because the kids were already learning by ear and playing music by ear, this was a Suzuki school. They were also learning to improvise, because Alice Kanack the founder of the school has a wonderful method for teaching children a creative approach to improvising. 

So I went in there and started teaching fiddle tunes to these kids. And they just picked it up really quickly. And for years, when I wanted to send somebody home with a reference to practice at home, I had a binder full of photocopies of fiddle tunes, except that they weren't always the exact version that I played. So I'd be crossing notes out or writing in different numbers above. I had the tape recorder, stick a tape in there, make a recording of me playing the tune and give it to my student as a reference. 

Although as time went on, fewer and fewer people had a way to play a tape. Sometimes they could play it in their car only and eventually no one could play it at all. And I really wanted another way for my students to practice at home to be able to look at the sheet music, listen to the tune and have a reference for that. So that was when I got the fiddle studio domain and I started putting sheet music up on the website and sound files that I collected sometimes at school, at Fiddle Camp, or that I recorded and I used it for many years. 

Every time I had a student who was learning a tune that's when I would post it on Fiddle Studio and say go go look it up on the website and practice it there. I would say in later years, I use the website less because I was more likely just to record it on their phone. Okay, get your phone out, press record play the tune for them and have them just take a picture you know if I have the sheet music with me just take a picture of it.

 So that's a little bit about my website Fiddle Studio. Our tuned today is from that same Irish session that I went to in Dublin, Ireland at a bar called the Bru House, and this was in June of 2022. They played the Flowers of Edinburgh, played it as a hornpipe. I grew up playing this tune as a New England tune. It's really a Scottish tune but I grew up playing it as a reel but this is a setting of it as a hornpipe. And I've also actually after looking it up, I've see that it's used a lot as a Morris dance tune also, I really liked it as a hornpipe. When we play it will play it a little slow. Try to get that hornpipe sound for you. 

There is a lot of speculation online about what the name might mean. I saw on the Session somebody was talking about the Flowers of Edinburgh being a sarcastic way to refer to the contents of chamber pots being thrown out of the windows onto the streets of Edinburgh. But a lot of tunes are named after the flower of this place or flower of that place. It often would just refer to a beautiful woman who lived there.

So we don't know if it's referring to somebody lovely who lived in Edinburgh or the stench of the city or what else it could be talking about. This is a very old tune. I saw it referenced in John Walsh's Caledonian Country Dances Volume Two out of London 1737. So this tune has been around a lot and it is a Scottish tune, but it was being played in an Irish session. Will wonders never cease. Charley and I are gonna play it here for you.

Thanks so much for listening. You can head over to fiddlestudio.com for the sheet music to this and all of the tunes I teach. I'll be back next time with another tune for you have a wonderful dayWelcome to the fiddle studio podcast, featuring tunes and stories from the world of traditional music and fiddle. I'm Megan Beller and today I'll be bringing you a setting of The Flowers of Edinburgh from a session at the Bru House in Dublin.

Hello, everyone, I hope you're well. Today I'm going to talk a little bit about my website, Fiddle Studio and how that got started. I've had the Fiddle Studio website since about 2009. I went back to see when the date of the first post was. I was teaching fiddle before that, my first job out of college was as a violin and fiddle teacher at the Kanack School in Rochester, New York. 

Teaching at the Kanack School was fun because the kids were already learning by ear and playing music by ear, this was a Suzuki school. They were also learning to improvise, because Alice Kanack the founder of the school has a wonderful method for teaching children a creative approach to improvising. 

So I went in there and started teaching fiddle tunes to these kids. And they just picked it up really quickly. And for years, when I wanted to send somebody home with a reference to practice at home, I had a binder full of photocopies of fiddle tunes, except that they weren't always the exact version that I played. So I'd be crossing notes out or writing in different numbers above. I had the tape recorder, stick a tape in there, make a recording of me playing the tune and give it to my student as a reference. 

Although as time went on, fewer and fewer people had a way to play a tape. Sometimes they could play it in their car only and eventually no one could play it at all. And I really wanted another way for my students to practice at home to be able to look at the sheet music, listen to the tune and have a reference for that. So that was when I got the fiddle studio domain and I started putting sheet music up on the website and sound files that I collected sometimes at school, at Fiddle Camp, or that I recorded and I used it for many years. 

Every time I had a student who was learning a tune that's when I would post it on Fiddle Studio and say go go look it up on the website and practice it there. I would say in later years, I use the website less because I was more likely just to record it on their phone. Okay, get your phone out, press record play the tune for them and have them just take a picture you know if I have the sheet music with me just take a picture of it.

 So that's a little bit about my website Fiddle Studio. Our tuned today is from that same Irish session that I went to in Dublin, Ireland at a bar called the Bru House, and this was in June of 2022. They played the Flowers of Edinburgh, played it as a hornpipe. I grew up playing this tune as a New England tune. It's really a Scottish tune but I grew up playing it as a reel but this is a setting of it as a hornpipe. And I've also actually after looking it up, I've see that it's used a lot as a Morris dance tune also, I really liked it as a hornpipe. When we play it will play it a little slow. Try to get that hornpipe sound for you. 

There is a lot of speculation online about what the name might mean. I saw on the Session somebody was talking about the Flowers of Edinburgh being a sarcastic way to refer to the contents of chamber pots being thrown out of the windows onto the streets of Edinburgh. But a lot of tunes are named after the flower of this place or flower of that place. It often would just refer to a beautiful woman who lived there.

So we don't know if it's referring to somebody lovely who lived in Edinburgh or the stench of the city or what else it could be talking about. This is a very old tune. I saw it referenced in John Walsh's Caledonian Country Dances Volume Two out of London 1737. So this tune has been around a lot and it is a Scottish tune, but it was being played in an Irish session. Will wonders never cease. Charley and I are gonna play it here for you.

Thanks so much for listening. You can head over to fiddlestudio.com for the sheet music to this and all of the tunes I teach. I'll be back next time with another tune for you have a wonderful dayWelcome to the fiddle studio podcast featuring tunes and stories from the world of traditional music and fiddling. I'm Megan Beller and today I'm bringing you a setting of The Lark on the Strand from a session at the Bru House in Dublin, Ireland. Hello, everyone, I hope you're well, having a great day today.

Because it's the very first episode I'm going to talk a little bit about how I got into fiddle and fiddling. I started the violin at a very young age, I was three years old, when I began taking violin lessons and learning the violin. I had a lot of exposure to traditional music through my parents who were folk singers and musicians, and my father especially, John Wobus, plays the piano. And he also plays a lot of other instruments, including the fiddle. So he was very interested in traditional music, and he would teach me fiddle tunes, we would play them together on fiddle and piano, and he also played a lot of records for me.

One of the records we listened to a lot was the Miller brothers because they played on fiddle and piano. So I was exposed to a lot of that New England sound from a very early age. It was Rodney Miller on the fiddle, and his brother, I believe, Randy Miller on the piano, and they sounded really good. When I played with my dad, we really went for that sound, fiddle and piano, very traditional. 

We also listened to a lot of a lot of Liz Carroll, a real Irish sound out of Chicago, and another fiddler from north of the border, French Canadian named Jean Carignon. His bowing is so good. I as a kid, I did not understand how he could be getting that sound. And even later on when I was older, and I had learned classical bow strokes, like sautille, et cetera, I still could not replicate the sound that he got with his bow. He really was amazing. I heard he was a taxi driver. Actually, if you are not familiar with Jean Carignon, you want to hear some amazing French Canadian fiddling do go check him out. 

When I got older, my dad could bring me along to a gig. So he would play with his band for Contra dances. He mostly played piano if I knew a tune or two, I could sit in and play with the band. And I liked doing that. And when I got old enough that I knew enough tunes maybe 12, 13 years old, my dad went ahead and booked a gig for him and me to do on fiddle and piano and that was when we started playing our band was called Contranella. We took the word contra dance and the word Petronella. And we just combined them Contranella. Way back then in the I guess early 90s is when we pick the name and we stuck with it ever since. 

When we we still play we call ourselves Contranella, now my husband sits in. So we started playing dances and playing for dances has been my primary mode of performing on fiddle. I have played occasional concerts, I definitely teach a lot of fiddle. I love jamming and you know playing in kitchens. My first love was always playing for dancers for contra dances. 

So that's a little bit about my background as a fiddler. Our tune for today is from a session at the Bru House in the Fairview neighborhood of Dublin. I went to Ireland in June with my family, my husband and my three kids. We had a great time I will talk about it more on future podcasts. But one of the things that we did was we went to this session that was held we were staying in the neighborhood of Clontarf and just down the road and Fairview they had a weeknight session at a bar called the Bru House. 

They had a wonderful session there that night and one of the tunes they played is the Lark on the Strand. This tune is a jig in G major. You can find people arguing a little bit about the A part which is based around the A is a resting tone. Maybe it's A modal, but the B part is definitely in G major. And for me, I'll just think about it as a G major jig. If I'm wondering where to put it in a set, G major works. You can find the sheet music for this tune at my website, which is called Fiddle Studio, just like the name of the podcast. You can go to fiddle studio.com, I'll go ahead and post the sheet music there. 

When I was looking into this tune, I also saw it under the name of the Stolen Purse. So you might find it there but most people call it the Lark on the Strand. It's a very old tune, it was mentioned in the O'Neill's Irish collection from 1850. So older than that, not a clear composer on this tune. I found a nice recording of it online played by Thomas Keenan on a Paddy Keenan album. He had an early album with some siblings, including Thomas there's a recording on that album of this tune played on the whistle. It's on YouTube check that out and sounded really good.

So, Charley and I are going to play it here for you. I'll be on the fiddle and my husband Charley Beller is playing guitar. Ready. 

Hey, thanks so much for listening you can head over to fiddlestudio.com for the sheet music to this and all of the tunes I teach. I'll be back next time with another tune for you, have a wonderful day.