The High Kings: Close Harmony

The High Kings is one of the Irish groups that comes across my Pandora station regularly. Their shtick is doing traditional Irish songs in close harmony, and I always notice close harmony because Jane loves it dearly. I linked to their version of "The Leaving of Liverpool" a while back; today I want to point out two quieter songs that I very much like.The first is "Will Ye Go Lassie Go", also known as "Wild Mountain Thyme"; this is a tune I'm learning to play on the whistle.The … [Read more...]

App o’ the Morning: Random Sheet Music


So I got a tin whistle tutorial by noted Irish whistle player Mary Bergin, so that I can learn to play a tin whistle the way whistle players do, instead of the way recorder players do. It's too early for me to say whether the tutorial was a good investment or not, as I've just begun working through it, but Jane says I'm showing improvement, so there's that. (If you're interested in the tin whistle, and are looking for inspiration—or, possibly, sheer terror—check out Bergin's albums Feadóga Stái … [Read more...]

Animated Shorts of Irish Folk Songs

Joseph Susanka has the scoop on a series of animated shorts, made in Ireland, to illustrate Irish folk songs. Fun! … [Read more...]

The Leaving of Liverpool

"The Leaving of Liverpool" is one of the "Irish" tunes I've been listening to quite a lot, and have been learning to play on the whistle. I put "Irish" in quotations, because it isn't really Irish; it's a sailor's song, and was collected in the wild (so to speak) twice, around 1885, by two different Americans. It concerns a sailor embarking on a long sea voyage to California from Prince's Landing Stage in Liverpool, lamenting not the leaving of Liverpool but the leaving of his own true love. … [Read more...]

App o’ the Morning: The Craic

The Irish Gaelic word "craic" is an odd bird. Pronounced "crack", it means "news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation", and apparently it's a culturally significant word in Ireland. I first ran across it in the Silly Wizard song "Take Her in Your Arms", which at one point describes the scene in a pub:There's a seisun in the corner, and the craic is grand tonight.That means that there are folks playing music in the corner (a "session"), and the conversation is … [Read more...]

App O’ The Morning: EasyABC Sheet Music Editor


As I discussed last week, the standard tool for writing down folk music tunes these days is ABC notation. Once I realized that I needed to come to grips with ABC, I went looking for software: to convert ABC tunes to staff notation, and thence to PDF, so that I could use the tunes with ForScore on my iPad. The ABC notation site has a nice round-up of ABC-related software; and the first tool I came across that looked likely is called EasyABC. It's an open source package with a nice GUI, and it … [Read more...]

ABC Music Notation


One of the neat things about exploring a field you know little about is that you can learn a lot in a very short time. Last week I talked about LilyPond, a nice application for typesetting music. It's a powerful program, capable of typesetting books of multipart orchestral scores. It works for me, and I like it. However, I've since learned that the world of folk music runs on a different music typesetting notation called ABC. ABC notation has been around for twenty years this month, and has … [Read more...]

App o’ the Morning: LilyPond


The tin whistle is a folk instrument; and the wonder and glory of folk music is that although it consists mostly of old standards, the old standards aren't particularly standard. For any well-known tune there will be any number of versions extant, with different words, slightly different melodies, different arrangements, and so on. And then, when you learn to play the tune, you're not expected to simply play it just like everyone else—instead, you're expected to take it and make it your own, a … [Read more...]

App Review: ForScore


As I noted last week, I'm learning to play the penny whistle with the aid of the book "The Clarke Tin Whistle", which in size is your typical book of sheet music: about 9"x12" opening up to about 18" wide. Now me, I was trying to use it while sitting at my ease in my recliner. And I'm here to tell you, there's no way to position the book in your lap so that you can see the pages comfortably while sitting in a recliner holding a penny whistle.(Yes, I could use a music stand. I have a music … [Read more...]