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And the St. Paddys Day Gig Went....

Posted by fiddlepogo on Friday, March 18, 2011

Pretty well, really.

I found myself more nervous than usual.  This was my biggest performing paycheck to date, and I was pretty much filling the shoes of a band that does nothing but play Irish and Celtic material.

The day before a big gig (for me anything that's not a routine hospital or assisted living performance) reality starts setting in.  I start to realize that some of my tune list is wishful thinking... getting there, but it's not going to hold up under nervousness.  So I mostly fell back to more familiar material.  I'm thinking the stuff I learned for this years St. Paddy's should really be ready for NEXT years St. Paddy's!!!

So on fiddle, I actually did

Maid Milking Her Cow, Si Bheag Si Mhor, Southwind, The Minstrel Boy, Londonderry Air, Chief O'Neill's Favorite, Off To California, Harvest Home/Boys of Bluehill, Rakish Paddy, The Morning Star, Drowsy Maggie, Blarney Pilgrim/Merrily Kiss the Quaker, St. Patrick's Day in the Morning. Road to Lisdoonvarna and Irish Washerwoman... oh yeah, also Farewell To Whiskey, The Girl I Left Behind Me and Rakes of Mallow. Also Rosin the Beau.  Not necessarily in that order though.

The only ones that were "new" for this gig were:

Blarney Pilgrim/Merrily Kiss the Quaker, St. Patrick's Day in the Morning, and Rakish Paddy.  I was getting really close to doing Garrett Barry's, and I think I could have pulled it off, but I felt I'd run out of time for the fiddle part of the set and needed to start singing.  So I guess I had one new tune solid for about every week of the 5 weeks warning I had for the gig.  I guess that's not too bad.

If I'd known I was going to fall back so much to familiar material, I would've/should've practiced the familar material more.  But I think the new tunes helped maintain my interest in playing Irish style, so I think I probably played better overall... I think!!!

One breakthrough:

Some time back I realized that Seneca Square Dance is a great warm up tune for me for Old Time style fiddling.  The first part helps me hone in my bowing rhythms, and the second part helps me hone in my left hand fingers.  But I needed some kind of equivalent for Irish style, and so far, I think slow airs are the best way to start, then hornpipes, maybe finishing off with Harvest Home.  Then reels, then jigs.  At first I thought it would be best to start out on jigs, but I'm not so sure.  Bowing jigs is difficult enough for me, that I think it helps to have the left hand thoroughly warmed up before I start in on them, so I can concentrate on the bowing.  Maybe eventually I'll find one or two tunes that are the Irish equivalent of Seneca Square Dance.  Harvest Home and Drowsy Maggie maybe do fulfill that role at least partially because they both warm me up on doing bowed triplets in both directions.

One odd equipment problem:

This was my first time using a real monitor with my own sound system.  I had one of my Samson Resolv recording monitors in a crate-type plastic carrier.  It's actually one of the kind that has grooves for hanging folders, and it fit quite well.... I just tilted it back in the crate.  BUT I tested it out with the main speaker turned off... and then forgot to turn it on at first... I caught it halfway through the fiddle set... but I think most of the people in the listening area could hear just fine... it's a loud fiddle.  But I think the mics make it sound a bit fuller.

One problem leading up to the performance was that Sunday night, I started feeling some strain in the index finger due to the steel string acoustic guitar I was using for the songs.  So I switched to nylon string. I still use a flatpick, so I don't have to change my technique very much.  And I think the arpeggiated songs (flatpick arpeggios, not fingerpicking) sound more harp-like on the nylon string, and have a softer feel.  And the faster songs sound less like bluegrass.  I'm all for bluegrass sounding like bluegrass, but I don't want my Irish songs to sound like bluegrass.  With the steel string acoustic I was having to restrain myself from doing bluegrass runs!!! The rhythm was the same, and the chord patterns were very much the same.

Irish songs, in order (complete with bad Irish accent!!!)

The Bard of Armagh (almost the same tune as Streets of Laredo, and I closed with a verse of that for contrast)

Red is the Rose (same tune as Loch Lomond- also closed with the chorus of that for contrast)

The Beggarman aka "Johnny Dhu"

The Wearin' of the Green

Muirshin Durkin

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling/My Wild Irish Rose (the first was a request- I was going to save them for last to keep them more in historical or stylistic order)

The Leaving of Liverpool

Star of the County Down

Whatever You Say, Say Nothing (modern Irish song)

Long, Long Before Your Time (also a fairly modern but old sounding Irish song written by Johnny McEvoy)

Be Thou My Vision (just 2 verses)

Morning Has Broken

Danny Boy. (I finally MADE myself print out the words and learn to sing it today.  The second verse in particular is a bit macabre for me, and it's from a woman's point of view, and I normally just do songs that I can get into emotionally.  But it's a favorite, a crowd pleaser.  I figure I can indulge them for 3 short songs! (the other two being "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling and My Wild Irish Rose")

The audience reaction seemed quite positive overall.

The only songs that didn't get sung that I was intending to:

The Lakes of Pontchartrain- got cut because it's one of my longest, and I was running out of time, and it's the hardest to play on guitar- I can't find any way of playing it that doesn't include barre chords.  Pity- I really like the song... very pretty tune, too!

I wonder if I could figure out a way of doing it with low double stops on fiddle?

And Molly Malone.

Tomorrow I have another St. Paddy's flavored performance scheduled in a hospital.

I enjoyed it tonight enough that I may see if I can't devote half of my volunteer gigs to Irish material... THAT would help me keep practiced up!!!

6 comments on “And the St. Paddys Day Gig Went....”

richdissmore Says:
Friday, March 18, 2011 @8:09:02 AM

sounds like you had a lot of fun wish i was there

ChickenMan Says:
Saturday, March 19, 2011 @9:47:37 AM

You didn't really sing with a bad Irish accent did you?

fiddlepogo Says:
Sunday, March 20, 2011 @12:02:57 AM

Well- it was probably a better-than-average bad Irish accent, but I'm sure it wouldn't fool an Irish person.
I studied German and French in high school and college, and spent hours and hours in the language labs trying to get the accents right.
So I can hear stuff other people might not. And in some ways Irish accented English is more like the way other Europeans pronounce the sounds.
Singing is easier than trying to speak it, because you don't have to worry about the music of the language... the tune substitutes for all that.
Three big steps towards getting any accent right or at least close is
1. the R sound (The Irish R is much more subtle than the rolled Scottish R- it's more similar to the American Midwestern R but farther forward in the mouth.)
2. the L sound (most European languages and dialects seem to have a similar L sound, Irish included- the ones that seem to resemble the Midwestern American one most are Scottish and Dutch)
3. the vowels

A big part of it is getting rid of all traces of an American accent, which is REALLY distinctive in the R's, L's and vowels.
Then you add certain distinctive pronunciations

Another thing that seems to help is to SOFTEN the accent.
Most people do the opposite and exaggerate it- that sounds like a caricature.
I think it's safer to try an sound like someone from that country who's been in the U.S. a while.
They almost never pick up an American accent, but their native accent usually softens considerably.
For instance, I know a couple here in California from Texas... they still have a Texas accent, but it's VERY soft,
since they've been here about 3 years.
A soft accent is also easier for an American audience to understand- a thick one will obscure the words.

I've also been known to sing Scottish songs with a bad (but maybe better than average) Scottish accent,
and English songs with a bad (but maybe better than average) English accent.
Part of it is that when I listen to a song enough, I memorize EVERYTHING, including the accent,
and when I sing it, I'm trying to recreate the whole original performance.... accent and all.
I do this when I learn a song in German or Italian, so why not with an Irish or Scottish song???

For instance- the Herman's Hermit's "I'm 'enry the VII I am"... if you don't do the accent, what's the point?

And if you do the "Bard of Armagh" without an Irish accent, it sounds like you're singing the Streets of Laredo, which you almost are.

Well, how am I doing?
A few years back, I sang at a Robert Burns dinner, and someone said a native-born Scottish lady actually CRIED.
I know what you're thinking- I thought it too!!! I asked the person if it was because of my accent, she said no, it reminded the lady of the songs she'd heard as a child.
I'm sure she wasn't fooled as to where I was from, (I don't try to talk with the accent when I introduce the songs anyway) but it was apparently dialed down enough that she could focus on the song and the emotion.
There weren't any native Irish at the St. Patrick's gig, but there was a couple from Chicago who were 100% ethnic Irish from Chicago who listen to lots of Irish music and singing, and have traveled there, and they were enthusiastic. So I think I'm headed in the right direction,
but I doubt I'll be concertizing in Ireland any time soon!!! ;^D
And I'm not sure I've got the nerve to RECORD me doing it!!! :^D

One thing I do before a performance is to listen to LOTS of good native singers singing the songs I want to sing- on YouTube, of course!

Also, it helps if you get the singing style right.. if you do that, it strengthens the impression without having to go overboard on the accent.

One sticky problem is that European countries have strong regional accents, and Ireland and Scotland are no exception.
Some of this seems to flatten out when singing. It's also another reason to soften the accent since speakers (like radio and TV announcers) that have to be understood across the country usually have a softened accent that everyone can understand.

mudbug Says:
Monday, March 21, 2011 @4:50:59 AM

Thankfully, the Beatles and Stones tried to sing like Americans instead of going the Peter Noone route. In the U.S., we've had southerners who sang like northeners and northerners who sang like southerners. I believe with singing, you're allowed to do whatever you want. You got the mike and it's your sandbox. :-)

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, March 21, 2011 @10:00:44 AM

Thanks for the vote of confidence, mudbug!!!

mudbug Says:
Tuesday, March 22, 2011 @4:55:50 AM

Aye and begorra, and the saints be praised, me boyo! :-)

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