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'Advanced Instrumentals'

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Notes about the pieces and their composers:

Turlough 'O Carolan: In Ireland about 300 years ago, there lived a harpist, singer and composer by the name of Turlough 'O Carolan. He was born in West Meath around 1670. When he was eighteen, he caught small pox, a disease which was usually fatal at the time. His life was spared, but he was left permanently blind. Turlough's blindness, in a way, was a blessing because it awakened in him a hidden gift for music. A local noble woman by the name of Mary Fitzgerald McDermott Rowe saw to it that he was trained in the Irish harp, gave him a horse and guide and sent him on his way.

At first, he was not considered a great musician. (The ancient bards were supposed to have started their training when they were still young children and Carolan didn't start until he was an adult.) One of his first patrons, a Squire Reynolds, suggested that he try his hand at composition. His first work, "Si Beag, Si Mor", resulted from this suggestion. After he finished the composition, his fame was spread throughout all of Ireland and he started his career.

The way Carolan made his living, was to travel from big house to big house, from castle to castle, entertaining the households and the friends of some of the most famous and wealthy people of Ireland at the time. Often, as a special favor, he would write a tune in honor of the man of the house, or his wife or daughter. He called these tunes "Planxties". He was very successful and people would often delay weddings and funerals until he could be present to play the appropriate tune.

When Carolan was a very young man, before his blindness, he met and fell in love with a young woman named Bridget Cruise. Bridget was part of a noble family and Carolan's family was of skilled laborers, so a match could never be made. And even though he went on to live a very successful life, he never forgot Bridget and wrote 3 planxties in her honor. He met her again near the end of his life, when he was on his way to a religious retreat in County Donegal. He happened to touch a woman's hand and instantly recognized that it was hers.

Carolan was also famous for his love of drink, especially Irish whiskey. He wrote a tune in honor of whiskey. As he was dying, he called for one last cup of his favorite brew. His dying words were said to be "the drink and I have been friends for so long, it would be a pity for me to leave without one last kiss." And he died.


Michael Chapman: Wellington The Skellington: Chapman recorded this charming acoustic guitar instrumental for his 1973 album Millstone Grit; it was instantly popular with neophytes and adepts alike, and thirty years and more on remains one of his most endearing pieces.
Running to 3 minutes 33 seconds, it uses the open D tuning, and as well as bottle necking, he plays on the harmonics. Although this polka like tune may be slightly reminiscent of a dancing skeleton, it is actually about his dog! (thanks, Alexander Baron - London - Info from songfacts.com

Kodak Ghosts: http://modcult.org/read/2011/4/2/kodak-ghosts
Doc Watson: Deep River Blues: A great bio of the 'Doc' from this link http://www.docsguitar.com/biography.html

'Aurora's Powder Rag:  Famously covered by many people and the original artist is (over to you) a female I believe but I'm hoping someone can shed some light?

5 Great Performance Pieces:

  • Auroras Powder Rag
  • Deep River Blues
  • Kodak Ghosts
  • Fanny Power
  • Wellington The Skellington
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