Saturday, August 30, 2014

Milwaukee Irishfest: Banjo and Mandolin

Milwaukee is my backyard and as such Irishfest is a don't-miss for me.  This year was no exception as our band, the Drowsy Maggies, played two gigs in harp tent and I was a volunteer for the festival.  I also went to the Summer School in order to take a banjo class with Enda Scahill and a mandolin class with Martin Howley.
I took these classes last year and reported on them in this blog but you can never get enough schooling from such great players and teachers.
But first, I saw a great band, Dallahan, that I want to share with you.

And it's not because  they are playing one of my banjos.  This is a hot band with lots of new material.

WeBanjo3, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny, John and Maggie Carty, Alasdair Fraser, Tony McManus, Carlos Nunez, and Different Drums of Ireland were just a few of the great acts present.It was a great festival, as usual. If you ever get a chance to go, take it and try to get to the Summer School as you get a lot of perks including free access to the festival.

Here is Martin Howley playing the slip jig "The Good Wife."

Martin has been studying a number of the great mandolin players out there and adapted a lot of the techniques he has learned to the specific needs of Irish Trad.  He has been trying to get away from playing the mandolin like a tiny banjo and let the instrument shine on its own.  If you are a banjo player who plays mandolin too, there is a lot to learn here.

Enda Scahill also taught the banjo, something he doesn't do as much as he would like because of the hectic schedule of WeBanjo3.  Here he is teaching a favorite tune, Dinny O'Brien's Reel.  This is actually from last year - my video this year was screwed up - but it is good stuff.

Both Martin and Enda did an interesting thing, they taught one or two tunes and focused on listening to the tune and learning how to create variation using your skills and ear.  Each person is different, both of them have extensive skill sets but they emphasize using what you have and making it musical, not technical.

Here is Martin playing the Vincent Broderick tune "The Rookery", a tune he has played since he was twelve.

Here Martin plays it slowly so we can learn it and then adds variations.

There was plenty more to learn at the Irishfest.  John Carty was terrific, all the music from new and old groups was inspiring.  I can't wait until next year.

Mike Keyes
30 August 2014

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