Posted by: Marie | April 8, 2013

(827) Maybe I’m a touch Irish

Post #827
[Private journal entry written on Saturday, March 31, 2012]

Oh, my gosh!

What a fun evening!

At Luke’s party, I reconnected with the two Irish musicians I had met at his book-signing. We put together a plan to meet at my studio on Thursday. However, for various reasons, we ended up rescheduling for tonight, and we changed the location to the home of Lisa, the musician who plays the concertina and flute . . . she lives in City #3. One of the reasons we picked her house is because she lives in between the other two of us. Fianna lives pretty far up in the foothills . . . I guess she lives so far up in the foothills that it really would be considered “the mountains”. The roads are narrow and windy and it can be tricky to find your way around there after dark.

I had told the ladies that I had never played Irish music before, and I only know a couple of Irish pieces well enough to play them by ear, so I wasn’t positive that I would be able to “hang” with them as they played. However, I said I would give it a shot, and worse case, I might end up just listening . . . which is still a really cool option.

Well, I showed up at Lisa’s house right on time . . . right at 4:00pm. She greeted me with a big hug . . . showed me her instruments . . . fixed me a cup of tea . . . gave me a tour of her house . . . acquainted me with her piano . . .


Photo by Martin Chen

Her piano is a digital “player” piano . . . I’ve heard about them, but I’ve never seen one. I looks like a traditional console piano, but then you push some buttons on the electronic box and the piano starts playing on its own . . . the keys move and everything. I loved it!

Anyway, Lisa warned me that she thought her piano might be out of tune. I didn’t make too big of a deal of it, but, yeah . . . it was pretty far out of tune. But, I’ve played worse, LOL . . . for our purposes, it worked just fine!

Even after all of that socializing, Fianna still had not shown up. We tried to call her cell phone, but there was no answer. So, Lisa pulled out her flute and she and I started playing . . .

The music Lisa has been playing the most lately has just the flute’s melody notes on it. Now, I’m pretty good at improvising, especially if the chords are indicated . . . but, if I have the melody line (which I did), I can still do a decent job of improvising. So, I gave it a good ole’ college try . . . but, man . . . I just could not get the hang of the chords. I did fine with the rhythm, even though the rhythm is actually quite different than what is shown on the paper . . . apparently, there really is no way to accurately notate the rhythms used in Irish music . . . which hasn’t been a problem for hundreds of years because no one notated Irish music . . . it was handed down through the generations via jam sessions!

Nevertheless, I got the hang of the rhythm pretty quickly . . . but the chords . . . I just could not get the chords.

Now . . . here’s a bit of music education . . . in order to improvise, one really must know what key one is playing in . . . that is vital in determining the most common chord progressions one should expect to find in a particular piece of music . . . it is especially vital when one only has the melody line to follow in order to determine the appropriate chords.

So . . . there was this one particular piece that was giving me fits. I kept struggling with it. Finally, I called a time-out. I sat and intently studied the music . . .

The key signature had three sharps in it. Yet, the opening chord – my ear told me it was indeed the tonic chord, as expected – was D minor. After a while, I noticed that the tonic chord seemed to have migrated to F Major . . . which is actually quite common when the opening tonic chord is D minor. However . . . neither the key of D minor nor the key of F Major have ANYTHING to do with a key signature of three sharps – in fact, those keys and that key signature are mutually exclusive of each other (is that a proper music term, LOL?)

Anyway . . . finally, Fianna arrived . . . and thank goodness . . . she had a version of the aforementioned song that had the chords written in. Halleluiah!

We helped her unload all three of her harps . . . and while she was setting up and tuning, I sat down with her version of the song and really studied it. Again . . . the three sharps really threw me off . . . well, that is, until I noticed that the vast majority of the seemingly random chords used in the music actually did honor that key signature . . . just not the tonic . . . which, again, made no sense to my classically trained brain.

For Pete’s sake . . . how can a D minor chord lead to a G Major chord . . . unless we are in the key of C Major . . . ?? Or, maybe we’re in the key of D Major because that is the key the flute favors . . . ?? And then maybe they threw in the extra sharp in the signature because that sharp would be needed in the key of A harmonic minor . . . which might make sense if we were in its relative key of C Major . . . ??????????????

What the heck?!?!?!?

So . . . I asked if either of the two of them knew what key the piece was in . . . they both looked at me like I was speaking another language . . . then Lisa said, “Well, it’s either D Major or D minor.”

Yup . . . that’s as good as any answer as I can come up with, LOL. At least, her answer made me laugh out loud!

Finally, I told them that, if they wanted me to play with them, they would have to give me music that had the chords written in. That is the only way I had a chance of figuring out this music, LOL!! Fortunately, they had plenty of music that fit the bill. And . . . we played . . . and we played . . . and we played . . .

We laughed and clapped and stomped our feet . . . and laughed some more . . .

They both were amazed that I could improvise and play music I’ve never seen or heard before (as long as I didn’t try to utilize my classical training) . . . but, it was very easy to feel the beat and just get sucked up into the music . . . it was magical.

We soon discovered the Fianna has never played with an ensemble . . . she has never had to be concerned about timing before. So, when she plays – and her playing is quite pleasing to the ear – she holds each note as long or as short as her soul tells her it should be held. If she has a complex arpeggio to play, she simply takes her time in playing it . . . whether it causes the tempo to be halted or not is of no concern to her.

On the other hand, Lisa has played almost exclusively with large groups of Irish musicians. She is a stickler for rhythm and timing. Of course, as a music teacher, I’m in Lisa’s camp.

We worked and worked with Fianna, but she is her own person . . . she follows her own drumbeat. Finally, we decided that Lisa and I would keep the appropriate rhythm and timing and Fianna would either be with us or she wouldn’t . . . and, magically, that seemed to work. When Fianna would get too far behind, she just wait and catch us on the next verse.

Just about the time we were really getting into our groove, Lisa happened to look at the clock . . . it was 8:30pm. We had started more than four hours earlier!

Oh, my . . . where did all that time go!?!?

Both Fianna and I had 30 minute drives ahead of us. So, we started packing up . . .

As we packed, we all talked about the in-studio recitals I have coming up in a few weeks . . . Fianna said she would be happy to be my guest artist for the Saturday recital. Lisa said she could do both of the Sunday recitals if I would accompany her on the piano. I agreed . . . we set up a practice time for next week.

Then, Fianna and I climbed into our vehicles as Lisa waved us off . . .

What a fabulous evening!

Quotes 737


  1. It sounds so wonderful. I am so happy for you. Good and healing music thoughts to you.


    • Thank you, Kate! I appreciate the kind words!

  2. What a great time

    • It truly was!

  3. Reblogged this on Autism Candles.

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