A musical challenge

Welcome to my instrument of torture! Mine and those within earshot…This is a challenge which I approach with my usual bloody-mindedness. But, it is a devilishly tricky thing to play. Just playing the same note twice is a challenge in itself, let alone playing a tune! I can see myself making some progress and can now just about recognise some of the tunes I am ‘playing’. I think this is part of the pull of the instrument, the sheer amount of effort required draws you in. That and the fact that you really feel the instrument, especially the vibration when you hit a note perfectly (which is sadly not as often as I’d like…).

So how is related to ale? Good question. Well, a few years back I felt the urge to start a Celtic Music session in the local bars. I envisioned something like the pub sessions at home, where like-minded musicians will rock-up to a pub on a regular basis to play a selection of traditional and folk tunes from the British Isles (a.k.a Celtic Music). At the time I played tenor banjo and mandolin. I aimed high and though we had a few sessions I wasn’t able to replicate what I have seen in the UK. It wasn’t for a lack of effort by me or my fellow comrades in Celtic-ness

I am not from a musical background and when I was small never heard anyone play an instrument in our house (or at family get-togethers etc…). So how did this all come about?  About five years ago a colleague at work mentioned the words Celtic Music. Being interested in things Celtic for a long time and being a foreigner in a foreign land I decided to look into it. After listening to some traditional music and songs on youtube (‘Dance to Your Daddy’ instantly springs to mind, especially the version by Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, I was hooked). I thought I had found a way to experience my home country, while not being in my home country. I set about learning an instrument to play these tunes on. I tried tin whistle, accordion and then mandolin. I settled on mandolin for a long time and then moved on to tenor banjo (both of which are tuned the same as the fiddle). I then felt an urge to play the fiddle, feeling that this is where it really is at for these tunes and partly where I was somehow headed. I also almost feel that I am meant to play it and play these tunes on it. Weird, I know.

As you can see I have been on a musical journey. Arriving at the fiddle has been via a long road and I have loved learning every instrument on the way. I can’t say I have mastered any of these but I have tried my hand at accordion, tin whistle, harmonica, guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo before settling on the fiddle. I think it’s a match made in heaven, though it can feel like the opposite at times! I seem to thrive on the impossible and this instrument is going to keep me learning for years, it’s just so challenging and difficult!

Luckily my wife and my children are accommodating of my musical challenge. Interestingly, my wife is very much from a musical family, though I did not know it earlier on in our relationship. My children also all love music and this is something I hope they cherish and continue when they are older. I hope that they remember their mum and dad playing music at home, and selfishly I hope they remember the old tunes that dad used to play. Of course, I’d love it if they played the ‘old tunes’ themselves too.

Coming back to the link to ale though. Imagine yourself on a dark winter’s night, going into a pub, itself not brightly lit, with timbers and décor dominated by dark reds and greens. You order a pint of ruby-coloured ale. Mingling with the lively chatter in the background you can hear lilting tunes and melodies being played by musicians in a far corner of the pub. That is a scene I want to be a part of and to create for others if I can, and good ale is an integral part.

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One thought on “A musical challenge

  1. Regarding your comments on the fiddle – alleluja to that brother. I too arrived at the fiddle via via guitar, piano, mandolin and while I love all those there is something special – and as you say challenging- about the violence. Or did I mean violin? It is indeed the very fact that it’s hard to play the same note twice imbues it with a human-like quality: we never make exactly the same note twice either….. thanks for the interesting post and CHEERS!

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