Peat fires and twisted bridges: Autumn part two

Classes resume this week for the SMG whistlers and FluteFling Beginners. Over the break I have been putting some ideas together for tunes for us to learn and have uploaded them to The Flow class resources page.

Mairi’s Wedding is very well known — in fact so well that some might wonder about the wisdom of learning it. However The Lewis Bridal Song, as it is also known, is a good way to get into march-type rhythms and as it sits in just one octave it takes the pressure off learning new techniques and fingerings. The version we will be learning has a lovely harmony part arranged by talented Edinburgh flute and whistler Rebecca Knorr, who used to teach the SMG whistle class and kindly shared her music with me.

Either this week or the following one we’ll also be looking at another march, The Peat Fire Flame, from Nigel Gatherer’s collection, Joy of Sets Volume 1. Nigel’s books are highly recommended and you can often find them for sale on a Wednesday night at the Hub when the SMG classes are taking place. If you have difficult getting hold of them, you can buy them directly from Nigel. Over the past 12 years or so they have formed the backbone of many sessions in Edinburgh and no doubt Glasgow and Perthshire, where he also teaches. His web site is a mine of information, so be sure to look around.

FluteFling Improvers will be looking at the challenge of some Highland pipe reels. Lexie McAskill and The Blackberry Bush are both well known and accessible four-part tunes. However a third tune is An Drochaid Luideach (The Twisted Bridge) and it is a different beast altogether. A driving two-part tune, the sting in its tail is that it is not in 4/4, but in 6/4 and is very unusual for that. I first heard it in Edinburgh sessions nearly 20 years ago and then recently came across it on the Session (where there is some debate about it being in 6/4 or 3/2 time). I was not surprised to learn that it was notated by Nigel Gatherer, who in turn learned it from Jock Tamson’s Bairns fiddler Derek Hoy.

Photo: Blackhouse Kettle by Catriona Savage, some rights reserved.

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