Traditional Irish flute music from Australia

The album brings together some of the best players of traditional Irish music on flute in Australia - Alex Burke, Dan Gordon, Elaine Jeffreys, Terry McGee, Bill Wiseman and Peter Woodley - as well as some brilliant accompanists. It covers a wide variety of styles - a mixture of high energy dance music - music reminiscent of Irish sessions - and haunting airs.

The musicians on this album all play the traditional wooden open system flute, some made in the early nineteenth century. They produce a unique sound made popular in recent years by Matt Molloy of the Chieftains, and by bands such as Altan and De Danann.

The tradition of Irish music in Australia is strong though less well documented, and certainly less recorded, than in places such as Britain and north America. This album goes some way towards correcting the balance.

The recording draws on the living Irish music tradition. But it is also Australian, forming part of the immensely varied fabric of this country's cultural heritage. The album was produced independently by Peter Woodley and ArtSound Studios.

 Traditional Irish flute music from Australia

 1 The House on the Hill/ Mayor Harrison's Fedora Reels
Peter Woodley-Flute, Jim Gregory-Guitar and Bouzouki
 2 The Killimer/ The Lark in the Morning Jigs
Peter Woodley-Flute, Jim Gregory-Bouzouki
 3 Joe Fitzgerald’s Reel
Elaine Jeffreys-Flute, Andy Reid-Percussion
4  Michael Hynes’s Jig/Reel
Elaine Jeffreys-Flute, Andy Reid-Percussion
 5  Captain Haddock (D. Gordon)/ The Star of Munster Reels
Dan Gordon-Flute, Joe Ferguson-Bouzouki, Tim Meyen-Bodhran
 6  Miss McLeod's/ McLeod's Farewell/ The Laurel Tree Reels
Dan Gordon-Flute, Simon Kravis-Guitar
 7  The Freize Britches Jig
Bill Wiseman-Flute, Mick McMahon-Guitar
 8  Ó Ráthaille's Grave Slow air
Bill Wiseman-Flute
 9  The Kerry Sisters Set (D. Game) Polkas
Alex Burke-Flute, Tommy McCarthy-Guitar
 10  The Jolly Tinker Reel
Alex Burke-Flute, Tommy McCarthy-Guitar
 11  Devaney's Goat/ Toss the Feathers Reels
Dan Gordon-Flute, Joe Ferguson-Bouzouki
 12  Jim Conroy's/ Pigtown Jig, reel
Dan Gordon-Flute, Joe Ferguson-Bouzouki
 13  Jesse Dancing (T. McGee)/ Stagger the Noggins (T. McGee) Waltz, Slide
Terry McGee-Flute, Mark Tandy-Piano
 14  Pay the Reckoning/The Connaughtman's Rambles Jigs
Elaine Jeffreys-Flute, Andy Reid-Percussion
 15  Sweeney’s Dream/Katherine McGorman’s Reels
Elaine Jeffreys-Flute, Andy Reid-Percussion
16 The Galway Bay/Murphy's Hornpipes
Alex Burke-Flute, Tommy McCarthy-Guitar
 17  The Mulberry Tree (A. Burke) Waltz
Alex Burke-Flute, Ian Blake-piano
 18  The Green Gates/The Man of the House Reels
Bill Wiseman-Flute, Mick McMahon-Guitar, Ollie Francis-Bouzouki
 19 Larson's/The Choice Wife Hornpipe, Slip jig
Bill Wiseman-Flute, Peter Woodley-Bodhran
20  Gan Ainm/ Egan's/ The Green Mountain Reels
Peter Woodley-Flute and Bodhran, Jim Gregory-Bouzouki and Guitar
21 Grey Dawn Breaking (P. Woodley) Slow air
Peter Woodley-Flute, Jim Gregory-Guitar

All titles traditional unless otherwise indicated, and arranged by the performers.

About the players, their instruments and the tunes

Alex Burke

Alex Burke is from Canberra, but began playing whistle and flute in Adelaide in 1979 through the Celtic Music Club of South Australia. She learnt there from John Stewart and from the late Tim Whelan (senior) who was a strong influence on musicians all over Australia. Alex plays a Rudall Carte flute. She is accompanied on guitar by Tommy Carty (originally from Dublin, now resident in Warrnambool, Victoria) and also by Ian Blake on piano.

 The Jolly Tinker is a long time favourite picked up through sessions.

 The Kerry Sisters is a set of polkas composed by friend and Canberra fiddle player David Game. They are named in honour of the O’Keeffe Sisters - Maire, Siobhan and Aini - of County Kerry.

 Alex heard the Galway Bay hornpipe at a fleadh in Clonmel, County Tipperary in 1993, and picked up Murphy’s hornpipe through sessions.

 Alex composed The Mulberry Tree herself.

Dan Gordon

Dan Gordon from Canberra has been playing the flute since the age of ten when he was introduced to traditional music by his primary school teacher. His flute was made by local craftsman Terry McGee. In recent years Dan has played regularly and recorded with The Tinkers (The Tinkers, TIN001, 1995). He acquires most of his repertoire from sessions, tapes, and from 'the back of my mind somewhere'. A particular favourite recording is American-based musician Eddie Cahill's 1979 album Ah! Surely (Shanachie, 29014).

 Dan's first set consists of three reels - Miss McLeod's; McLeod's Farewell, from a recording by Scottish band Cappercailie; and Eddie Cahill's version of The Laurel Tree.

 Dan got Jim Conroy's jig from Eddie Cahill's recording. Pigtown, Devaney's Goat and Toss the Feathers are all session tunes.

 Dan composed Captain Haddock himself, and once again The Star of Munster is from the sessions.

 Dan is accompanied by Canberra musicians Tim Meyen on bodhran, Joe Ferguson on bouzouki, and Simon Kravis on guitar.

 Elaine Jeffreys

Elaine Jeffreys who currently lives in Melbourne learnt to play the whistle from Tim Whelan and John Stewart in Adelaide before heading for London for much of the 1980s where she took up the flute. In London she played with many brilliant musicians but was most influenced and encouraged by flute players Tommy Healy, Michael Hynes, Marcus Hernon and Matty Sullivan. While living in London Elaine played with a number of bands, including the all-women's ceili band The Sheilas, and also taught traditional music for the 'Irish in Islington' community and welfare group.

Elaine plays a Wilde flute on this recording, but would have preferred her Imhof and Muckle, which she lost in a Melbourne taxi and would very much like to find again. In the style of older recordings, Elaine has aimed for a raw 'session' sound, and is backed by Andy Reid playing a 1978 Collins Diary (bibliophone).

 Pay the Reckoning and The Connaughtman's Rambles are influenced by the playing of Seamus Tansey.

 The Michael Hynes set comes from the man himself.

 Elaine puts the well-known session tune Sweeney’s Dream with a great reel she got from Catherine McGorman, a flute player living in Dublin.

 Elaine got another reel from box player Joe Fitzgerald, originally from County Clare, but for many years now a stalwart of Melbourne sessions.

Terry McGee

Terry McGee was brought to Australia at the age of three by his Irish parents, who were from Meath and Louth. He is probably best known as a flute maker - one of Australia’s most productive. He also enjoys playing in sessions and for dancing and has come up with a few tunes of his own, two of which feature on the album. Terry’s flute is his own "number thirteen" - "the first decent one I made." "Later flutes are better", he said, "but I got used to this one." It was copied from a Rudall and Rose which was brought to the Australian gold rushes in the 1850s.

Jesse Dancing is a waltz in honour of his partner. The second tune is a slide, Stagger the Noggins. The name was suggested in a pamphlet on erecting stud walls and was too good a name for a tune to pass up. For those unused to building parlance, the noggin is the short horizontal piece of wood which separates the vertical studs.

 Mark Tandy plays accordion in the band Ballyhooley with Terry and is playing piano in this set.

Bill Wiseman

Bill Wiseman from Newcastle (NSW) discovered Irish traditional music while living in Townsville, north Queensland, in the 1970s. The major influences on his music have been pipers, including Geoff Wooff, Ian McKenzie and Patrick Lyons, and this is reflected strongly in his style. London-based fiddler Brendan Mulkere passed on his knack for improvisation while teaching in Sydney in the early 1980s.

 Bill also has a flute-playing ancestor, John Cunningham, who migrated from Monaghan to Australia in the 1830s.

 Bill's flute is unmarked, but probably a German model. It was found on the Townsville tip and restored by Ray Holliday.

 Larson's hornpipe was learnt from an obscure album by Larson and Dalgliesh in about 1985. The Choice Wife was learned from Sydney piper Patrick Lyons.

 The Frieze Britches was learned from the playing of Seamus Ennis, and a Willie Clancy recording inspired the Green Gates and Man of the House.

 Bill learnt the air, Ó Ráthaille's Grave from the playing of Matt Molloy.

 Bill is accompanied by Sydney guitarist Mick McMahon, on bouzouki by Ollie Francis who comes originally from Athlone and now lives in Nimbin, and by Peter Woodley on bodhran.

Peter Woodley

Peter Woodley learned the flute in Canberra in the 1980s after hearing the music in sessions. He spent some time around Doolin, County Clare, in 1984-85. In recent years he has played and recorded with the High Notes (The High Notes, FM001, 1990). Peter's flute was made by Ingram for Rudell and Rose in around 1850.

The House on the Hill is a favourite amongst flute players, and has been recorded by a number of them. Mayor Harrison's Fedora was learnt from piper Eugene Lamb of Fenore, County Clare.

The Killimer jig was one of Willie Clancy's, and this version of the Lark in the Morning came from the playing of Marcus Hernon.

The air, Grey Dawn Breaking, was named in memory of his daughter’s grandmother, Gloria Gibbs.

Guitar and bouzouki backing is provided by Jim Gregory, widely recognised as one of Australia’s best accompanists, and a fine singer-song writer as well. Originally from Glasgow, Jim now lives in Launceston, Tasmania.

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