Tag Archives: uillean pipes

Isolated Holiday

Twist of Hemp ~ Week 19

It is generally held that piping can be thought of as a relatively solo pursuit.  Especially at the very beginning when no sane individual (even a true fan of the music) wants to be within a mile of one new to the uillean piping tradition and practice….

But there is one day a year when all the practicing adds up to getting out to play.  That day is St. Patrick’s Day.  Now, John Joe Badger is definitely not ready for public prime time on the pipes (ahem, neither am I, dear reader, and so we stick to the flute for now when playing in public!!) but as he learns his tunes in lonesome fashion, he never knows who might be listening and taking note that more and more recognizable notes are being strung together for all of his solitary efforts.

 

 

It’s a sad St. Patrick’s Day this year, what with gigs canceled and missing my mates who make this time of year a real favorite of mine.  But though we may feel alone in these uncertain times, we are not.

We must make our merry music still and know we are never alone.

There are plans in Ireland for everyone to sing together at noon in musical and cultural solidarity.

Inspired by Italians singing together whilst in quarantine, I look forward to seeing the results later today online.  As for myself, and of course, good ol’ John Joe Badger, we will spend part of today playing music.  I will keep drawing and painting as it all brings me such solace.

I do so from a place of deep gratitude for the ability to place my energy in these pursuits.  I am safe and healthy while self-isolated.  But there is much fear and uncertainty in the world just now.  And for that, we must take courage and lead from a place of love.  Always.

When the light around lessens
And your thoughts darken until
Your body feels fear turn
Cold as a stone inside,

When you find yourself bereft
Of any belief in yourself
And all you unknowingly
Leaned on has fallen,

When one voice commands
Your whole heart,
And it is raven dark,

Steady yourself and see
That it is your own thinking
That darkens your world.

Search and you will find
A diamond-thought of light,

Know that you are not alone,
And that this darkness has purpose;
Gradually it will school your eyes,
To find the one gift your life requires
Hidden within this night-corner.

Invoke the learning
Of every suffering
You have suffered.

Close your eyes.
Gather all the kindling
About your heart
To create one spark
That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark
Of its weight of festered fear.

A new confidence will come alive
To urge you towards higher ground
Where your imagination
will learn to engage difficulty
As its most rewarding threshold!

~John O’Donohue

Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit !!!!  

Twist of Hemp Week 18

On Dreaming.

Often times, one must simply make a commitment to something.  Sometimes these commitments are small, such as making one’s bed each day,, eating more kale,  or promising to go for a long walk every day ~even without a dog. (to be fair, these can add up to big things in the long run.)  But other times, these commitments are larger ones.  Such as adopting a pet, becoming a parent, or…. investing in a new musical instrument.

Today I sent an email off to a renowned Uillean pipes maker in Ireland to acquire a “half-set” of pipes later this year, hopefully when I go to Ireland for my artist’s residency.  The maker is someone recommended to me by my teacher, dear friend and fellow musician Cathy whom I trust whole-heartedly.  I guess this means I am diving full on into this piping stuff.  I will continue to play the set I have on loan here, with all it’s quirks, and hope for the best with the new set when I pick it up in the fall.  Praying I don’t drive everyone crazy with my practicing as I go.

In the meantime, St. Patrick’s day is coming.  There are gigs to play with friend-musicians I am so fortunate to know and play with.  A number of years ago, this would have felt like a pipe-dream of its own, really.  So I have faith that with a bit of work, maybe my own “pipe dream” may come true and I’ll learn enough to play this wild new instrument along with others once more…. in the meantime, it is nice merely to grow and learn with a new project.  I have some large canvases I plan to paint on as well.  Big, new terrifying territory.  But, like music, I am diving in.  It’s the only way.

What are you doing these days that scares you?

ps.  The above is week 18 of my little drawing series with John Joe Badger.  While I was away teaching in Guatemala, I did manage to make a drawing each week, though sharing wasn’t as manageable.  Here are week 16 and 17…..

Week 16 ~ In which John Joe Badger feels the warm breezes of a land far from home and practices a few tunes on the rooftops
Week 17 ~ JJB was thrilled to hear about the cessation of the badger cull in the UK. This is good news indeed.

ALCHEMY ~ Twist of Hemp, week 10

Piping is tricky.  Most days it seems like an impossible task.  We hear the playing of one of the greats, and we think, “there is absolutely no way I’ll ever even get one note which has the magic of that…..” but we honk away and carry on anyway, the attempt at puzzling it all out being one of the reasons for it all.

Like so many things in this strange life, the beauty of playing any musical instrument is in the process of capturing the seemingly incapturable, and of occasionally being granted a glimpse of it.  Much of the time, it is like turning lead to gold.  Impossible.  But we keep trying.

 

Cran Central Station – Twist of Hemp week 9

The pipers are learning a new march this quarter, their fingers attempt the gymnastics of a classic pipers move, The Cran.  They bubble and dwiddle, sparkle and dribble, deedle and didle and work their way toward the classic cran and that “stuttering warble.”

Carry on pipers!!  Carry on John Joe!  The world needs your music.

 

 

 

Dawn of a new year ~twisted hemp week 8

It is the dawning of a new year, nay – a NEW DECADE!!!!!  With this comes the courage to try new things, to meet new friends and learn to trust more in the old friends we have.

John Joe Badger is keen as ever, and maybe more so, to continue his journey into this new and exciting chapter of his playing.  What will you do this next, new year to challenge yourself?  With whom shall you share these times?

Old friends or familiar, known tunes or new, let this next year and new decade be one of brave new adventures into the challenging and unknown of what you love most.

Bliain nua shona duit, mo chairde.  We will see you in 2020.

Floating on Air(s) ~twisted hemp, week 7

It is the eve of Christmas.  There are parties to attend with fellow creatures, many feasts to enjoy, gifts and food to share.  John Joe is careful to capture solitude amidst this holiday chaos.

Along the way, while practice may fall wayward, John Joe Badger takes some time to listen. Playing is important, yes, but the real trick to learning is the listening.  So between parties and other such social mayhem, put on a favorite record of your favorite player, playing your favorite tunes.  It is yet another way of learning.

Merry Christmas season to all.  May you find light returning to you in whatever form it takes.

The Staredown ~Twisted Hemp, week 6

Pipes are nigh on impossible to keep in tune.  Especially in winter!  John Joe, and so many like him, take to more magical ways of dealing with temperamental reeds…..

Like a good, long stare.  That should do it, yes?  Yes.

*I have heard it said that the great Liam O’Flynn would do this on occasion when a reed was acting up.  He would remove it from the chanter, take a long hard look at it, and then put it gently back into place without saying a word.  Miraculously, the reed would then be in tune.  But of course it would.  No reed would misbehave long for Liam O’Flynn.*

 

 

Joy of a Simple Tune

~Twist of Hemp~ Week 5

John Joe Badger has worked and worked for weeks on his own, amidst countless cups of tea, and twigs on the fire in the woodstove.  This week, in spite of his misgivings, he accepts the invitation of friends to share a few tunes.  Perhaps he will try to play the one simple tune he’s (mostly) learned for them on his pipes.  Or, more likely, he will play his flute or penny whistle.

But tunes are made to be shared.  And for this John Joe is grateful.

*PHLOOFF*

~A TWIST OF HEMP – Embarrassing Blowouts~

……With much practicing, John Joe Badger has learnt most of a simple jig.  He has invited a couple of his closest friends and confidants over for a cup of tea to share it with them.  But lo!  Just when John Joe reaches the B part, *phlooofff!!*….. An embarrassing blowout!  His friends do their utmost not to laugh, as these things do happen.  Especially in the beginning. 

The fecks continue to fly, of course, yet John Joe carries on.  His friends are delighted at his progress, in spite of the leaks, the blowouts and the goose-like cacophony of his playing.  Keep practicing John Joe!  Oh, and maybe a little twist of waxed hemp to shore up that connection between your bellows and your bag, yes?  Yes. 

Flying Fecks

~A TWIST OF HEMP~ week 3 of John Joe Badger’s journey into Uillean Piping……

John Joe is diligent in his efforts on wrestling the octopus-like instrument we call the Uillean Pipes.  Gallant even!  But there are times during this journey when one might hear some rather colorful phrases coming out of the woodshed, or round the kitchen door.   John Joe realizes he has taken on a beastly task here, and that this will not be easy.

With every mistake, out of tune squawk, honk, or (occasionally, miraculously) note, John Joe looks up, takes another deep breath and tries again.  Letting the flying curses fall where they may….