It was the summer of '89 and I had spent a month photographing nature along the shores of Lake Huron. My Jazz days were over.
That much had hit me like a ton of broken eighth notes. It had happened sometime during the previous winter in New York. For the second time in my life,
I had lost my musical direction. I knew the feeling. It was the same feeling I remembered ten years earlier when I left Classical music behind and moved to
Avenue B in search of Charlie Parker's spirit. I found it in a broken tiled doorstep across from Tompkins Square Park. He went by the name of C#
an alto sax player who took me to the hottest sessions in town. I jammed all night with the greats and got
my ass kicked on a regular basis. It was the life
I had been sitting on these very shores ten years ago listening to Parker and making my move to the Big Apple. Classical, Jazz, what else is there? Why was my head so empty, like my brain just had an "everything must go" sale to get ready for new inventory. I sat wondering about my musical fate. Something bounced off the inside far wall of my head and it hit me. While I was in Dublin touring with Pierce Turner I remember being struck down by a far off whistle player while walking over a bridge late one night. Why not. Irish Reels? Learn a new instrument? Ridiculous. I went back into my empty head.
The universe rises up to meet you. Only days back to New York I heard that Larry Kirwan, my long-time friend and musical compatriot from Chill Faction
, had started a duo with Uilleann Pipes. I showed up at their second gig, not to play, but to tape Chris Byrne so I could learn some tunes. I went to every gig and wrote out 33 tunes. By now I was sitting in at the gigs playing Trombone, but at home I was feverishly practicing my Tin Whistle. The next set of tunes I transcribed were from two Bothy Band albums, 'Old Hag You Have Killed Me' and 'The Bothy Band 1975'.
Six months go by. I am a full-fledged member of Black 47. But I still can't get the tunes on my whistle to sound right. It's the little notes. I can't play them. I can't even hear
them. Enter the computer. I had been learning to produce scores on a PC with a notation program called Finale. I got into MIDI, which leads me to digital audio. With that tool I could slow down the recordings, really hear the tunes, while keeping the same pitch. Why not write out the Reels and include all the ornamentation?
This book is the result of that approach.
I still can't play like an Irishman, but at least I understand it.
I'm originally a classically trained trombone player. I also played
jazz for 10 years. I've been collecting Irish tunes since 1987 when I started touring with Pierce
. We toured extensively in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Every little town, I would
go into the local music shop which sometimes doubled as the off-license or a market of some kind
and bought anything that looked Traditional and interesting. Around this time I joined forces
with Larry Kirwan
and Chris Byrne
of Black 47
and decided to learn Tin Whistle for that group. I
took Bill Ochs
tin whistle class at The Irish Arts Center In New York
. I recorded some Sessions
at The Eagle Tavern on 14th St
. and transcribed the tunes
to learn them. In 2002 I went back to
school for computer programming.
At my site www.FredParcells.com
I have a MIDI 'search by melody' program for download.