What Musical Features Define the East Galway Irish Music Tradition?

Yesterday, we covered where exactly is East Galway in Ireland and we started to discuss some of the features that define the style.

Clear clean-cut tone of EGIMT

I explained yesterday that the defining sound of EGIMT is the clear tone of each note when compared to the more raspy and almost “rougher"sounds of the other fiddle styles such as West Clare and Donegal. You can read more here.

Bowing style

I started to get into the detail of the bowing style that is a defining aspect of EGIMT in yesterdays blog. Other styles have a more choppy bowing style where the rhythm of the tune is made by the fast direction-change of the bow.

It is an undulating bow-stroke and it is this that brings the beauty and simplicity to the music. All the character and meaning is conveyed through this wave-like stroke. It is not noisy or loud or fast and yet is is very compelling. And there is power behind.

I mentioned yesterday that the way the bow is held and handled plays and important part inthe EGIMT style. The command that the musician has over the bow, is directly proportional to his / her ability to be able to execute the powerful, flowing stroke. As does the weight of the bow. I have noticed that once my students (the ones who practice regularly) get more accustomed to playing the fiddle, the muscle-memory phenomenon kicks in and this allows the fiddler to become more certain and capable with the use of the bow. This then highlights the students particular fingerprint so to speak, their interpretation of the style and it is at this point that we look at the weight of the bow. If the student is losing the engagement of the bow to the strings and seems to be regressing in this respect (perhaps six months into lessons and regular practice and they did not have this issue before) then this is a sign that the weight of the bow needs to be reviewed and some experimentation with new weights is required.

Ornamentation

The ornamentation in EGIMT (or at least Eddie Kelly’s interpretation of it) consists of triplets, rolls (long rolls never short one), cuts, grace-notes and double-stops.

A triplet, as the name suggests consists of three notes. The middle note is always one tone higher than the lower note, never half-tone. This sustains that rich, even tone that needs to be kept in place for every note in the tune. Eddie would really emphasize this; he said that we might think that this middle note was such a short and quick note that the human ear would not discern a half-tone from a whole tone. Yet Eddie was adamant that even these short notes played a vital part in the overall sound of any tune played in the EGIMT, particularly the Paddy Fahy compositions because they were heavy with C and F naturals and B flats. He stressed over and over the importance of the detail; how paying attention at this minute level rendered a beautiful piece of music when heard in it’s entirety.

Lots more to talk about with regard to ornamentation. I am getting carried away writing these blogs as I remember those lessons with Eddie and all he taught me. He passed along so much information and love of the music. He is a genius and I feel very blessed that our paths crossed, thanks to my dad and that I got to spend all those hours gleaning such gems from his beautiful mind.More on ornamentation and rhythm and phrasing tomorrow.

Listen to The Lonesome Fiddler Here

Listen to Searbh Siúcra Here

The Lonesome Fiddler and Searbh Siúcra albums showcase the music of Eddie Kelly and the East Galway Irish Music Tradition

Read more about The Irish Gift, Inc here