Monday, July 18, 2011

Whistling Happily!

After two very busy months with the youth choir and various church events, I had a very hard decision to take. I decided to take the next liturgical year off from my dad's youth choir. I will still take care of the "communications" aspect of the group, but I won't driving hours every week for practice and liturgical animation.

Not only do I need the rest, but there's another underlying reason to why I decided to take some sort of "sabbatical". I really want, with all my heart, work on that goal I've had for almost a year and a half now. I made myself a practice schedule and fiddled with "how to practice methods" when I finally saw the wall I was hitting: I've been fiddling around with technique for quite sometime but I never found actual tunes that were at a beginners level and that were fun for me to progress (I'm sorry, but Star of the County Down doesn't hit that string with me). Technique is nice and all (I'm able to apply some basic-intermediate technique with the choir), but never actually found tunes that at my level that were fun enough.

I believe Tunes are important for three things: (1) Applying the technique and skills your building; (2) learning how to learn (redundant, I know) Tunes; and (3) adding a lot of fun in the process. If you just work on technique blindly, you may never learn the right way to apply that technique. If you learn how to apply that technique while playing a tune that you enjoy or moves you, it makes the whole process that much easier. But, it's also important that the Tune is at your level. If you try to attack a tune that's a bit too difficult for your skill level, you're going to keep running into "progression-walls".

This took several days before I stumbled on the perfect beginner's tune for me. Brian Finnegan's The Donegall Lass taught by the master himself. It's a jig that I feel slow or moderate speed (not fast like other traditional jigs). Some play it really fast on YouTube and I really don't feel it. Michael Eskin pretty much plays it the fastest I would like to do it.

This Tune was magical to me. I learned it by memory in the same evening I tackled it, and by the next day I was able to air-finger the tune, which is something very hard to do for beginners and even some pros since you don't feel the holes (tactile-memory).

Then, another thing happened in the weekend, I participated in a Tin [Irish] Whistle Workshop by Bob Burgess at the Miramichi Irish Festival. It was a beginner workshop. In terms of technique, I felt I was a hair above the level of the workshop, but in application it was the perfect place for me. We hit three tunes back-and-forth after getting a basic instructions. This was a first for me. After less than a week and a half after learning my first tune touching three Tunes... I was just so amazed afterwards. One of those three Tunes had a similar effect on me as The Donegall Lass: Britches Full of Stitches—an Irish Polka.

I'm finally having so much fun with the Irish Whistle. Mixing this with the exercises and studies, I have some great practice material!