Monday, August 31, 2009

Paddy Delee in Cahirmee

Paddy Delee playing the bodhran and Bill Egan playing the accordion at Cahirmee horse fair in 1980.

Brendan Power - Sweet Bulgarity

Brendan Power - Sweet Bulgarity
Lucy Randall - Bodhran
CD - Lament for the 21st Century - available at and itunes

Visit Brendan Power at

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bodhran Online Tutor Part 5

Reel rhythm: The Man of the House. Part 5 of a 7-part online bodhran tutor from

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bodhran Course for Beginners

Basic 5 week bodhran course for total beginners. Classes commencing in Sept in Brockagh Centre. Learn how to play along to any Irish tune in just 5 lessons. Students must have their own bodhran. Cost €100 to be paid on first night. Limited places. Contact Alan 086 354 3206.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Help Us Save the Francis McPeak School of Music

Join with celebrities in a campaign to save a Legendary Irish Music School: The Francis McPeake School of Music, Belfast

Celebrities including the Pogues and Michael Flatley are backing the 'Mosaic of Support' project and a documentary to be filmed showcasing international supporters

The McPeake Family started playing music, in Ireland, in 1904. The family were at the forefront of the revival of Irish and folk music throughout the 1950's and 1960's. Francis McPeake I penned the folk anthem 'Will Ye Go Lassie Go' aka 'Wild Mountain Thyme' in the early 1950's. With such a pedigree, the McPeakes were approached in 1977 to host tin whistle lessons for six weeks, to give the youth of Belfast a cultural alternative to the civil unrest that was a part of everyone's life in Northern Ireland at that time. An amazing music school grew out of those lessons and thirty-two years later, the McPeakes are still teaching traditional music in Belfast. Throughout these 32 years, the McPeakes have inspired and taught to the highest standard in traditional music and produced the largest number of All-Ireland competitors, champions, and tutors and inspired many, many professional musicians. Currently run by Francis McPeake IV , the school unfortunately is under threat due to lack of funds and as such the 'Mosaic of Support' has been created.

Dancing legend Michael Flatley has lent his support to the campaign to secure the future of the school. Michael said, "I wish The Francis McPeake School of Music the very best of luck. The music of our heritage is a very important part of our lives; it influences us when we're young and is invaluable as we get older."

Bill Wolsey, entrepreneur and owner of the most public houses in Ireland's history, said "The McPeakes have taught all classes and creeds for four generations in Belfast. They have taught through good and bad times, through times of trouble and times of peace. To me The McPeakes represent everything that is good about Ireland."

Along with Michael and Bill other internationally acclaimed celebrities including The Pogues, Moya Brennan, Phil Coulter, Ash, Therapy, Brian Kennedy, and Sir James & Lady Galway, have come together to lead in supporting the future of the world renowned Francis McPeake School of Music by purchasing tiles in the 'Mosaic of Support'.

'The Mosaic Of Support' campaign calls on local, national and international artists, businesses and music lovers to purchase tiles within an original Mosaic art piece. The Mosaic will contain 3000 individual tiles. Each supporter that purchases a tile (or 2!) will have their logo or name put on the tile. Award Winning, London Designer, Jake Tilson is on board to create the art piece, which when completed will be exhibited to the public and on line on the school's web site. The cost of one tile is $200 and will help to secure the financial future of the school.

Francis McPeake IV is also producing a documentary called "Are ya goin' to McPeakes tonight?" the story of how the Francis McPeake School of Music has changed people, culture and Belfast since 1977 and the resulting social impact of it were to close. It will examine the extraordinary influence the school has had on the lives of the students, how Belfast has been changed through their music and highlight the many professional musicians and friends of the school and the professional traditional musicians the school has produced.

The documentary will feature the fundraising journey and the creative development and recording of a musical score called the "Jam Piece", the concept of which is when a artist, individual or business purchases a tile, they will be asked to record and video tape one note of music, 15 seconds long, which will then be orchestrated into a large piece of music - 'The Jam Piece'.

'The Jam Piece' will be mixed by Tom Newman, engineer and producer of 'Tubular Bells', the theme from the Exorcist, forming the signature piece for the documentary. The documentary will have a premier screening in Belfast and we will hopefully get distribution for it here in the US.

To become a supporter of the Francis McPeake School of Music simply log onto or call +44 (0)28 9024 4544 for further details.




Irish Mosaic Supporters (as at 13 August 2009)

Entertainment: Michael Flatley, Moya Brennan, Frances Black, Brian Kennedy, Ash, Therapy?, McPeake, The Furey's & Davey Arthur, Donal Lunny, High Kings, Martin Hayes & Denis Cahill, Sharon Shannon, Kieran Goss, Tommy Fleming, Phil Coulter, The Pogues, Brendan Graham, Patricia Daly, Sir James & Lady Galway

Sport: Wayne McCullough

Business: The Merchant Hotel, EMI Music, Junction One, Belfast City Airport, Belfast City Sightseeing Tours, Belfast Duck Tours, Bernard Campbell Solicitors, Big Bear Sound, Windmill Lane Recording Studios, Fingerprint Learning, The Garrick Bar, Cafe Carberry, Morris Estate Agents, Willie Clancy Summer School, Sinful Design, Custom Pro Golf, One Zero Zero

Francis McPeak IV Mosaic of Support Project

Maggie's Music hosts The Matt Bell Bodhran Workshop july 23 in Shady Side, MD

*special event: July 23,7-9pm.Thursday night: Maggie's Music hosts The Matt Bell Bodhran Workshop in Shady Side, MD, 20764. To register and info:; 410-867-0642

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bodhran Online Tutor Part 4

Reel rhythm: part 4 of a 7-part online bodhran tutor from bodhranexpert

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

History of the Bodhran

By Ronan Nolan

THE bodhran evolved in the mid-20th century from the tambourine, which can be heard on some Irish music recordings dating back to the 1920s and viewed in a pre-Famine painting. However, in remote parts of the south-west, the "poor man's tambourine" - made from farm implements and minus the cymbols - was in popular use among mummers, or wren boys.
Sean O Riada was one of the first to stick his neck out, brazenly describing the bodhran as our native drum, adding his view that its history goes back to pre-Christian times. Others, while not denying that it could have had an ancient role, take the view that its introduction as a musical instrument is a more recent phenomenon.
There are many theories:
* That the drum originated in Africa and came to Ireland by way of Spain.

* That it originated in Central Asia and was brought to Ireland by Celtic migrants.

* That it originated in rural Ireland and evolved from a work implement to its present musical status.

* That it was devised by cunning Kerry farmers to push up the price of goatskin.

What we do know for sure is that drums are generally circular and, until recent times, tended to be covered with animal skin. And that their emergence in various cultures at different times need not be related events.
Given our history, the drum would have had a role in Irish warfare. We know that up to a couple of centuries ago, Gaelic chieftains had their own march tunes. But given the destructible nature of wood and animal skin, it is not surprising that none have survived from early Gaelic times.


The bodhran's circular body bears an uncanny resemblance to the skin tray used for centuries on farms in Celtic countries for separating chaff from grain. It also featured in rural mummers' plays and harvest festivities, adding credence to the theory about its agricultural background.
Sean D Halpenny in his booklet "Secrets of the Bodhran" says that the instrument arrived into the popular area of music in the late 1950s. He adds: "Its close cousin the tambourine was a lot more popular, but its use has nearly died out. The author has been using the tambourine for 20 years and remembers hearing old recordings of percussionists from the west of Ireland using the instrument and some years ago Seamus Tansey, the Sligo flute player, doubled on the tambourine on an LP recording."
Going further back, to a recording from 1927, John Reynolds from Co Leitrim can be heard playing the tambourine as he accompanies flute player Tom Morrison. The jingles may have been supressed by taping, as it sounds uncannily like a bodhran.
On recordings made in New York between 1926 and '29 by the Longford fiddle player Packie Dolan, Neal Smith, who played bones in Dolan's Melody Boys, can be heard playing either bodhran or tambourine, with a distinct percussive sound. In the mid-20th century spoons and bones also provided percussion for Irish dance music while the snare and pedal drums were popular with the ceili bands.

Sean O Riada
The bodhran found its place in the traditional music of recent times largely through the work of Sean O Riada and Ceoltóirí Cualann, in which the late Peadar Mercier played the instrument. One of Mercier's colleagues in Ceoltóirí Cualann wasEamon de Builtéar. They often played together at sessions in the youth hostel in which Mercier worked in north Wicklow.
Eamon de Buitléar told me that the bodhran was played in some parts of Kerry and that following its use in Sive, John B Keane's play staged in Dublin's Abbey Theatre in 1959**, others gradually took up the instrument. Keane had heard it played by mummers from the Listowel hinterland. [According to the stage script, the instrument used was referred to as the tambourine, beaten with a stick]. In 1960 O Riada used the instument for the incidental music in the Abbey's production of Listowel writer Bryan Mac Mahon's The Song of the Anvil.
But the earliest evidence of the tambourine in Irish music comes from the watercolour painting "A Shebeen in Listowel," dated c.1842. Now on loan to Listowel Library, the painting by artist Bridget Maria Fitzgerald depicts an interior scene in which a flute player is accompanied by a youth playing the tambourine.
The "poor man's tambourine", which the modern bodhran closely resembles, is seen in a 1947 photo taken by folklorist, the late Kevin Danaher, of three young mummers in west Limerick. Two of the boys are playing the instruments which appear to be made of circular wooden bands used by farmers for separating wheat from chaff, or even used on building sites for removing larger stones from sand.On one of the instruments there can be clearly seen one of two slits in the timber for holding it while sifting.

Taped-up jingles

Ceoltóirí Cualann
, under the guidance of Sean O Riada, gained quite a reputation in Ireland before evolving onto the world stage as The Chieftains, with Peadar Mercier playing the bodhran.
But it was to Davy Fallon, an elderly bodhran player and farmer from Castletown-Geogheghan in Co Westmeath, that Paddy Moloney turned to for the first Chieftains' album. Fallon was well into his seventies by then. He used an old-style goatskin bodhran with tambourine jingles around it and Paddy had to persuade him to tape up the jingles so only the drum could be heard. Mercier took over Fallon's role as The Chieftains gained popularity and started to tour.
Today Mercier's place is filled by Kevin Conneff. In a roundabout way, Conneff was to be an important link in the emergence of the bodhran among the popular folk/traditional groups. He played the instrument on the landmark Prosperous album featuring Christy Moore and released in 1972. Conneff's playing on The Hackler from Grouse Hall made a lasting impression.
Prosperous led to the formation of Planxty and with Christy Moore taking over as bodhran player, the instrument's role in popular folk/tradition was assured. In the Seventies groups such as De Danann (Johnny Ringo McDonagh), The Boys of the Lough (Robbie Morton) and Stockton's Wing (Tommy Hayes) blended the bodhran into their performance as though it was as old as the music itself.
Technique continues to evolve as evident in the playing of Johnjo Kelly of the group Flook, often heard performing with Manchester flute player Mike McGoldrick. Kelly sets his bodhran skin looser than most, enabling him to produce tonal and pitch changes by sliding his left hand down inside the drum to add pressure on the skin, and then loosening it to go back to the original sound.

Josh Mittleman identifies three different types of tunable bodhrans.
External tunables have the screws mounted outside the rim, with a metal ring circling the skin, much like a snare drum. This method prevents the drummer from playing the edge of the drum, but is usually much less expensive than other methods.
Internal tunables have tuning screws mounted inside the rim, with a tuning ring under the head, just inside the rim. The screws move the ring, which presses against the head, thereby increasing or reducing the tension of the head. Mance Grady has an interesting variation on this design; he has split the ring into separate segments, one for each tuning screw, so that he can adjust the tension of the head independently at each screw.
The newest variation on the tunable bodhrán is a patented design invented by Fred Halpin. His drums have tuning screws through rim itself. His rims are thicker than normal; as far as I could tell, the tuning ring is set into the upper edge of the rim.

The bodhran has also made it into films: with Donal Lunny in The Brylcream Boys, Mick Flynn in Ballykissangel, Tim Foley inMasters and Commanders, Jackie Moran in The Road to Perdition and with Capercaille in Rob Roy. In made it into mainstream pop with The Corrs and fascinated modern rockabilly audiences in the hands of singer Imelda May. © Ronan Nolan. 2009

Josh Mittleman's Bodhran site is the best place I have found for bodhran information and links.
Malachy Kearns' also has lots of info.
Bodhran care.

Bodhran makers

** John B Keane (1928-2002), author and playright, also wrote the emigration ballad Many Young Men of Twenty. The Abbey had previously rejected the script of Sive, but were obliged to stage it after the Listowel Drama Group won the All-Ireland Amateur Drama competition with it. It was another 25 years before the Abbey accepted a script from the author ofThe Field, Big Maggie and Sharon's Grave. Among John B Keane's many novels is The Bodhran Maker.

Bodhran Workshops at Scoil Eigse

in conjunction with Scoil Éigse Tullamore 2009, Bodhrán Workshops will be offered for the first time.

Download the Application Form here!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bodhran Tutorials at is an online news and video resource for bodhran players. Check out a selection of online bodhran tutorials at their site.

Learn The Bodhran - Online Tutor Part 2

Day 2 of a free online video tutor for beginning the bodhran.

How To Make a Bodhran

The bodhran is a traditional Celtic frame drum typically attributed to the Irish. The word "bodhran" is Irish and is pronounced "boh-rawn." In traditional Irish music, the bodhran is played not to define the beat of the music as in most other music styles, but instead to accentuate its melody. A well-made bodhran can produce a wide range of notes, almost enough to sound its own melody.

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