(happy acoustic folk music) - [Narrator] The blue Ridge mountains are a long way from Ireland and Scotland, but Celtic music found its way here more than two centuries ago, brought by immigrants who were fleeing conflict and financial and religious hardships.
John Doyle is a native of Dublin, who's made a career in music on both sides of the pond.
Andrew Finn Magill is a Fulbright scholar, who's a master of many musical styles and teaches fiddle all over the world.
Will MacMorran is a multi-instrumentalist, who has toured with The Chieftians, and currently teaches at East Tennessee State University.
Their feeling for the old songs runs deep but they're also helping bring Celtic music into the 21st century with vigor and relevance.
(energetic Celtic string music) ♪ Willy Taylor and his youthful lover ♪ ♪ Full of mirth and loyalty ♪ ♪ They were going to the church to be married ♪ ♪ He was pressed and sent on sea ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dum dum ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dey ♪ ♪ She dressed herself up like a sailor ♪ ♪ On her breast she wore a star ♪ ♪ Her beautiful fingers long and slender ♪ ♪ She gave them all just a smear of tar ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dum dum ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dey ♪ ♪ On this ship there being a skirmish ♪ ♪ She being one amongst the rest ♪ ♪ A silver button flew off her jacket ♪ ♪ There appeared her snow white breast ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dum dum ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dey ♪ (energetic Celtic acoustic music) ♪ Said the captain to his fair maid ♪ ♪ What misfortune has took you here ♪ ♪ I'm in search of my true lover ♪ ♪ Whom you pressed on the other year ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dum dum ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dey ♪ ♪ If you're in search of your true lover ♪ ♪ Pray come tell to me his name ♪ ♪ Willy Taylor they do call him ♪ ♪ But Fitzgerald is his name ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dum dum ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dey ♪ ♪ Let you get up tomorrow morning ♪ ♪ Early as the break of day ♪ ♪ There you'll find your Willy Taylor ♪ ♪ Walking along with his lady gay ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dum dum ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dey ♪ (energetic Celtic acoustic music) ♪ She got up the very next morning ♪ ♪ Early as the break of day ♪ ♪ There she spied her Willy Taylor ♪ ♪ Walking along with his lady gay ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dum dum ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dey ♪ ♪ She drew out a brace of pistols ♪ ♪ That she had at her command ♪ ♪ There she shot her Willy Taylor ♪ ♪ And his bride at his right hand ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dum dum ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dey ♪ ♪ When the Captain came to hear it ♪ ♪ Of the deed that she had done ♪ ♪ He made her a ship's commander ♪ ♪ Over a vessel for the Isle of Man ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dum dum ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dey ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dum dum ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dey ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dum dum ♪ ♪ Dally dilly dum dilly dum dum dey ♪ (energetic Celtic acoustic music) - You grew up in Dublin.
Was there a lot of music then?
- A lot of music, a lot of music in the Pub, a lot of music, you know, all over.
Not all traditional, but there was a good healthy environment for learning traditional music.
- Well was it like the southern mountains, where a lot of families play.
Did your family play?
- Yeah, like, my father is a beautiful traditional singer and his father is an accordion player, Tommy Doyle.
And my uncle on my other side was an accordion player too.
Hence, why I play guitar.
(both laughing) - Well that's really something.
Is this tradition still really strong in Ireland?
- Oh absolutely, yeah, and even stronger.
The amount of young people playing now is just phenomenal.
And the level is amazing.
You know a lot of families playing and just loving traditional music.
- So people get together in the pubs every evening and play.
- They do and there's certain centers even in Ireland like you know, for traditional music.
You wouldn't get it in all areas.
The west coast of course, Sligo's a big area, Clare is a big area, Kerry, down there, Donegal, you know.
And I'm missing a few.
But there are loads of beautiful, you know beautiful places and great music.
And each region has it's different type of music.
Similar but not quite the same.
- You've come here.
You live here now.
- [Doyle] Yeah - What do you see as the Irish music scene here?
- Well, I came to New York first in 1991, and when I got here, I came on a Tuesday, and I was playing a session on a Wednesday or a Thursday.
Meeting a great man named, Tony DeMarco, he use to have a session and still plays, in Paddy Reilly's.
I was playing with him and from there I met all these amazing musicians from that.
New York, Boston, Chicago, they are the hubs of traditional music.
- Because there are so many Irish.
- [Doyle] So many Irish, you know, what is it 40 or 50 million people, say they have Irish ancestry in America.
- I know you just got back from European tour.
Did they relate to it like everybody in America does seems to?
- There is something about traditional Irish music that seems to grab at the heart of a lot of people.
You it tugs at a lot of people.
- Those minor chords.
- It's the minor chords.
And there's a lot of them.
(both laughing) There's something about the pathos in it, you know.
Even if you play a fast tune, if you slow down the fast tune, they're invariably sad.
There's something strange that is in traditional music, in Irish music.
(slow acoustic guitar) ♪ Down in some lone valley ♪ ♪ In a sad lonesome place ♪ ♪ Where the wild birds do whistle ♪ ♪ Their notes do increase ♪ ♪ Farewell pretty Saro ♪ ♪ I bid you Adieu ♪ ♪ But I dream of pretty Saro ♪ ♪ Wherever I go ♪ ♪ Well my love, she won't have me ♪ ♪ So I understand ♪ ♪ She wants a freeholder ♪ ♪ Who owns a house and land ♪ ♪ I cannot maintain her ♪ ♪ With riches nor gold ♪ ♪ Nor all of the fine things ♪ ♪ That a big house can hold ♪ ♪ And the Cuckoo ♪ ♪ She's a pretty bird ♪ ♪ She sings as she flies ♪ ♪ She brings a scorn tithings ♪ ♪ And tells us no lies ♪ ♪ She sucks the wild bird tank ♪ ♪ To make her voice clear ♪ ♪ The more she cries Cuckoo ♪ ♪ Well the summer draws near ♪ ♪ And if I were a clerk hand ♪ ♪ Could write a good hand ♪ ♪ I'd pen my love a letter ♪ ♪ That she'd understand ♪ ♪ I'd write it by the river ♪ ♪ Where the soft waters flow ♪ ♪ And I'd dream of pretty Saro ♪ ♪ Wherever I go ♪ (soft acoustic music) - You were one of the people that sort of created this very open sounding, big sounding guitar style.
- I learned from the masters, like, Arty McGlynn, Paul Brady, Dick Conn, like from the Scottish side.
But Arty and Steve Cooney too, great musicians.
And Arty's style was very much, like, his thing was, he wanted to be like the chanter and regulator of Uileann Pipes.
He wanted to create this drone and chordal structure that was very simple but moveable like that.
Which is kinda of like this.
Where if you have this pick.
(high tempo guitar strumming) - That's the drone.
- It's very drone.
(guitar strumming) - And I then I just kind of took that and kind of ramped it up a bit because I was playing the pubs in New York and I needed to have a bass player.
So I started playing like a bass.
(guitar strumming) We do a lot of chord substitutions and we move around.
The thing about traditional Irish music is, each tune has it's melody, and we go into different tunes and different melodies.
That's what we love doing.
There's thousands upon thousands of tunes, and the way that we kind of like to improvise is in the interior of the tune.
So we do variance on the interior.
Like as a fiddle player you would do a variance, and there's loads of different instruments.
And as a guitar player, or a backer piano, the Zuki, etc, you tend to try and find variance yourself.
And, you know, you study who you're playing with and find the variance that they're doing and try and to emulate that.
- It's interesting to me that the Irish are pretty loose about changing the tradition.
Whereas in America, the old time music, bluegrass music they want to change very slowly but the Irish have added the Bodhran and the Zuki, this style of guitar playing.
- We have to, I think that there's always gonna be traditionalists, and then, and people that move try to move forward in tradition, knowing like I I'm one of those people and believe me, I we need all of those people.
We need a traditionalists.
- And we need the people that expand tradition.
And I like to try and expand it because I feel that creating modern aspects in traditional music say if you have to create a song and you write a traditional song from a modern context, you know, if you didn't write it then it would be stay stagnant and stay old and never, ever move.
You know, at one time an early traditional song was relevant at the time and was new.
- You know (upbeat guitar music) ♪ I know my love by his way of walking ♪ ♪ And I know my love by his way of talking ♪ ♪ And I know my love and his jacket blue ♪ ♪ And if my love leaves me, what will I do ♪ ♪ And still she cried, "I love him the best ♪ ♪ And a troubled mind sure can know no rest ♪ ♪ And still she cried, "Bonney boys are few ♪ ♪ And if my love leaves me, what will I do ♪ ♪ I know my love is, is a handsome Rover ♪ ♪ And I know my love says a wild world over ♪ ♪ In Spain or France ♪ ♪ Well, I'm sure he'll terry ♪ ♪ Or an English girl while he's sure to marry ♪ ♪ And still she crying, "I love him the best ♪ ♪ And a troubled minds sure to know no rest ♪ ♪ And still she cries, "Bonny boys are few ♪ ♪ And if my love leaves me, what will I do ♪ (upbeat guitar strumming) ♪ There is a dance hall in Maradyke ♪ ♪ And there my love goes every night ♪ ♪ He sits that strange girl down on his knee ♪ ♪ Don't you know it troubles me ♪ ♪ And still she cried, "I love him the best ♪ ♪ And a troubled mind sure can know no rest ♪ ♪ And still she cried, "Bonny boys are few ♪ ♪ And if my love leaves me what will I do ♪ ♪ I know my love by his way of walking ♪ ♪ And I know my love by his way of talking ♪ ♪ And I know my love and his jacket blue ♪ ♪ And if my love leaves me what will I do ♪ ♪ And still she cried, "I love him the best ♪ ♪ And a troubled mind sure can know no rest ♪ ♪ And still she cried, "Bonny boys are few ♪ ♪ And if my love leaves me what will I do ♪ (acoustic guitar music) - A lot of those old tunes came from Ireland to America and changed a little bit here.
But I think people can hear a difference in something that in the Southern mountains we call it, Leather Britches.
And what's it called in Ireland.
- Lord MacDonald's.
- Lord MacDonald's okay.
Let's hear, Leather Britches.
And first let's hear it in the Irish style, Lord MacDonald's.
(upbeat fiddle music) Man those are some beautiful ornamentation's that you add to that.
- Thank you.
- Which are not in American music.
- No, in American fiddling there's lots of different styles, of course.
But in general, the ornamentation seems to be much more right-handed, so like double stops pulse bowing, different rhythmic.
- Rhythmic changes.
- Play that same tune the way it might be heard here.
This is, Leather Britches, now.
(upbeat fiddle music) - So there's a lot of the, about the drive the forward momentum of a tune like that.
And I, I get, for me one of the things that contributes to that drive a lot is anticipating the downbeats.
So there's a lot of what we call off beat, are just kind of anticipated beats.
Whereas an Irish tune would be much more locked into a 4-4 groove.
- Oh, that's interesting.
(upbeat bagpipe music) - Oh yeah.
What a sound man.
So you call this the Scottish Small Pipe?
- These are the Scottish Small Pipes.
In terms of bagpipes, a newer design.
And you know, when most people think of the pipes, we think of the Scottish pipes, right?
The, the war pipes that you can play in march.
And these are definitely the more mellow version.
- But they're not the Uilleann Pipes?
- Not the Uilleann pipes, a little bit different.
And EJ Jones in Asheville actually made this set of small pipes.
Hamish Moore was one of the musicians that kind of pioneered this particular design.
And I think one of the things about the Scottish pipes in general is we're not able to stop the flow of air.
- So we rely on our finger ornamentation to break the notes up.
Whereas with the Uilleann pipes, if you have all the holes covered and have it on your knee you can get more of a staccato sound that way.
- And I don't suppose you can play but just one key on this?
- You've got a little bit of flexibility.
These are mostly in A.
You can play in some of the relatives.
So we've got an A scale, but it has a G natural.
So it ends up having a little bit of a, kind of more maybe more modal type sound to some of the tunes.
- Now, most bag pipes, we've seen you blow into them.
- That's right.
The, the traditional Scottish Highland Pipes you do blow into them.
And so moisture and humidity are big concern for the reeds in those.
These Scottish small pipes use the bellows more similar to the Uilleann pipes or the Northumbrian small pipes.
And, you know, I think it makes it a little more comfortable and ergonomic to play.
And it also does increase the, the life of the reed as well because you're not blowing moisture onto that cane.
That's so important to actually develop the sound when you're playing the instrument.
- It's got such a soulful sound.
- It, it definitely has, has quite a mellow sound and a better inside instrument and also in, in common A440 as well.
So it's a little, little easier to play along with other instruments then.
- And just nine notes.
- Just nine notes.
You've got an octive and one note.
(both laughing) - I'll play a jig for you.
(energetic bag pipe music) - It's so evocative, man.
- Thank you.
(fast tempo Celtic music) - And tell people what a jig is.
So that's why I mentioned it.
So a jig is in 6-8, which is a time signature which it's pretty much all together absent in American music.
- Do we have any idea why?
- I personally don't know but John was just telling me about it has something to do with the 6-8 was a Catholic time signature.
And because a lot of the immigrants here were Presbyterians or Protestants that time signature didn't make it over.
- But don't quote me on this.
(both chuckles) - Okay.