I just love the pennywhistle. It is humble, even cheap, yet its music sounds like birdsong. It allows me to unwind with slow airs, run full-tilt on a reel, add sprightly tonguing and ornaments to tunes, and relish the process of learning by ear, all on an instrument with only six holes. The whistle itself erects remarkably few roadblocks between me and my musical ideas. Every step is a joy.
I can teach the techniques I use to you, if you share this affinity. It's easy to get a sound out of a whistle, a little harder to get a beautiful sound, harder yet to play Irish music. But you can do it, using more vivid listening and a few choice exercises (though mostly, for fun's sake, we focus on tunes themselves).
My philosophy is that we must exactly copy the playing of our teachers, as challenging as that may be, so that we know how to copy—and then we can learn from anyone we admire. Then we compile our favorite nuggets from various teachers into our own music, and something beautiful, and all our own, appears. The task is to awaken our ears, which is especially hard with tonguing. How do you hear tonguing at the hell-for-leather speed with which great whistlers play? I can spare you from starting at square one by passing on shortcuts and secrets. Because tonguing is the best organizer there is for Irish whistle music, I am devoted to explaining it. I'll break it down until you get a true feel for it--and then break it down again with breathing spots and ornaments.
I've been at this for 24 years. I play for all sorts of gatherings with my husband Jim Loewenherz (we're called Innisfree) and have studied with some wonderful people: Joanie Madden, Mary Bergin, Kevin Burke. I hope to pass on some of the joy their playing has given me.
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