Some weeks ago, Martin Doyle sent me (his webmaster) links to the two videos offered below and said, “What do you think of them?” Naturally I liked them very much and was quite impressed with the spontaneity and freedom of movement in the dancers. And the music being played for the dancers is excellent! “Sean-nós – what does that mean?” was my question to Martin. “Old style,” was his answer. So I did a little looking around…
For the uninitiated (like me), sean-nós dance is an older style of traditional solo Irish dance – the lesser known free-form solo type of dancing that many of Ireland’s older traditional musicians played for.
It is a casual dance form (as opposed to the more formal competition-oriented form of) Irish Stepdancing. “Sean Nós” in the Irish language means “old style” and refers to various activities, including sean-nós song and sean-nós dance. These less common forms of Irish dance and traditional Irish singing have been documented by folklorists and song collectors (aka ethnomusicologists), but still often form part of the traditional dance scene in Ireland.
Read more: Sean-nós dance »
Martin Doyle gets his fair share of visitors to his home and workshop in County Clare and they come from near and far. This week saw a small group of intrepid Kiwis pop in for a ‘cuppa and a chat’. Nearing the conclusion of a two week walking tour through the west of Ireland, the happy and hardy group were spending a couple of days in the area with visits to local artisans, walking the Burren and a night on Inis Meáin (one of the Aran Islands). Martin and his assistant Gwenn Frin were delighted to receive the guests who hailed from New Zealand, the US and Canada.
Walking tour leader Rachel Ryan (back left) and members of the group with Martin Doyle (back centre) and Gwenn Frin (back right) among a forest of wooden flutes at Martin’s workshop in County Clare.
The tours are led by County Limerick native Rachel Ryan who has lived in Nelson, New Zealand, since 1980. Each year Rachel and her team guide walking tours of west Ireland and also take visitors to New Zealand on walking tours throughout the beautiful Tasman District in the north-western region of New Zealand’s South Island.
Martin has developed a connection with New Zealand since meeting his friend (and webmaster) Shardul in 2001 when Martin was still living in County Wicklow. Shardul was looking for a flute for his meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy and arrived at Martin’s workshop in Bray. For a period spanning four or five years after that, Martin made a small number of Irish flutes from native New Zealand timbers that were supplied to him by his Kiwi friend. Shardul currently lives in Nelson and met Rachel Ryan at the 2012 Race Unity Day which is organised by the Nelson Multicultural Council. One thing leads to another in this world of ours…
From left: Ronan Browne (Uilleann pipes), Siobhán Armstrong (harp) and Róisín Elsafty (sean-nós singer).
This trio presents the scintillating voice of one of Ireland’s finest Conamara singers, Róisín Elsafty together with the very rare and meltingly beautiful sound of the medieval Irish harp, played by Ireland’s foremost historical harper, Siobhán Armstrong, woven with the diverse colours of Ronan Browne’s flutes, whistles and 170-year-old pipes. From sparkling songs to harp laments and old pipes “pieces”, we are given a glimpse of the unique sound of early Ireland. Róisín performs evocative unaccompanied songs in the florid Conamara style, together with achingly beautiful 17th and 18th century Irish harpers’ songs with harp and flute accompaniment.
The west of Ireland is particularly strong in the tradition of music and County Clare is no exception being liberally blessed with gifted musicians and artisans – past, present and, no doubt, into the future. As a result, the county is host to many events that reflect, celebrate and perpetuate this living tradition of music.
In conjunction with the year of the craft, this unique exhibition will offer the visitor a multi media experience of film, photography, audio, as well as a chance to see a display of the exquisitely crafted instruments made by each of these musicians.
Photographer Christy McNamara, well known for his photographs of traditional musicians will be collaborating in this exhibition with a series of commissioned photographs. Also included will be a short film made by Packmule Films documenting each of the musicians at work in their workshops. In conjunction with North Clare Historical Society there will be a lecture Monday 21st at 8pm by Eugene Lambe, maker of flutes and pipes, collector of tunes and stories from Kinvara in the County Galway. This exhibition will be held in the old courthouse building in Ennistymon which has been beautifully renovated into a new art space.
In September of 2010, Bristolian Nick Hand visited Martin Doyle at his workshop in Clare. After recording a conversation with Martin and taking a raft of photographs in Martin’s workshop, Nick created a ‘soundslide’ that has been included on his Slowcoast website – one of dozens of inspirational soundslides that he has created during his cycle tours around the coastal regions of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
Conversations on the Coast – by Nick Hand
Nick has just released Conversations on the Coast – a beautifully presented hardcover publication offering a selection of twenty stories and photography from the Slowcoast project.
Conversations on the Coast brings together artists and craftspeople from around the British Isles who talk about their work, their life and their passion.
“What I love most about this book is the humility of actually quite ordinary artisans chosen by chance as they came into focus on one man’s remarkable journey around the coast. What we learn is that when you take the time to look, even the apparently straight forward lives of a bicycle repairer, hat maker or basket weaver are driven by passion and a deep seated love for their work. It is inspirational.” – Robin Wood, Chair of The Heritage Crafts Association.
Nick Hand’s visit with Martin Doyle has been included in the book and Martin was delighted to receive a copy by post this week.
Nick Hand cycled his way through some beautiful landscapes and interviewed some very interesting souls.
It has to happen every now and then… spring cleaning that is. And in New Zealand, where Martin Doyle’s webmaster lives, it is spring – so the timing is perfect. The southern spring has sprung and Martin Doyle has a new website – well, a new template at least. Same content pretty much, with some minor additions and the odd little tweak here and there – a facelift in effect.
The new-look website for Martin Doyle Flutes.
So a little celebration is in order and what better way to celebrate than with a tune …
Joe Doyle Makes Music
Joe Doyle playing tunes in the orchard.
Recently added to the Martin Doyle’s flute music page is a lovely piece composed by Martin’s son Joe Doyle. Joe was out in the garden at his father’s home in County Clare a couple of weeks back, ‘playing around’ with his recently acquired Martin Doyle rosewood D flute, when a tune drifted through the music-rich ether of Clare and manifested itself through Joe and his flute. Joe dedicated the tune to his father by naming it ‘The Flute Maker Martin Doyle’ (‘by the flute maker’s son’, as Joe quipped) and recorded it later that day.
A leisurely bicycle tour around the coasts of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland – what better way to see the sights, get a feel for the land and meet the locals! Many have done it but Bristolian Nick Hand has taken the process a couple of steps further. He is interviewing and photographing inspiring people that he meets during his travels and creating soundslides which he posts on his aptly named website, Slowcoast.
In his own words Nick is “…talking to the artisans that I meet, people who have a passion and have developed and honed a skill.” The result is a very inspiring library of soundslides that cover a wide range of people, lifestyles and landscapes. During his travels Nick is also raising money for the Parkinson’s Disease Society through sponsorship.