On Sunday 2 October 2016, irishtradmusic.nl organised an unique event for Dutch fiddle and violin players with interest for Irish traditional music: a 90 minute masterclass by Clare fiddler Martin Hayes!
Martin Hayes is known to many – both inside and outside the Irish music community – for his unique style of fiddle playing and his long standing musical relationship with guitar player Denis Cahill. Martin performs solo, with Denis, his group ‘The Gloaming’ as well as in collaborations with other musicians like Sting and Yo-Yo Ma. But for this masterclass, his view on pure Irish traditional music was the subject of the night.
Before the masterclass, in the afternoon, Martin Hayes and Denis Cahill performed in concert in Oisterwijk which was organised by GUO concerten. It was a great concert and many of the masterclass participants attended that concert prior to the masterclass. We are deeply grateful that Martin Hayes was willing to agree on this masterclass after having to perform in concert earlier that day!
The masterclass had 14 participants of various levels and backgrounds. There were participants who solely play Irish traditional music, who play different styles of music or were professional classical violinists. The common denominator was of course the interest in Irish music and everybody was excited to learn from Martin himself.
After the opening of the masterclass, Martin Hayes introduced himself and laid the grounds for the workshop; people were free to ask questions whenever they’d like and he was willing to be steered in how the class should take place.
In the meantime, he thought it was a good idea to learn a tune together so that musical ideas could be related to that particular tune.
The tune he chose to teach was ‘Cá Bhfuil An Solas’, a composition by Peadar O’Riada, meaning ‘Where is the light?’. This tune was completely taught by ear, where Martin played the tune in a loop phrase-by-phrase. The tune, a jig, is part of the album ‘Triur Aris’ by Martin Hayes, Peadar O’Riada and Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh.
The tune caught on quite well and soon the participants were able to play along perfectly with Martin. Now that the structure of the tune was learnt, it was time to discuss what it takes to go from ‘notes’ to an expression of the tune.
A lot of important concepts of Irish traditional music were touched, one of the most important one being the phrasing of a tune. Rather than looking at a tune a fixed set of notes that need to played from start to finish, the structure of the tune needs to be expressed by accentuation and interpretation so that it becomes a story. The focus of a fiddle player should not be on the ornaments and intricate stuff, but mostly on interpretation of the tune.
Many other subjects were touched upon during the class, like the notion of regional styles, the history of the music, the fact that there are so many resources to learn Irish music from which negates the common misconception that you need to be ‘born and raised’ in Ireland to be a good Irish fiddle player.
The ninety minutes flew by very quickly and we had to wrap up. If you are interested in Irish traditional fiddle workshops or masterclasses, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, we are planning on organising a fiddle masterclass for classically trained musicians as we had done last year.
A big thanks goes out to all who helped and participated in this masterclass!