Calendar Updates–Slim Pickin’s

Hi all, just a quick note to say that I have been updating the calendar today, and I’m sad to say that there are significantly fewer sessions around than there were before COVID showed up. I wasn’t able to confirm 100% of the listings, so you’ll see that some of them say TENT(ative), which means I am waiting for a reply to an email or phone call. That said, I hope you can safely find some tunes near you!

See you soon! Mark

Tom Ward’s Downfall Reel

Also known as “The Mourne Mountains,” this is a tune I have heard a million times but never bothered to learn. I finally pulled it out of my head last night and learned it on the fiddle. I like it more after learning it!

In the first clip Oisín MacDiarmad and Seamus Begley shake it out. The second tune in their set is another some LVISS members will know–The Red Haired Lass.

Jamkazam–Playing Along With Friends Online

Ok, here we go with another handy tech tip!

(Disclaimer: As I write this post, Jamkazam has decided to go from a 100% free platform model to a tiered, subscription-based model. Just so you know, I am in no way affiliated with Jamkazam, and do not make money from promoting their products. They still offer a free subscription, as well as paid subscriptions at various service levels. See their website for more information.)

The pandemic. The lockdowns. The social distancing. It’s all anathema to the Irish Music Session. For those of us who love to gather and play in intimate settings, sharing stories, news and tunes, maybe even a drink, it is the WORST!

But–there is hope, for those that have the fortitude to jump through some technological hoops. All you have to do is say the magic word with me now. Ready? One, two three–


Jamkazam is an application for Mac or PC that allows you to play along with your friends online, in real time, by reducing the latency (delay) inherent in internet connections. If you tried to play along with a friend using Zoom, for example, here’s what would happen: you count in–“one, two, three, and…” and you start playing. Three quarters of a second after you play it, your friend hears your first note and starts playing along. Meanwhile you’ve moved on–you’re a measure ahead of your friend, and now your hearing their notes coming back at you with even more delay. Needless to say, this isn’t going to work!

People can begin to perceive delay as short as 10-30 milliseconds (that’s THOUSANDTHS of a second!) Any delay shorter than this is perceived as nonexistent. Jamkazam helps reduce this latency.

To use Jamkazam you’ll need a few things:

A computer running either Windows 10 or Mac OS X 10.8 or higher, connected to your home router using an Ethernet cable (WiFi doesn’t work well).

A microphone–the one built into your computer may work ok if you have a decent sound card in your machine, but if not then you’ll want an external mic. This could be any number of USB microphones, or a standard vocal mic with an XLR cable, and to connect that to your computer you’ll want an audio interface.

An audio interface–a piece of equipment that gets the sound from your external microphone into your computer. The mic plugs into it, and it plugs into your computer, usually via USB. The advantages to this setup are that you get better sound quality and also the interface itself will do most of the audio processing much faster than your computer will, thus decreasing the delay in the system.

Headphones–you can’t use your speakers or they will feed back into the microphone. SQUEEEEEEEAL!

Our anchor Ted and I have used it and we were both amazed at how well it worked. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s mainly because of the limitations of our equipment and computer systems. I hope other members of the LVISS will jump on the wagon and give it a go, so we can play together again, safely and remotely!

Farrel O’Gara’s

Again…I’m obsessed with a tune. Can you believe it? This time it’s a reel called Farrell O’Gara’s. I first ever heard it played by Pat O’Connor and Eoghan O’Sullivan on their album “Conversation at The Crosses.” First track. So good. I can’t find it on YouTube but there are plenty others…just two below.

There’s a little info and a bunch of settings of the tune over at


I’d totally hop in that lift!
Great version! Love his playing!

O’Connell’s Trip to Parliament

This past week I taught a very simple but really cool reel called “O’Connell’s Trip to Parliament.” Wikipedia has this to say about Mr. Daniel O’Connell:

Daniel O’Connell (Irish: Dónall Ó Conaill; 6 August 1775 – 15 May 1847), hailed in his time as The Liberator,[1] was the acknowledged political leader of Ireland’s Roman Catholic majority in the first half of the 19th century. His mobilisation of Catholic Ireland through to the poorest class of tenant farmer helped secure Catholic emancipation in 1829 and allowed him to take a seat in the United Kingdom Parliament to which he had twice been elected. At Westminster O’Connell championed liberal and reform causes (he was renowned internationally as an abolitionist) but failed in his declared objective for Ireland: the restoration of a separate Irish Parliament through repeal of the 1800 Acts of Union. Against the background of a growing agrarian crisis and, in his final years, of the Great Irish Famine, O’Connell contended with dissension at home. Criticism of his political compromises and system of patronage led to a split in the national movement he had singularly led.

Here are a couple nice examples of the tune played by much, much better musicians than myself!

Nana Jo’s Reel

I’m currently obsessed with this tune, Nana Jo’s reel, which was written by Edel Fox, a truly great concertina player from Clare. It appears on the album “The Sunny Banks,” which she recorded with top tier fiddle player Neill Byrne. In this video the teaches the tune as part of her series on the Online Academy of Irish Music website. Maybe this will inspire you to take her course!

The Cascade Polka (and the Low Polka)

I was listening to some session recordings in the car the other day, as you do, and up comes a track I recorded last fall at a house session. A couple friends had come to the area for a visit and so of course a session was hastily organized in their honor. We had a blasht drinking drinks (N.A. for me!), eating schnacks, and playing tunes. These two lovely musician friends sound so dang good together, and the recording in question is my favorite from the evening. What really got it firmly lodged in my head, such that I could not remove it, was that I could NOT for the life of me find where the bloody “one” was. I have since located it, though this tune plays tricks on my brain cells and I often hear the one a beat early. You may know what I mean once you hear it. Hint–the first note you hear in most recordings is the 4 of the previous measure.

I’m such a nerd.

It took some TunePal gymnastics to find the name of the tune (play the recording from one phone into an old phone with TunePal installed, a dozen times, both A and B parts, until it hit on it,) but eventually I found the titles–The Cascade Polka and The Low Polka. An interweb search didn’t yield much for The Cascade, but I did manage to find the following Bandcamp page online, on which a track of the tune and another called “Billy O’Mahony’s” can be bought for a euro. A little info from that page:

The Cascade is composed by accordion player Timmy O’Connor from Tureendarby, Newmarket. Timmy is a local treasure and the Monday night session has continued due to Timmy’s dedication and willingness to share his music with people who come play at Scullys. The second tune is called after another local musician Billy O’Mahony. The two tunes are long married and one is rarely heard without the other.

(By the way, as noted above, the composer of the Cascade is from Tureendarby, and The Tureendarby Polka is one we learned at the LVISS from Dan Foster.)

Finally–here’s a link to the recording that I made–It’s Crystal Bailey on fiddle and Patrick Cavanagh on accordion, recorded last fall.

Patrick said to let you all know that…

…the Cascade is written by Timmy O’Connor (as mentioned above-ed.) and the Low is by John Walsh, both from the Newmarket area of Cork.

Sliabh Luachra abú!!!

The Cascade Polka/The Low Polka