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March 19, 2008 Listen to this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/18/obama-race-speech-read-t_n_92077.html. This is Barack Obama's speech on race in America. Everyone ought to listen to it. I gave him money after I heard this one. Not perfect; I disagree with one of his statements about the cause of the Middle East conflict. But hey! He's MY MAN for sure after I heard this one.

January 22, 2006Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels wants to sell or lease the Indiana Toll Road. This highway belongs to the people
of Indiana. Private highway? No way!
N.B. he "won" that one. The "Main Street of the Midwest" is now corporate-owned.

February 1, 2003 - My report for Kalamazoo Folklife on the Fleadh Cheoil na hƒireann, with additional trip itinerary.

November 20, 2002 I'm posting this South Bend Tribune op-ed piece from last April. Seems to me we lost sight of some children....

November 12, 2001Another "blast" from the past. Somebody on the Irtrad-L list, who should know better and will remain unnamed, asserted that one could not play "traditional" Irish music on the hammered dulcimer. Look out...!







I wish I could express my feelings as nicely as this person from Toronto:

"If everything goes well in post-war Iraq and the Iraqi people find themselves in a better situation I will grieve because the US government will tell us that complete, total and utter destruction eventually leads to peace and democracy... who knows what acts would be justified as a result."

from Irish Emigrant Website, sent by a person in Toronto April 3, 2003

Here's one from Howard Zinn, December, 2007:

"When you bomb a country ruled by a tyrant, you kill the victims of the tyrant."

Here's another interesting quote:

"Naturally, the common people don't want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."

- Hermann Goering, Hitler's Reich-Marshall at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials after WWII


Sell the Indiana Toll Road? This could be fun!

Governor Mitch Daniels floated the idea to sell the Indiana Toll Road a few months ago. I thought I would die laughing at the implications until I woke up one day to realize that Mayor Daley of Chicago had actually sold the Skyway. This after every traveler for two years had suffered incredible delays and miles long back-ups so they could spruce up the bridge. Now it belongs to some Spaniards and Australians. It was the first-ever privatization of an American toll road. It won't be the last. Incidentally, was any of Cintra-Macquarie's money used for the reconstruction? Of course not. Will they use it as a cash cow and sell it back to Chicago when its only destination is the glue factory? Stay tuned.

So Mitch gets this great idea: "I can sell the Indiana Toll Road!" This will put the most important section of the main east-west travel and shipping route in private hands. Let's examine some possible results.

Buyer: Verizon Wireless. Name: Verizon Highway; slogan: "See what's over the Verizon":

1) Ad campaign touts the ability to pay your toll by Verizon cell phone, raising tolls for other users until a motorist has to have a Verizon phone to afford travel on the toll road.

2) Verizon squeezes out access by other cellular service on the Toll Road. "If you drive my road you have to use my phones."

3) Verizon encourages cell phone use while driving on the Toll Road. Police become sales reps: "Flip it or ticket."

Buyer: France (or England, or Canada). Name becomes Route de PŽage Franais (nickname: "payout frenchy"), or Royal Colonial Highway (nickname: "royal pain").

1) Foreign policy dispute with owner country results in toll increase.

2) French law and currency, or Canadian, or English, becomes applicable on the Toll Road.

3) The English buy it, we have to switch lanes; Toll Road Commissioner becomes Royal Viceroy.

4) All signs in kilometers; police become foreign troops.

Buyer: The Vatican. Name becomes Strada Del Tributo del Vatican (nickname: "holy highway"):

1) Toll Road personnel in Swiss Guard regalia, plaza gates converted to halberds; plazas converted to baptismal fonts; road signs extol Catholic doctrine.

2) Scofflaws forced to attend confessional toll booths, to receive (and pay or perform) penance before exiting.

3) Divorced persons, Protestants, (etc.) banned from toll road.

4) Police are priests, nuns and monks: Mass at toll plazas; Mass tokens get free toll.

Buyer: Anheuser-Busch. Name becomes Budweiser Highway (nickname: "budway"):

1) Policy on the toll road: responsible drinking. Plazas sell Busch products.

2) Highway name changed to reflect current ad campaigns: Bare Knuckle Stout Highway (no speed limits) near St. Patrick's Day, Natural Ice Highway (no snowplows) in the Winter, Honey Lager Highway near St. Valentine's Day, etc.

3) Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Day (or Week, or Month). All speed limits are off, bumping, drafting (formerly called "tailgating") are legal, even encouraged. Fastest time from Ohio to the Cintra-Macquarie Bridge wins Busch premiums.

Buyer: China, Russia, Saudi Arabia (no women drivers); Bill Gates (no apples sold at rest stops), Ted Turner (televisions everywhere), Pat Robertson (just imagine!), Donald Trump (slot machine alternative to toll), Larry Flynt (Hustler Highway); Democratic Party (tolls go up, liberal speed limit), Republican Party (tolls go up, conservative speed limit).

Any way you look at it there'll be tax breaks scattered like snow at Christmas, non-union construction and maintenance on a cost-benefit basis (Remember the New Orleans levees, the fuel tank fire cases, the Corvair, Valuejet?), toll increases (read "shareholder profits"), sweetheart deals. Can you say "Three Card Monte"?

Any way you look at it, it will be a disaster for Hoosiers and all other motorists. Remember, we were promised a free highway? Not for one hundred years! The Toll Road will no longer be operated for the public good (Good idea South Bend Tribune: Free use by Hoosiers!), but for private profit, like the oil companies, the telephones and the airlines. Indiana's revenue is not on a precipice, as Chicago's was. Future forecast: privatized water (Think this is farfetched? Atlanta has it; the World Bank advocates it.); private cities: sell the whole city of New Carlisle (it's perfect "small town America) to Disney under the new eminent domain ruling!

February 1, 2003 – This is a copy of an article for the K'zoo Folklife Organization Newsletter which will appear in their March 2003 mailing.

The Fleadh!

August 25, 2002, Fleadh Cheoil na hƒireann, Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland. Competing with nine others from Ireland and the UK, including last year's Champion, David James won his third All-Ireland Championship in the Rogha GhlŽas (Choice of Instruments) Senior solo competition.

David also competed in the Newly Composed Song category, in which he did not place. Kim Hoffmann, also of South Bend, Indiana - and partner with David and Rick Willey of St. Joseph, MI, in the Irish trio, Paddy's Racket - competed in the Women's Singing in English. She did not place either, but the respect these two garnered with their efforts led to some delightful sessions with the best of the Fleadh's sean nos song enthusiasts.

Special note should be made of the Senior Ceili Band competition. Kim played piano with the Chicago Ceili Band, who we given a very hearty welcome in Listowel the night of Sunday August 25. Although they did not place they were highly praised and cheered for their spirited performance.

David and Kim returned from Ireland September 12. For the first ten days of the tour they were accompanied by The Continuous Floating Session, consisting of Ethan James (flute and whistle), Rick Willey (fiddle) and Ken Laberteaux (whistle and guitar). All five were together for the Fleadh, entertained at Winkles in Kinvara (Co. Galway) and in Kilmihil, County Clare. We sessioned in Galway Town at the Crane at Ted McGowan's Rois’n Dubh in Gurteen, Co. Sligo, and "had a few tunes" at every stop. Once again we were provided with princely accommodations in Gurteen, courtesy of Mary and Tom O'Grady at the San Giovanni B&B. After Ethan, Rick and Ken departed for the 'States, David and Kim continued to Johnny and Margaret Burns in Galway Town, to Kilcar, Co. Donegal (Dun òlœn B&B – another wonderful accommodation) to visit Kim's relatives, and have a few tunes in John Joe's Bar in Kilcar and Tom Kerr's in Carrick. We visited Michael and Brenda Clancy in Dublin, and also attended the wedding of John Creaven and Stella McBhaird in Galway and Oughterard. Whew! We're home.

The Fleadh Cheoil na hƒireann (translate: Music Festival of Ireland, otherwise known as the "All-Ireland," or just the "Fleadh") is the brainchild of the Comhaltas Ceolt—ir’ ƒireann (translate: "family, brotherhood, etc. of Irish Musicians," for short CCE). Founded in 1953, CCE's stated aim is to perpetuate and promote the cultural heritage of Ireland. Besides many branches in Ireland, USA, England, and Canada there are chapters in Japan, Rumania, Germany, France, Sardinia – all over the world! Kim and I are members of the Crotty-Doran Branch of Detroit (named after two legendary tradition-bearers of Irish music).

The Fleadh, in a town in Ireland, is held annually in the third week of August. Listowel is my favorite site – about 9,000 population, 45 pubs at last count, thoroughly used to accommodating huge and boisterous crowds. The 2003 Fleadh will be at Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

The bulk of the contestants are made up of last year's Champion plus the first and second winners of Irish provincial fleadhanna (plural of Fleadh) – who previously had to win in their county. Also eligible are first and second winners in two English and two North American regional contests. Contests are by age: under 12, 12-15, 15-18, senior; and instrument: pipes, fiddle, etc., and singing; about thirty-eight in all.

Of course not all eligible will travel to the Fleadh, but what fun for those that do! With companions Kim (whistle, fiddle), son Ethan (whistle, flute), Rick Willey (fiddle), and Ken Laberteaux (guitar) – a continuous floating session in itself - I saw the sun rise, still playing, most of the week, and the quality of the music was phenomenal!

This year's event attracted around 150 thousand people from all over the world with sessions in the pubs, hotels and on every street corner, parking space and sidewalk, all day and all night. One could register for the course offerings in music and song the week prior. There are, officially, the music and song contest finals in various venues throughout the town on Saturday and Sunday of Fleadh week.

There is a problem for us dulcimer players. We have no class of our own, and so, for many years we have been competing in the Rogha GhlŽas (meaning: "Choice of Instruments") class. In my personal experience in this contest people have competed on mandolin, (now in their own class – in 1989 my competition included mandolin players. I won that year.) banjo (in their own class since 1984), mando-banjo (what they all compete with now), saxophone, recorder, fife, chromatic harmonica, unique forms of accordeon, guitar, bouzouki, and now and then practically every other folk instrument under the sun. In 1985 one elderly man competed on the musical saw; in 1986 one woman played the plastic Hohner melodica. They were both terrific. You can imagine the difficulty of judging and Irish music contest on these wildly different sounding instruments!

All contestants in the senior instrumental competitions play four tunes, traditionally a hornpipe, jig, slow air then reel, in succession; sometimes a march, Irish polka, slip jig or slide. Carolan tunes, long favored by hammered dulcimer players, have a very "shady" history in the Fleadh, being considered by many Irish players – and more important, adjudicators – to be not quite traditional in the sense of Carolan having been too heavily influenced by his European contemporaries, especially the Italians. They are, however, widely enjoyed in performances and sessions. This year I competed with Kitty's Rambles (jig), Ed Reavy's Lad O'Beirne's (hornpipe), Port na bPœcai (slow air), and finally Larry Mc Donagh's Reel (4 parts), all four tunes with which I am thoroughly familiar.

From 1984, when the formerly dominant tenor banjo was given a class of its own, until 1989, mandolinists dominated the Rogha GhlŽas competitions. The best we dulcimists could do was one third place in 1981 by Phillip Boulding, and my (very close) second in 1985. There have been some adjudicators who contended that the dulcimer is incapable of playing reels and jigs in the Irish style and I have had the misfortune to encounter them once or twice. The judges are the ultimate arbiters and sometimes you have to say – like the Chicago Cubs – "Wait 'til next year."

Competition is not without its terrors. In 1981, alone and my first time in Ireland, I was playing my old self-made instrument, which had an integral table stand at which sat. Imagine my dismay when I entered the contest site – the Listowel Courthouse – and found tiered benches. I had to set up in front of the six-foot-high "bar of justice," behind which sat the adjudicators, who could not see me and only heard my tunes bouncing off the three-story ceiling. To make matters worse, the bagpipe band competition started up outside on the veranda during my "set," and my tunes were lost in the friendly laughter of those assembled inside. Able players and performers "crash and burn" under the steady face-to-face gaze of the adjudicator. In 1986, flush from my '85 close second place I encountered a dulcimer-unfriendly judge, got a severe case of stage fright (read "embarrassing audible tremolo") and was read the riot act when the results were announced, all in front of many of my old friends eager to see me triumph.

I kept coming back, adding the damped dulcimer – the first of its kind made by Nick Blanton of Shepherdstown, WV - in 1986, a great improvement for playing fast tunes and Irish ornaments; the chordal plucking techniques in '89 and '95; and in 2002 the use of a low D/A drone with a fiddle bow for the slow air. So I was the "clear choice" for the All-Ireland in 1989 – the first person to win solo senior honors on the hammered dulcimer – and have won it since on the two other occasions in which I had the opportunity to compete. It is, of course a purely amateur, honorary win; the prizes: glory, a handsome medal and the custody of a perpetual plaque for the year.

The Fleadh is a wild week of music and cra’c (pronounced "crack," and a term evocative of high fun), one of the last events of the Irish Summer festival season. The streets are bursting twenty-four hours a day. Here is a session on the front steps of the hotel; down the way a bagpipe band in full regalia skirls thunderously up a narrow lane with the elderly white-maned major at its head holding high their first place trophy. Ten young girls in high Celtic Revival costume, whose accordeon band just won its third first place, are linked arm-in-arm, dancing and singing in front of the town hall; the Lord Mayor in top hat and tails, festooned with decorations, gives a speech. Thousands jammed into the community hall for the Sunday night's tumultuous finale cheer enthusiastically for every tune played by competing ceili bands; the winners called to the stage tearing into an encore set of reels to wild applause.

Everywhere there are souvenir and food vendors, prodigious floods of Guinness Stout flowing like the manna of the Bible. Everywhere fiddles, guitars, accordeons, flutes, whistles and pipes; singers roaring, music blaring from loudspeakers; people milling about courting, drinking, playing, listening, laughing and dancing.

November 20, 2001 This is a copy of an op-ed piece published in the South Bend (Indiana) Tribune. I was reacting to a spate of stories about kids and crime, kids and guns. The week before, a child in Indianapolis (daughter of a police officer) had found and taken one of her parents' guns to school. In South Bend, a ten year-old boy, facing all sorts of personal problems, whose house had burned down, had lost a sibling, bullied at school, brought a gun. A case, which made national news, was the 12 year-old boy in Florida who killed a 6 year-old girl with some "wrestling" moves learned from television WWF programs. Seems to me we lost sight of some things....

April 8, 2001

Adults abdicate responsibilities toward children

South Bend Tribune, Michiana point of view


 Image generated by Aladdin Ghostscript (device=ppmraw)


A kindergarten girl in Indianapolis faces expulsion for taking a handgun to school. A South Bend boy, age 10, in shackles and handcuffs, wearing an oversized prison outfit, "pleads guilty" to bringing a handgun to school; while at the same time the Indiana legislature kills a bill making it easier to prosecute parents for leaving guns accessible to children. A 14-year-old boy in Florida is sentenced to life in prison without parole for acts he committed at age 12.

This is how I began a Voice of the People letter on March 10. It was so full of anger, so vituperative and sarcastic that by the time of its conclusion I was appalled by what had emerged and confused by the intensity of its rhetoric. I saved it and waited for what I hoped would be clearer insight. This is the toned-down version.

I was a juvenile probation officer for a couple of years in the '70s. My "shift" spanned the hours from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. I was the only active duty probation officer in St. Joseph County during that period of the day. I believe I was successful in some respects, unsuccessful in others. One teacher from that period stands out above many admirable figures -- police officers, other juvenile officers, those engaged as professional or volunteer social workers and, indeed, the children themselves.

C.S. Janiszewski was the superintendent of Parkview [juvenile detention] "Home." As many former inmates of that institution could testify, he was not without ambiguities of practice in his conduct toward his charges. His supervision of that institution may have been clouded by a vision of a moral code of yesteryear when boys were boys and a good spanking and a gentle admonition to "Go, and sin no more!" was what was usually necessary. This was often his parting counsel to me. I'll not forget it. It has occurred to me I also may be guilty of this same, or worse, myopia. But in many late-night discussions between us, he hammered home the one overriding philosophy of juvenile law: This law exists for the good of the child.

In addition, it provides that a shield of confidentiality must be placed on juvenile court proceedings for the good of the child's future. The law recognized that children commit anti-social acts, but that they are children. It was society's responsibility to its young to find out why they committed these acts and help them.

Given the above examples of treatment of children in this country -- even this state and county -- I cannot help but ask: Have we given up on the premise that children have diminished responsibility for their actions, and that sometimes we have to protect them from themselves? Is love, parental responsibility, counseling and psychiatric help being abandoned in favor of vengeance in this society?

The description of a judge, allowing a child to be brought into his court shackled and chained and in an adult prison outfit, was horrifying, especially since Tribune accounts described the child as having emotional trauma, having lost two siblings in a house fire, being confused, distressed and angry.

If society had not lost this child before this travesty, it has surely lost him now! You cannot tell me that he was guilty to the same degree as an adult. You cannot tell me that a child has the ability to "plead guilty" for taking a gun to school. He's a child! A 10-year-old child!

Please say this over and over until the contemptible parody of what we've done to this kid is obvious. Children do not "plead guilty"! Adults, who are supposed to be their guardians, come to a legally mandated finding of "what is best for the child" and present the facts to a court which then tries to help the child. Am I off my rocker here? This is America, not the Third Reich.

Does it make any more sense to expel a 6-year-old girl from kindergarten for (still another gun!) a similar case? This is a symptom of an evil (yes, heaven forbid a value judgment) somewhere in society -- either in her home, or in the school, or elsewhere, and we had better stop punishing the children for it or admit that the commonweal, and the professions of counseling, psychology and psychiatry are bankrupt and unable or unwilling to help.

We in America seen to be able to absolve gun owners of just about every misplaced motivation or responsibility. It's our constitutional right. Sure, what good is a gun that is unloaded and locked in a safe? Let's leave it out so we or our children can grab it at a moment's notice and start blazing away! Hey! while we're at it, what good is a .22 anyway? Wouldn't it be easier to spot a kid carrying an A-K 47 to school?

Our right to free speech extends to the protection of the television industry's right to glorify guns and violence for hours a day wherever a kid turns the channel. Then we expel the children from school -- the one place in their confused lives where we might be able to do some good. Isn't it about time we recognize that children are still children (and just as confused and irresponsible as we were at their age) and try to do the right thing for them?

I do not condone the actions of the boy in Florida who killed the 6-year-old girl. But once again the shackles and chains; once again the abandonment of society's responsibility to aid in the proper upbringing of its children. Oh yeah! It was horrible. But he was 12! I don't care that he was big for his age -- and, oh, by the way, African-American -- justice is supposed to be blind. Perhaps no one taught him that in a democracy it is the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak. (Perhaps we've forgotten this ourselves?) Instead we fed him on a TV diet of body throws and head slams until the desirability of being Dick the Bruiser ("We aim to maim!") overcame the immorality of violence, and then we juridically overruled our responsibility for exposing a child to such trash. Who's at fault here? I know! It must be the child! Let's send him to prison and forget about it!

Primo Levi, in his book, his last words on the Holocaust, "The Drowned and the Saved," describes the process of "an attempt to shift to others -- specifically, the victims -- the burden of guilt, so that they were deprived of even the solace of innocence." Continuing, he confesses, "It is neither easy nor agreeable to dredge this abyss of viciousness, and yet I think it must be done, because what could be perpetrated yesterday could be attempted again tomorrow, could overwhelm us and our children." (Emphasis mine.)

David James is a South Bend resident.

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November 12, 2001 Below is a posting to the Irtrad-L list that I made in response to an assertion on someone's part, who should have known better, that one couldn't play "traditional" on the hammered dulcimer. It's a bit strong, but I'll stand by it. What do you think? Lemme know.

The Hammered dulcimer In Irish Music – Some Thoughts


Sun, 29 Mar 1998

I'm breaking "radio silence" to respond to this "thread" someone alerted me about on the list. That is, hammered dulcimers in Irish music (GRRRR!). A-gain?? WHY???

I've seen so many instrumentalists playing terrible Irish music on fiddles, whistles, flutes and pipes that capable music on ANY instrument is satisfying to me. JEEZ!! How many sessions have I been to where fiddles, flutes, whistles and pipes play too fast, traipse all over the ornamentation and rhythm and destroy the music! Would I rather hear a well-played hammered dulcimer than a poorly played fiddle? YOU BET! So why all this grief heaped on hammered dulcimists? Are there a lot of us out there not playing the music right? I'm sure there are, and they are in company with many on "traditional" instrumentalists who are butchering and steam rolling all over tradition. So who's to judge?

We can only trace fiddles as they exist now to the seventeen hundreds. Before that there were shorter neck instruments, and before that bent neck ones, similar to the folk instrument of Turkey. The same can be said of the simple-system flute, which in its present form is about as old. (See Fintan Vallely). We know that the uilleann pipes in their present form are not any older. THE INSTRUMENTS EVOLVED. If I wanted to get silly I could make a case that anything in A-440 is not traditional. Steel-wound perlon core strings on a fiddle are not traditional. F keys on a wooden flute are not traditional (heaven forbid C and Bb keys!). Playing methods changed on the fiddles after Andy Strad lengthened the neck 'way back then. Or how about fiddle bows? Is the real traditional bow the one we have today, or the convex-shaped one they used to use? I'm sure there were people fussing back then about these "interlopers" on these loud new instruments.

I ain't heard nuttin' about the harp. The National Instrument of Ireland. Is there anyone so foolish as to say that Irish music can't be played on the harp? This instrument shares many of the limitations of the hammered dulcimer, accordeon, mandolin, guitar and bouzouki. That is, fixed pitch strings in one tuning at a time. Maybe we ought to demand that the harp come off the Guinness bottle and be replaced with flute or pipes.

All sorts of people have established that the dulcimer was in Ireland. Some have asserted that it goes back as far as the 15th Century. Vince Hearns at the Coleman Traditional Music center in Gurteen, Co. Sligo maintains that it might go back further than that. He promised a paper on the subject. Soon. I don't have it yet but it's tantalizing. What kind of music was played on it back then? I haven't the damndest idea. Nor can I but guess what was being played on any other instrument. I suspect it was some form of the traditional music that has passed into oral and eventually written history, but don't know for sure. The Irish tradition has embraced many new things. English language songs for start. Accordeons, concertinas, mandolins, guitars, pianos, bouzoukis, silver flutes, Copeland whistles ("in-tune" whistles). If you want to tell Paddy O'Brien and Jimmy Keane, Andy Irvine, Mick Maloney, Joanie Madden and Noel Hill that they ain't playing traditional music, YOU are welcome to do it. I CERTAINLY WON'T! So be the arbiter yourself. Don't buy/ support what you don't like. If you don't want to be in a session with me, or some accordeon player, fine. Go some place else, or try and kick me out of the session.

Ask the Irish. I'm sure you'll find all sorts of opinions on either side of the fence. Who is the arbiter of what is traditional at any given time and place? Hard to say, once again. Are only fiddles traditional in Donegal? (Are only electric instruments traditional in Dublin?) There have been many, I'm sure, who have taken exception to Comhaltas and all its works and pomps, but let's look at CCE for a moment. The "fellowship of Irish musicians" has made room over the years for all sorts of instruments and instrumentalists. Have they said, "Only if you're from Ireland or of Irish descent?" NO. Is there anything, anywhere in Comhaltas that forbids playing or competing on the mandolin, bouzouki, concertina, guitar or hammered dulcimer because they are not traditional? NO. On the contrary, they have acknowledged that Irish music has been graced and embellished by many new additions, which they have welcomed, and some of these have even come from America.

There are so many banjo and mandolin players competing in Ireland now that each has been given a class of their own. (Mandolin, for example, split off from R-G in 1990.) Are there still people who believe pipes, whistle, flute and fiddle are the one and only? You bet. Are players of these instruments probably the best to learn from? I s'pect so, but I've learned a lot from Jimmy Keane, from Paddy O'Brien, from Mick Maloney, from John Williams and Noel Hill, Gerry Casey and Johnny Burns too. Why? 'Cause they play "traditional." Because whatever you say about their instruments, they've adapted to the style, whatever that is, and they play good Irish music. They've also contributed, expanded and innovated in a tradition, which is GROWING and ALIVE.

Am I doing the same thing? Bet your butt I am. And if Comhaltas is any judge of it, they've given me one second (1985) and two firsts (1989 and 1995) because of the music I play. And all three times I was the only hammered dulcimist in the competition. And I have never met anyone in Ireland who was ashamed to be in the same session with me. And I've done some things in those competitions that can't be done on other instruments, and I'm damned proud of them, and I'm going to keep doing them. And if you don't like it, pass a law, or don't buy my records, or walk away when I play. History will be the judge, ultimately, of my traditionality. John Rea could play traditional music. I know. I've met him and played with him. Get his recordings if you can, and listen. I tried to find Andy Dowling once, but he was out of town. You'll have to ask Karen Ashbrook whether he played traditional, or maybe you might ask piper Michael Cooney, who knew him well growing up. I have Barry Carroll's CD, and that is a great recording.. I haven't met him, but I'd sure like to. He was inspired by John Rea. Hammered dulcimer played by someone like him would add to any group. (BTW, anyone asked Derek Bell what he thinks?]

Did I listen to and learn from other hammered dulcimer players when I was coming up? YOU BET. So did Michael Cooney and Cathal McConnell (of the Boys of the Lough, a great fan of John Rea's, who learned from him the tune he passed to me that's on my record) just to name two I know. Did I listen to flutes and fiddles? YOU BET. Did I listen to button and piano accordeon, concertina, banjo and mandolin? YOU BET. Did I learn something from all of them at least to where CCE gave me two All-Irelands and the Irish haven't run me out of the country? YOU BET, and I'm still learning, listening and playing. Have I taught some tunes to musicians on other instruments? YOU BET. And it didn't screw 'em up any either - they took the tunes and applied their ideas of what was traditional to them, just like anyone on any instrument would.

My love affair with the dulcimer is surviving my polygamous relationships with the fiddle, the accordeon, concertina, bouzouki, guitar, banjo, bodhr‡n and whistle. I don't ever expect to win any All-Ireland Championships on these instruments, I play them for fun, and because I LEARN THINGS. I have dampers on my dulcimer because of the staccato elements of the pipes, fiddle and accordeons, and because it helps me get "that lilt." I don't roll a low "D" with an "E" and "C#" because fiddlers, whistlers and pipers cran that note. I cran that note even though I (and accordeonists, concertinas and fiddlers who play second position could roll it on the dulcimer. But in my lights it's not traditional. I damp every grace note I play because I want to get that staccato "pop." I work hard to sound traditional. Don't you wish everybody did?

Some hammered dulcimer players play too fast. I don't believe "its not so much that the tempo is too fast, it is just that they are rushing the '1/8' note after the pulse rather than delaying it a tiny bit." I just think they're playing too damn fast. Few in the hammered dulcimer world "grace," "roll," and "cran." So of course if one skips over all the tough parts one can play fast. And if the "alternating hands" method of striking the notes on the dulcimer screws up the rhythm it's because the player hasn't learned to use the hands equally well. This problem effects the proper playing of ANY music right. John Rea said you have to learn to make them work equally - not to have a "right-hand (or left for that matter) lead." I agree. What does an accordeonist do? He's only playing with one hand! I'll tell you what he does. HE LISTENS, LEARNS AND PRACTICES.

I don't believe, as [some have] said, [that] "the dulcimer is not a part of the tradition, never has been, and never will be." It was in Ireland. That has been established. What did they play? Beats me. Was there any traditional music collected in 1400? Nah! Nobody bothered. You might as well say the same thing about the button accordeon. I'm sure there were prophets of doom all over Ireland and the 'States when that one came in. Francis O'Neill was one of them. He was afraid that soon it would all be accordeons. But he was wrong. Pipes and fiddle haven't died out, thank God for that. And accordeons have changed and adapted too. (Ever tried getting a legato note on a banjo?) Irish tradition has made room for them and grown in the process. It's made room for me too. Am I grateful to that tradition for the major focus of my life? YOU BET! Will I continue to listen and learn and try to contribute and leave my mark? You answer that one.

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