Sunday, April 17, 2011

Get Your Arse Out to NEFFA and Get a G* D* WD Sweet PennyWhistle


Ellen Lubin-Sherman, author of The Essentials of Fabulous, writes about coup de foudres, those thunderbolt, love-at-first sight moments that make you reach instantly for the credit card.

Well, I had one tonight, and I'm proud to say that it had nothing to do with shoes, bags, or Audrey Hepburn trenchcoats.

I had a coup de foudre over a God damned whistle. Allow me a moment to tell you how many whistles I have already:

-The Burke D

-The Carey Park

-The four Susatos: Bb, two in C, one in D, and oh! a low D

-The two, no, four Chieftains (Or are they Overtons? I don't freaking know. But they're in Bb, C, and two low D)

-Miscellaneous (8): Generation, Feadog, etc in Bb, C, and D

Counting? That's 18. This doesn't count the ten or so flutes that are hanging on the wall in our living room.

Now, add one, please.

As of 11:00 pm this evening I am the proud owner of a Black Pearl D pennywhistle, head joint made of (oh God, I swore I'd remember this) and body made of acetyl. Translation: Fancy black plastic.

I SWEAR it was NOT my intention. I was at the New England Folk Festival, performing with Einstein's Little Homunculus. We did our show, and I was just planning to browse through the crafter's booths on my way out the door to buy Soul Papa a Celtic tie-dye tee shirt, when I saw the whistles set up at the Sweetheart Flute booth ... I tried to resist, Lord I did. To no avail. I became hypnotized by their siren song.

Carole Sweet, who happens to be wife of the maker, helped me immediately as I stopped to look at the whistles on display. I picked one up and played a few bars of a tune. Then I picked up the other. Then I went back to the first. Then I played the second. Then the first. Then the second. First. Second. My old one. First. Second. My old one. First. First. First. First.

That's when the maker Walt Sweet put down the fife he had been playing with a visiting concertina player, and started taking notice. First. First. First. Second. First. My whistle. First. He reached down below the table and put out four more whistles. First. Third. First. Fourth. First, Fifth... oh, now we're talking. Fifth. Sixth. Fifth. First. Seventh. Fifth. Eighth. You get the point. I settled on #5, which as it turns out, sounded markedly similar to my Michael Burke, only warmer and sweeter. Rounder.

Exhale. I need a cigarette.

The WD Sweet whistle? It is a sweetheart. Whistling friends, check it out. Walt Sweet, son of Sweetheart founder Ralph Sweet, designed and made these by hand. They have a conical bore, which tend to make for an instrument that requires just a little less pushing on the high end. I tried ten because they're handmade, and as a result, would differ slightly. They all sounded great, but I was dialing in. Overall they had a consistently rich sound, but I went with the one with the warmest, roundest tone.

My evaluation: Lovely and rich. Speaks evenly over the whole instrument, top to bottom. High notes not too shrill. Excellent intonation, top to bottom. Not too loud, but not too soft, either. It would be audible in a session, without blasting out anyone's ear drums. Mary Bergin won't kick you out of her class like she would if you had a Susato.

The credit card came out for this one, and you know what? I have no regrets.

It's been a tough few months, people, and music has slipped for perhaps one of the very few times in my life. But there's something about NEFFA to bring out the music in you. And the WD Sweet whistle? That'll bring out the music in ANYONE.

Get your arse out to NEFFA tomorrow and say hi to Walt Sweet for me. If you have a coup de foudre, don't tell your spouse. Tell me. I'll understand.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Unexpected Conclusion

Long time no writey. The writing bug has been buzzing in my ear for the last week of so, but I'm grappling with the plight of those I had so self-righteously advised a year ago: "Just make time," I said, and sniffed at the air. Hm. Now I understand: Sometimes we're too damn busy to do anything but work and family.

Oh, but I have done things. For example, last month: fifty million gigs in honor of St. Patrick, who I honor not for his Catholicism (I'm Protestant) nor his Irishness (I'm an Eastern European mutt) but because I like beer and my husband.

Now. Just to prove the challenge: As I wrote that last sentence, I heard the telltale sounds of Soul Fry waking up. Thus ends today's essay, which was to be about immaculate conception, caffeine, and beer.

Stay tuned. I'll be back.