At the Newstead Folk Festival

Tony attended the Newstead Folk Festival, near Castlemaine in Victoria, Australia, in January 2013. Sean Kenan took some photos and gave us permission to publish them here.

Tony O'Rourke plays banjo at Newstead

Tony O'Rourke plays banjo - Photo by Sean Kenan

5 musicians

Left-to-right: Adrian Clarke (fiddle), Rob Zielinski (fiddle), Sean Kenan(fiddle), Simon Leverton (guitar), Tony O'Rourke(banjo), with piper Pat Lyons looking on. Photo by Sean Kenan.



Gerry GaffneyAt the Newstead Folk Festival

Tenor guitar, mandolin

A listener asks: "Can your lessons be adapted to 4-string tenor guitar playing if it's tuned DGBE? Looks like the first lesson in Book 1 works fine."

Tony replies

I play tenor banjo tuned GDAE and some CGDA, but have no experience with DGBE on a banjo.

However, as these are the same highest 4 strings tuning as a guitar, then you would be able to play any tunes that don't have notes lower than D using the same fingering as you would on the guitar.

What to do with tunes that have notes lower than D? Well, this occurs all the time with instruments such as D Flute, tin whistle, and Uillean Pipes, where the lowest note is in fact D.

What practitioners of these instruments do is extemporise, that is re-create the phrasing of those lower notes (notes that are non-existent on their instruments) and "put in something" to fit the instrument. In other words alter the melody.

The last tune in this clip is Farrell O'Gara, a tune that uses a number of low A & B notes.  Played on fiddle and concertina there is no problem, as both instruments contain all the notes to the tune, including low A and Low B.

In the second clip you might be able to hear the flute player re-phrasing the tune to fit the instrument, the flute not having the Low A and Low B. In fact she does it with the next tune also, Lads Of Laoise, which contains both low B and Low A.

I guess it's worth considering that by using a DGBE as compared to a GDAE tuning you are sacrificing half an octave of notes, that is G, A, B, C and their sharps. But it's also worth noting that Gerry O'Connor uses a CGDA tuning so he doesn't have Low G, A, or B in the third clip.

Another advantage of learning GDAE tuning is that it is the same as mandolin tuning, so at some stage in the future if you decide to play mandoline then apart from some adjustment for the smaller fretboard the switch is pretty easy.

Of course there's nothing wrong with using a number of different tunings. I myself use GDAE on banjo and mandoline, occasionally CGDA on banjo, EADGBE on guitar, and also two open tunings on guitar - DADF#AD (open D) and EAC#EAE (open A).

Hope this helps, good luck with it.

Gerry GaffneyTenor guitar, mandolin

Tony O’Rourke on the mandolin – video

Here's a video of Tony playing two tunes at the Féile Chois Cuain traditional Irish Music Festival in Louisburgh, County Mayo, in 2012.

Two reels - The Killarney Boys of Pleasure, and The Ashtray on the Altar.

Gerry GaffneyTony O’Rourke on the mandolin – video

Photos from Tony’s 2012 Irish trip

Tom Cussen working on a banjo in his workshop

Tom Cussen working on one of his superlative banjos in his workshop

I was lucky enough to land on Tom Cussen's doorstep the day before RTÉ were due to film the band Shaskeen for a forthcoming documentary, and so it was off to Pat Jordan's pub in Clarinbridge, and what a great night of music it was. Tom, by the way, makes instruments that are superb to look at and to hear.

Tom Cussen, Maureen Brown, Eamonn Cotter and Charlie Harris at Pat Jordan's pub in Clarinbridge

Tom Cussen, Maureen Brown, Eamonn Cotter and Charlie Harris at Pat Jordan's pub in Clarinbridge

I'd met Sean Tyrell briefly many years ago when he was playing with Paddy Keenan in Melbourne. He's a fine singer and knows his way around a guitar. Eamonn Cotter (flute) was there, as was Charlie Harris (accordeon). I've spent many a day learning tunes from their recordings. And of course Tom Cussen, who has had a big influence on my playing, on banjo.

Cover of Shaskeen's CD

Shaskeen's new CD - "Walking up Town"

The one person I'd never met was Maureen Brown, a fiddler that Tom used to play with back in London in the 60's and 70's. Talk about hidden gems! I know nothing about fiddles but the tone she gets from her instrument is like nothing I've heard before. If you ever come across her at a festival she is a "must see". In a tour of many highlights she was definitely a standout. John Dooley was there. He sang on Shaskeen's recording in the early years, along with some locals whose names I've not recorded.

Shaskeen's latest CD "Walking Up Town" represents a move back to more "listening" style music and away from their dance music CDs.

Gerry GaffneyPhotos from Tony’s 2012 Irish trip