Tuesday 8 October 2013

What's the plural of hurdy-gurdy?

The session at the Bridge Inn in Audlem last night was something else! At one point I was singing "Erin's Isle", a song where I often put a guitar instrumental verse in the middle. On this occasion one of the hurdy-gurdy players brought out the tune, while I picked some harmonies underneath. It was a first - I can honestly say I've never played with a hurdy-gurdy before! The balance of the two instruments was amazingly pleasing.

You'll notice I said one of the hurdy-gurdy players.

For those who don't know, the player turns a handle gently with the right hand. This turns a wheel which vibrates the strings. Meanwhile he reaches over with the left hand to press the stops or keys which select the actual notes.

I'm used to seeing the occasional esoteric instrument at a folk session, but I don't think I've often seen such a collection as we had last night.

You should be able to make out a guitar (boring!), a concertina, a fiddle, a bow psaltery, a bodhran and a Cassio keyboard. The psaltery brought out melodies with a plaintive sound.

On the other side of the room were the two hurry-gurdies (that must surely be the plural), another guitar, another fiddle,  an unaccompanied voice, a recorder (mostly Irish and Scottish tunes, and fast!) and a man who had an exquisite mandolin and two sets of Northumbrian pipes. One set was in D, the other in F, but I discovered that music for the F instrument is written in G. I had no idea there were even varieties of tuning, let alone that one would be a transposing instrument, and the other not. Sorry about the low-light quality of the photo, but I wanted to include him.

Last but not least, my best beloved borrowed a wooden frog with a serrated spine, and contentedly made rhythmic sounds with the help of a short stick.

We had a great evening.


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