LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.5

Help for IRTRAD-L Archives


IRTRAD-L Archives

IRTRAD-L Archives


IRTRAD-L@LISTSERV.HEANET.IE


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

IRTRAD-L Home

IRTRAD-L Home

IRTRAD-L  March 1999

IRTRAD-L March 1999

Subject:

Joanie Madden: The Chiff & Fipple Interview

From:

Dale Wisely <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 28 Feb 1999 17:48:20 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (528 lines)

Joanie Madden:
The Chiff & Fipple Interview
by
Dale Wisely

Chiff & Fipple:  The PreMillennial Tinwhistle Internet Experience
http://www.chiffandfipple.com

I. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: THE CHIFF & FIPPLE
GREETING:

Hi!

II. THE CHIFF & FIPPLE INTERVIEW: JOANIE MADDEN

A few years ago, I heard Joanie Madden
interviewed on the radio, along with snippets of
her recordings. I had only the vaguest of ideas
of what a tinwhistle was. Shortly after, while
visiting a neighborhood music store, I bought my
first whistle, and immediately started spiraling
down this long horrible descent into Whistle
Obsessive Disorder. It's Joanie's fault.
I was delighted to be able to catch up and chat
with Joanie this week, just prior to her
departing to tour with Cherish the Ladies.
Joanie was kind enough to give an interview to
Chiff & Fipple.

Joanie Madden is the leader of Cherish the
Ladies, a group of first-generation Irish-
American musicians who are among the most
popular Irish groups in the world. Joanie was
born in New York in 1965. Her mother is from
County Clare and her father is from County
Galway. She received her musical training early
in life by listening to her father Joe play
accordion around the house. She began taking
whistle lessons from Jack Coen, and within five
years became the World Champion on both the
whistle and the concert flute. In 1984, Joanie
became the first and only American ever to win
the Senior All-Ireland Championship on the
whistle. She has been awarded many honors
including being the youngest member ever be
inducted into the Irish-American Musicians Hall
of Fame, recipient of the Wild Geese Award and
Voted One of the Top 100 Irish-Americans in the
country for her contributions to promoting and
preserving Irish culture in America. She has
performed on over fifty albums but, in 1994, she
released her critically acclaimed solo debut "A
whistle on the Wind" on the Green Linnet Label.
She has followed that up with her 1996 release
"Song of the Irish Whistle" on the Hearts of
Space label, the best selling whistle album of
all time. Joanie just released Volume 2 of
"Song" on Hearts O' Space Records.

DALE: Tell us about your earliest introduction
to Irish music.

JOANIE: I don't really remember my earliest
introduction to Irish music, because it was
always around me. My father Joe, is a great
accordion player and my mother is a great dancer
of Clare Sets! My father had this old reel-to-
reel tape recorder going and his records playing
every minute of the day. He'd come home from
work and the "box" was always brought out first
thing. When I finally started to play, it came
very easy to me because it was already embedded
in my mind.


DALE: Did you take up any other instruments
before flute and whistle?

JOANIE: I guess my father realized I had music
in my bones early on. We had an old fiddle
hanging on the wall that my great-uncle had
made. My father always loved the combination of
accordion and fiddle and suggested that I take
some lessons. I said "great"! After about 6
months of lessons, I realized I hated the fiddle
and told my mother to go into the living room
and tell my teacher I was quitting. He came
looking all over the house for me shouting
"where is she? where is she? She can be one of
the greats! He never found me, I was hiding
under the bed! A year later, I decided that I
wanted to play the piano, since we had one in
the living room. I took 5 lessons, and told my
father I was quitting - I hated the piano.
Then one day, friends of my parents, Mary and
Peggy Naughton were visiting. Mary was taking
tin whistle lessons from Jack Coen who lived
around the corner. I asked Mary - "what's a tin
whistle?" She took it out of her bag and I loved
the look and sound of it! I told my father that
I wanted to play the whistle! He told me to get
lost, that he wasn't wasting one more dime on me
and music. I said "Fine! I'll pay for it myself
with my baby-sitting money. " And I did! I
called up Jack Coen who lived seven houses away
from us, had my first lesson at 13, and ran home
every day from school at lunch time to play. I
was hooked! And the rest, as they say, is
history!

DALE: By what age were you performing in public?

JOANIE: As soon as I knew two tunes, I was
playing in my father's band! I was awful! But,
he loved having me around!

DALE: Did you ever get "sidetracked" into other
musical genres?

JOANIE: Fiddler Eileen Ivers and I went to
grammar school together and are still best
friends today. We used to jazz the music up a
little bit and play a little country, blues,
rock and roll and whatever else for fun. I
always came back to traditional music, I can't
help myself!

DALE: Who were your most important teachers? You
mentioned you first studied with Jack Coen. What
can you tell us about him?

JOANIE: Jack was the greatest teacher. He was so
encouraging and willing to share his music. He
always had great students because he was so
patient and encouraging. He really focused in on
the basics of good timing and ornamentation.
Jack was very sparse with his ornamentation in a
beautiful East Galway style. He emphasized the
tune is more important than rolls and stressed
to let the music speak for itself. I don't think
I would ever have played if it hadn't been for
Jack. He just put me on the right road and I
just kept going. I was also very lucky to have
two other flute players in New York that were of
great inspiration to me; Mike Rafferty and Mike
Preston. Mike Rafferty is Mary Rafferty's
(Cherish the Ladies accordion player) father. In
my books, one of the greatest flute players of
all time. Also, Mike Preston from Sligo, who was
the flute player from the original Tulla Ceili
band lived a couple of miles from us and always
was encouraging me. I would be totally remiss if
I didn't mention my favorite whistle player -
Mary Bergin. Even though I never had a lesson
with her, I would have to say that she taught me
more about whistle playing than anyone! I wore
her record out, literally. I could still play
you side A or Side B right now!

DALE: You are distinguished as an American
winner of Senior All-Ireland Championship on
whistle. These competitions are unfamiliar to a
lot of people outside of Ireland. Can you tell
us a bit about the experience of competing?

JOANIE: Well, to me going to the All-Ireland was
always more of a social outing than a
competition. Every year, the Fleadh Cheoil
(pronounced fla keeol, Irish words meaning music
festival) is held in a different town in
Ireland. It is held each year at the end of
August and hosts dozens of music competitions
and attracts hundreds of thousands of musicians
and music lovers from all over Ireland and the
world. You're simply amazed at the music in the
pubs, on the streets - every nook and cranny has
a fiddler or whistle player in it, it's just
unbelievable. For days after you leave a Fleadh,
you hear music in your ears! It's every
musician's dream to win the All-Ireland, and the
competition is fierce! Ireland is divided up
into 32 counties and 4 provinces. Each county
holds its own county championship where the top
two players (males against females) in their
field goes on to represent the county at the
provincial championship. Then the top two from
each province goes on to represent Ireland at
the All-Ireland. So, you're basically playing
against the top 8 whistlers in the country. Then
other countries send their champions; there are
two from Europe, two from Canada, two from New
York, and two from Chicago. At the end of the
day, one is competing against the top 16 in the
world! Let me tell you, the standard is
incredible. The level of virtuosity among all
the players is just amazing, and I was thrilled
just to get to hear these wonderful players.
After a couple of years of competing and getting
nothing, I got 2nd two years in a row, and in
1983 I won the Gold medal. My father was
overjoyed, because we were actually the same age
when 25 years to the day in 1958 that he won his
All-Ireland Championship on the accordion. The
following year, I went back and won the Senior
All-Ireland championship, the first and only
American to ever do so. I was very happy to win
those medals for my family and for America, for
you see that years earlier, an old authority on
the music had said to me, "Americans are great
fiddlers and box players, but ye have no whistle
players who will ever take the championship cup
out of Ireland." I was thrilled to prove him
wrong. The greatest thing about bringing the
perpetual championship cup home, was that Mary
Bergin's name was on it! It happened that she
was on tour here at the time and I went and met
up with her at one of her concerts. We filled it
up with champagne and drank a toast! That was
the highlight for me!

DALE: How did you come to put Cherish the Ladies
together?

JOANIE: Right after I came home from winning the
All-Ireland, I received a phone call from Mick
Moloney. Mick is not only an incredible
musician, but he also has a Ph.D. in folklore.
He called to congratulate me and all the other
musicians like Eileen Ivers who had won over in
Ireland. He asked me if I realized that of all
those who had won for America, 95% were women? I
said no, I didn't -- and what difference did it
make anyway? He said that he had just got off
the phone with the Irish Musicians society in
Philadelphia and that in 1959, there was 2500
members and not one of them was a woman! He said
he was putting a series of concerts together,
with the Ethnic Folk Arts Center in

New York, featuring the top female players in
America. He wanted to highlight the changing
role of the female musician in the Irish scene
and asked me would I help him put it together
and MC them? I said sure -- "what are you going
to call the series, Cherish the Ladies?" (which
is an old Irish jig) He said that's fantastic,
we'll call it that. Needless to say, the
concerts were a smash with hundreds of people
turned away. We went on to record an album
featuring the various women from around the
country. That was picked by the Library of
Congress as one of the best folk albums in 1985.
That was so successful they put a tour together
in May of 1987 and that was when the group was
born. We did one more tour with The Ethnic Folk
Arts Center and the NEA and then they said
that's it! You're on your own! That was when I
took over booking and managing the band. The
original tour was supposed to be for 10 years,
we're about to celebrate our 12th anniversary!

DALE: Chiff & Fipple readers have a special
interest in whistles as instruments. You must
have many, many whistles. More than me.

JOANIE: Over the past few years, it is just
amazing the way the whistle has developed. When
I was first learning, all that was around was
the Clarke tin whistle and the Generation.
Nowadays, there are so many gifted whistle
makers out there who have totally improved the
whistles' sound, tunability and tone. It makes a
vast difference. As a rule I play mainly Pat
O'Riordans whistles, but I have a really nice B
whistle made by Mike Burke and some by Glenn
Schultz, I have some Overton low whistles and a
couple of Susato's.

DALE: As you say, you are most associated with
Pat O'Riordan's whistles. Tell us how you came
to know Pat and about your association with him.

JOANIE: I first met Pat while I was teaching a
whistle master class at Irish week at the
Augusta Heritage festival in West Virginia. Pat
was actually a student of mine. After the 2nd
day, he asked me to look at his whistle, I said
this is very good -- where did you get it? He
said he made it! The craftsmanship was
remarkable. We were soon found conversing all
the time about ways to improve his whistles.
He's such a lovely man to speak to that I soon
became his friend and guinea pig. Soon whistles
were arriving at my door step for approval. I
told him what I liked and what I didn't. Another
revised one would arrive the following week with
the changes I had suggested! This process would
go on until we were both satisfied. I think my
neighbors thought I was dealing drugs the way
these long cylinders kept arriving every week! I
then asked him if he thought he could make me a
low G whistle. He said he would try. The Low G
arrived in the mail and it was just beautiful!
Since that time, I have commissioned Pat to make
me a Low C, Low D, Low E, Low F, Low G, A, Bb,
C, D, Eb and E! When I asked him could he make
me a low G - he should have said no! :) I think
his whistle tone is absolutely stunning, and I
don't think there is a better low whistle
anywhere! I recently did a concert in New York
City with Davy Spillane. Davy saw my array of
whistles and said "Jaysus, what are those?" He
wouldn't stop playing them and said they were
the best he ever played. He just kept saying
"Pure class, pure class." He wouldn't let me go
without giving Pat's number! Another reason I
love O'Riordans is their durability. I was
loading my car one night after a Cherish gig and
thought my case was in the trunk. It wasn't. I
backed over my whistles with the car. They
didn't even get dented! I don't recommend anyone
trying that trick! But the bottom line is that I
think they're the best and that's why I play
them.

DALE: Excuse me, Joanie, I'm trying to get my
mouth to work after that story about you running
over your O'Riordans. Ok. I got a chance to talk
to Mr. O'Riordan recently (I ordered a Low G!).
He tells me you consulted with him extensively
on the design of his new Low D. Could you say a
little about it?

JOANIE: Again, cylinders arriving every week --
the neighbors arching their eyebrows, even the
mailman was starting to get suspicious! But,
getting back to the low D, I think what's great
is the span of the holes. The Overton used to
give me pains in my hands from the reach. Pat
put a third (bottom) section with a joint to let
each player move the positioning to suit each
individual. He has since done that with the Low
C that he has made. Pat managed to make the
finger holes smaller without jeopardizing the
tone. I'll say it again, in my books, they're
the best low whistles anywhere.

DALE: Tell us about the whistles you most often
use in live gigs and in recording. With the
growing popularity of low whistles, how do you
divide your playing time between high and low
whistles?

JOANIE: I usually play the high D whistle in the
band, but when I'm backing singers the key of
the song usually dictates which whistle I'll
use. Then I try and feel the song and decide if
a low or high whistle suits better. I think my
favorite low whistle is the G. I used it to play
the Level Plain on Song of the Irish Whistle
album and also when I solo'd with the Boston
Pops on the Celtic Album. When I'm choosing a
whistle, I always go with which one that suits
the particular piece.

DALE: What flute(s) do you play?
JOANIE: I play a solid silver heavy weight
Miyazawa (Japanese make) concert flute, and an
Altus Alto flute.

DALE: How did you come to collaborate with Brian
Keane? (On both volumes of Songs of the Irish
Whistle.)

JOANIE: I first worked with Brian when he was
producing an album for piano player John
Boswell. We enjoyed working together and he
invited me back to perform on John's second solo
project. About a year later, I got a phone call
from him asking me if I would record a track for
this "new age" album he was working on called
Celtic Twilight. I said I wouldn't really know
how to play new-age music, nor did I want to,
but I would play a pretty air. Anyway, I went up
and recorded Sean O'Riada's composition, Woman
of Ireland, layering a dozen whistles to create
a wall of whistles sound.
The album was incredibly successful. At the
present time, it has nearly sold a million
records. Hearts of Space, the label then asked
us to record a track for Celtic Twilight 2. We
did the Black Rose (Roisin Dubh) keeping the
same quality for the album. Both tracks were
some of the critically acclaimed tracks from the
record and Hearts of Space said, "You have two
tracks done for us -- why don't you finish a
record for us?." That album is Song of the Irish
Whistle.

DALE: Song of the Irish Whistle is the best-
selling whistle recording of all time (if one
doesn't count Titanic or the Riverdance
recordings, which one shouldn't). It blends
traditional tunes with nontraditional
arrangements and recording techniques. How has
this gone down with the hardcore traditionalists?

JOANIE: I'm totally blown away by all of that!
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to
sell 200,000 whistle albums! My first album on
Green Linnet, A Whistle on the Wind, sold about
20,000 - so it's quite an improvement. Regarding
the hard-core traditionalists, I guess if I
listened to everybody - I'd be an accountant
somewhere! I hold the music so dear to my heart,
that I would never do anything to abuse it or
alter my role as a traditional music bearer. In
my opinion, I just took some of my favorite
haunting airs and arranged them in a pretty way.
I've taken some blows from some of the purists,
but what the hell -- you can't keep everyone
happy! The positives have certainly outweighed
the negatives. I have received so many letters
from people all over the world who said that it
turned them onto Irish Music or the whistle and
I think that's what it's all about!

DALE: You appeared on the Boston Pops program on
PBS as a guest soloist. How did that come about?

JOANIE: I received a phone call one day from the
Boston Pops, they were looking for an authentic
Irish band to arrange traditional Irish music
with. They said, everywhere they turned people
said, get Cherish the Ladies. They asked me to
send them some CD's. I mailed them a Cherish CD
and a Song of the Irish Whistle. They
immediately called me back and said how could
they get in touch with the Whistle player? I
said your talking to her! He said, I thought you
were the manager. I said that's just one of my
hats! Anyway, it's been an extremely wonderful
union. We have since performed with numerous
symphonies around America and about a half dozen
times with the Boston Pops. We then got together
and recorded a couple of tracks with them for
their most recent CD, The Celtic Album - which
I'm proud to say is nominated for a Grammy for
best classical crossover.

DALE: I know you're touring with CTL. What other
plans should our readers know about?

JOANIE: Wow, that's a tough one! With Cherish we
are on the road about 150 days a year so it
doesn't allow me too much time off! If whistle
fans want to know where we'll be, they check our
web page at
http://www.cherishtheladies.com
But, when I'm home, I'm always wearing the
manager hat again! Fortunately, living in New
York, I get a lot of calls to do session work
with various commercials or accompanying people
on recordings. I really enjoy doing that. But,
I'm always composing and gathering new material
for the next whistle record. I'm hoping to do
the next album with a symphony -- probably
record it in Ireland with the Irish Symphony or
something like that.

DALE: Inquiring whistlers worldwide want to
know: How did you make all those wind sounds at
the beginning of the 3rd track on SOIW?

JOANIE: Well, Brian was asking me what other
sounds could I get out of the whistle? So I
started messing around. But, basically, I put
the mouthpiece under my bottom lip and blew
downward so that you're only getting the air
running across the fipple and played like usual.
We then miked my fingers just playing without
blowing to get that percussive sound. I must
say, that Hearts of Space has had about 100
returns from people who have told them that
their CD is distorted -- but only track 3! It's
hard to tell people that that's what it's
supposed to sound like!

DALE: I'm out of questions for now.
JOANIE: Finally! I just want to say a special
hello to all who read this interview and to tell
you to keep driving people nuts around the globe
by playing your whistle at every red light,
during TV commercials and at every opportunity
and possibility! Drive your wife and family daft
with a shrieking whistle! Nothing keeps the
heart younger. To all of you just starting out,
I recommend that you listen to the best players
and hang in there. If you practice just 15
minutes a day, the improvement in a year will
mystify you. Another thing that I've learned is
that you're never too old to start! If you can
only play 1 tune, you'll get tremendous
satisfaction out of it and that's what it's all
about! Anyway, I look forward to meeting you all
in my travels and to staying in touch with you
through this web page. Good luck to all of you
and thanks for giving me the opportunity to have
this chat with you all! And Please remember,
WHISTLE PLAYERS RULE!!!!


DALE: My heartfelt thanks to Joanie for taking
time to do this interview. Besides her wonderful
musical gift, Joanie personifies the Whistler
Personality: Generous, smart, kind, and funny.
It's a thrill to be able to include this
interview in my little newsletter.

III. STAY TUNED FOR MORE INTERVIEWS!!

Copyright 1999 by Dale Wisely


Dale Wisely
Chiff & Fipple:  The PreMillennial Tinwhistle Internet Experience
http://www.chiffandfipple.com

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

June 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
October 2018
September 2018
June 2018
January 2018
September 2017
March 2017
February 2017
September 2016
July 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
October 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998
April 1998
March 1998
February 1998
January 1998
December 1997
November 1997
October 1997
September 1997
August 1997
July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997
December 1996
November 1996
October 1996
September 1996
August 1996
July 1996
June 1996
May 1996
April 1996
March 1996
February 1996
January 1996
December 1995
November 1995
October 1995
September 1995
August 1995
July 1995
June 1995
May 1995
April 1995
March 1995
February 1995
January 1995
December 1994
November 1994
October 1994
September 1994
August 1994
July 1994
June 1994
May 1994
April 1994
March 1994
February 1994
January 1994
November 1993
October 1993
September 1993
August 1993
July 1993
June 1993
May 1993
April 1993
March 1993
February 1993
December 1992

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LISTSERV.HEANET.IE

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager