Bill Whelan- redefining tradition

Bill Whelan, Damien Bracken, and students

Bill Whelan, Damien Bracken, and students

I was fortunate enough to attend the Bill Whelan lecture in the afternoon today.  What a treat!  The students watched and listened so intently.  I have highlighted some quotes I found interesting.

What Traditional Irish Music means to Bill Whelan

“I’ve heard all kinds of music.  What really made me feel at home is Traditional music.  For many years I hadn’t connected to it.  That wasn’t going on, you really had to go in find it those days.  I finally found my focus with that…  Then I found myself in Ireland… I got into the heated debate of, ‘what can you do with Irish Traditional music’?  Can you take Traditional music and weave in your own thing?  Tradition that does not allow people to interact with it will whither and ceases to be relevant.  Our passionate connection to it has to draw threads from our own lives.  It is these threads that will invigorate the music that we write.”

Music, a community experience

“I remember I joined a club in the 60s, and I used to send off for a pound a year for upcoming releases.  I got the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper release before everyone else.  We used to sit down and put it on, and sit there, and listen to it for hours and hours until three in the morning, and wake up tomorrow and do the same thing again- and we discussed it… There was a really vibrant connection to the music..” Bill goes on to explain how we’re all guilty of listening to our ipods, and creating an isolated experience with the music we listen to.  “Music as a community experience.”  This makes live performance, and connecting with the audience more important now, than ever.

The value of music

Whelan started talking about the value of music, and while everyone downloads music for free, it’s important to remember why we should pay for music.  “There has to be a connection between what you write and what you perform.  There is all this debate about copyright being dead… The bottom line is the connection between your music and your audience.  It has to pay, because you have to live.  It also affirms you.  It affirms what you’re doing.”

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