Washington, DC --
Chamber ensembles from “The President’s Own” will highlight the music of Ireland at 2 p.m., Sunday, March 18 at the John Philip Sousa Band Hall in southeast Washington, D.C. The inspiration, according to concert coordinator Gunnery Sgt. Hilary Harding, was St. Patrick’s Day. The program will feature Irish composers John Field and Brian Boydell, as well as a traditional Irish ensemble performing a medley of traditional folk music of Ireland, led by Marine Band percussionist Master Sgt. Kenneth Wolin.
Wolin has become the Marine Band’s resident subject matter expert when it comes to Irish music and instruments. He explained that what patrons will hear in the Irish Medley performance will represent a sampling of the instruments and tunes one would find in a traditional Irish seisún (session). These informal gatherings were an integral part of community life throughout Ireland and are still popular in many Irish pubs around the world. The music is reminiscent of the sounds of Riverdance, a musical reinvention that draws heavily from the rich folk traditions of Irish music and dance.
“The medley begins with the song ‘The Parting Glass,’ a traditional Scottish air that has become one of the most popular tunes often sung at the end of a musical gathering,” he said. “It will be performed on the tin whistle, also known as the feadóg stáin or pennywhistle—a popular folk instrument in Ireland since the 1800s because of its natural ornamentation.”
The second tune, a melody called “The Humours of Tullycrine,” will introduce the Anglo concertina, another favorite folk instrument similar to a small accordion, playing in a lilting style called the hornpipe. A fiddle joins in for a rousing jig.
Finally, a pianist will join the group for a very popular jig called “The Battering Ram.” “Although the piano was not as common in the Irish pubs, it is considered the backbone of the modern Céilí band, popular from the 1920s to the present,” Wolin said. “The Céilí dance is akin to the American square dance and is ideal for the closing fast-paced reels, which include ‘Toss the Feathers’ and ‘The Long Drop.’”
Patrons will also notice two distinctive Irish percussion instruments, the bodhrán and the rhythm bones. The bodhrán is a goatskin-covered frame drum played with a one-handed stick, called a tipper. The rhythm bones are an ancient folk instrument which date back to 3000 BC. Originally used for melodic accompaniment, modern techniques and folk evolution have helped to elevate these instruments into a more virtuosic role.
The John Philip Sousa Band Hall is located at 7th & K Streets in southeast Washington, D.C. Free parking is available in the lot under the overpass. Patrons should arrive early to allow extra time for ID checks at the gate.
Directions and Parking
Live Stream here on Sunday, March 2 AT 2 p.m. EDT