Monday, June 22, 2020

It Was the Music That Got Me: Tin Whistle and Wooden Flute with Gerry Strong. #MakerMonday

For #MakerMonday we'll be profiling some of the people practicing traditional skills on the Baccalieu Trail.

Gerry Strong is a self-taught tin whistle and wooden flute player living in Carbonear. He has always been interested in music, playing in the brass band in his high school, but it wasn't until he moved to Ireland after graduation that he found his calling in the tin whistle.

Gerry Strong playing the wooden flute. Photo provided by Gerry Strong.
The tin whistle has given him the opportunity to travel the world and share traditional Newfoundland and Irish music with people in other countries. He has been a member of several bands including Tickle Harbour, A Crowd of Bold Sharemen, What Odds, and Cotillion with Dave Panting and Hugh Scott. The only challenge he finds with the tin whistle is to always keep learning and improving.

Knowing to play a traditional instrument allows Gerry to connect with his heritage. As long as he has one or two people who appreciate the music, he will sit and play for them all day.  He is part of a project which is working to get tin whistle introduced into school music programs to foster a love for the instrument and traditional music with future generations.

It means a fair bit. It's part of what we are and who we are and it's important that we keep it alive, to keep it going. It's made us unique in the world. When I started playing, I was mostly Irish traditional music and stuff, and I was up in Toronto at a session. A session is where you're just sitting around at a bar with a bunch of other musicians and you're just playing. There's no set list or anything you have to play. It's like a kitchen party. And people were really interested. Those musicians were saying, "Play some of your music now!" And I had one or two Newfoundland tunes, not an awful lot, and it made me realize that you go out into the world and you can hear the Irish music pretty well anywhere. It's very popular all around the world now. But the Newfoundland, the pure, traditional Newfoundland music is not that well known, and people are eager to hear it. So, it's important that we learn it, and carry it on, and pass it on to others. And it is starting to get a much broader audience now. There are musicians from Ireland that have come over here and gone back over to Ireland, now, and they've recorded some Newfoundland tunes they've learned while they're here. So, I mean, it's important that we learn these and pass them on to the future.
The reaction from the crowd when playing traditional music inspires him. But it also brings him a personal joy. He says that if you've had a hard day, and you can get a chance to sit down and play a few tunes, all is forgotten.

Do you live on the Baccalieu Trail and practice a traditional skill or know someone who does? Fill out our survey!

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