The Free-Reed Journal
Articles and Essays Featuring Classical Free-Reed Instruments and Performers

E-Mail Interview with Wendy Morrison
(concertina and tinwhistle player for the Celtic Consort)

Doktorski: Hi Wendy!

Morrison: Hi Henry!

Doktorski: I enjoyed your CD very much. How did "the Celtic Consort" get started?

Morrison: Linn Barnes & Allison Hampton have been playing and recording as a duo for many years, originally playing a lot of early music on lutes, and then branching out into Celtic music and adding the harp. Some years ago they were recording their album "The Gael" and wanted some additional instruments for some of the cuts. They approached me (and also Myron, the bodhran player) because they knew I played Irish music on whistle and concertina, and I had a bit of recording experience under my belt. Myron & I laid down a few tracks for the album, and they were so pleased with the results that they conceived the idea of forming a band to specialize in that kind of music, and of recording another album with the band.

Doktorski: What kind of functions do you perform at?

Morrison: Well, the band is, how shall I put it, de-formed. So we don't perform anywhere under that name at this time. However, we used to do artsy-folksy concert series and festivals and things like that.

Doktorski: What is your background on the concertina? The instrument is a distinctive feature of the group; in fact, only the concertina & tinwhistles are sustaining insturments (winds). The other instruments are plucked or beaten.

Morrison: There are those that say the concertina should be beaten as well, if not the concertina player, ahem. I taught myself to play it in 1979, finding the whistle somewhat limiting. At the time, my passion was Irish music. After playing for a couple of years I started to branch out to different kinds of music, but always specializing in instrumental dance music.

Doktorski: Do you play other instruments as well?

Morrison: I also play piano accordion, button accordion, and clawhammer banjo. I messaround on the piano for my own amusement, and I can knock a couple of tunes out of an anglo concertina if I have to. A fellow musician once called me a "utility player". I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not, but I but I hope he meant that I'm a useful person to have at a dance.

Doktorski: Have you performed with other groups?

Morrison: My first group was an Irish band called The Hags. Our claim to fame, at least until we got a male fiddler, was that we were a five piece all-girl band. We never did an album together, but we recorded a single, Pizza Patrick, now a collectors item. It was a very appropriate song for us, since our regular weekly gig was at an Irish Pizza Pub, if you can imagine such a thing.

My second band was also an Irish band, Congress; then I played briefly as a duo, Short Story, with Lisa Moscatiello. I did some recording with hammered dulcimer players Maggie Sansone and Karen Ashbrook around this time.

I played some Scandinavian dances and parties for fun, and worked a lot in pickup bands for local dances, weddings, and other paid events. I've played with the Greenwood Band for the May Revels almost every year for the past 5 or 6 years. For a while I played with the Blackthorn Stick Ceili Band, and during that same time I was playing for contradances and squares, first with Sweet Potatoes and then with New Original Sin.

After our fiddler moved away and we disbanded, I started my klezmer band, Klezmos. That's where I'm concentrating my energies these days. We have a couple of cuts on a concert tape recorded last year, and we have a demo tape, but that's all so far.

Doktorski: Would you consider your album "concert" or "dance" music or both?

Morrison: Definitely concert. We didn't arrange it for dancing, but for listening, and most of it isn't dance music anyway. For example, the English country dance pieces: when you play for an English country dance, you don't medley your tunes. Each tune "belongs" to a specific dance, so you just play that one.

Doktorski: Do you have an arranger who writes out parts, or did the group work out the arrangements themselves during rehearsals?

Morrison: We pretty much worked it all out in rehearsal, and played mostly without written music. If I had trouble remembering any of my parts, I would transcribe them myself for rehearsal, but I don't remember having written music in the studio. We had a rigorous rehearsal schedule, and sessions were very productive. By the time we went into the studio, we knew our parts.

Doktorski: Have any more plans for another CD?

Morrison: Yes, with Klezmos. Nothing happening yet, but it's in the planning stages. Mostly it's in the "do we have enough money to do this" stage at the moment.

Doktorski: Anything else you want to say to our readers?

Morrison: Not really. I'm much better at playing than saying.

Doktorski: Bye, now, Wendy!

Morrison: Bye, Henry!

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