Pennywhistle in D
Chris Abel - Ashville, North Carolina

Also known as a "tin whistle, "Irish whistle" or simply "the whistle," some consider the pennywhistle THE signature Irish instrument. Though some harpists, fiddlers and pipers may disagree, it's hard to argue the fact that when one thinks "pennywhistle," one thinks "Irish." I'll not go into the history of the instrument in Celtic music--for this, see L.E. McCullough's Historical Notes on the Tin Whistle. Suffice to say that the simple, six-holed wind instrument has indeed come a long way. Experts such as Mary Bergin, L.E. McCullough, Olcan Masterson and James Galway (not to mention just about any top Irish piper or flute player) have brought luster to a deceptively difficult instrument. It is the rare Irish CD that doesn't have a pennywhistle on it and many feature it.

Along with the Irish drum, or bodhrán, the whistle is the first instrument many newcomers to Irish music reach for. However, like the bodhrán, it will ultimately separate the wheat from the chaff as beginners discover the difficulty of controlling such a simple instrument, much less playing music on it. For those dedicated enough to stick with it, I recommend one place to begin, especially in the absence of a live teacher: The Complete Irish Tin Whistle Tutor, by the aforementioned L.E. McCullough. Thorough and detailed, it covers all aspects of beginner, intermediate and advanced whistle playing.

The whistle I play is, I believe, the best money can buy. I commissioned it in 1999 out of silver and African blackwood from Chris Abell. These are the most in-tune whistles available as well as the most elegant. The whistle of choice for many fine whistle players, it's exponents include none other than the classical flautist James Galway.

Larry Rone

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