CD ReviewsFeaturedIssuesSeptember 2020

Philippe Barnes: CD, Method Book, and Music

by Barbara Siesel 

CD: The Madrid Sessions, Philippe Barnes, and Tom Phelan

Method Book: Irish Music on the Silver Flute

I’ve always been interested in learning to play Irish flute as I love the sound and am fascinated by different ornamentation in sound and notation. For several years I studied Dizi and learned Chinese notation which is so different from western classical music.  I’ve dabbled with Irish ornaments over the years and think comparing Baroque, Chinese and Irish ornamentation is wonderfully indicative of our world-wide interconnectivity!!

When Philippe Barnes sent me his new CD, method book, and music I thought – this is the perfect time to learn a bit more about Irish flute technique and music!

The method book is a very organized approach to learning about Irish flute ornamentation. Each chapter explains a different ornament and gives fingerings for the Boehm flute. A tune where you can try out the ornament is included, plus some musical explanations for the ornament.  In each chapter, as you learn a new ornament the follow-up tune includes all the ornaments you’ve learned. You build an understanding of the ornaments, but also of the character and rhythm of the tunes! And you begin to get a feel for the rhythm and sound of the different dances. It’s a good way to learn about how to play Irish music on a silver flute as Philippe has thought a lot about how to make the Boehm flute sound like a wooden flute. One of the most important points he makes is to think of  the ornaments as rhythmic ornamentation, not so much like classical grace notes. I think this point helps to open up the style for classical players.

Barnes, who is a classical player got his masters in Irish Traditional Music Performance from the University of Limerick, has been composing contemporary Irish music for silver flute. After you have spent some time learning the ornaments, rhythm, and style you might try one of his pieces for flute and piano. He’s re-harmonized some traditional material, and mixed in some jazz influences as well, improvisations and some flutistic technical challenges, and they are a good addition to our repertoire, especially when if you are trying to expand beyond traditional repertoire!

You can get the music on his website:

After spending time with the music and method book it was time to hear from Philippe Barnes and Tom Phelan!! I really enjoyed “The Madrid Sessions”, exciting playing, and a very creative new approach to presenting this music. The playing is terrific and Barnes and Phelan make a great team, seamlessly playing together as one! The CD is a mix of traditional tunes and original music by Barnes and builds in excitement and technical virtuosity to the finale “Untitled” which is a longer expansive piece. You’ll get a sense of how to play the ornaments by spending time listening to the album.

All in all, I’m very impressed by this package, method book, music, and CD as it presents a full picture of Irish flute music as well as a very talented artist!

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