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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000599.txt from 2002/06

From: Kenneth Wolman <>
Subj: RE: [kl] Penny whistle
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 13:47:21 -0400

I'm not going to see a copy of this posting because the incoming mail server
on Comcast has been hosed for over a day, but it's worth commenting on

So-called "pennywhistles" certainly can cost more than a penny and they can
be used to extraordinary musical effect. Because they don't come with keys,
they play best only in limited keys unless you're really good at half-holing
and cross-fingering to get the accidentals, but there is very little a
really adept player can't do with one, same as with a simple system or
one-key flute. I've heard Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains bring a theater
to complete silence playing a five dollar D whistle held together with tape
and prayer; yet you can purchase a grenadilla-and-sterling whistle from a
maker like Chris Abell for upwards of $300. In between there are all sorts
of variations of price, quality, and numerous keys as well as materials:
blackwood, ABS, rosewood, cocobolo, brass, steel, composite, and aircraft
aluminum. I own several made by a man in Illinois named Michael Burke that
are among the finest musical instruments of any variety I've ever seen.

These aren't Tonettes or Flutophones--they don't play themselves. You can
become an acceptable beginner rather quickly ("What, no reed?? Piece of
cake!"). But you can make some hideous squeaky sounds on them, same as on a
recorder...and scare hell out of your cats (you getting all this,
Shadow?:-). In other words, you can get them to play easily enough but it
takes quite awhile to become good enough to achieve the level of a Mary
Bergin, Joanie Madden, or Joe McKenna.

They're also a lot easier to schlepp around in your inside pocket than a

Kenneth Wolman
"Do you think grief is anything like depression? Go with grief. It's better.
In grief you're at least feeling a rich, deep feeling. In depression you
don't even have that, it's just that awful feeling of nullity."--Dick Cavett


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