Home PageIrish TraditionalLinksRecordingsBookingsClasses

Irish Traditional Music ~ Whistle, Bones

Whistle Player

Vocalist: As a vocalist, Pat excels both as a ballad singer and a sean nos interpreter of unaccompanied song. Her many years of nightly performances at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where she has served as a musician for 23 years and as musical director for 12, has matured her voice and given rise to a sound that is both expressive and powerful. Although accustomed to singing while accompanying herself on guitar, or being backed by other instruments such as harp, Pat's greatest talent lays in her spinning out and expressive delivery of unaccompanied songs. These are so vividly sung that one almost feels them happening in the moment, as she takes her time in expressing the ebb and flow of the narrative. Ancient music and words become timeless, and the listener is moved by the directness and honesty of the singer to experience first-hand the story being told. In this regard, O'Scannell is a masterful story-teller, as she moves inside of a song and its characters to become a vessel for the story.

O'Scannell studied sean nos singing with Northern Irish uillean piper and sean nos singer Danny McGinley after travelling to Ireland in 1987 with musical partner and bodhran player Sue Carney, where she played at sessions from Dublin to Doolin, and thoughout Galway and Sligo counties, and the Belfast area. Her singing was heralded throughout her travels by musicians and aficianados alike, and casual opportunities for singing in a pub setting were numerous. She returned from Ireland with a much deeper understanding of the music and the culture from which it sprang. Her tiny tape recorder taped many sessions, and brought back tunes, airs and songs that could be learned later and written down. Transcriptions of many such tunes have been written, and will eventually be compiled into a book of Irish session tunes. Her most memorable experience with singing while in Ireland:

O'Scannell: "When I was in this little town of Doolin, I went to a Sunday afternoon session. I liked the matinee sessions, because there were more women there. I heard a woman concertina-player and a fellow on the button accordian. His playing was fantastic, but I heard the wisp of something exotic in it; something outside the style I was accustomed to. On a break in the session, I approached him and asked him about his playing. It turned out his traditional group had just returned from Spain, where they had recorded an album. It was the influence of Spanish music that I had heard! I found this astonishing and freeing, and was just realizing the possibilities when the same fellow launched into a favorable expose on my singing. He asked if I was planning on staying in Ireland. He made my millennium."

Whistle Player: Pat picked up the whistle when she was around 13 years of age, at which time she simply picked Irish tunes out by ear, hearing them sung by her mother, or on records such as those by the Clancy Brothers. She continued through the years learning to play the whistle, and perfecting the techniques for articulation and phrasing that have become her hallmark. Her ability as a sean nos singer also lends itself to the interpretation of airs, the place where any Irish instrumentalist prove their mettle. O'Scannell's expressive ability in the realm of interpreting airs in truly astonishing, and she carries the listener along in what almost seems to be a story. Together with her unusual style which draws from both uillean pipe and fiddle styles to come up with something truly original. Her dance tunes soar and sizzle, and make the leaps and many fast notes seem easy.

As a whistle player, Ms. O'Scannell benefited greatly from her travels in Ireland where she had the opportunity to hear and play with some truly exceptional whistle players. Among them were Mary Bergen who she heard at the Gaelic Institute in Galway City playing with her sister Antoinette McKenna and Joe McKenna, the famous uillean piper. She comments on her experience after the concert:

O'Scannell: "It was following that nooner at the Gaelic Institute, and I went back to talk to the band. I was terrified, but hung in there because I really wanted a lesson from Mary Bergen on the whistle. For reasons that I cannot possibly explain now, but it seemed perfectly normal at the time, it was determined that I would play for her in the ladies' bathroom. She was scrutinizing me, but in a nice way, with her intelligent bird-like eyes. "Yes", she pronounced after I had played some reel or other with shaking fingers. "Come see me in Spidal. I will teach you." (At first I thought she had said "spittal" and the resulting pictue in my brain was an amusing one.) It turned out Spidal was a little town not too far from Galway City."

She also heard a great whistle player in Doolin, where she and Sue spent a long week-end, and had other experiences that deepened her maturity on the instrument.

O'Scannell: "A particular treasure trove was at a small session in the North of Ireland outside of Belfast. The floor was dirt, and the musicians few, but accomplished. One particular older fellow played endless airs on the whistle. I was enraptured. Opportunities to hear airs interpreted on the whistle are few and far between indeed.. Another pivotal experience was in Doolin, a small seaport town with LOTS of traditional music. Here I heard Padraig O'Reilly play the whistle. He was such a fantastic whistle player, we stayed for three days and only went to that session , although numerous others were available. I have learned many of his tunes over the years since that time, and have learned so much from studying his playing."

O'Scannell has taught whistle both privately and in schools, Colleges, workshops and while touring. She has played throughout the North West and from Southern California to British Columbia. For seven years she toured with a band called CRIONA, which was recognized by the Oregon Arts Commission in its (now defunct) Oregon on Tour roster, and Artist in Education, (now "Arts" in Education) programs, and has peformed and recorded with James Kiegher, Donny McDoogle (Men of Worth), Tomaseen Foley (story-teller), Janet Naylor and Molly McKissick (harp), Michael Beglan (button accordian), Murray Huggins (highland pipes), Christy-Deleney (singer/banjo player), Sue Carney (bodhran), Brian Freeman (guitar, mandolin), and numerous others.

[ Back to top ]

The Bones: In addition, Ms. O'Scannell has become a formidable bones player, playing the single handed technique employed in the Irish style. Her excellence as a whistle player, and knowledge of the genre make her an excellent interpreter of this fanciful and expressive percussion instrument. Her facility on the instrument allows her to use the instruments higher function as a punctuation mark in the phrasing, especially for reels and other high energy tunes. She uses various woods for different sounds, and is truly a smooth and seasoned player of this allusive instrument.

[ Back to top ]

O'Scannell's performances over the years have included the following venues:

The Peter Britt Music Festival
The Northwest Service Center, Portland Or.
The Vancouver Folk Festival
The Fox and Goose Pub, Sacramento Ca.
The Chico Folk Society
The Mount Eddy Bagel Company, Shasta Ca.
The Freight and Salvage, Berkeley Ca.
The Old Time Café, Lucadia Ca.
Slo Folks, San Louis Obispo Ca.
Kells, Seattle Wa.
Russell's Back Alley Tavern, Port Townsend Wa.
Concerts by the Lake, Coos Bay Or.
Victoria Folk Music Society, B.C.
Hornby Island Community Center, B.C.
The Piper, Nanaimo, B.C.
The Mendocino Brewing Company, Hopland Ca.
The Sea Gull, Mendocino, Ca.
Sonoma State University, C.S.U. Davis, Ca.
Gabriola Island Community Center, B.C.
Salt Spring Island Community Center, B.C.
The Whale's Tale, Newport Or.
La Quena, Vancouver B.C.
Rosenna's, Oceanside Or.
The River House, Pacific City Or.
Andrea's, Bandon Or.
The Old Pink Church, Ashland Or.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Roseburg Arts Center, Or.
Boone's Treasury, Salem, Or.
East Avenue Tavern, Portland Or.
Knight of Cups, Coos Bay Or.
Cherry Foundation, Carmel Ca.
Victoria Maritime Museum, B.C.
Peace House, Ashland Or.
Valencia Rose Café, San Francisco Ca.
Walport Office of Continuing Education, Or.

Pat's Bio
& Books

Pat O'Scannell

Web design by
Comments about web site: