Saturday, March 17, 2012

Miscellany: The Tin Whistle

This St. Patrick's Day, Shangrila Towers celebrates the music of Ireland! In this post, we'll examine the history behind a uniquely Irish instrument - the tin whistle.

You've heard it in the soundtracks of "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings" - whenever composers need to evoke a Gaelic spirit of whimsy or adventure, they have turned to the tin whistle.

Also known as the penny whistle (because you used to be able to buy them for a penny or even a half a penny), the tin whistle was well-known throughout England, Ireland, Scotland, and the United States in the 19th century. Though the instrument was popular with all walks of life, the tin whistle was generally regarded as a toy, something for children to play on the street hoping for tips from people passing by.

That's changed, of course, and nowadays the humble tin whistle is used by a huge variety of Irish musicians from all genres (Andrea Corr busts one out regularly, as does Paddy Moloney, who learned to play tin whistle as a child before graduating to the uilleann pipes). Notwithstanding the fact that the tin whistle has hit the bigtime, there's still something charming about the lone whistler:

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