Initially a simple instrument, it is now found in a huge variety of forms and keys. Thirty years ago, 'Generation' and 'Clarke' whistles in the keys of D and C, respectively, were the main options. Today, you can find whistles made from various tins, metals, plastics, alloys and wood in almost all keys and in different registers.
It is a hugely popular traditional instrument due to the cost, size and relative ease with which the beginner can learn a few tunes. Like any instrument though, to progress beyond this initial stage requires considerable dexterity and application. It has very similar finger patterns to the flute and the transfer of technique from one to the other is common. The 'low whistle', as it has become known (i.e. those big whistles pitched in the lower registers – mainly F (a 5th below middle C) down to low D (a 7th below middle C)) has become very popular because of its mellow and evocative tones.
Mary Bergin, Cormac Breatnach, Davy Spillane, John Kennedy and Laurence Nugent are also well-known exponents of various styles
The Long Note
The Frost is All Over / Flowers of Spring / Hag with the Money
Just Call me Honey / The Monkey Puzzle / The Blind Date
Tune for August
With Arty McGlynn on guitar and Johnny 'Ringo' McDonagh on bodhran, plays two jigs - Old Joe's and Old Tipperary, followed by two reels The Dublin Reel and The Steampacket
A haunting air on the low D whistle
Carolan's Sí Beag Sí Mor with Spillane on low whistle, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin on harpsichord and John O'Kane on cello