The low whistle is the big baby of the traditional tin whistle/pennywhistle, distinguished by its larger size, lower pitch and a more breathy, flute-like sound. Bernard Overton is credited with manufacturing the first instrument in the early 1970s, which he made for Finbar Furey. Since Riverdance the low whistle is a respected instrument in its own right, often used for the playing of slow airs due to its enthralling and emotive sound. It has found a new trailblazer in Irish low whistle player Fíodhna Gardiner-Hyland who has featured on numerous film, television and radio programmes; while living in the United Arab Emirates, Fíodhna played whistles with the group Inis Oirr (2004-2011). These days she lives in the vicinity of the twin towns Killaloe/Ballina (Co. Clare/Tipperary) and is part of the committee organizing the Kincora Traditional Music Weekend.
Her debut solo album is exclusively dedicated to Airs for the Low Whistle, both traditional Irish (“An raibh tu ar an gCarraig”, “Amhran na Leabhair”, “Easter Snow” played over the closing credits of the Irish movie “The Lord’s Burning Rain”) and (more or less) contemporary Scottish (fiddler James Scott Skinner’s “Hector the Hero”, bagpiper Ailean Nicholson’s “The Dreams of Old Pa Fogerty”) as well as newly composed airs. Fíodhna penned “Gra mo Chroi” for her husband and “The Boy from Aughdarra” for her father, the well-known acordionist Bobby Gardiner (b. 1939), who once played with the Kilfenora Céilí Band before building a musical career on his own terms.
Fíodhna is playing her A/Bb whistles with much heart and soul. You want to lean back, close your eyes and expose yourself to the images forming in your head. Fíodhna is joined on “Air Time” by her father, and furthermore supported by the stellar cast of Seamie O’Dowd (guitar), Mairtín Ó Connor (button accordion), Garry Ó Bhriain (piano, harpsichord) and Liam Kelly (flute). A special treat is the employment of Dervish singer Cathy Jordan on three tracks, the traditional Irish “An Buachaillin Donn” (Little Brown-Haired Boy), Andy Irvine’s “The Mall of Lismore” and Sean Ó Riada’s “The Banks of Sullane”. Fíodhna and Cathy take turns, but also trail along in harmony. Simply great!