Earlier this year, a number of us participated in the week-long Tin Whistle Summer Camp here in Rochester, New York. It was a wonderful camp, with a delightful teacher from Ireland, Karen Ní Bhroin. We learned a lot!
I took the opportunity to take some private lessons in Irish flute, using a loaner Folk Flute that maker Casey Burns had sent me while I was waiting for him to make the flute I had ordered. An Irish flute player noted that the Folk Flute would serve as a beginner flute, but that I might consider a flute with a more traditional "dry" sound. She showed me her keyless flute, from a maker that she recommended, Patrick Olwell, who she said lived in Virginia, and who likes to use the phone for communications, and doesn't have a website. I left a phone message for him over the summer, but then I got busy and never got around to following up.
In the fall, I saw an ad in Overtones!, the publication of the World Flute Society, for a documentary titled The Keymaster: Patrick Olwell's Story. I've just started experimenting with the Raspberry Pi, a $35 credit-card sized computer designed for education and accessibility, and put together an XMBC media center. As such, rather than purchasing the $20 DVD or $25 Blu-Ray from Whistle & Drum, I obtained the $6 digital download from Videolla. The digital version can be watched on your computer or mobile device. I downloaded the documentary, transferred it to my Raspberry Pi and thoroughly enjoyed the 86 minute movie on our home theater.
My connection to the Native American flute community has made me truly appreciative of the wonderful people that comprise it, including the flute makers, such as the much beloved Leonard McGann who "crossed over" earlier this year. This has led me to appreciate these instruments on many levels, with one significant component being the essence, effort, and intentions imbued into these works of the flute maker, by a living person who is an artist and a craftsman, with his own story.
The story of Patrick Olwell is told remarkably in The Keymaster. I came away with a sense of wonder and great respect, as well as pride in feeling some connection to a great American master and living treasure. He has achieved such excellence in his work, but seems such a down-to-earth guy, I one day hope to meet him and get to know him better. Through the film, I came to appreciate his decades of dedicated hard work and passion resulting in beautiful flutes whose magical artistry touch lives all over the world. There is wonderful traditional Irish flute music on the soundtrack throughout the movie.
Patrick Olwell's flutes are a year wait on order for the keyless ones, and six years for the keyed flutes, and are priced at a premium, comparable to professional concert instruments. I'm on the waiting list. I think it's an honor to own such a work of art, and I hope I will be able to do my part to honor the instrument.