Les Getchell | percussionist

Playing bodhrán in the Kerry style.

(Now played mostly with a bundle stick and a touch of top-end style.)

Photo (of me) by Heather Mull, originally for Hooley, 2001. Drum by Albert Alfonso.

Also on the events page of the Irish American Home in Connecticut and an article on bodhrans.

Arc Music cover

Re-imaged by Arc Music, 2009.
(I'm not on the recording, only the cover.)

Percussion the way it should be played: musically.

Specializing in percussion for Irish and Scottish traditional music (some call it Celtic) on bodhrán (Irish frame drum), bones, shaker, and triangle.

How’s my playing? A few words by some of the world’s leading musicians from Ireland and Scotland: “Brilliant.” “One of the best.” “My favorite drummer to play with.” And musicians from America: “Fantastic.” “Phenomenal.” “Amazing.” “Excellent.” “Perfect.” “Knocked me out of my seat.” “You play beautifully.” “The first drummer I’ve heard who actually adds to Irish traditional music.” ”The Neil Peart of Irish drum.” (Nevertheless, I remain the world’s least-known bodhrán “master.” You won’t find me on YouTube, either.)

Here is bodhrán and shaker on a recording of the slip jig, The Butterfly.

Also blues and West African/Afro-Caribbean/Brazilian percussion with brushes, caixa (snare), conga (hand-over-hand West African style), luna (talking drum), and shakere (gourd rattle).

Experienced in live sound reinforcement of acoustic music with a mix that is natural, clean, and balanced.

Current ensemble

Hooley, Irish traditional music

Former ensembles

About Time, foot and hand percussion
All Strings Considered, contra dance
Bury the Cabbage, Irish and Scottish traditional music with David Shelow, guitar; Bruce Foley, uilleann pipes, low whistle, guitar and vocals; Vince Burns, fiddle
Ceili House, Irish and Breton traditional music with Ged Foley, guitar and vocals; John Skelton, flute and bombarde; Sandy Jones, fiddle; Bernie Nau, piano [Green Jello, a Breton reel performed at Augusta Irish Week, July 1999]
Gumband, contra dance music with Rich Moore, fiddle; Charlie Anderson, flute, whistle, guitar, and vocals; Annie Trimble, guitar (originally Dale Brubaker, piano)
The Irish Times, Irish traditional music trio
Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle Tuesday night ceili band featuring Pete Shovlin, fiddle; Liz Shovlin Grinko, caller; and others (originally Pete; Brian Corr, guitar; Peter Shovlin, Jr., caller)
Pìobaire, a Scottish and Irish traditional music trio featuring 11-time world champion Alasdair Gillies on Highland pipes (voted by the readers of Piper & Drummer as the best piper of the 20th century) and Bruce Foley on uilleann pipes, low whistle, guitar, and vocals
Samba Pittsburgh, Brazilian bateria
(percussion ensemble)

Guest performances

Callán, Scottish and Irish traditional music
Carnival of Souls, Celtic traditional music
Cue Ball, Irish song and blues
Matthew Craig and Kerry Tipper, Irish song
Molly in the Crowd, Irish and Scottish traditional and not-so-traditional music

Plus ad hoc performances with the area’s foremost Irish, Scottish, and West African traditional musicians

I have also had the honor and pleasure to perform with The House Band (Ged Foley, Chris Parkinson, John Skelton, Roger Wilson) at an Augusta concert plus a ceili, Cathal McConnell at a Pittsburgh Irish Festival concert with Hooley, Liz Carroll at an Ashokan concert, Billy McComiskey at a Pittsburgh ceili with Hooley, Lisa Gutkin at a New York City Robert Burns Night, and The Young Turks (Brendan Callahan, Jim Egan, Matt Mulqueen, Aran Olwell) at an Augusta concert.

Percussion instruction

I give private lessons, upon request, on beginning through advanced bodhrán, and beginning through intermediate bones, shaker, and hand-over-hand conga. Taught beginning and intermediate bodhrán classes for Calliope Folk Music School, and music camps Augusta (Elkins, West Virginia) and Ashokan (the Catskills, New York). Conducted bodhrán workshops at the Pittsburgh Irish Festival, Cincinnati Celtic Festival, Smoky City Folk Festival, and Duquesne University.

Music background
I have had more than two dozen percussion teachers and another dozen teachers on other instruments. Started on trumpet in seventh grade, switched to French horn in tenth grade, drums during marching band season, back to trumpet in college. Been in choirs and musical productions from grade school through college and shortly afterwards. Over subsequent years, studied guitar, tin whistle, flute, harmonica, blues piano, and more voice.

My high school music teacher thought I had perfect pitch. I don’t make that claim but I am (notoriously) particular about the music I hear as a listener or performer, especially percussion, voice, and other instrumental solos.

I decided to focus on percussion in the early 90s, setting aside my melody instruments. I then branched out from Irish traditional music percussion and took classes in Irish, French-Canadian and Appalachian foot percussion, and studied and performed Brazilian, West African and Afro-Caribbean hand percussion.

Recently, I have come full circle and picked up a fiddle, beautifully refurbished by Irish fiddler and craftsman Pete Shovlin, but it will be years before I play it publicly. Percussion remains my performance instrument.

Been a jazz and blues fan since my teens. Attended (and subscribed to) many symphony orchestra concerts as an adult. Never was a fan of pop music, or most rock. Discovered Irish traditional music in 1989 when I was introduced to a Boys of the Lough album by a friend (hiring the Boys five years later for a concert and representing them another five years later as an agent). Picked up tin whistle and bodhrán shortly afterwards. Been a fan of Irish, Scottish and other traditional music throughout the world since then.

I’ve been involved in the technical side of the music business since high school. Was a DJ for high school dances. Was the principal announcer and engineer for my college radio station; almost went into commercial radio but turned down the offer. Became adept at sound reinforcement for acoustic music under the tutelage of several sound engineers.

I’ve also been involved in the business side of music. Organized my first concert at age 23 and a number of them afterwards. Many sold out. Was the managing director for a traditional music society during its golden age in the mid 90s, dramatically increasing attendance at its concerts, music school, and festivals. Been an agent or marketing director for three international traditional music agencies, a marketing director for a bagpiping school, and a marketing consultant for three major symphony orchestras and other major arts organizstions. (Was previously a political organizer for presidential, state, and local campaigns.) Wrote and designed literature and Web sites for some of them, too. Co-founder, with Brian Lopresti, of the Pittsburgh branch of Comhaltas, the Irish traditional music organization. I also maintain the Web site for Albert Alfonso Bodhráns and have played Albert’s drums exclusively since 1995; they are that outstanding.

And, yes, my heritage is part Irish. My grandmother Sullivan’s great grandfather Michael Sullivan emigrated to New Brunswick, Canada from Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland in the early 1800s. Other ancestors, Bell, Brown, and Kelley, also emigrated from Ireland; Watson and Gray emigrated from Scotland and Wales respectively. Getchell is English; Samuel Gatchell emigrated to Marblehead, Massachusetts from West Monkton, Somerset County, England in 1636; no passport required. He and his brother, John, who emigrated with him, were merchants and free thinkers. Other Gatchells lived in Ireland; four of them owned Waterford Crystal from 1799 to 1851. My grandfather Getchell, and generations of Getchells before him, owned a potato farm in Limestone, Maine from 1836 until the mid 1900s. There was much intermarriage: American and Canadian, Protestant and Catholic. My mother’s parents, Angelastro, emigrated to Hartford, Connecticut, via Ellis Island, from Salandra, Italy in 1913. My stepmother’s ancestors are from Ireland (McCormick) and Scotland (Knox). America is, indeed, a land of immigrants.

Cathal McConnell and Richard Hughes, Music of the Hearth, bodhrán on select tracks [pending]

Mick Martin, Revelator, bodhrán on track 7. John the Revelator, 2008 [a review]

It’s All in the Song: A Tribute to Andy M. Stewart, bodhrán on track 1. The Queen of Argyll, 2006

NewLanders, Born of Fire, bodhrán and shaker on second tune track 1. Twenty-Inch Mill/Celebrated Working Man, bodhrán on track 10. Two Cent Coal, 2006

[email protected], a bodhrán solo for dance commissioned by Burke-Conroy School of Irish Dance Pittsburgh, 2005

Pittsburgh Irish Festival, 15th Anniversary Music Celebration, bodhrán on second tune track 7. Hooley: Spike Island Lasses/The Silver Spire, 2005

20 Years of Irish Music at Augusta: 1983–2002, 2003

Hooley, Cuts from the Turf, bodhrán, bones, and shaker on various tracks, 2001 [a review]

Bozell Kamstra ad agency video soundtrack, Driven, bodhrán and shaker on The Butterfly, 1999

Terry Griffith, For My Grandfathers, bodhrán on track 7. Black and Tan, 1996


A high-resolution 436 Kb jpg image, as featured at the top of this page.

www.LesGetchell.com �2005. All rights reserved.