Traditional musician Kevin Gavan from Clones in County Monaghan demonstrates why he is the Ulster Champion of whistling and lilting.

Kevin Gavan whistles ‘The Lark in the Morning’ a jig that ensured he won first place at the Monaghan and Ulster Championship. Frank Hall is intrigued to find out what the adjudicators are looking for when judging the whistling entrants. According to Kevin, the choice of tune is crucial, as is timing and breath control.

As well as being a wonderful whistler, Kevin has won great acclaim for his lilting, a form of traditional singing sometimes referred to as mouth music, diddling, jigging, chin music or cheek music.

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann are taking steps to revive lilting in Ulster as it

The province with the best lilters in Ireland.

Lilting in Ulster has been handed down from one generation to another. In days gone by people, did not have musical instruments so instead of dancing to an accordion or fiddle, they would dance to somebody lilting. Generally a lilter will sing part of a tune and somebody else will take over takes over to give the first lilter a break.

In a competition, you must lilt the the whole tune straight through, and lilt it twice over.

Kevin does not have any particular training or exercises to keep himself in tune however having a good set of teeth is a benefit.

The old lilters used to say 'no teeth no lilter'.

Being a non-smoker is also beneficial as judges can detect when a lilter is a heavy smoker.

A man who smokes a lot is inclined to draw his breath too quick.

Kevin does not drink alcohol himself, but this has no effect on his lilting.

Old people, they always had a ball of malt before they started, but I’m a pioneer all my life, I don’t go in for that at all.

This episode of ‘Hall’s Pictorial Weekly’ was broadcast on 7 June 1972.