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Archive for April 2011

Lucy Campbell (Reel)

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fig. 1: Rab C. Nesbitt, Scottish Cultural Icon and International Sex Symbol.

This great 'old Irish' reel shares an identical characteristic with many other great 'old Irish' reels: It's as Scottish as Rab C. Nesbitt!

Many of the greats have played this. You can hear a setting with lots going on from Seamus Ennis' latter days HERE... and there's the great old Mike Carney 78 recording HERE.

I don't really follow either setting, but I really like what Ennis' inverted cran-type thingies bring to it, so I've included something like those in the first part.

Regards,

H.

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The Ivy Leaf (Reel)

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Here's one that lends itself to a nice strident rhythm. All the Big Pipers played it; the very energetic rendition by Patsy Touhey springs to mind, a setting from Ennis, and a nice version from Clancy which seems to owe much to Touhey (find various transcriptions in all the books about these pipers from Pat Mitchell).

I heard somewhere, can't remember where, that the title may refer to the old practice of playing music on an ivy leaf in a similar way that you can hold a blade of grass between your thumbs and play a reedy, if rough, tune on it... Actually, a web search brought me to the comments section for this tune at thesession.org which in turn led to this item involving a man playing music on a gum leaf:

GUM LEAF MAESTRO.

... I may just have saved myself a fortune.

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The Frieze Breeches (jig)

Here's a rather tame go at one of the settings of this tune that Willie Clancy played. To my mind it encapsulates much of what Willie developed into his own distinctive personal style... which makes it a bit hard to interpret in a sense.

There's the off-the-knee stuff, and various grades of C sharp tightness, and whole other worlds of stuff to explore.

Frieze was a course material of old that would make for a very uncomfortable pair of 'breeches', or trousers.

An alternate title to this is 'The Friar's Britches'... maybe in reference to a cleric who liked to wear uncomfortable trousers (a member of Opus Dei?) 

Regards,

H.

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Peggy on the Settle (Reel).

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This is a nice one that I was reminded of recently by listening to Jimmy O'Brien Moran (pictured above) playing it on the NPU online archive.

It really suits the chanter well, particularly if you're into tight-ish pronunciation of notes in the upper register with the bottom hand (ala Messrs Ennis, Reck et al...)

I learned this tune on the flute a long time ago after hearing Fintan Vallely play it. I'd sort of forgotten about it.

The Free Online Dictionary informs me that a settle is 'a seat, for two or more people, usually made of wood with a high back and arms, and sometimes having a storage space in the boxlike seat'.

... Now you didn't learn THAT one from the Antiques Roadshow.

Regards,

H.

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The Fisherman’s Lilt (Reel)

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I probably heard this first from an old tape of Willie Clancy (pictured above) made by Breandan Breathnach. James Morrison, the 78 records era fiddle whizz, popularised it by casting a very vigorous setting of it in shellac. Willie's setting seems to owe something to Morrison (see a transcription in Mitchell's DMWC, it's no. 10).

This tune is more-or-less in the key of C, but there are no dominant F naturals so it's pretty accessible on the chanter.

If the off-the-knee (and slightly off-the-wall) C natural at the end of this clip doesn't make yer toes curl then you're made of sterner stuff than me!

Regards,

H.

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The Maid on the Green (Jig)

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Here's an old one that I associate mostly with Patsy Touhey.

Ennis played it, and it's included in the Mitchell collection.

I throw in a few backstitchy items in deference to the bould Patsy, but I'm not sure I've gotten anything like the same 'pistol shot' edge that he did.

A backstitch is a staccato, or staccato-ish, quadruplet which takes advantage of the potential the uilleann piper has to completely close the chanter between notes.

There you go now. Don't quote me on that.

Regards,

H.

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Drowsy Maggie (Reel).

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Here's a tripedal Ennisian twist on a classic tune.

Other piping versions (with just two parts) which spring to mind are Patsy Touhy's high octane rendition, and a couple of settings from Willie Clancy.

The third part, to my ear, is very much in keeping with the tune. It's also nice to play on the chanter. Where Seamus got it from I do not know.

You can hear him playing it on the NPU online archive:

HERE

I have a few notes different in the first two parts; this is one of the first reels I learned to play on the whistle... 'old habits die hard'.

On listening back, the discord I hit at the end (I couldn't decide on discord or datcord) seems to interfere with my brainwaves: it's a bit 'Addams Family'. The pipes shook oddly when I did it... as if they were emitting strange cosmic rays.

ADDENDUM: I'm reliably informed by higher authorities that Ennis got this three-part version from Frank O'Higgins, the fiddler who played with his father in the Fingal Trio (see 'An tSean Bhean Bhocht' notes below).

Regards,

H.

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... or 'The Yorkshire Lasses' or 'The Rollicking Irishman', for that matter.

Slightly cheesy sounding tune if you ask me, but it's good fun to play on the chanter.

The guts of the version of the first part here comes from Ennis (just a couple of notes different from the standard one that I'm familiar with really), but, in the setting transcribed from him in Pat Mitchell's 'Dance Music of...' he seems to play the second part of Cherish the Ladies, or something very like it, as the second part of this. I stick to the standard setting here.

This one goes out to my three gals who are very much at the end of Cork Road.

I hope to publish at least a couple of tunes each week now that I'm not so busy.

Regards,

H.

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Corney is Coming (Reel)

This is a big Clancy tune... and it sports the title that launched a thousand guffaws.

I probably heard it on a Planxty record before I ever played anything.

It was a favorite of Packie Duignan's, a well known flute player from round these here parts.

Regards,

H.

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Seamus Ennis' da, James Ennis, recorded this one alongside fiddler Frank O'Higgins and fluter John Cawley in a group called The Fingal Trio. It's an impressive bit of ensemble playing.

I think I heard this tune on that old recording first, and then tapes of Seamus Ennis playing it subsequently.

The melody presents a few challenges for the piper; such as the jump up to the high A in the last part, and the run from the high C natural just after, but it's quite an enjoyable one to play.

It's related to the old song of the same name from the 1798 rebellion era wherein a 'poor old lady' (representing Ireland) contemplates the arrival of French soldiers who will assist in the rebellion and free the land:

"And will Ireland then be free? " says the Sean Bhean Bhocht, "Will Ireland then be free? " says the Sean Bhean Bhocht, "Yes old Ireland will be free from the centre to the sea, And hurrah! for liberty," says the Sean Bhean Bhocht.

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