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Archive for July 2011

The First House in Connacht (Reel)

Just time on a break between travels for a favourite old piping reel.

I associate this one mostly with Seamus Ennis, although a rendition from Felix Doran also springs to mind.

Achill Island here I come.

Regards,

Harry.

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Gol na mBan San Ár (Piece)

MiciCumbaw.jpg

This is my take on the old piping piece Gol na mBan san Ar ('The Women's Lament in Battle'). It's still very much a 'work in progress'.

The wax cylinder recording of the Kerry piper Mici Cumbaw Ó Súilleabháin (pictured above) playing it is one of the earliest recordings of Irish music in existence. It was recorded by the Feis Ceol commission in 1901. You can listen to it (and other treasures) HERE.

The piece has been reconstructed and reinterpreted by musicians such as Pat Mithcell and, after him, fiddler Sean Keane. Pat added the first jig 'Máirseail Alasdroim', or 'Alistrum's March', as part of his interpretation which I think works very well.

Francis O'Niell in his 'Irish Minstrels and Musicians' rightly refers to Ó Súilleabháin's rendition of this as 'a masterpiece' and delights in relating tales of the eccentric and superstitious old musician of the order of the blind pipers of a passing era:

Not less characteristic of his freakish ways in Ireland, was an incident in his career in America. Accompanied by a little boy as a guide, one day he started out to play at a wedding. Before reaching his destination, the guide, seeing some carriages and a crowd in front of a building, concluded he had arrived at the right place and entered with his charge. They were conducted through a long dark hallway and given seats in the back parlor. Being blind, of course, Sullivan could not see what was going on in the front room, but not a word uttered by the clergyman, who had already commenced the service, escaped his sharp ear.

"It is true that this is a most solemn occasion," the clergyman was saying, "but let us try to look upon the more hopeful side. It may all be for the best. Who among us can tell? Let us remember that behind the darkest cloud the sun still shines. It is our duty to try to believe that our friend has entered into a happier state. It is true that he will mingle with us no more; we shall not again be cheered by his bright smile. All that once seemed so dear to him he has had to resign; he has met the common fate of Adam's sons, but it is not for us to decide that this is to be the end of all for him."

Unable to restrain himself longer, and not suspecting that it was a funeral and not a wedding that was being conducted, "Mickey" leaned over to the man in front of him and said in a tone loud enough to be heard all over the room: "Do you know what? If I was the father of the bride, I'd give that fellow a taste of my stick!"

I'm off on my travels for a couple of weeks, so these errant elbows will be stilled temporarily (on the information super-byways at least).

Regards,

Harry.

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Higgins’ Hornpipe.

This is the second hornpipe of the set that goes with the tune below (as played by Tommy Reck). The track, as mentioned, was unceremoniously pilfered by an unscrupulous record executive.

It's associated with the celebrated Northumbrian composer of hornpipes James Hill (see The High Level, below). Reck's setting is a little different to what I've seen in written collections and takes advantage of some characteristics of the chanter and Tommy's tight approach.

My regs need some tuning, so there's even less going on there as usual. C'est la vie.

Regards,

Harry.

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Alexander’s Hornpipe.

This is another Reck tune, one of the tracks that was recorded of him in Dublin and commercially released in the U.S. under dubious circumstances (he didn't get paid!)

His treatment of it is fantastic. I particularly like how he renders the pivotal opening measures of the 2nd part with just well-timed tightish pronunciation. I was reminded of Reck's playing of this one recently by piper Emmett Gill.

This is played on the C set (by Joe Kennedy, Canada). From now on I might alternate between the D and C sets when I'm making posts here, just to keep me on my toes!

Regards,

Harry.

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The Bunch of Keys (Reel)

I haven't put up a reel for a while, so here's another piping classic. This is the two part setting based on Ennis' version, but a three part version is also common.

This one is probably most famous in piping circles as being one of the tunes that Johnny Doran recorded. You can hear a preview of that remarkable performance HERE.

Regards,

Harry.

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