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Archive for December 2011

This is the last melody played in several versions of the chase. It's probably the section of the Fox Chase that's most played as a 'stand alone' tune in its own right; possibly due to Michael Coleman having recorded it along with 'Comb Your Hair and Curl it' on a popular 78 recording.

Because it shares the same time signature as a slip jig it's often considered one; but to my ear it has the phrasing and rhythm of a hop jig (such as The Rocky Road to Dublin, Top it Off, The Butterfly etc etc) so I think there is a clear distinction between those two forms that has been blurred in collections where hop and slip jigs have been printed in the same section (in real musical terms the time signature don't count for nuts!!!) Certainly the old pipers often made the distinction between hop and slip jigs in their identifying them as such.

It's a nice piping tune with that relentless hop jiggy rhythm.

Regards,

Harry.

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Well, things don't go well for the poor fox and he or she is caught and killed.

The air that's played in his/her honour however is one of the most plaintive and beautiful in Irish music. There are several minor variations on it and I'm getting caught between a couple of them. The opening phrases of the first part involve some pretty tricky (for me, at least) fingering and chanter raising on the vented C natural so as to get the right tone and keep it more-or-less close to pitch.

Regards,

Harry.

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The next section of the Fox Chase corresponds to the air of the macaronic song An Maidrín Rua, 'The Little Red Dog' (the name in Gaelic for the fox).

It's a very pleasent tune, and there are several versions of the song. I'm not sure which came first, the song or the piping piece (or the fox or the egg for that matter... foxes come from eggs, right? You'll have to excuse me, I 'm a city boy), but it is a song that many people would have learned in school in Ireland not so very long ago.

AN MAIDRÍN RUA

Ar ghabháil aduaidh dom thar Sliabh Luachra 'Gus mise 'cur tuairisc mo ghéanna; Ar chasadh dom anuas 'sea fuaireas a dtuairisc Go raibh maidrín rua dá maoireacht

Curfá [chorus]: Ó Maidrín rua, rua, rua, rua, rua, An maidrín rua tá dána. An maidrín rua 'na luí sa luachair, Is barr a dhá chluas in airde.

"Good-morrow fox," "Good-morrow, Sir." "Pray what is that you're eating?" It's a fine fat goose I stole from you, And will you come and taste it?"

"Oh no indeed, ní háil liom í, Ní bhlaisfinn pioc di ar aon chor, But I vow and I swear you'll dearly pay For my fine fat goose you're eating.

Hark, hark, find her, Lily and Piper Cruinnigí na gadhair lena chéile; Hark, hark, Trueman, tá leisce orm cuma, Is maith an fear cú thú Bateman.

Tallyho lé na bhonn, Tallyho lé na bhonn, Tallyho lé na bhonn, a choileáinin; Tallyho lé na bhonn, Tallyho lé na bhonn, Agus barr a dhá chluais in áirde.

Greadadh croí cráite chugat a Mhaidrín Ghránna Do rug uaim m'ál breá géanna, Mo choiligh mhóra bhreátha, mo chearca bhí go hálainn, Is mo lachain bheaga b'fhearr a bhí in Éirinn.

Regards,

Harry.

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Anatomy of a Fox: The Jig/ March

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(Fig. 1: A fox... please be nice to them.)

No, this is not a post about the contours of an attractive woman's body; it's about the famous (maybe THE most famous) piping piece called The Fox Chase. It's a musical representation of a fox hunt with various parts, sound effects, tunes and motifs. There are different variations on it/ approaches to it that can be broadly classified into broad 'more abstract and musical' and 'more representative with sound effects' groups.

I'm going to be looking at Seamus Ennis' setting (as can be heard on '40 Years of Irish Piping') which falls into the 'abstract' category. You can hear Ennis play it HERE from a live recording made in Miltown Malbay in 1958. Great 'sound effect' versions which spring to mind are Felix Doran's and Finbar Fury's versions (Felix in particular went large on a variety of animal impressions).

The Ennis setting is based around four main pieces of music:

  1. It begins with the jig/march I play here.
  2. It goes into the march.
  3. After some bridges and effects representing horns, the galloping horses and the cries of the dogs and fox there is a lament for the dead fox.
  4. It concludes with the hop jig.

I'll go at each of these tunes individually and then, hopefully, put it all together with all the sound effects and bridges. The piece also has an illustrious piping history, so I'll consider that along the way.

Tally-ho!

Addendum: As Nicholas points out in the comments, this is not a slip jig as previously reported (I was thinking of the related slip jig). I looked around and this tune is classified as a jig or a march. Ennis certainly plays it at a slowish, stately pace suggesting that it's a jig-time march.

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This famous old piping jig is strongly associated with Bernard Delaney. Through him it passed along to James Early (pipes) and John McFadden (fiddle) who left us a memorable wax cylinder duet recording of it. You can listen to it by CLICKING HERE.

It proved quite popular with the pipers of the day and was recorded by both Patsy Touhey and Tom Ennis. You can hear the T. Ennis take on it HERE.

I play it a bit too slow here... all this concert pitch racket is grounds for a divorce maybe.

Regards,

Harry.

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Kitty in the Lane (Reel)

I heard this tune first from an old recording of a Séamus Ennis recital. If I recall rightly he had a verse to the first part for the occassion that went something like:

Kitty in the lane, I better put it plain,

For Kitty's in the lane and she hasn't any britches on.

Our Gaelic poets didn't sweat too long over that chestnut; and something tells me that, had Séamus been in closer company, Kitty may have been missing a garment more intimate than her britches...

However, it's a lovely old piping reel that was also in the repertory of Rowsome and Clancy.

Regards,

H.

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O’Callaghan’s (Hornpipe)

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The O'Callaghan in question is Cal O’Callaghan the uncle of the legendary Kerry fiddler Pádraig O’Keeffe.

I first heard this tune from a recording of Séamus Ennis (who likely picked it up on his visits to The Kingdom), and later from the highly eccentric and entertaining piping of Andy Conroy (pictured above). Andy used to go large on the condensed triplets; he played what he termed 'octuplets', 'nanotuplets' and 'decatuplets' etc with great dexterity. Not easy listening by any means, but of great interest to the piper and very original.

Andy was a prolific, unconventional, and highly remarkable man by any standards. He is a patron of Na Píobairí Uilleann, and you can read more about him HERE (excerpt below).

I leave you with the following text from Dave Hegarty’s submission of Andy in the “Irish Life Pensioner of the Year Award” in 1992, for which Andy received a commendation.

Andy Conroy, Master piper, composer, former flute and whistle player, bricklayer (retired), musical, local and social historian, commentator, wrestler, boxer, weight lifter and Karate practitioner, is unquestionably an outstanding contributor to the social and cultural life of this country.

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