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Archive for January 2013

The New Demesne (Reel).

This is a tune that Seamus Ennis played which really showed off the 'clipped' or tightly articulated aspect of his playing style.

It seems quite closely related in places to an old northern reel called The College Groves.

Francis O'Neill collected a tune very similar to this (which sported the same title) from fiddler James Kennedy who had it from his father, an old County Leitrim fiddler.

'Demesne' is an old feudal system word (from the Latin 'dominus' meaning 'lord' or 'master') for all the land attached to a manor house which the lord retains for his own use.


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This is the air to the well known song as famously recorded by Planxty. The lyrics were written around the end of the 19th Century by songwriter and poet Patrick Joseph McCall although the air is thought to be considerably older.

McCall's song celebrates the defeat of English forces by the Irish lord Fiach McHugh O'Byrne at the Battle of Glenmalure in 1580.

Although it's probably best known now as a song air this tune has long been a piping piece in its own right; in fact it is held by some to be the old clan march of the O'Byrne family from the days of the Gaelic order (this assertion is thought to be questionable however).

The version I play here probably owes most to Felix Doran's fine rendition of it, although versions by Willie Clancy and Kerry accordionist Johnny O'Leary also spring to mind.


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This extravagant little number came from the playing of Séamus Ennis.

I haven't much to say about it other than I'm grateful to have a nicely responsive reed that brings me way up to that third octave D with relative ease (this high note is achieved on the chanter using a combination of cross-fingering, votive offering and prayer).

It's good fun to play, but please be mindful of pets when playing this at anything above moderate levels of volume (the last note in particular is a bit of a window rattler).


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Here's a go at an old piping classic.

You can hear Bernard Delaney's brilliant rendition of this reel HERE. It's taken from a wax cylinder recording, so don't expect Kenny G recording quality.

One of the interesting things about his version is the roll on the C# at the start of the second part; this renders it quite melodically distinct from other settings. The C# roll is done using the back D to make the 'cut' part of the roll, and the open C finger to make the 'tap'. I've used this roll as in Delaney's version, but have kept in some elements of the more popular version of the tune. It's generally called 'The Beauty Spot' these days.

Happy New Year to one and all!


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