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The Fox Chase (Piece)

foxhunt.jpg

This is my fist at the famous piping descriptive piece The Fox Chase. It's based on one of Seamus Ennis' renditions.

It's said to have been composed by the Tipperary piper Edward Keating Hyland (1780-1845). The piece came to be a standard by which pipers were judged, and it has been a solid fixture of the instrument's repertoire and lore since it's composition.

There are eleven main 'bits' to what I play here:

1. The Fox hunters Jig.

2. An Maidrín Rua.

3. A recurring melodic bridge.

4. A section of rolls representing the gallop.

5. A section representing the horns.

6. A repeat of the melodic bridge.

7. Another gallop/'chase' motif.

8. A section based on staccato double back Ds and the 'bark' of high G.

9. The cry of the fox and final chase.

10. The Lament for the fox.

11. The Fox hunter's Hop Jig.

An interesting alternative version (which shares some of the main features of this) appears in O'Farrell's Pocket Companion (circa 1805)... maybe I'll look at that setting some time.

There's a bit of invasive foot stomping on this recording I'm afraid... I blame it on the horses.

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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