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Archive for January 2012

The Merry Sisters (Reel)

Séamus Ennis played this one. He might have heard it from fiddler Frank O'Higgins who played in The Fingal Trio with his father, James Ennis. O'Higgins recorded it on a 78 record in the 1930s.

It's quite the E cran workout, and I'm adding in some Ennisean inverted D crans which lends an unusual rhythmic kink to the first and third parts.

I'm trying out a Benedict Koehler chanter on this clip.




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The Maid at the Spinning Wheel (Jig)

Breandán Breathnach collected this 4-part version from his old pipes teacher John Potts. Potts moved to Dublin from Co Wicklow early in the 20thCentury. He's the great grandfather of the contemporary piper Sean Potts (Jnr.) and grandfather of gentleman whistler Sean Potts (Snr.) The remarkable fiddle innovator Tommy Potts was also a member of the family.

This tune was 'done to death' a bit in session over the years, but I recently enjoyed rediscovering it on the pipes and playing it with the implied tight or tightish pronunciations in the 3rd and 4thparts. By all accounts John Potts had a fine 'tight' piping style echos of which are to be found in the playing of his pupil Tommy Reck.

Bit of pointless reg playing on the repeat here... I'd forgotten to plan something.




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The First Month of Summer (Reel)


(Image: Tom Busby, Anne Busby (nee Carney), Mike Carney & Pat Lavin circ. 1930s)

This is a reel that I usually associate with the Irish-US fiddlers (Andy McGann et al) and Seán Maguire, but I came across a nice setting on pipes on some old, informal homemade recordings that were donated to NPU by Tom Busby's widow, Anne (see above). This version is largely based loosely on that recording (or what I remember/forget of it!)

In the opening bar I play a 'C . ACA' tight run followed by an 'A . ACA' tightness... which was an interesting challenge of a Saturday morn (I even pull a few of 'em off!)

You can hear Emmett Gill play his take on this one HERE.



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This version of the famous reel is based on one of the settings from Séamus Ennis. The first part is quite reminiscent of the version played by Tommy Reck on his LP 'The Stone in the Field'.

It has old piping associations: Francis O'Neill got it from the Co. Mayo piper James O'Brien. The Fiddler's Companion notes that O'Brien's habit of stopping for a wee chat (and a dram?) before he'd finish a round of a tune irritated O'Neill: 

 "...his loquacity was uncontrollable, and he never hesitated under such conditions to express a passing sentiment. Amiable and harmless at all times, he died at a comparatively early age in Chicago, a victim to conviviality, his only weakness."

I was reminded of this one recently on hearing a fine rendition from convivial piper Emmett Gill. Listen to it HERE.



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The Fox Chase (Piece)


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.



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