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Theme Of The Month, August 2015: The Music Of Turlough O'carolan


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#1 Jim Besser

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Posted 31 July 2015 - 05:29 PM

The blind Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738) left an incredible legacy of music, and so much of it is wonderful to listen to and fun to play even if you clueless about Irish music. Lively dance music (Morgan Megan, for example), lovely waltzes (Fanny Power, etc.), tunes that sound almost classical (O'Carolan's Concerto), there's something in the O'Carolan treasury for everybody.
 
At least 214 of his tunes survive to the present, including such standards as Carolan's Draught, Carolan's Welcome, Hewlett and Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór.  See this Wiki article for a pretty comprehensive list.
 
O’Carolan is also responsible for the haunting Miss MacDermott, which has been absorbed into the Morris dance world as Princess Royal -  these days more often (but not exclusively, as my own group can attest) in the major version, not the minor original.
 
Back when I played hammered dulcimer, it seemed almost like a rule of law that every player learn Planxty George Brabizon, thanks to the seminal dulcimer band Trapezoid. And I remember spending long hours working out the beautiful O’Carolan’s Concerto. Never tried it on concertina, but there’s always a first time.
 
If you need inspiration, check out the melodeon.net ThOTM back in 2010 here.
 
Here’s a nice collection of O’Carolan videos by a versatile musician playing guitar, bouzouki and - yes - English concertina.
 
And for a vast treasury of O’Carolan notation, check out this site.
 
I hope these links work where you are - they're all working fine here in Washington, DC!
 
Have fun!

Edited by Jim Besser, 31 July 2015 - 05:40 PM.


#2 Bob Michel

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 12:37 AM

Here's one (originally submitted last fall as part of the "Something Irish" theme) that isn't heard quite so often as some of T. O'C.'s other compositions:

http://youtu.be/Jh1VhTc8n7A

On any given day it may or may not be my favorite among his tunes. But it's certainly my favorite among his titles.

Bob Michel
Near Philly

#3 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 01:06 AM

Great choice Jim - and a lovely video, Bob! Love the sparse harmony with the first run through the chorus...

 

For a start from my side, here's my "old" recording of three of the most popular O'C-tunes:

 

 

O'Carolan-Set

 

 

(and we'll see what I'll be able to make of his music now at some point later on...).

 

Best wishes - Wolf



#4 JimLucas

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 09:33 AM

As various submissions in recent months have shown, with enough "themes" (and tunes) there's eventually overlap and previous entries can be re-used.  So that's what I'm doing for my first O'Carolan entry, Planxty Irwin, which I submitted for the May 2014 Theme of the Month, when we were encouraged to mess with the tempo of a familiar tune.  I played it first as an air -- almost a march -- and then converted/contorted it into a jig.  Rather than trim off the jig for this month's theme, I'm leaving it there.  After all, that's no more radical a change from Carolan's original than the various Morris dance versions of his Princess Royal.  I'm hoping to record even more versions before this month is out, but for now:
 

Planxty Irwin (as an air/march, then as a jig)



#5 Jim Besser

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 11:25 AM

Bob, Wolf and Jim - collectively a great start to the month.



#6 Ptarmigan

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 06:44 PM

At the suggestion of Jim Lucas, I'm posting a link to my wee video of this tune, as it is clearly related to the Princess Royal.

 

Bold Nelson's Praise!

Instruments: English Concertina, Nyckelharpa, Tenor Guitar & Side Drum.

 

Cheers,

Dick



#7 Jim Besser

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 07:26 PM

At the suggestion of Jim Lucas, I'm posting a link to my wee video of this tune, as it is clearly related to the Princess Royal.

 

Bold Nelson's Praise!

Instruments: English Concertina, Nyckelharpa, Tenor Guitar & Side Drum.

 

Cheers,

Dick

 

It's amazing how many different versions of the tune I know as Princess Royal there are!



#8 JimLucas

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 02:11 AM

At the suggestion of Jim Lucas, I'm posting a link to my wee video of this tune, as it is clearly related to the Princess Royal.

Bold Nelson's Praise!
Instruments: English Concertina, Nyckelharpa, Tenor Guitar & Side Drum.


It's amazing how many different versions of the tune I know as Princess Royal there are!

Well, as I noted in the thread where Dick first posted this tune:

Bold Nelson's Praise! is interesting, in that it seems to be a hybrid of two Morris tunes... A part of Princess Royal and B part of I'll Go Enlist For a Sailor.


To which Dick replied:

All I could find out about Bold Nelson's Praise was that it was first in print in the 'Complete Dancing Master' of 1730.


But that is early enough that I thought I'd better check some dates, and lo and behold, I find that Carolan died in 1738. So it seems that his tune we know as Princess Royal -- or a "borrowed" part of it -- was published (apparently without attribution) within his lifetime. Most interesting!



#9 Rod

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 10:53 AM

The evolution of 'hybrid tunes' is perhaps not altogether surprising. For those of us who play solo, entirely by ear, it can on occasions be difficult to immediately put a name to an established tune that the fingers have decided to embark upon, and not unusual to find that before that tune reaches a conclusion it has slipped seamlessly into another similar, but perfectly compatible established tune.

#10 linrose

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 01:49 PM

When I first started playing the concertina (a whole 6 months ago!) of the many tunes I listened to and started playing I wondered why the tunes by this fellow named O'carolan where so much different than most others. His tunes are wonderful, touching and roll around in your head for days no matter how many times I play them. Thanks for the links, I didn't realize he was the Mozart of Irish melody.



#11 Wolf Molkentin

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 02:51 PM

...rather the Händel or Vivaldi... :)


Edited by blue eyed sailor, 02 August 2015 - 02:54 PM.


#12 Ptarmigan

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 03:34 PM

There's a lot of debate as to the exact origins of The Princess Royal, as you will see from this:

 

Princess Royal

 

Cheers,

Dick



#13 JimLucas

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 07:56 AM

There's a lot of debate as to the exact origins of The Princess Royal, as you will see from this:
 
Princess Royal


Interesting.  That Folkopedia entry certainly clears up one problem that I should have noticed:  It would have been strange for Walsh to publish a tune called "Bold Nelson's Praise!" 28 years before Nelson was born.  It may be the same tune, but Walsh called it "The Princess Royal, The New Way".   The "...Nelson..." title comes from a much later song (collected by Cecil Sharp in 1909) that used the tune.
 
But I take issue with those who take issue with Carolan's authorship.  From the Folkopedia entry:

Particularly puzzling, if it was Irish, is why would Walsh, the first person to print the tune, take an O'Carolan tune, written five years previously, and rename it after Princess Anne, who had been made up to Princess Royal just three years previously? If he needed to present a tune of that title, in order to please King George II, surely he could have written one? The other puzzling thing, but which may contain the answer, is why Walsh called it "The Princess Royal, The New Way", and why Wright in 1735 called it "The New Princess Royal". Was it in fact a dance they were referring to? There is a reference to La Princess Royale in later editions of Playford, using a tune called Ianthe.


Puzzling? Not at all. For it to be puzzling, one must assume two things:

  1. Walsh* knew that it was Irish.
  2. His pride/arrogance/chauvinism was stronger than his musical taste.

Regarding the second point...  Some individuals might indeed prefer to "honor" the Princess with a mediocre composition of their own rather than a stunning composition composed by someone else, but would a critical collector of music such as Walsh do so?  If the tune were seemingly anonymous and not already well known, then I can well imagine Walsh wanting to dedicate -- and possibly be known for dedicating -- such a beautiful melody to such an important personage.

 

But it's the first point to which I raise the most serious objection.  More than a quarter century ago, Fran Hendrickson -- who with her husband Chip and various friends/colleagues was a researcher and expert on 18th century dance -- told me that their collections of books and manuscripts from the period showed that it was common practice for dancing masters to steal from each other.  Specifically, the same "new" dance (and tune) would often appear in several locations (including the various British Isles, North Sea countries, and American colonies), but in each location with a different title and "author".  What's more, the dates of first appearance in the various locations could often be used to establish the true origin, since they were generally separated in time by the duration of a typical sea voyage between the locations.

 

So it's not just possible, but quite likely that the tune was imported into England by some enterprising dancing master who had encountered it while in Ireland, renamed it, added a dance, and claimed authorship.  The five year interval between its composition by Carolan and its publication by Walsh is certainly not unreasonably short; far from it.  And the answer to the question in the Folkopedia article, "Was it in fact a dance they were referring to?" should be obvious:  Dick quoted the name of Walsh's book as the Complete Dancing Master.

 

 

* or whoever named it; did Walsh actually claim that he authored or even named all the tunes he published?


Edited by JimLucas, 03 August 2015 - 10:08 AM.


#14 Ptarmigan

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 12:03 PM

I'm sure the practice of using other peoples tunes &/or parts of them has always gone on & ... always will. ;)

 

Found this interesting page on the music of O'Carolan, when I was poking about the net, today.

 

Complete Works

 

Cheers,

Dick



#15 David Barnert

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 05:01 PM

Here's my contribution, one of my favorite Carolan tunes, Morgan Magan. It tends to get underplayed because it doesn't have 32 bars, so dancing options are limited. Jim called it "Lively dance music" in the opening post, above, but I've always heard it as slower, kind of wistful.
 
Patrick, pay close attention between index 10 and 13 seconds.


#16 Jim Besser

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 05:30 PM

 

Here's my contribution, one of my favorite Carolan tunes, Morgan Magan. It tends to get underplayed because it doesn't have 32 bars, so dancing options are limited. Jim called it "Lively dance music" in the opening post, above, but I've always heard it as slower, kind of wistful.
 
Patrick, pay close attention between index 10 and 13 seconds.

 

 

Yeah, I think you're right, it's mostly played at a slow pace. I first learned it on hammered dulcimer from the seminal Bill Spence album, where it was played a little brisker and dancier.



#17 Patrick Scannell

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 08:37 PM


 

Patrick, pay close attention between index 10 and 13 seconds.

 

 

OK, I listened, and then cheated and peeked at the score.  We have a /D A/ D/, which gives us a I - V - I cadence in the key of the dominant to end the first 8 bars.  Then a 2 note pick-up to bring us back to G to carry on. Close?


#18 David Barnert

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 08:55 PM

We have a /D A/ D/, which gives us a I - V - I cadence in the key of the dominant to end the first 8 bars.  Then a 2 note pick-up to bring us back to G to carry on. Close?

 

Of course. The A chord (which includes a C# not found in the key signature of G major) serves as V of V, giving the forward motion of the tune a little bit of a turbo charge.






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