The Best Of Irish Piping
- TARA 10029
Featuring the albums : The Pure Drop & The Fox Chase
CD 1 - The Pure Drop
||Two Reels : The Pure Drop; The Flax in Bloom
||Slow Air : The Fairy Boy
||Hornpipes : The Groves Hornpipe; Dwyer's Hornpipe
||March : O'Sullivan the Great
||Double Jigs : When Sick, Is it Tea You Want?, The
Humours of Drinagh
||Slow Air and Slip-Jig : By the River of Gems; The
Rocky Road to Dublin
||Two Single Jigs : Ask My Father; Pat Ward's Jig
||Slow Air : Valencia Harbour
||Hornpipes : The Standing Abbey; The Stack of Barley
||Two Reels : The Leitrim Thrush; Miss Johnson
||March : The Return From Fingal
||Two Single Jigs : Chase Me, Charlie; The Dingle Regatta
||Slow Air : White Connor's Daughter, Nora
||Two Double Jigs : Slieve Russell; Sixpenny Money
||Three Reels : Stay for Another While; I Have No Money,
||Slow Air : The Brown Thorn
CD 2 - The Fox Chase
||Two Reels : Music at the Gate; The Pigeon on the
||Two double Jigs : The Blooming Meadows; Kitty's Rambles
||Slow Air : Ned of the Hill
||Two single Jigs : Smash the Windows; The Dark Girl
||Two Hornpipes : The Derry Hornpipe; The Cuckoo's
||Song-tune : The Trip We Took Over the Mountain
||Three Reels : The Merry Sisters; Music in the Forge;
||Hornpipe : Johnny Cope
||Two Reels : The Rainy day; A Fair Wind
||Descriptive Piping Piece : The Fox Chase
||Two Reels : The Braes of Busby; Colonel Fraze
||Slip-jig : The Kid On The Mountain
Best of Irish Piping
CD 1 - The Pure Drop
1. Two Reels:
The Pure Drop
This reel has all the hallmarks of an old pipers' reel in that it
includes movements peculiar to chanter-playing and lends itself to drone-blending
and comfortably attained harmony playing . A simple version appears in
O'Neill's collection (Chicago 1903) with this title and it is played on
a 78 of the 1930's by Sonny Brogan (accordion) under the title "Hand
me Down the Tackle".
The Flax in Bloom
A reel very melodic in its structure and therefore a favourite. It strikes
me as being originally a fiddle-player's development but lends itself
most aptly to piping.
2. Slow Air
The Fairy Boy
This is the tune of the song in Gaelic of a mother whose boy-child was
taken by the fairies in accordance with the fairy changeling mythological
tradition. I have heard a free translation sung, the first verse of which
commences: "A woman came when stars were paling
ends "wherefore steal my fairy boy?" It was one of my father's
The Groves Hornpipe & Dwyer's Hornpipe
As a hornpipe recital my father invariably coupled these two tunes, so
that they are automatically in sequence in my mind. They are two of the
"Big" hornpipes, each having more than two of three "parts"
(extensions of theme) and are heard at their best in piping.
O'Sullivan the Great
If the O' Sullivan had one, as other Clans had, this is presumably their
Clan-March and is a striking, hard-hitting melody. It seems to have been
a popular one, too, for I know of two songs in English, sung to this tune:
"Ill Marry and I'll never be a Nun". And a song of sentimental
pathos "The Better that He longed for Never Came".
5. Double Jigs
There are three forms of the Jig in Irish traditional music: the double
jig (time signature 6/8), the single jig (12/8) and the slip of hop-jig
(9/9). We get the term from the Continental gig and jigga dance-music
rhythm. These tunes are both included in "O'Neill's" so titled.
When Sick, Is it Tea You Want ?
Melodically arresting, this tune carries the disposition of the musician
when hospitality affords something more desirable than tea on "the
morning after the night before" of alcoholic indulging as an introductory
The Humours of Drinagh
There are at least two places named Drinagh in Ireland. One in Co. Cork
and one in Co. Westmeath. "Humours", which occurs in many Irish
rune-titles would seem to refer to a very enjoyable, musically festive
night or occasion. My father and I, together, learned this jig from the
piping of one Philip Martin of Omagh, Co. Tyrone, in the 1930's. He had
no name for it, but I have since found it in "O'Neill's".
6. Slow Air and Slip-Jig
It was a custom with the old pipers to follow a slow sir, in particular
a lament, with a cheerful dance-measure. I have done so here, selecting
a lively slip-jig in the same mode and key.
By the River of Gems
I learned this from the singing in West Cork of an old Gaelic Aisling,
or dream-ballad, particularly as sung by Miss Maire Ni Chrochain of Coolea.
The "Gems" of the title are the imagery of the bard, referring
to the glittering of lights and shades in the river's pure waters and
are brought forth brilliantly in some of the tunes' nuances. This struck
me forcibly when I first heard Maire singing the song.
The Rocky Road to Dublin
Some fragments of Macoronie (Irish and English) words survive, to this
tune. A complete, entraining ballad of the sortie of a West -of-Ireland-man
as far as Liverpool, under the same title, is published in a collection,
"Irish Street Ballads" (O'Lochlainn, Three Candle Press, Dublin,
1939) to this tune. I include here a third part or theme-extension which
I've never known anyone but my father to play.
7. Two Single Jigs
Ask My Father
This is most certainly a pipers' tune, primarily as the "cranning"
(a piper's gracing of the dominant) and other features make manifest.
An anecdote relating to its title tells how a young piper, when asked
what was its name, seemingly is not know and replied as above - and the
Pat Ward's Jig
As a child, I remember Pat Ward. He was a native of Drogheda an old man
with a white crescent-shaped beard. He played a double changer - two reeds,
two bores and two stop-holes for each finger, as compared with the usual
single piece. I would compare his tone with that of a very mellow concertina,
to the best of my recollection, for I was but a child when he was tragically
killed by a motor-bus near his own house. My father learned this tune
from him and as he had no name for it we referred to it as above at all
Notice that the accepted performing-rhythm of the single jig is nearly
identical with that of the hornpipe - a "common" tune simulated
by the four threes of 12/8.
8. Slow Air
"Valencia" is from the Gaelic Beal Inse - The Island-mouth,
for Valencia Island is situated almost in the mouth of what would otherwise
be an open bay, between Donlus Head and Portmagee in the extreme West
of Iveragh (pron. Eevraw) Peninsula in Kerry. A schoolmaster named "Connor,
Master Riordan", in making a change of schools from one district
to another, had his books transported across the bay by a local boatman.
The story has it that the board foundered, Riordan's books were lost and
he composed a song in Gaelic grandiosely lamenting the tragedy of the
"Mighty Vessel", naming it "The Song of The Books".
I learned this tune, its song history as above and the lyric from the
late Colm O'Lochlainn, author of "Irish Street Ballads" (v.
note on item 6) who sporadically studied piping under my father's tutelage.
The Standing Abbey
Named or both composed and named in honour of some abbey which survived
one or many of the pillage orgies of the would-be oppressor, or the roofless
walls of which were still standing gutted by incendiaries. To my mind
the tune exudes sadness and defiance, alternately, and is primarily the
music of a piper for it communicates much more from him than from any
The Stack of Barley
This very melodic tune is, by name, dedicated to the much-treasured amount
of the grain apportioned to the distilling of "The Pure Drop".
The "Stack" in its Gaelic title is "Staicin", a diminutive
suffix being used for endearment. Again it is primarily a piper's piece,
in my opinion. An ersatz Irish Song, Kerry Long Ago", has been written
to this tune.
10. Two Reels
The Leitrim Thrush
To anyone who is familiar with native bird-song, it would be unnecessary
to try and trace here the inspiration for this melody and I daresay its
originator was a thrush heard in Co. Leitrim! My mind relegated this one
to the fiddle.
Undoubtedly this reel is a tribute by a musician of long ago either to
a woman noted for hospitality or a fair damsel who merited his adulation,
which may have been unrequited, for with all its liveliness it carries
a sad motif. Again, its occasional wailing is that of the fiddle, in my
The Return From Fingal
This is a tune of Triumph and Defiance with a skillful depicting of after-battle
weariness interwoven. It is believed to intend association with the aftermath
of the Battle of Clontarf (A.D. 1014) in Fingal, where the High Brian
Boru led his men and drove a Danish invasion back into sea. Fingal is
an old name for the northern half of what is today the County of Dublin,
and is an Anglicisation of Fine Gall, the Foreigners' Gall, The Foreigners'
12. Two Single Jigs
Chase me Charlie
This is possibly of Scottish origin, for it is well known in Scotland
as a 6/8 march named "Cock 'O The North". It gets the name here
from a nonsense-jingle and another jingle would entitle it "Aunty
Mary Had a Canary".
The Dingle Regatta
I am of the opinion that this is a new name for a very old tune. Its first
part is erroneously coupled in recent years with the second part of another
single jig. I have both jigs in their entirety form source - a district
in East Derry where the single jig is still a very popular measure today,
being played for the dancing of the old "Kerry Sets" and called
13. Slow Air
White Connor's Daughter, Nora
There is a man named Colm Keane, living at Glynsk, 4 miles north of Carna
in Connemara, now in his late seventies, from whom I had the privilege
of writing down 212 songs, before mobile recording was an established
means of collecting. Colm, though utterly illiterate, knows his patronymics
form oral tradition: Colm, Son of John, son of Martin, son of Thomas,
son of Michael, son of "Big Connor" Keane.
The Nora of the song to which this is the tune, a song of unrequited love,
was "Big Connor's" daughter. He was the only one in all my experience
who had the tune in its entirety, for the second or "higher"
half of the tune was all I had ever heard elsewhere. This, in my collecting
experience, tends to be an unconscious inclination with numerous folk-singers
where tunes of this structure are concerned.
14. Two Double Jigs
Slieve is the Anglicisation of the Gaelic Sliabh, a mountain or moor,
and Russell an English ascendancy surname. Despite many casual enquiries
throughout the years, I have never succeeded in placing it, nor did my
father. I have been more the enquired of then the enquirer and one said
"It could be a knob of a hill anywhere". Our inability to locate
its title, however does not take from its lilting attractiveness.
This jig's characteristics point to its being primarily a pipers' piece.
Folk-tradition maintains that it was a tune played by a piper when the
hat was being passed around for subscriptions from the company and he,
disdaining coppers, politely called out the name of his tune as above.
This is certainly one of the old pipers' jigs and owes it s survival to
my fathers playing.
15. Three Reels
Stay for Another While
I Have No Money
To my father, these would be three "Run-of-the-mill" pipers'
reels, because of this familiarity with the old pipers, apart form their
melodic attractiveness. The first one is alternatively named "Stay
and Have Another One" - words which fit its first phrase. The second
is purported to have been named by a piper when the hat was being passed
around and the last name, translated form Gaelic, means a blade of grass
and also a common rush. Incidentally a rush inserted in the barrel of
musical pipe (changer etc.) makes its bore narrower and flattens its pitch.
Therefore it is used extensively in tuning pipes.
16. Slow Air
The Brown Thorn
(No available notes).
CD 2 - The Fox Chase
1. Two Reels
Music at the Gate is an old reel my late father had; very lively in its
melodic sequences. I do not think I have ever heard anyone else play it,
but it is obviously the tune to which "Phil the Fluter's Ball "
is sung, though more elaborate in its present form. The Pigeon on the
Gate was and still is a very popular reel among Irish traditional musicians.
My version is one which my father had from the old pipers.
2. Two double jigs
The Blooming Meadows is a tune which conjures up the peace of mind associated
with the lush bounty of a good season and the balmy humming of bees on
a warm Summer's afternoon. Kitty's Rambles takes us on a variety of expeditions
with her enquiring turn of mind and her conclusions. This is my father's
version and I learned "The Blooming Meadows" form the late Michael
Gorman, one of the last "Daddies" of Co. Sligo fiddle-playing.
3. Slow Air
Ned of the Hill is the tune of an old Gaelic song which consists of Ned's
conversation with his sweetheart when he knocks on her door seeking shelter
whilst on the run, sought by the alien authority he had flouted and bemoaning
his plight "Drenched, cold and wet from eternal tramping of valleys
and mountains". A very free translation by James Clarence Mangan,
sung to this tune makes for a beautiful song in English.
4. Two single jigs
Smash the windows, one of my fathers favourites, is a tune of abandon
and gaiety, calling for no small amount of expression in its playing,
as its title would denote. The Dark Girl in Blue, an East Kerry indigenous,
goes into raptures of admiration for a girl among the dancers for whom
the tune was played and named in her honour.
5. Two hornpipes
The Derry Hornpipe was, I feel sure, a tune much favoured by harpers of
old, for it contains many harp-string sequences, but lends itself admirably
to piping, particularly in its latter stages, which were assuredly pipers'
addenda. The Cuckoo's Nest ( the tune that never was!) is a pipers' development
of an old song sir: "And I'll lay you down to rest in the Magpie's
Nest". Eoin Rua O'Sullivan, the 18th Century Gaelic poet wrote a
song to this tune, "An Spealadoir" (The Scythesman) and it is
sometimes given that title.
The Trip We Took Over the Mountain, to give it its full title, is a song
of courtship in which the singer invites a girl to come for a walk with
him over the mountain. She agrees and "I hope you'll excuse my simplicity
over the mountain". This tune definitely stems from my grandfather,
and the words are extant.
7. Three Reels
The Merry Sisters strikes me as being the musical embodiment of a man's
dilemma as he tries to choose between the three, with arguments for and
against each, unsuccessfully. Music in the Forge plays about with hammer
and anvil-ringing and Castle Kelly is a piper's tribute to his patron's
hospitality. The Kellys were West of Ireland Irish ascendancy.
Johnny Cope is something of an enigma to me in that it is basically the
tune of a near-Doric Scots song with hunting overtones, but in the Irish
instrumental hornpipe-guise enjoys the distinction of being probably our
longest tune, having six parts or six variations on its theme. The question
arises: is it an Irish or a Scots melody? I learned it from the late Padruig
O'Caoimh of East Kerry, the last of what were known as the fiddle-masters,
teachers of traditional fiddle-playing, who died exactly ten years ago.
9. Two Reels
The Rainy Day was not an unheard-of day in Irish agricultural communities
and it conveys an air of time hanging heavily on idle hands and minds
whilst tilling, hay making or harvesting suffers a depressing setback
- though a note of hope reveals itself like the lightening of an overcast
sky, only to be dashed to gloom again by a heavier patter of rain on the
barn roof. A Fair Wind can be the title of an agricultural or seafaring
community. In my own opinion the latter is more suiting as the reel smacks
of serene sailing.
10. Descriptive Piping Piece
The Fox Chase This is the only 'great' of descriptive pieces, purely as
such, in Irish traditional music. Based , for its theme, on "The
Little Red Fox" tune - a song in Gaelic- it portrays the individual
trot on horseback to the meet, the hunt leisurely setting out, following
the hounds as the search for a fox's scent starts, the excitement when
the hounds pick up a scent only to react disappointedly when it proves
to be an old one: very soon a fresh scent is found, the ''Hark-Away''
to the hounds giving voice, the '' View- Halloo'' as the fox is seen,
the horn of the master of the hunt, the yelping of the hounds giving full
cry, the chase with all its excited speeding-up and, inevitably, the kill.
Then the fox is lamented with the most poignant, wailing melody I have
ever heard, whereupon the hunt jogs happily homeward to the light and
airy tune of the fox-hunters' jig, (having had an enjoyable and successful
hunt, pleasing to all) which finishes with a very conclusive final cadence.
This is the Fox-Chase of the old pipers as my father culled it from them.
I have heard several incomplete rendering of it through the years, resorting
to inventiveness where lacking, and departing from the main theme.
11. Two Reels
The Braes of Busby is probably an Ulster fiddle - players' reel, It falls
in with that dialect of fiddle playing and "brae" is a Northern
and Scots word. I learned this whilst in my 'teens from he piping of the
late Dan Nugent of Dublin whom I've seen play himself to sleep on his
chair with this same tune! Colonel Frazer is melodically very close to
it. It is not known who was Colonel Frazer, but the beautiful melody of
this reel would show that he was an honoured and well-liked man. It is
one of a select number that never goes under any other title, nor is the
title erroneously given to any other tune.
The Kid On The Mountain is really a descriptive piece, for it depicts
the lost, forlorn, lonely kid in desolate surroundings, imitating its
Where my notes do not state otherwise, I learned all of
these from my father, R.I.P.
Seamus Ennis - Dublin, November 1972.
To the Connoisseur and keen student of traditional music,
the name Ennis stands out among the greats in Uilleann piping. His skill
as a piper has come directly to him from his father who was considered
to be the last of the pipers in the idiom or dialect of the old piping
tradition. His piping was in fact (Seamus tells me ) of select synthesis
of all that was best in the playing of old pipers he met and heard at
the old Oireachtas Festivals during the first ten years of this century,
polished up by a tuition course with Nicholas Markey, a master-piper then
resident in Dublin.
In addition to being an expert performer Seamus is also renowned folklorist
and Gaelic Scholar. These latter accomplishments give him an undoubted
advantage in the interpretation of our native music. This is particularly
evident in the perfection and beauty of his slow air playing. One never
tires of his music. The more often it is heard the more one appreciates
the finer points of his piping.
I made my own way up on tin whistle and at the age of twelve got my first
practice chanter, but until meeting Seamus and hearing him play I never
realised that the field of piping could be so fast and comprehensively
embraced by the ability of the old pipers. When I hear Seamus I am listening
to the specialised playing of the old pipers, as distinct form a rendering
on a woodwind instrument, and as his selection here is for the most part
from the repertoire of his father, who he tells me, played to him in his
cradle, the above title (The Pure Drop) covers a multitude!
Third Party Sites
Copyright © 1999 - 2013 Tara Music Company Limited. - All Rights Reserved