STORIES OF TUNES WITH A HISTORY
DANCE MUSIC (CONTINUED)
“The pipes with clear and humming sound,
The lovers’ whispering sadly drowned;
So the couples took their ground-
Their hearts already dancing.
Merrily with toe and heel,
Airily in jig and reel,
Fast in and out they whirl and wheel -
All capering and prancing.”
IT was while listening to Barney Delaney’s wonderful music one Sunday evening many years ago at John Doyle’s hospitable home that I first heard that slashing reel called “The Milliner’s Daughter.” “Ah, that’s me darlin’!” exclaimed our host, with delight. “None of them can bate that.” Neither could they. Played on the Irish pipes and fiddle together, by capable performers, the melody and rhythm of Johnny Doyle’s favorite reel, no words of mine can adequately describe.
Mr. Doyle was a gentleman and a genius and an ardent lover of the music of his native land. After years of service as locomotive engineer he became an engineer in the Chicago fire department. A skilled mechanic, it was his pleasure during leisure hours to make bellows for the pipers on an improved plan of his own invention. Never before nor since were such serviceable equipments manufactured. A music lover, but not a musician, he had a fiddle and a set of Irish pipes in his house all ready for any performer who chanced to call. And seldom was he without callers, for every one felt that the kindly welcome and hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Doyle were genuine, and not mere formalities, until his death at a patriarchal age put an end to the festivities.
Bunting’s strange dogma, that “A strain of music once impressed on the popular ear never varies,” finds no support in our experience. In fact, the exact contrary is almost invariably true. Farquhar Graham, in his introduction to Wood’s Songs of Scotland, exposes the fallacy which Bunting maintained. “I shall only, therefore, state here that as a result of my own experience as a collector of our melodies, that I rarely, if ever, obtained two settings of an unpublished air that were strictly the same,” writes Dr. Petrie in dissenting from Bunting’s views, “though in some instances I have gotten as many as fifty notations of the one melody.”
This diversity is well exemplified in the case of “The New Demesne,” a reel new to us, which James Kennedy played with great spirit and smoothness. “The College Grove” reel, with two additional strains obtained from John Ennis, a Kildare man, was plainly a variant of Kennedy’s tune, which the latter learned from his father in County Leitrim. A careful comparison established a relationship between the reels above named and “The Green Jacket;” which Edward Cronin learned in his youth in Tipperary. Recently the writer made the acquaintance of “Miss Corbett’s Reel” in Aird’s Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, published in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Its close resemblance to Kennedy’s tune proves conclusively that it was the original progenitor of all the versions of that popular reel. In corroboration of this view, Sergeant Early informs me that piper Quinn always referred to the tune as “Miss Corbett’s Reel.”
An unpublished reel of ancient Connacht lineage is “Bean a tigh ar lar,” or, as it is called in English, “The Woman of the House.” It was a great favorite with “Jimmy” O’Brien, the Mayo piper, who died in this city over thirty years ago; and it was no stranger to Early and McFadden, who, if they did not know it before, learned it from David Quinn in Chicago. Delaney and Touhey also played it.
This traditional tune, like a great many others, is not to be found in Petrie’s so-called Complete Collection of Irish Music; but Dr. Joyce introduces it in his recent work as an unpublished tune under the title of “Cows Are a-Milking.”
For the best effect, it should not be played in faster than marching time, and as it is rich in phrasing and peculiar in an arrangement requiring sixteen bars in each strain, it presents exceptional advantages for the display of talent and technique at the hands of a skillful musician.
While a great majority of the dance tunes printed in old collections, such as Playford’s Dancing Master, Aird’s Selections, etc., etc., and The Hibernian Muse, are out of date and forgotten, “The Mason’s Apron” still retains its popularity. Settings of it little varied by time or locality have been printed as “The Mason’s Cap,” “The Masson Laddie,” and “Miss Hope’s Favorite,” and for a tune preserved in type as far back as 1785, at least, it bids fair to hold its own with the best of them in the future. As “Lady Carbury,” Dr. Joyce includes it as an unpublished reel in his latest work, Old Irish Folk Music and Songs.
Were any one to ask which was the most popular reel, the answer would not be a subject for speculation, for the verdict would he unanimous in favor of “Miss McLeod’s Reel.” While the name under any form of orthography would indicate a Scottish origin, we have not found it in any of the old published collections. Upon examination, its evolution or adaptation from “The Campbells Are Coming,” or rather the still older Irish air, “An Seanduine,” or “The Old Man,” is clearly apparent.
O’Daly in Poets and Poetry of Munster, Grattan Flood in A History of Irish Music, Fitzgerald in Stories of Famous Songs, and others, agree on the Irish origin of the music of “The Campbells Are Coming.”
Beranger, a French traveler, mentions “Miss McLeod’s Reel” among six favorite tunes played by the Irish pipers for his entertainment at Galway in 1779, and that is the earliest mention of the name which we have found in print.
The rapid decadence of Folk Music in Ireland since the regrettable suppression of the “Patrons” and farmhouse dances does not appear to have unfavorably affected “Miss McLeod’s Reel,” for it is universally hummed, lilted, whistled and played throughout the island; and in some parts of the country no other reel is heard. In fact, it was the only reel played for the dancing classes at the Monster Feis in 1906, when competing for prizes.
That it has not been burdened, according to custom, with numerous other names, is quite remarkable for a tune which has been in circulation in Ireland for at least one hundred and thirty years.
“The Enterprise and Boxer,” or “The Enterprising Boxer,” is the only other title for this tune which we have discovered in our researches.
That well-known reel, “Peter Street,” can hardly be regarded as a tune with a history. In the matter of general distribution it is well up towards the top of the list, for it may be found in most American piano publications which include reels and hornpipes among their numbers. Its ringing tones assail the ear from self-player pianos, and as “Miller’s Frolic” it appeared in Howe’s collections, printed in Boston when our parents were young. “Peter Street” is by no means a characteristic Irish reel, and for that reason its paternity has always been to me a matter of uncertainty, although a florid setting of it with variations was received from Mr. John Tubridy, a school teacher at Tulla, County Clare, and a prize winner on the violin at a Leinster Feis. It does not appear in Dr. Petrie’s Complete Collection of Irish Music. Neither does it find a place in Dr. Joyce’s collection of Old Irish Folk Music and Songs.
Its discovery at last as “Sweet Peter Street” in Clinton’s Gems of Ireland, published in 1841, furnished the first particle of authentic evidence which came to hand establishing its Irish origin.
One of McFadden’s finest traditional tunes was the “Shaskan,” or “Shaskeen Reel,” included among the hornpipes in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, but properly classed as a reel in the Dance Music of Ireland. It turns out to be one of the rare old Connacht tunes which remained unpublished and but little known except through our belated efforts.
As a Christmas present which was sure to be appreciated, I forwarded in 1907 to Rev. Dr. Henebry, at Waterford, Ireland, a box of Edison phonograph records which Sergeant Early generously permitted me to select from his treasures. Among them was “The Shaskeen Reel,” played by Patrick Touhey. The c1ergyman’s comment is best expressed in his own words:
“The five by Touhey are the superior limit of Irish pipering. One of his, especially `The Shaskeen Reel,’ is so supreme that I am utterly without words to express my opinion of it. It has the life of a reel and the terrible pathos of a caoine. It represents to me human man climbing empyrean heights and, when he had almost succeded, then tumbling, tumbling down to hell, and expressing his sense of eternal failure on the way. The Homeric ballads and the new Brooklyn Bridge are great, but Patsy Touhey’s rendering of `The Shaskeen Reel’ is a far bigger human achievement. Why, there is no Irish musician alive now at all in his class! If things were as they ought to be, he should be installed as professor of music in a national university in Dublin. And that is what I think of Patsy Touhey and his pipering.”
When Edward Cronin, a new star of uncommon brilliance, first appeared on our musical horizon, great interest was manifested in the long-forgotten treasures which his sweeping bow introduced.
That which first claimed attention was a hornpipe of smooth and easy rhythm, a stranger to us all. Not a single air or tune having resemblance or relation to it has yet been discovered. Although learned in his native Tipperary, Mr. Cronin never heard it named, but to make amends for the deficiency he christened it “Chief O’Neill’s Favorite.”
On account of its peculiarly Irish tonality, some people refer to it as “The Brogue Hornpipe.” Regardless of the name, it is a prime favorite with dancers, and its permanent popularity is assured.
“The Cloone Hornpipe” and “Old Man Quinn,” obtained from Sergeant Early and John McFadden, originally came from the celebrated piper whose name is memorialized in one of them.
David Quinn possessed a wonderful repertory of Irish Folk Music which, descending to his pupil and friend, and by them communicated to Sergeant O’Neill, has been preserved in our publications for future generations. Mr. Quinn’s tunes, few of which had been noted by former collectors, were given wide circulation in this city by the musical twain above named, and to their knowledge of his music can be traced directly or indirectly not a few of the best numbers in our volumes.
An excellent hornpipe of no great antiquity, which has won the favor of many, is “Dunphy’s Hornpipe.” Nameless, like too many others, it was called after the man from whose playing it was reduced to notation by our scribe. This unpublished tune had some circulation in County Kilkenny, for Father Fielding, also, we found had heard his mother lilting it.
When we heard of “The Rights of Man” hornpipe, it was supposed that it was a new composition which had attained rapid popularity in Ireland, because neither the name nor the tune had any place in our memories. It was not long, however, before John McFadden acquired a setting of it, which he played in his own inimitable way. It was distinctly Irish in tone and structure, as it ought to be, for Sergeant O’Neill recalled a version of it as played by his father in Belfast many years ago. Obtained too late for insertion in the Music of Ireland, it was printed in the Dance Music of Ireland, issued in 1907.
Dr. Joyce prints a version of it as an unpublished tune in his new work, Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, and a duplicate of it, No. 294, is simply called “Hornpipe.” A florid setting of this favorite as played by Mrs. Kenny, a noted violinist of Dublin, was brought to Chicago by Bernie O’Donovan, the “Carberry piper,” but in that style it gains no advantage for the dancer.
Ordinarily such a common tune as “The Devil’s Dream” would not be expected to call for special mention. How or when it came to be so named cannot now be stated. A version of it found in many Scotch publications is called “The Devil Among the Tailors,” and in Alday’s Pocket Volume of Airs, Duets, Songs, Marches, etc., published in Dublin, circa 1800, it is printed without a name, being simply referred to as “A Favorite Hornpipe.” An unexpected coincidence in the setting is that, like John McFadden’s, it has three strains, all other printed versions having but two.
The earliest printed set of it entitled “The Devil’s Dream” so far encountered is in Wilson’s Companion to the Ballroom, published at London in the year 1816.
“The Liverpool Hornpipe” has not entirely escaped misunderstandings, for in Aird’s Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs a peculiar version of it is also named “Blanchard’s Hornpipe.”
The most popular and best known hornpipe in my boyhood days did not even have a name. It was the great favorite with all the crack dancers who gave exhibitions of their Terpsichorean abilities on certain occasions by dancing on the kitchen table or on a door unhinged for the purpose and laid on the floor.
Dancing experts invariably were equipped with “dancing-shoes” - light and elastic - to drum out the fancy steps, with telling effect to the ear, as well as enable the dancer to exhibit to the eye his skill in this line of entertainment.
The most renowned dancer of his time in our neighborhood was Jerry Daly, my brother-in-law, now a nonagenarian resident of Chicago; and it was for him the tune was named “Jerry Daly’s Hornpipe.” Even at that advanced age he still delights in showing the boys how it ought to be done.
An inferior variant of this tune as a reel is to be found in Levey’s Dance Music of Ireland, under the name “The Poor Old Woman.” As a song air entitled “The Poor Woman” it is printed in Dr. Joyce’s late work, before mentioned, but the appropriateness of either name is open to question, for there is nothing in the phrasing, structure, or tonality of the tune in the slightest degree suggestive of the “Sean Bhean Bhocht,” or “The Poor Old Woman,” sung by every peasant, young and old, throughout Munster, at least in the last century.
Another unpublished, unnamed and unknown tune, except to the writer, was “Kit O’Mahony’s Hornpipe,” so called after my mother, from whose lips it was learned in childhood. Many musicians of a later generation, among them relatives who had grown to manhood at the old home, assured me they had never heard it. Not even a variant of this tune had been found in print until the publication of Dr. Joyce’s Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, where a version appears entitled “Miss Redmond’s Hornpipe.” A note explains that it was sent to the editor many years before by Grattan Flood. How a tune of such extreme rarity came to be known only at two places so far apart as Enniscorthy, County Wexford, on the east coast, and Bantry, County Cork, on the west coast of Ireland, is not easily accounted for.
Still another hornpipe on the same order, and also learned from my mother, is named in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland “The Banks of the Ilen.” This tune, better known than the preceding, was printed in Levey’s Dance Music of Ireland as “Six Mile Bridge,” and quite recently in Dr. Joyce’s work, before mentioned, as “The Queen’s County Lasses”; but it is missing from Dr. Petrie’s Complete Collection of Irish Music.
When quite young I heard an indifferent fiddler named Crowley, at Drimoleague, in West Cork, play a fine tune which he called “O’Dwyer’s Hornpipe,” the tones and triplets of which haunted me more or less distinctly through life. The third strain seems to have come to me by intuition, for it is not one of the three which Crowley played. This hornpipe is an old traditional tune in Munster, but wellnigh forgotten in this generation. Somewhere, years ago, a poor and limited version of it was seen in a piano pamphlet, disguised as “De Wier’s Hornpipe.” Like scores more of the numbers in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland and The Dance Music of Ireland, this hornpipe also appears in Dr. Joyce’s Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, under the name “Prime’s Hornpipe.”
A fine old traditional hornpipe in five strains, entitled “The Groves” and said to be one of “Piper” Jackson’s compositions, was preserved in the Petrie collections; but the setting printed in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, was not derived from that source. The tune came to us through Sergeant Early, from Patrick Touhey, the famous Irish piper. A few bars of it found lodgment in my memory since John Hicks played it at St. Bridget’s Bazaar in this city thirty years ago. We were overjoyed on recovering this rare tune, because we had despaired of being so fortunate. A much different version of it, known as “The Drunken Sailor,” but not identical with Dr. Petrie’s setting, is one of the numbers in O’Neill’s Irish Music for the Piano and Violin, First Series.
“Youghal Harbor” as an air is frequently mentioned by writers on Irish music, but our search for the notation of it was unrewarded until it was eventually found in Mooney’s History of Ireland. As the arrangement seemed better suited for a hornpipe, it was so classed. Since then the Bunting and Petrie collections have been searched for it in vain, but it was found in Lynch’s Melodies of Ireland, published in 1845.
The air named “Youghal Harbor, or, I’m Sadly Thinking,” in Haverty’s Three Hundred Irish Airs, 1858, is a different tune altogether. Dr. Joyce prints at least two vocal versions of it in his recent work, frequently alluded to, and he speaks of Forde having seven versions of “Youghal Harbour” among his manuscripts.
There was a fiddler of great renown in County Longford, named Sault, of whom our music-loving friend, Mr. Gillan, speaks in glowing terms. One of his compositions, donated by the latter, which we named “Sault’s Own Hornpipe,” is decidedly unique and surprising at first glance to the performer. It is in common time and the second bar consists of four eighths with rests - from G above the staff to G below. As an instance of originality in dance music, this tune has scarcely an equal.
A tidy clog brought to Chicago many years ago by Bernard Delaney, our celebrated Irish piper, became a great favorite, especially among the dancers. It circulated for a time without a definite name, but was later identified by James O’Neill, our scribe, as at tune which he had heard called “The Londonderry Clog” in Ulster. By that name it is known and printed in our collections. The tune consisted of but two strains originally. Turlough McSwiney, the “Donegal Piper,” while playing in Lady Aberdeen’s Irish Village at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, improvised a third strain which Miss Nellie Gillan improved. Some few months later the writer was surprised to hear Delaney play “The Londonderry Clog” with an additional or fourth strain, in fine style. In this form it became still more popular, and there seemed to be enough of it to suit the most exacting. The end had not yet been reached, for among some neglected papers we came across an unnamed tune which was unmistakably related to “The Londonderry Clog,” and to that thrifty favorite our two unclaimed strains were added, making altogether an excellent hornpipe or clog of six strains, unsurpassed by any composition of that class ever printed.
Although this dance tune, only slightly varied, appears to have been known in districts so widely apart as Donegal, Londonderry, Down, Tipperary and Kings counties, it is not to be found in any printed collection of Irish music before our time. It is just barely possible that it originated later than the early part of the nineteenth century, when that patriotic Irishman and enthusiastic collector, George Petrie, was in his prime.
After Ed Cronin had been aroused from the lethargy into which his isolation in Lake View had plunged him, he began to indulge in original composition and adaptation, with unexampled assiduity. Of course, all who woo the Muses can hardly hope to produce an unbroken line of masterpieces. As specimens of latent talent born of his brain after the day’s weary and monotonous toil in a machine shop, we invite attention to “The Bantry Hornpipe” and “Caroline O’Neill’s Hornpipe,” with four strains in each.
Songs innumerable have been written to the air of “The Cuckoo’s Nest” in the three kingdoms. Ordinarily it consists of two strains, and is to be found in various settings and under divers titles in many old printed collections. Bunting’s version in three strains, he states, was taken from an old music book dated 1723. He adds that the air is “very ancient, author and date unknown.”
“Come Ashore, Jolly Tar, and Your Trousers On,” is the peculiar title under which it is printed in Aird’s Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, published in 1782-97. It has four strains and is evidently the version from which the Highland pipers derived the transposed style of it which they play.
In Wilson’s Companion to the Ballroom, published in 1816, the simple setting therein printed is named “Jackey Tar,” but a footnote informs us that this tune, with a little alteration, constitutes what is now called “The Cuckoo’s Nest,” from which it was taken. “The Mountain Dew,” a ballad by Samuel Lover, is sung to this air.
Long before the writer ever expected to tread on the soil of County Clare, “Paddy” Mack’s fame as a fiddler had been well sung in Chicago. He was blind, of course, as almost all others were who lived by their musical skill in Ireland. It was our good fortune while traveling in the year 1906 to meet and be entertained by two of his pupils - Michael Touhey and John Allen - at their homes, as well as at Clashmore House, the residence of Mr. James Conway, our hospitable host. Both were charming fiddlers whose free and easy style of bowing gave their tunes that delightful spirit and swing peculiar to the best traditional Irish musicians.
Old Mr. Touhey, familiarly called “Darby Simon,” who had known Mrs. O’Neill in her girlhood, summoned his son Michael from the hayfield to play for us. Flattered by Mrs. O’Neill’s recollection of his skill and agility as a dancer, the old man, verging on to eighty years of age, but still active and erect, stepped onto the “flag of the fire” and “battered” one of “Paddy” Mack’s hornpipes thereon in a manner few of the present generation could equal, and he didn’t seem at all distressed by the exercise.
Here was a scene worthy of the brush of Hogarth and the pen of Carleton. The interior of a peasant’s cottage, with cupboard and dresser and settle ranged against whitewashed walls, affords a study not unworthy of the artist's talent. The large open fireplace, with comfortable seats on either side, served as a frame for the picture of the octogenarian father dancing a hornpipe to the fiddling of his own son. What a subject for a word-painter! - and where else but in Ireland could such a sight be seen?
An enjoyable evening spent at Ayle House as the guests of John Walsh, Esq., J. P., left many pleasant memories. We were entertained with much excellent music by members of the family, and it was an unexpected delight to find in the vicinity of Feakle so little evidence of musical decadence which is noticeably affecting the spirits of the people in other parts of Ireland.
“Paddy” Mack is long since dead, but his memory lives and his pupils are worthy of his reputation.
Among the many fine tunes played by Touhey and Allen night after night in Mr. Conway's house were two reels and one hornpipe that were entirely new to me. Much as I tried to memorize them as of old, the effort was not altogether successful, and I was indebted to Mr. Tubridy, a school teacher from Tulla, for sending me the notation later on. He was himself a prize winner at a Dublin Feis, and contributed an uncommon reel not included in our first volume, O'Neill's Music of Ireland. None of the four tunes thus obtained were known by name, so the hornpipe, to commemorate the old blind musician, was named “Paddy Mack,” and the reels “The Maid of Feakle,” “Johnny Allen's Reel,” and “The Humors of Scariff,” contributed by Touhey, Allen and Tubridy, respectively.
Those four dance tunes secured in a locality within twenty miles of the city of Limerick show how incomplete has been the work of the unselfish souls who had devoted both time and money to the collection of Irish Folk Music.
Previously unknown to the members of our “Irish Music Club,” those tunes are now in circulation, and one of them particularly, “Johnny Allen’s Reel,” is a prime favorite, on account of the fascinating tenderness of its melody. It is most effective when played in marching time, a style quite suitable for the elaborate steps of the Munster dancers.
One of the earliest recollections in my memory is “The Downfall of Paris,” as the name of a Rinnce Fada, or Long Dance. Little hopes had we of ever getting a version of the melody. But the unexpected happens, sometimes. To our unutterable joy, Edward Cronin not only played that elusive tune, but many others, ancient and obsolete, with which we were entirely unfamiliar. This old-time favorite consists of four strains.
Of the fifty-odd collections, containing more or less Irish music, in the writer’s library, Wilson’s Companion to the Ballroom alone had a setting of this Long Dance, and that volume was only recently acquired.
The author states that it was originally composed for a quick-march in opposition to “Ca Ira,” the French national air. It has since become a favorite dance, particularly with good dancers, as it requires a very long figure not easily performed by tyros in the art.
Only one strain of twelve bars of “The Ace and Deuce of Pipering” was known to Mr. Cronin, but the second strain was obtained from another source.
A different version of this rare old Long Dance in three strains was subsequently contributed by Sergeant Michael Hartnett, whose quiet and retiring disposition betrayed no indications of the wealth of Folk Music his memory preserved. A good setting of this tune was printed in Dr. Joyce’s Ancient Irish Music, and identical with that in Dr. Petrie’s Complete Collection.
Another of Ed Cronin’s historic Long Dances, and one of which he alone had any knowledge, is “Planxty Davis,” or “The Battle of Killicrankie.” Hardiman, author of Irish Minstrelsy, and Grattan Flood, author of A History of Irish Music, tell us that the melody was composed by Thomas O’Connellan, the great Irish harpist, on the occasion of the battle of Killicrankie, in 1689. “Its Irish origin,” writes Grattan Flood, “is sufficiently clear from the fact that in a Northumbrian manuscript of the year 1694 this tune appears as “The Irish Gillicranky.” As in the case of many other tunes encountered in our researches, the modern versions have been much embellished and improved, at least for modern taste.
In this opinion we are sustained by no less an authority than Alfred Moffat, the learned author of The Minstrelsy of Scotland and The Minstrelsy of Ireland.
When Dr. Joyce penned the explanatory note to “The Orangeman,” the third number in his Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, he was not aware that this tune had been already printed years before in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, as “The Orange Rogue,” which Mr. Cronin learned in his youth at Limerick Junction, Tipperary. “I woke up from sleep one night whistling this fine air in a dream,” he says, “an air I had forgotten for years. Greatly delighted, I started up - a light, a pencil, and a bit of paper, and there was the first bar securely captured. I have never seen this air written elsewhere, except in one County Limerick manuscript.” Our version, first classed as a jig, has been transferred to the Long Dances, where it properly belongs, in The Dance Music of Ireland.
Other Long Dances and Set Dances, previously unknown to us, and contributed by the same custodian of old Irish dance tunes, are “The Barony Jig,” “The Blackthorn Stick,” “John O’Dwyer of the Glens,” and “Bfuil an fear mor astig ?” or “Is the Big Man Within?” The latter, in its Irish name, sometimes abbreviated to “Fear Mor,” is peculiar in having the first strain in nine-eight time and the second in six-eight time. The four tunes above named were printed in O’Neill’s Dance Music of Ireland for the first time. Under the name, “How Are You Now, My Maid ?” Dr. Joyce prints a version of the last of them in Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, just fresh from the press.
A remarkably fine Long Dance is the “Three Captains,” contributed by Sergeant James O’Neill. That name, as well as “Three Sea Captains,” is occasionally seen in print, but the airs to which they are attached seem scarcely worth preserving. None of our local musicians knew this splendid tune, and nothing even resembling it is to be found in any collection of Irish music but ours, although a version of it, named “Mr. William Clark’s Favourite,” is printed in McGoun’s Repository of Scots and Irish Airs.
While endeavoring to enlarge our store of unpublished and forgotten Irish airs, little did we suspect that our unassuming friend, Sergeant Michael Hartnett, next door neighbor to our scribe, was the custodian of so many musical gems utterly unknown to others in our circle. Although we obtained from his dictation that fine flowing composition, “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” we would not be justified in classing it as his exclusively, for it turned out that it was one of Ed Cronin’s best Long Dances also. This tune was probably of Munster origin, for it was not known even by name to any of our people born outside of that southern province. Many natives of Munster also, among them the writer, were equally ignorant of its existence.
The other Long Dances, “The Lodge Road,” and “The “Jockey at the Fair,” previously unpublished, were contributed by our scribe, Sergeant James O’Neill.
Just in time for classification among the Long Dances in our second volume, The Dance Music of Ireland, we obtained another stranger, named “Hurry the Jug,” from Bernie O’Donovan, “the Carberry Piper,” a young musician of fine promise, lately arrived from Ireland. In giving this rare dance tune publicity, we have preceded Dr. Joyce by two years. Two versions of it are printed in his latest work, already mentioned - one under its proper name, as a Set Dance, and the other as a Jig, named “I Rambled Once.” The means by which O’Donovan contrived to learn it himself, throws a flood of light on the secretiveness, or rather selfishness, of certain musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, who treat rare tunes as personal property, to be guarded with as much care as trade secrets.
There was and still is in the city of Cork a whistling cobbler named Creedan. His cheerfulness was no greater than his covetousness in saving his tunes from circulation. Should any of his patrons display any interest in the tunes which he often whistled unconsciously, from force of habit, by listening or inquiring the name of any of them, the flow of melody ended then and there.
Our friend O’Donovan was presumed to be “very hard on shoes,” on account of his frequent visits with damaged footgear; but, being fully aware of the cobbler’s idiosyncrasy, he was careful to be apparently absorbed in reading, with the paper hiding his face. From this it can be seen that Creedan’s bill was in exact proportion to his customer’s ability to memorize the tunes.
It was under such circumstances that O’Donovan picked up “Hurry the Jug” and other airs. His experience would be merely an incident likely to excite our merriment, were not Creedan the type of a class, members of which, I regret to say, are found right here in Chicago.
“Oh! While the soul of music yet was flowing,
The listener paused, for too intensely strung
The passionate chords, that, with a spirit glowing,
Kindled and trembl’d as the minstrel sung.”