O'Neill - Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 6

O'Neill - Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 6


periodical Publisher
periodical Editor
O'Neill, Capt. Francis
periodical Title
O'Neill - Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody
volume Number
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INTRODUOTIONIt appears that the gentle art of plagiarising tunesis no modern foible, for we have it on the authority ofthe editor of the Glen Collection of Scottish DanceMusic that the practice of changing a few notes in acoveted tune, and renaming it as ones own, led tomuch ill feeling and endless confusion. The chief of-fenders in that line of perfidy, strange to relate, werethe celebrated Neil Gow and his sons, their principalvictim. being vVilliam Marshall, butler and housesteward to the Duke of Gordon, the most brilliant aswell as the most prolific composer of strathspey musicScotland ever produced.A fair sprinkling of Irish airs and dance tunesgraces the pages of A Selection of Scotch, English,Irish and Foreign Airs, issued in six parts from 1782to 1797 by John Aird of Glasgow.The pioneer publication of Irish dance musicJacksons Celebrated Irish Tuhescame from thepress in 1774, but while many of Piper Jacksonsjigs, and a few of his hornpipes, are well known totraditional Irish musicians, it is doubtful if a copy ofhis work: exists today outside the files of Dublinmuseums. None of Jacksons tunes are included inThe Hibernian Muse, published by J. and W. Thomp-son at London in 1787. Instead, special prominenceis given to Carolans compositions.Another Irish piper named OFarrell, who figuredprominently on the London stage late in the 18thcentury, published three creditable collections of Irishairs and dance tunes, flavored with a few choiceScotch selections l)y way of variety. OFarrells Col-lection of National Music for the Union Pipes, etc.,appeared in 1797, followed by OFarrells Pocket Com-panion for the Irish or Union Pipes, etc., two volumes,in four parts, 1800 to 1810.Bunting virtually ignored d,ance tunes. Amongthe 295 numbers in his three Collections1796, 1809,l 8 40possibly ten may l)e consi(lerecl as of that class,although but three tunes are so named. The samemay be said of Moores Irish Melodies, the majorityof which were taken from Buntings first nd secondCollections.Of the 1582 numbers (376 of them anonymous) inthe Stanford edition of The Complete Collection ofIrish Music as noted by George Petrie LL.D.; RH.A.;published for the Irish Literary Society of London,1902-5, about ten per cent ar of the dance tunevariety. Less than fifteen per cent of the contentsof the Joyce Collections may be considered of thesame class. In other words, of the 2819 numbers inthe Bunting, Petrie and Joyce Collections combined,300 or about eleven per cent would be a liberal esti-mate of the tunes which may be regarded as jigs, reels,hornpipes, or long-dances. Furthermore, it is wellto remember that hundreds of variants are strewnthrough the pages of these collections, especially thetwo last named.The great disparity between the number of airs,and dance tunes in such noted collections, plainly in-dicates that the former are the more ancient and di-versified, because singing is a universal accomplish-ment, while skill in instrumental music is limited, andof comparatively recent development. It is quite ap-parent also that an appreciable number of dance tuneshave been evolved from airs and marches, since theIrish or Union bagpipe and fiddle supplanted theharp in the latter half of the 18th century.Whether attributable to the versatility of tradi-tional musicians in composing new tunes, or the un-tiring diligence of modern collectors, the fact remainsthat more than 1200 classified dance tunes are recordedin the ONeill Collections, published in 1903 and lateryears. The majority of them were noted down fromthe playing of the pipers, fiddlers, and fiuters of thefamous Irish Music Club of Chicago.Compositions of another class, called Planxties inIreland, and ports in Scotland, were in vogue in theheyday of the harpers, especially Carolan. Port orpuirt is the Gaelic word for jig, but the genesis ofPlanxty, variable in metre and tempo, has not beenclearly defined. Both, however, were composed inhonor of generous and hospitable patrons, who havebeen immortalized in the names of the tunes. All thatsurvived of the planxties have been preserved in print,but their popularity has been on the wane for a longtime.The optimism of Dr. Joyce was hardly justified bythe results obtained by the Irish Feis Ceoil Associationfrom the vast amount of material comprised in themany manuscript collections of music awarded prizesin 1897, and several years thereafter. So much of thecontents was found to be duplicated in the Petrie,Joyce, and other collections, that by a tedious processof elimination there remained but 85 unpublishedmelodies to grace the pages of The Feis Ceoil Col-lectiori of Irish Airs, which came from the press in1914.Following the suggestions of Dr. Joyce in thepreface to Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, a criticalexamination of manuscript music obtained from suchdivergent sources as Ireland, England, Australia, andvarious States of the Union, disclosed little but var-iants of melodies previously published. That little,however, was too good to be lost: To this aggregationof Waifs and Strays have been added selections glean-ed from rare volumes o. the 18th century and later,which are practically inaccessible to the public in thisgeneration.There remains but the pleasant duty of acknowl-edging our obligations to kindred spirits, inspired bya unity of musical sentiment, who manifested theirhelpfulness in various practical ways.With a view to according due recognition, thenames of contributors of tunes, or the sources fromwhich they were obtained, follow the titles of all num-bers in this work. Certain exceptionally importantcontributions to the cause, call for special mentioneven at the sacrifice of other considerations.Of the manuscript collections available throughthe kindness of musical compatriots, the most valuablewas one which included much of the repertory ofJeremiah Breen, a blind fiddler of great repute whoflourished a generation ago in North Kerry, betweenListowel and Ballybunion. His tunes were noteddown by Thomas Rice, a talented pupil, and latercopied by his friend James P. Walsh, now a Sergeantof police in Chicago. From a mutual friend, 1 ichardSullivan, a much admired dancer hailing from thesame locality, came the information that the Sergeantsprecious manuscript had passed into the possessionof Patrick Stack, a fiddler whose execution was no lessadmirable than his modesty. Not only did this knightof the bow favor the writer with the custody of theRice-Walsh Manuscript, so-called, but he obliginglywrote out settings of several of his own rare tuneswhich had so far escaped all collectors.Another manuscript collection found among Ser-geant James ONeills accumulations yielded somechoice selections penned in 1878-9 by an enthusiastnamed Humphrey Murphy. A fragment of a name-less discolored collection of time-worn tunesmainlywaltzes and polkasfrom the same source, rewardedinvestigation with a few rarities.
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