Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A great description of Irish Jigs from Chief O'Neill

Most Irish jigs in six-eight time are “Double Jigs,” commonly termed “Doubles” in Leimster and some other parts of Ireland. Such jigs are also popularly known, at least in Munster, by the appellation of Moinin or Moneen jigs, a term derived from the Irish word moin - a bog, grassy sod, or green turf - because at the fairs, races, hurling matches, and other holiday assemblages, it was always danced on the choicest green spot or moinin that could be selected in the neighborhood. A separate classification of “Single Jigs,” and the first ever made in a printed volume, was initiated in O’Neill’s Dance Music of Ireland.

The following description of that variety is taken from The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland, published in 1855. Like the common or “Double Jig,” the “Single Jig” is a tune in six-eight time, and having eight bars or measures in each of its two parts. But it differs from the former in this, that the bars do not generally present, as in the “Double Jig,” a succession of triplets, but rather of alternate long and short, or crochet and quaver notes. “Battering,” as applied to this variety of jig, is called “single battering.” The floor is struck only twice - once by the foot on which the body leans, and once by the foot thrown forward.

In considering Hop Jigs or Slip Jigs, as they are called, according to locality, a quotation from Wilson’s Companion to the Ballroom may not be out of place. The author, who styles himself “Dancing Master from the King’s Theatre Opera House, London,” was not handicapped by any shrinking modesty which would restrain him from criticising others in his profession, says in his preface: “In the progress of this work a number of tunes have been collected together in nine-eight, as they require in their application to the figures, either in country dances or reels, what are technically termed Irish Steps. Few tunes of this measure are to be found in collections of Country Dances; and the reason is, those who are but indifferent dancers are not acquainted with proper steps.

“Some are apt to imagine that an Irish tune must be uniformly danced with Irish steps. This, however, is a mistake. It is to the tune, and not the nationality of the tune to which the steps in question are applied, and tunes in nine-eight always require Irish steps, whatever may be their origin; while Irish tunes of six-eight or common time are danced like others. This variety of Irish time has little or no recognition in modern music, and some persons appeared incredulous when arrangement in nine-eight time was mentioned.”

“The Rocky Road to Dublin,” probably the most widely known of Hop or Slip Jigs, is not one of the oldest. The earliest printed versions which we have found are in The Citizen magazine, published in Dublin, in 1841. The musical editor, Dr. Hudson, says it is a “modern Irish dance.” It is said the name is taken from a road so called in the neighborhood of Clommel. It is the air which is sung by the nurses for their children in a great portion of the southern parts of Munster, and they frequently put forward as one of their recommendations that “They can sing and dance the baby to `The Rocky Road’.” Under the above name a version of it was printed without comment in Petrie’s Complete Collection of [risk Music, and a variant also appears as “Black Rock,” a Mayo jig. As “Black Burke” it was found in a publication the name of which is forgotten. Our setting of this famous tune, obtained from John McFadden, consists of three instead of the ordinary version of two strains.

An uncommonly fine tune of this class, in three strains, obtained from John Ennis, is “Will You Come Down to Limerick?” Simpler versions are known to old-time musicians of Munster and Connacht, and in Chicago. Ennis had no monopoly of it, for it was well known to Delaney, Early, and McFadden. As an old-time Slip Jig it seems to have been called “The Munster Gimlet,” a singularly inapt title; but when it came into vogue by its song name, we are unable to say.

It would be too tedious to discuss in detail the many excellent and hitherto unpublished Hop Jigs gathered and printed through patient and persistent efforts maintained from year to year, so we will conclude the discussion of Jigs by a brief allusion to “The Kid on the Mountain.”

This unpublished tune in six strains was introduced among our experts by the “only” Patsy Touhey, the genial, obliging and unaffected wizard of the Irish pipes. A version of this tune, with the puzzling title, “Bugga Fee Hoosa,” I find is included among the numbers in Dr. Joyce’s Old Irish Folk Music and Songs.

To hear Touhey play this jig as he got it from his ancestors was “worth a day in the garden” to any one interested in the Dance Music of Ireland.

“Oft have I heard of music such as thine,

Immortal strains that made my soul rejoice,

Of wedded melody from reed and pipe, the voice,

And woke to inner harmonies divine.”

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