I’ve been mentioning to Lori for a few years now how I’d like to facilitate a four week May course teaching some O’Carolan tunes, but the timing just hadn’t worked out due to traveling conflicts. Since we’re all stuck at home for the moment, this seems like an excellent opportunity to give it a try, except for the online part. But we’ll give it a whirl and each Tuesday in May my intention is to post a new tune added to this post. Might need to go into the first week in June, but we’ll see. Each week, I’ll provide at least a video of me playing it on mandolin and the sheet music of the version I play (which may or may not match what you’ll find online. The tunes weren’t written down by O’Carolan, so like most traditional tunes, what we have is what has come down through time, in this case, from about 300 years ago. Pretty cool!
I’ve always wanted to learn a few more O’Carolan tunes, so a selfish reason for facilitating this learning is for me to learn some new ones myself. So, I won’t be teaching Fanny Power or Sheebeg Sheemore (though if you don’t know them, I’d encourage you to learn them), but instead doing a few lesser known ones.
Please let me know if you’re following along at home by adding a comment or emailing me. Thanks!
Week 1 – Planxty Hewlett
The first one we’ll do is Planxty Hewlett. Probably the best known recording of this is by the group Planxty (appropriately). Let’s have a listen to the great Liam Flynn playing it. I love the backing that comes in after the first time through – just brilliant!
Now from that gorgeous rendition, I’ll have to subject you to the version I learned (and that is provided in the sheet music) just so we’re all on the same page. I’ll break it down into the A part and the B part going slowly.
Are you wondering what the word Planxty means? Me too. Here’s a description: https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Planxty_(Form). Hmmm… I’m still not sure 🙂
Week 2 – Charles O’Connor
This week’s tune is Planxty Charles O’Connor. I think I first heard this one by Arty McGlynn on his CD McGlynn’s Fancy which is provided below (hopefully available everywhere). One of the things I particularly like about this tune is that while it can be played in a more traditional O’Carolan style, it also can fit well in a normal jig set and people won’t necessarily even know it is an O’Carolan tune!
I was also quite taken with a version on Good Morning to Your Nightcap (still not sure if that is the name of the group or the CD… probably yes). I was surprised last night to see Ruadhrai O’Kane who plays fiddle on that CD watching the same “We Are Roommates” live session from Boston. So let me recommend both the session (Saturdays at 5pm EST) and the CD. See if this link will do it for you if you are on Facebook. Really nice players and tasty tunes.
Anyway, back to Planxty Chuck. So here are the A and B parts slowed down for you. As usual, the version I learned is slightly different than both Arty McGlynn’s and the Nightcap crew.
By the way, if you are finding this online tutorial of value, please consider donating to BRIMS. We’d really appreciate your help and every donation makes a difference and will be used wisely. The expected line up of concerts in Charlottesville for March – May was amazing and all had to be cancelled because of Covid-19. So please help out if you can. Thanks!
Week 3 – O’Carolan’s Welcome
This week’s tune is O’Carolan’s Welcome which is a new tune for me this month and I was not familiar with it at all until recently. Very pretty and haunting melody. A couple of challenges to note are that it is in the key of Am / C. While Am is a typical key, the range gets to the high C and it includes some F naturals, so it also has a C feel to it. Note that some may play it in Em or Bm, but I believe the original is Am, so let’s give it a try if you can. Here’s a version of it by the Chieftains.
Here are the A and B parts slowed down for you along with the notation and both parts played together at normalish speed. I’ve heard and seen it written with repeats and without, so be prepared for either. I think this version is pretty true to the Chieftain’s (for a change!). On the notation, I wasn’t able to render the high C using standard abc synatax, so it shows an octave lower than it should be, but it is quite obvious (the first line of the b part), so you’ll recognize the issue.
Week 4 – O’Carolan’s Draught
Our final week’s tune is O’Carolan’s Draught because we should end the course with a celebratory beer! It’s also a challenging tune and may require a few beers get us through practice 🙂 Oddly enough, it was one of the first tunes I learned and I think the first O’Carolan. I found it to be an excellent fingering exercise as well as a beautiful tune. A 2fer! Here’s a lovely version of it by the De Danann.
I think it makes sense to tackle this one in 3 parts even though it is technically just an AB tune. So I will break the B part in two for learning purposes (it is also twice the length of the A part). Here are the A and B parts slowed down for you along with the notation and both parts played together at normalish speed.