The Best Polka Set

The Best Polka Set

…what’s your favorite? πŸ™‚

Re: The Best Polka Set

First dear lad, what kind of ‘polkas’? Do you mean the ‘usual’ Irish sort? Why not start with telling us what your favourite polkas or polka sets are over your way? They may have actually reached Russia before Ireland, polkas that is… God blessed the Carpathian Mountains with music and dance, a well spring… 😎

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Actually, you’re in Moscow, which was one of the main cultural centres for old Europe, and the dance mania definitely swept through there with all its fire…polkas of several sorts included…

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The set that is played after I’ve left the pub… πŸ˜‰

Relax Polka fans - I’m kidding. The truth is Polkas rarely get played in the sessions I attend, and when they do they are often wrongly stigmatized as beginner tunes.

Truth be told I think Polkas may be easy to learn, but are often some of the hardest tunes to play properly and well. If they don’t have the energy and lift required, they’re DOA and well earned of the scorn they often receive.

Some may laugh, but I think playing a polka well is a real talent.

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Well, yes, I mean polkas of "irish" sort - although I don’t see any reason to play some good tune even if it is not irish.

We have an ITM session here, but we mainly play jigs and reels - the only two polka sets we all know here are Ballydesmond #1 & #2 and Egan’s / Tarmon’s / John Ryan’s. But I love polkas, and want to find some other good sets for our session.

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> although I don’t see any reason to play some good tune

NOT to play, I was going to say πŸ™‚

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What am I on anyway? Well, we had the blessed fortune to make friends with a crazy man who specialized in Russian dances, from the mad choreographies and leg kicking prosiadkas (excuse my Russian), etc., to the village stuff, including polkas on both sides of that track.

But, what I particularly value is his introduction into really good vodka. I hadn’t a clue it oculd be so nice. The stuff my ma used to drink was rubbing alcohol. I hated it. But good vodka, I like it so much I take it neat, no adulteration for the good stuff, or at least mostly not. I also loved the dances, if more so the village stuff, the rougher and less pretentious things. I also got to hear some great music from out your way, some lovely tunes and playing. I wish he were here now, I’d get him to teach me a set of Russian polkas just to rile the purists here and to give you something form closer to home to have fun with…

Sadly, our stock of good Russian vodka is depleted… πŸ™

Back to polkas, Irish style, for the sets of quadrilles (square sets) for example. Someone will give me guff, the new ways, but the old way was that you only ever played one tune per figure of a set, not a set of polkas, just one, as the figures were generally not lengthy. With longer figures two would do, making the change with a change in the dance, like from tops to sides being active. That’s the ideal, with musicians who have some sense of the dance.

The other use for polkas is for couple dances, as was also true in your neck of the woods, quadrilles and couple dances. For those you could pull of a set of say 2 or 3 polkas, each played a few times through, but it wasn’t unusual to just play just one for the whole dance.

I suspect you may be thinking of this for sessions, well, be warned, it is massive multi-tuned pythons of sets, when polka-mania gets ahold of those present and they can’t seem to stop ~ it is that which gives polkas a bad name. Yes, playing them badly doesn’t help either, all those that are convinced they are ‘easy’, so why bother to learn to actually play them well, eh?

Is this an issue with me? Yes, sorry breq, it just gets ahold of me and gives me a good shake… I like polkas ~ fat ones, skinny ones, long ones, short ones and all that lies between…music and dance… 😎

Re: The Best Polka Set

I’ll Tell My Ma/ Denis Murphy’s

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Re: The Best Polka Set

breqwas, I’m going to suggest a few recordings of polkas you can draw tunes and sets from, including slides… I’ll be back. πŸ˜‰

Re: The Best Polka Set

Oh my, we play so many Irish polkas at our sessions people joke that we’re in SW Ireland, not SW Florida.

Up Sliabh Luachra!

Oh heck, we play them all, and yes, sometimes, we have the dreaded never ending polka run-on, but then I excercise my duties as Sergeant-at-Arms and make sure we stay on track…with a few slides. (HA!)

No but seriously, these two are loads of fun when stuck together:

Peggy Ryan’s Fancy (The Murroe)

The Sliabh Luachra (Andrew O’Connell’s)

Re: The Best Polka Set

Some recommended recordings with polkas and polka sets+

Sliabh Luachra, and also good for slides and other things too:

"The Rushy Mountain: Classic Music From Sliabh Luachra 1952-77"

Matt Cranitch & company:

"Take A Bow" & "Give It Shtick" ~ etc.

"Sliabh Notes"
"Sliabh Notes: Gleanntan"
"Sliabh Notes: Along Blackwater’s Banks"

Jackie Daly:

"Jackie Daly: Music From Sliabh Luachra"
"Jackie Daly And Seamus Creagh"

Not forgetting Johnny O’Leary, but there are many other possibilities…

Clare polkas, 2 sets on each of these two recordings:

"Tommy McMahon & Bernard O’Sullivan: Irish Traditional Concertina Music of Co. Clare"
"Bernard O’Sullivan & Tommy McMahon: Clare Concertinas"

Ulster, the North, who also have a lovely way with polkas:

This is harder, as I don’t know of much in recordings currently available. There is one recording of Johnny Doherty playing one polka on this recommended compilation, track 27:

"Traditional Dance Music Of Ireland"

There are old LPs, but those are harder to find… This is a real shame, because I know the North played and liked polkas, music and dances, but generally collectors didn’t seem to ask for them. Maybe it is that damned attitude that they aren’t really Irish, or aren’t worthy of serious consideration… That is sad and a great loss…

Re: The Best Polka Set

Definitely let your ears inspire you, and here’s a bit more…

Once you have a good store of polkas there’s nothing more fun than mix and match, but starting with sets that have been thought out and matched by those more experience than us is not a bad thing…

Back to the North ~

"Eithne Ni Uallachain, Gerry O’Connor And Desi Wilkinson: Cosa Gan Bhroga"

track 2: "The Shelf" / "Charlie O’Neill’s"

& this is a favourite recording in our house, Sliabh Luachra again and full of polkas and other gems:

"John Brosnan: The Cook In The Kitchen"

Re: The Best Polka Set

I like the following ones, played as a fast set:

The Dashing White Sergeant in D major
The Glenside Polka in E dorian
Salmon Tails Up The Water in G major

Only The Glenside is Irish - the other two are Scottish or English, and usually played a bit more slowly. But this makes quite a fiery busking set!

If you leave out the last crotchet of the Dashing White Sergeant, it makes for a snappier link into The Glenside.

Re: The Best Polka Set

Underplayed polkas: o’Sullivan’s and o’Callaghan’s, from Padraig o’Keeffe. Neither is a very standard polka, each replete with odd turns and strange triplets. Delights to play.


Re: The Best Polka Set

Another idea:

The Herd On The Hill in G major
Tralee Gaol in E dorian
Maggie In The Wood in G major

Again, the first is Scottish or northern English, but the other two are Irish.

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"The Diamond" ~ one from me at least… πŸ˜‰

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A couple I like are
Egan’s Polka (aka Peg Ryan’s) in D, followed by
Britches Full of Stiches in A.

Another neat little polka set is from Jackie Daly’s Music From Sliabh Luachra(though the album identifies these as single reels) is
Biddy Martin (in D) followed by Ger the Rigger (in A).
They are all super easy and fun to play.

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Can I nominate "Sliabh Notes" for the best darn band name ever? Hilarious.

Re: The Best Polka Set


polkas = sliabh luachra

you have to add "the monks of the screw " we can find there CDS in the scully’s bar in newmarket ..
rare tunes great peoples
every monday you will find several best polka set !!

pure sliabh luachra style great moments !!

also many slides , some very close from italian tarentelles

may you meet Timmy o’ connor there , my heroes on the accordΓ©on for many as important as johnny o’leary
a very nice and generous man, his whole life dedicated to the music ..

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Re: The Best Polka Set

Yeah, and a fun lot too… The name suits them…

Re: The Best Polka Set

ailly’s recommendations linked to ~

"Monks Of The Screw Trio: Brathar Na NOl"

Johnny O’Leary ~ YES!!! ~ mentioned but not linked to previously ~

"Johnny O’Leary: Music For The Set"
"Johnny O’Leary Of Sliabh Luachra"
"Johnny O’Leary: An Calmfhear / The Trooper"

On all these recordings you will find polka sets, and also on the previous recordings, and most link to transcriptions on site for the individual polkas that make up the set, though sometimes a shared name can cause confusion there…

Re: The Best Polka Set

Great to see polkas being spoken of with the enthusiasm and respect they deserve!
For a couple of personal favourite sets:
Ballyvourney / Toormore #1 / Maids of Ardagh
Hammy’s #2 / O’Grada’s #1 / Church Street Polka
(The first two of the second set have probably got other names, although, being polkas, perhaps not)

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Re: The Best Polka Set

We always played all our known polkas (about 10) in the one set.

Just to get them out of the way etc. But punters love polkas!

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Got to love that old Planxty favourite

Denis Murphy’s / 40 pound cheque / John Ryan’s

And I love Con Thadgo’s, but not many people here seem to know it. It’s a doddle for backers too - just D & A if I recall.

Re: The Best Polka Set

Pennsylvania / Who Stole the Kishka / In Heaven There Is No Beer


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Re: The Best Polka Set

We play:
Britches full of stitches/Micky chewing bubble gum/John Ryan’s


Ballydesmond 1 & 2/ Phil’s polka*

We call it Phil’s Polka because Phil taught it to us and nobody knows what it’s really called. If I can ever figure out how to write abc I’ll post it.

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I like Johnny O’Leary 1&2 as played by Seamus Creagh, Aidan Coffey. I managed to learn that one by ear from this recording.

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I’ll give you two sets that I love. The first is off Liz Carroll’s "IN PLAY" CD. The tunes are:

Kieran’s Polka/ The Bike to Ballyhahill

I learned a set while I was in Tipp last year called the Upperchurch Polka set. This was a set of 4 tunes, and no one knew the name of the tunes. There is one listed in TUNES section, but it’s not one of the 4 I learned. I was going to upload the tunes as Upperchurch 1 through 4, but the guidelines say not to number tunes.

Re: The Best Polka Set

I’ve tried to play these polka sets:
The lakes of Sligo/Top of Maol/General executioner (Tom Billy’s)
then there was the one we used to call "that one" (very common and popular - the polka everybody learns first) and a ganainm that turned out to have the lovely title Turn up the tables on a Shaskeen LP from the 70’s (I think!). You can just picture the tables being turned up in the pub to make room for the dancing (or did I get that from the sleeve notes).
Lovely polka anyway.

Re: The Best Polka Set

Thank you all!
I think we’ll be playing some of that soon πŸ™‚

Re: The Best Polka Set


i am afraid we have forgoten DAN HERLIHY from Ballydesmond great style for sliabh luachra music on B/C accordion , also very nice man.

2 lovely CDS : the night of the fair
the ballydesmond polka

with lovely sets

also a very good book for every body who have interest in

sliabh luachra music :

slaibh luachra music master vol 1

Dan adress : DAN HERLIHY ballydesmond village, co cork

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Re: The Best Polka Set

confirm what is said before about DENIS DOODY recording :
a monument for slides and polka.

have been made by "mulligan" in 1978 would be a great idea to have all theses tune on a CD

Denis was playing on a D/D# , i suppose

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