tunes & airs, English & Irish names

tunes & airs, English & Irish names

Why is it that (most) tunes are commonly referred to by their English name, but very often, airs are called by their Irish name? Does anyone know where I can hear the pronunciation of any of the following? Or is anyone willing to try to type it out phonetically? At least that would get me started, though I’d much rather hear it.
( Is that akin to no dots? ;-) )

Úirchill an Chreagáin
Ráitachas na Tairngreacht
Port na bPucai

I had another (Geaftaí Bhaile Buí), but I was able to find a YouTube video where it’s pronounced in the introduction, so after listening about 100 times I think I have that one down. About the other three I still haven’t a clue.

Boy did my spell checker make wiggly red lines all over that post!

Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

I could be wrong, but the obvious explanation would be that most - [but I don’t think all] - traditional Irish slow airs are derived from songs, so the title would be taken from some of the lyrics. This doesn’t apply to most dance tunes, although there are a few which do have words attached.

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Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

… and haven’t the Irish tune names that have been left untranslated been left that way because they are too rude to translate?

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Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

Kenny, that makes perfect sense. Thanks.

llig, ha ha, of course! Unless they’re "renamed" for the sake of being proper, I guess. Like when An Phis Fhliuch becomes O’Farrell’s Welcome to Limerick? (Well, I guess he could have had that sort of welcome.) A favourite tune here anyway.

Meanwhile, any pronunciation help with the 3 above would be appreciated.

Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

That last one was *originally* O’Farrell’s Welcome - the bawdy title is only a few decades old.

I suspect print had a lot to do with it. By and large slow airs were printed with Irish titles even when the words were left out. Dance tunes were published with English titles because the market was instrumentalists who mostly had much less Irish than the singers or the players who wanted to play song airs. (The dance music always sold more widely, e.g. in Britain and America).

Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

Thanks Jack…learn somethin’ new every day.

gam — Fantastic! Thank you!

And, I’ve found Ráitachas na Tairngreacht on a Danu album, so I’m set.

Off to listen. & listen. & listen….

Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

‘twas first published in O’Farrell’s national tutor for the union pipes, and he’s listed it with his name (rather than irish or scotch, which was for traditional tunes) so presumably he’s the composer. It also has a 6th part, which better balances the whole tune. No one plays it but me around here though!

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Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

Dia dhaoibh! Hello all!

Jack, regarding your coment

"the bawdy title is only a few decades old."

I remember my late Uncle Michael from Salthill giving me the translation to that back in 1976 as "The Wet C U Next Tuesday!

He said there was no other way to translate it and he was a native speaker. I’d say he knew a fair bit about Irish music, let alone the language; he was world champion piper 1931. I’d say it helped my cousin Philip, his eldest son, to win All Irelands on pipes and Irish Singing too

All the best

Brian x

Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

Brian, Jack disregards hearsay. He only pays truck to the provenance of written history. A commendable standpoint from a historians point of view I’d say … though worse than useless when the topic is an aural tradition.

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Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

The name is one that goes back to the sixties. Willie Clancy was playing an audition for radio, after each tune played he was asked to give a title. He did, and made up a series like An Phis Fliuch and more like it. He was not called back for a broadcast but the name for this one at least stuck.

Clancy learned the tune from Seán O Riada, who he heard playing played the tune from a book.

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Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

That’s a good story prof, I like ir

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Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

Kenny’s right of course - instrumental versions of Irish songs mostly. But not always, there was a lively tradition in making up ballads in the 1800’s. Musicians seemed to make them up at the drop of a hat to commemorate local scandals and events, all the better to play at local fairs and sell the broad sheets. I think they used well known airs from other songs in the main though.
As English was mostly spoken then, they’d be in English. My own moniker would be a bit like that, sometimes also called The Banks of the Danube. I think the air is older.

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Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

Hey Prof,

I thought I’d read a different story from you, that Seamus Ennis named it that, in some discussion about the difference between irish music and baroque/chamber music…

No truth to that story? ‘Cause I rather like it :D

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Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

It was Clancy who took up the tune after hearing O’Riada lift it from a book and he put it in circulation. Can’t remember where the audition story came from but it would be in character.

I don’t, at this point, recall any Ennis involvement.

You know what they say about not letting the truth get in the way of a good story though, don’t you?

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Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

Absolutely! Maybe I’ll just use that story as an act when teaching opportunities arise…

It’s interesting that Clancy plays (mostly) the second part differently from the fifth, as in O’Farrell’s, but leaves off the 6th part. But then, who knows which book O’Riada got it from.

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Re: tunes & airs, English & Irish names

shhhh … don’t tell the historians

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