Irish music in England in the 19C

Irish music in England in the 19C

Last night I suffered my wife watching an adaptation of a Jane Austinish novel, Sanditon. This is set in South West England in the early 19C. There was a ball depicted that seemed to have had a rather contemporary sounding Irish band. Does anyone know if this is likely to be an authentic possibility?

Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

Sounds ‘par for the course’ with an Andrew Davies adaptation.

Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

as far as i know, while it might be a _possibility_, it’s not very likely; in England in the early 19th century, English country dance would have been the most common form of dance music, being replaced by European dance styles (such as the waltz) later in the 19th century. Jane Austen was herself quite fond of country dance and i think it’s fair to say that, unless she explicitly said that the music was Irish music, she would have been thinking of country dance when she wrote that.

that said, i do recall recently seeing a description of court dance music in England somewhat before that (perhaps early or middle 18th century?) which mentioned Irish music being well liked, suggesting it was at least somewhat well known in England at the time (unsurprisingly, given the amount of ‘folk’ music that was played by upper-class amateur musicians at the time). if that’s accurate, then it’s certainly possible it could have still been played for dance occasionally in the 19th century. unfortunately i now can’t remember where i read that, so i don’t know how accurate it is.

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Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

Many tunes that you think of as Irish these days were widely played across Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. Tune books like Playfords, Walshes and Airds Airs were published in London, Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The local bands were mostly fiddlers and fluters, augmented by cello. They wouldn’t have had guitars and bodhrans though!

Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

are there many tunes in Playford that are nowadays thought of as Irish? i haven’t looked through the entire book, but most of the tunes i’ve seen in there don’t sound especially Irish. although there clearly was a lot of musical exchange between Ireland and other nearby countries, country dance seems not to have been very much involved in it. (i would be interested if someone knows otherwise, though.)

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Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

There was a lot of Irish music around in Victorian times. Thomas Hardy, as well as being an author and poet, was a noted fiddler and collector of tunes. He noted many tunes from itinerant Irish workers but whether any of this style of music penetrated into society balls I cannot say. As to the style of playing Hardy describes typical country bands in his earlier work. They would often double as the church musicians but I suspect that posh dances would employ classically trained players.

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Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

Sanditon is set in regency times, though - 20-odd years before Hardy was born (and he mostly collected English tunes) and 30 years before the influx of Irish people to England, Wales and Scotland post-famine.

There were fashionable Irish tunes at that time - v. The Saucy Arethusa - but they’d hardly have been played in the contemporary ceilidh-band manner.

Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

(Sorry about the blank post above. I was going to add - *love* the description of the TV Sanditon as ‘Jane Austen-ish’.
Perhaps it should be specified how much Jane Austen there is against how much Andrew Davies, just as in chocolate bars we are told the proportion of cocoa solids. :) )

Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

I know that Jane Austin wrote the first 15 chapters then abandoned the story. It was subsequently, erm, enhanced by various others up to the present day. I have no idea who gave what to the creation of the rest of story. I like your analogy, though.

I am more intrigued by the music. I don’t see a problem with it being Irish in origin. There seems to been something of a shared repertoire throughout Britain at the time. It’s the style of playing that jarred with me. I expect there are plenty more anachronisms yet to come. I suppose a contemporary English dance group playing 18C/19C music, such as Boldwood, would have been just as wrong. Thank you for your comments.

Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

I would not be moved to question or quibble about the use of Irish music. However, I would be annoyed at the use of modern instrument add-ons like guitar and bodhran if such there be.

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Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

Samuel Pepys records playing ‘Merrily Kiss the Quaker’s Wife’ for Charles II and watching him dance to the tune with his mistress at Whitehall. Another old tune scattered across the British Isles would have been ‘Soldier’s Joy’.

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Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

Certainly Irish tunes were not uncommon in the US by the early 1800s. Edward Reilly in NY published several folios containing Irish tunes in the first and second decades of the nineteenth century so it seems quite probable that the tunes reached England by that time. Agree that the instrumentation of that period would not be what we now see in a session. Reilly specifically indicates the music being suitable for flute and fiddle.

Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

The question was about the likelihood of "a rather contemporary sounding Irish band" ….

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Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

As addressed above, Irish tunes did appear in 19c British dance music collections. But in the brief video I found of the ball scene, they were playing Scottish music (which is also to be found in 19c British dance music collections, sometimes the same ones). I couldn’t place the vocal piece. The first few measures of the instrumental started out like Fiddler, Play the Light Strathspey (late 20c), but wasn’t long enough to definitively identify it. The performance practice was decidedly also 20c, especially the instrumental accompaniment of the mouth music. (I liked it, but it was not historically informed.) The dancing did not resemble early 19c English country dancing, and as is common in costume drama ball scenes, they weren’t dancing in time with the music.

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Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

I also just watched the video and like Tracie enjoyed it well enough - but I have to ask how likely it would be to have Gaelic mouth music at a posh ball in Southern England in the early 1800’s? Still, I like Julie Fowlis so I’m willing to let it go……….

Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

Here’s an example of the ‘union’ pipes (the older name for uilleann pipes) being played in London in the 1790s. http://nms.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-000-579-675-C

As the Union pipes derived from the pastoral pipes, which were common accross all the British Isles, it seems there was a period when they were know and played in England and Scotland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Robertson_(instrument_maker)


Union pipes were made in London, Newcastle and Edinburgh, but never in great numbers ai think. They apparrently fell out of favour on the mainland in the C19. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25163939

Also from Richars D Cook in an old thread,
https://thesession.org/discussions/27624
Late 18th century/ early 19th century Union PIpe makers:

Malcolm MacGregor, London
John Dunn, Michael Dunn, Newcastle
Robert Reid, North Shields (1784-1837)
James Reid, North Shields
J Massie, Abereen (also made Pastoral pipes)
James Sharpe, Aberdeen (also Pastoral)
John Naughtan, Aberdeen (also Pastoral)
Hugh Robertson, Edinburgh (1760s)
Bannon
Robert Scott, London
Weldon
Nicholas Kerr, Edinburgh
Donald MacDonald, Edinburgh (1767-1840)
James Kenna, Dublin (making keyed pipes 1770-1790)

Union pipe players in Scotland and Northern England:

Billy Purvis 1784-1853
James Allan 1734-1810
Neil MacVicar
John Sutherland
William Mackie
Robert Millar 1789-1865

Venues where Union PIpes were performed:

Highland Society of London 1788-1822
Performers included Richard Fitzmaurice, Patrick O Farrell, John Murphy, John MacGregor, Dennis Courtney, Malcolm MacGregor, James McDonnell

Perth Gaelic Society
Malcolm MacGregor performed on GHB, Union Pipes, Flageolet, and German Flute

Aberdeen Highland Society

Posted by Richard D Cook 8 years ago.

Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

Interestingly the tune used for the dance scene has a few names, but I know it as "The Black Rogue". All "Irish music" except for harp music of O’Carolan etc, is imported. I believe brought back to Ireland by the Sons of Wealthy Catholic families, who were sent abroad to Catholic Countries for an education deprived of them at the time, in Ireland or England. They would have had an education which included playing music. This is why I think that Irish music has a lot in common with Baroque practises. I believe the name of the band playing is called "Gaelic storm", and that they are of course giving a "sexy" modern version of a dance, which is exactly what the Director wants to give to the series as a whole.

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Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

As Dickt2 has already mentioned, Thomas Hardy, both in his novels and other writings often made references to loads of Irish and other (almost) cross cultural traditional tunes. But as ‘meself’ pointed out, "The question was about the likelihood of "a rather contemporary sounding Irish band". Movies are NEVER historically accurate.

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Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

> how likely it would be to have Gaelic mouth music at a posh ball in Southern England in the early 1800’s

Before 1822, vanishingly unlikely, I’d think. Between 1822 and 1843, maybe. After 1843, quite possible. Angus MacKay used to perform at social occasions with a band of children from the Caledonian Asylum, which must have been a sight.

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Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

thanks Calum - interesting historical info!

Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

Jane was in love with an Irishman, the boffins say.

And there’s enough evidence in her novels that the odd Irish tune made it into soirees and dances, even if considered a little too high spirited by some. The Austen academics are already all over it;) https://austenauthors.net/ireland-irish-jane-austens-novels/

Re: Julie Fowlis in England; 19C

I found a brief clip of the ball. I like it. But it’s not even authentic to Jane Austen much less the period.
Only on the Mustard. ;)

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Re: Irish music in England in the 19C

You can get a fair idea of the contemporary repertoire by looking at some of the contemporary collections reproduced on the villagemusicproject site and fiddlers’ tunebooks like William Winter’s.

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