Barndances called polka

Barndances called polka

I recently posted a lovely Josephine Keegan tune, the Thingemy Jig (https://thesession.org/tunes/20715#setting41114). Well worth checking out, by the way. One of the responses to the setting - thanks Trish Santer - was about the Thingummyjig Polka, a tune I was previously unfamiliar with.

On looking it up I discovered that it’s actually a barndance with polka in the name, just like the Bluebell Polka. That struck me as odd as I had assumed that the Bluebell Polka was uniquely named as some sort of musical joke. Out of curiousity I did a search of all barndances with ‘polka’ in the name and thirty eight came back. 38!

Clearly there is more going on than a humourous approach to naming tunes. So my question is whether anyone can explain why there is a body of barndances called the ‘something’ polka?

Re: Barndances called polka

"Polka" is a specific kind of dance. I’ve only heard "barndance" referring to a general type of dance party where several different types of dances are played. Are you using "barndance" to refer to a specific type of dance?

Re: Barndances called polka

We’ve had many discussions here re polkas V barn dances. Ceolachan and Dr Dow seem to be "authorities" on the subject. So, they might wish to comment here?

There seems to be different views as to whether it is correct to refer to these 4/4 tunes as polkas. I’m inclined to think it is OK as there certainly seems to be a "tradition" of them, especially in "Northern" regions, e.g. Scotland, Orkney, Shetland, Scandinavia etc.

However, there is only a facility here for the 2/4 variety. So, 4/4 will be submitted as some other tune type and usually as a barn dance.

Here’s one I submitted many years ago which caused a bit of "heat".

https://thesession.org/tunes/3118

🙂

Re: Barndances called polka

There’s more to polkas than the 2/4 straight tunes played in Ireland. In other countries "polka" can mean something quite different. Scottish polkas are usually played with a bounce, especially if they are dance tunes.

I learnt a tune, described as a barndance, recently from Clodagh Warnock from Donegal. From what she said, my understanding was that a barndance was a specific type of dance, rather than a dance in a barn.
That ties in with the situation in Scotland where one of the most common and easiest ceilidh dances is the Canadian Barn Dance.

Re: Barndances called polka

Isn’t Clodagh from Maghera, County Derry?

You’ll seldom hear a polka in Donegal!

Posted by .

Re: Barndances called polka

GW, no idea where Clodagh is from, but she lives in Moville, Donegal, and it was a barndance she taught, not a polka.

Re: Barndances called polka

So for sake of argument, focusing only on the purely aural experiencing of the music itself (completely isolated from what it’s called, what time signature might be conventional for notation, what dances might be danced to the various tunes) what aural differences exist between the various tunes in question?

Seems whenever such topics come up most, or all, of the focus in on non-musical considerations.

Re: Barndances called polka

Good question, Richard, and not easy to answer! As an (ex)-dancer who plays for ceilidh bands, it’s just the feel of the music, and whether it will work to the 1-2-3-hop step used: there’s a lift on that 4th beat to coincide with the hop. It does for that clip posted by Johnny Jay.
The main "barn dance" that is used in Scottish ceilidh is the so-called Canadian Barn Dance, but it gets danced to polkas, hornpipes, 6/8 marches and all sorts. And we have a set of Irish polkas that we use for a Gay Gordons, which starts with a walking step: and other sets may start with a 2/4 march then break into a dotted 6/8.
So, no, can’t really answer it: just sort of know what works.

Re: Barndances called polka

Do you not mean 2/4 (not 6/8) marches for the CBD, Trish?

Re: Barndances called polka

Yes, of course: sorry for the mistake! Plenty of 2/4s!

Re: Barndances called polka

🙂
Another good tune. As you can see, this topic has been debated before…..

Re: Barndances called polka

Many thanks to everyone for all the replies. Special thanks to Johnny Jay Melody Player and Trish Santer for prompting me to ask the question with their nice comments on the setting of Josephine Keegan’s tune, the Thingemy Jig.

The discussion got me reading through some of the old discussions on this site and a little bit wider as well. It would seem that barndances and particularly schottisches provide the link. In Ireland I’m used to thinking of polkas as very lively swinging 2/4 tunes whereas outside of Ireland the schottische was regarded as a type of polka, albeit slower.

Everyday is a learning day.