Dance Music Of Ireland, Volume 4

By Matt Cunningham

Nine comments

Dance Music Of Ireland Vol 4 by Matt Cunningham

There is a discrepancy between the track numbers for Volume 4 in Matt Cunningham’s tune book “Dance Music of Ireland” (23 tracks) and the tracks actually on the CD (22 tracks). For the purposes of the tune listing I’ve followed the tune book as being most generally useful. When Ceolachan and I have sorted out what has happened one of us will doubtless post an explanation so that readers will be able to accurately correlate the tune book listing with the CD tracks.

“Matt Cunningham’s Dance Music of Ireland” ~ a good variety of tune forms

- a collection of 298 traditional Irish dance tunes with chords, as featured on his first 10 recordings, volumes 1 - 10 of “Dance Music of Ireland”.

Dave Mallinson Publications, 1999

Dance Music Of Ireland Vol 4 by Matt Cunningham

The solution to the little problem of why are there 22 tracks on the CD but 23 in the corresponding list in the “Dance Music of Ireland” tune book:

The 5th track on the CD is the music for the 5th Figure of the Paris Set (a set dance). Normally, it consists of alternate hornpipes and marches, which are listed in the tune book as track 5. However, at the end of “The Thames” hornpipe there is a pause and you hear Matt Cunningham saying “An alternative fifth figure for the Paris set, hornpipe time”. The 5th track on the CD then continues with the three hornpipes that are listed as track 6 in the tune book. In other words, the 5th track on the CD incorrectly, in my opinion, combines tracks 5 and 6 that are listed in the tune book. Hence, all subsequent tracks on the CD are one number out of step with the tune book, which is why there is an apparent discrepancy in the number of tracks between the two.

“Matt Cunningham’s Dance Music of Ireland” tune book

A few comments about this incredibly useful tune book. First, I whole-heartedly agree with “c” that it is one of the few single volume tune collections worth having.

The tunes are all fairly accurate transcriptions of Matt’s playing on the first 10 CDs of the collection. Bearing in mind that most of the tunes are played by Matt on his Hohner ‘Club’ Model II accordeon (or on one of his others), any fiddle player will notice that there are parts of some tunes which obviously lie far easier under the right hand of a box player than under the left hand of a fiddle player. A slight adjustment to the notes (or even a change of key) will, of course, be quite in order so that the fiddler may have an easier life!

What is also noticeable is that Matt never plays an A or B part the same when he repeats it - there are always slight variations in the ornaments, or even in the detail of a phrase. This is particularly so in the polkas - fine examples of how to vary a tune, even the old war horse polkas that lumber out for the beginners, except that they don’t lumber for Matt, they are now thoroughbred racing animals.

For those who aren’t familiar with set dancing, a set dance consists of a number of danced “figures” (each figure corresponding to a track on the CD). A figure will consist of a number of tunes (sometimes only one) arranged so that the total bar length corresponds exactly to the total dance steps and movements of the dancers. Therefore, the music and dancers should finish simultaneously.

The number of bars required in a figure doesn’t always, perhaps not even usually, correspond to an exact number of tunes, so what often happens is that a figure may finish with just a single play of the B part of the last tune, or even just the last 4 bars. Clearly, there is some skill involved in preparing a set of tunes for a figure. It’s certainly not the same as thinking up a tune set for a session.

Another feature of set dance music which may confuse a beginner is that a figure always starts with an _extra_ play-through of the A part of the first tune. This is so that the dancers get themselves ready in position, and get the tempo in their minds - and perhaps also to give the dance leader a chance to object if the tempo is way too slow or fast.

Click on his link to find more links to visuals of set dancing…

A for nought ~

The once through the A-part of a tune, typically a 32 bar tune, so beginning AAABB ~ and then carrying forward as usual, AABB for as long as needed, is and was also shared in other dance traditions, past and present. However, in some cases the length has been shortened to the last 4 bars of a tune as an intro, or the last bar, or “Four Potatoes” (beats), or just a chord… I much prefer the longer opportunity to get into synch with the music and musicians and to warm up my feet ~ welcoming the 8 bar intro with moving feet… 😉

“Dance Music of Ireland: Volume 4” ~ tracks & dances

Track List:

The Paris Set ~ County Clare
1. ) 1st Figure - Reels
2. ) 2nd Figure - Reels
3. ) 3rd Figure – Reels
4. ) 4th Figure - Jigs
5a. ) 5th Figure - Hornpipes & Marches alternately
5b. ) 5th Figure - Hornpipes (alternate 5th)

The Connemara Set ~ County Galway
6. ) 1st Figure - Reels
7. ) 2nd Figure - Reels
8. ) 3rd Figure - Reels
9. ) 4th Figure - Maggie in the Woods

The Labasheeda Set ~ County Clare
10.) 1st Figure - Reels
11.) 2nd Figure - Reels
12.) 3rd Figure - Reels
13.) 4th Figure - Reels
14.) 5th Figure - Jigs
15.) 5th Figure - Flings (alternate 5th)
16.) 6th Figure - Hornpipes

The South Kerry Set
17.) 1st Figure - Polkas
18. ) 2nd Figure - Jigs
19. ) 3rd Figure - Polkas
20.) 4th Figure - Polkas
21.) 5th Figure - Polkas
22.) 6th Figure - Polkas

“Matt Cunningham’s Dance Music of Ireland” tune book

A further useful feature of Matt’s tune book is that he always mentions the composer of a tune if he knows it.