The Eagle’s Whistle

By Michael Tubridy

Five comments

Music from west Clare

Michael Tubridy’s collection covers most of the genres of Irish Traditional Music and tunes that he learnt growing up played on Flutes, Concertinas, tin Whistles, Fife, Bombarde and Bodhran

The Eagle’s Whistle

Track 7, Polkas

First one is extremely common, and found in thesession several times under different names:
Cathy’s Favourite https://thesession.org/tunes/531
Ballydesmond Polka No.3 https://thesession.org/tunes/1410
Shoe the Donkey (!) https://thesession.org/tunes/3724

Second one is given - The Lass of Gowrie (a.k.a. The lakes of Sligo)

Third one can be found here as "Ray’s Favourite", but the person who submitted it originally failed to leave any comment. https://thesession.org/tunes/3956

Re: The Eagle’s Whistle, liner notes

There are copies of the CD still available online (some at extortionate prices) and some from vendors in mainland Europe rather than Ireland or the UK. The liner notes are a good read, and give a good idea of why the CD is still a very good listen, and provide an insight into the clarity of Tubridy’s commitment to the music of west Clare. As does the music itself on the CD of course.

The BBC4 profile of the Chieftains ("Legends: The Chieftains") was not bad, but the quote that Michael’s decision to leave, by making way for the great Matt Molloy, made the Chieftains "better" was ridiculous. Of course, Molloy is special, but so was Michael. The Chieftains just became a different band.

So, anyway, I have scanned the liner notes (apologies for any uncorrected scanning errors):


"In planning this record I set myself the objectives firstly of including a cross section of all the basic types of Irish traditional music as I know them, and secondly of playing mainly the tunes with which I grew up in the townland of Ballykett near Kilrush in west Clare. I consider myself fortunate in having been reared in the country my parents were farmers and they both loved traditional music and dancing. My mother played a little on the concertina and two of her brothers were also musicians; in fact our neighbourhood had many musicians and house dances were a regular feature of our rural life. Finally all the instruments on the record are played by myself, the combinations being made possible by the marvels of modern recording equipment.

The album opens with a set of four single reels. This type of reel appears to belong to an older form of dance music than the more usual double reel played nowadays. As a person who played a lot for country set dances in my younger days in west Clare, I have a great regard for these relatively simple reels, probably due to their eminent suitability for the Plain and Caledonian Sets.

This leads into a pair of hornpipes, the first of which is named after Tullycrine, a parish in south west Clare, not far from Kilrush; it is one of the few hornpipes which I regard as local to this part of the country.

Track three contains single jigs, the first I learned from that great Kilmihil flute player, Paddy Breen, who lived for many years in London. The second, from Mrs Birmingham, a former close neighbour from whom I learned it many years ago, and in whose house I played many a tune and danced many a set. The third tune is a typical Kerry slide.

An Droighneân Donn (track four) is one of our best known slow airs and here I play the Clare version. My source is Mrs Crotty our families were related and naturally I was a frequent visitor to her house. As appropriate, I have played the air on her concertina.

During my various trips to Brittany I learned some Breton dance music, (track five), and its simple but dynamic qualities appeal to me very much. In Brittany the dancing and music are very closely related, as they were in west Clare when I began playing music and going to house dances. I believe that the person who can play for the dancers and dance for the players obtains greater pleasure from his participation than the person who regards either as complete in itself.

Track six, Rioghan i n Uaigneas (The Forlorn Queen), is one of the old harper’s tunes which was collected by Edward Bunting, from the harper Arthur O’Neill. The composer is unknown.

Next a set of three polkas which were often played for the first four figures of the Plain Set. It was not usual for tunes to be played in groups as they are now one tune sufficed for each figure of the Set occasionally one of the better or more adventurous musicians would change into a second tune in the middle of one of the longer figures.

A group of three double jigs follows. In County Clare (as indeed in many other areas) traditional musicians are generally judged on their ability to play reels, and reels form by far the greater part of their repertoires. The reason for this could be that in the Caledonian and Plain sets, both of which comprise six figures (or parts), the first four figures are danced to reels (or sometimes to polkas in the Plain Set) the fifth to a jig, and the sixth to a hornpipe (or sometimes to a reel or polka). Nevertheless many fine double jigs have been handed down and these three represent such tunes.

The three marches (track nine) are ones which I played when I was a member of the local pipe band in Kilrush. It was during this time also that I began to play dance music on the tin whistle and to attend local country dances. In the pipe band we used, instead of practice chanters, tin whistles with thumb holes cut at the back to give the high ‘doh’ and, while not officially practising for the band, some of us would be playing and swopping jigs and reels. I still retain my love and respect for pipe band music.

The next tune, Cead Moladh le Muire Beannaithe (track ten) is one of a large store of old Irish hymns which to me form another very important part of our musical heritage. This is followed by a group of three slip jigs (track eleven) which some people maintain are the oldest surviving form of our ancient dance music,

An Gabhairin Bul is the tune which is played for the traditional dance of the same name. It is danced by a group of three pairs in a triangular formation. As far as I am aware this form is peculiar to County Clare,

I thought it fitting to end the recording as I began it with a group of reels again single reels. These have withstood the test of time, being as popular now as they were thirty years ago.

Michael Tubridy 1978"

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