Michael Gallagher’s Fancy reel

Also known as The Wise Maid.

Michael Gallagher's Fancy has been added to 7 tunebooks.

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One setting

X: 1
T: Michael Gallagher's Fancy
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:A4 B4|A2AG EFGE|1 A4 B2A2|G2AG EFGE|2 A4dcAF|G2AG EFGE:|
~G2AG EFGE:|2 F~A3 d3F|G2AG EFGE||
|:(3.f.g.f df e2de|(3.f.g.f df efge|(3.f.g.f df e2de|g2bg efge:|
|:d2fd adfd|d2fd efge|d2fd adfd|~g2f2 efge:|
|:fdda fdad|fddf efge|fdda fdad|~g2f2 efge:|
|:d2cA BGAG|F~B3 GABc|d2cA (3.B.c.d AF|~G2AG EFGE:|
|:dAdA cAcA| dcd2 efge|dAdA cAcA|~G2AG EFGE:|
|:afdf afdf|afdf efge|afdf a2df|~g2f2 efge:|
|:(3.A.c.A Fc A2Fc|(3.A.c.A FA EFGE|1 (3.A.c.A Fc A2EF|
~G2AG EFGE:|2 (3.A.c.A Fc dcAF|~G2AG EFGE||

Fifteen comments

A Big Tune

From a batch of home recordings - acetates? Helpfully the date of "Washington’s birthday, 1953," is given - that would be February 21st. Recorded by pipers Tom Busby and Andy Conroy, Andy also played a couple of sides of duets with Mike. Gallagher was a Leitrim flute player who learned the pipes after emigrating to the States; he recorded a couple of 78s in the 1920s, showing a phenomenal skill in the Connaught style of tight piping most pipers recording in the US exhibited then.

On these home recordings he’s not quite at the peak of his powers shown 30 years earlier, but the music is very spirited nonetheless. He also seems to have developed a taste for playing the regulators more; on his 78s he settles for playing the odd single note on the tenor reg, and also backs up the bottom D on the chanter by also playing a D on the baritone reg, either as staccato as the chanter or as a drone over his crans. On some of these home recordings he comps semi-constantly on the bass and baritone, ala Leo Rowsome, rather different than what he did on the commercial sides.

I’ve transcribed the basics here - no attempt is made at capturing his phrasing, which is generally tight as pipers call it, with plenty of closure of the chanter between notes. What I’ve noted as a roll on G is more like a trilling roll, two A notes cutting the G first; at least I think that’s what he does, the recording quality is a bit crude. But I believe he did the like on his 78s, and it fits in with the style of his colleagues in the US - Patsy Touhey, Mike Carney. Gallagher also sounds like he’s gracing notes here and there, throw them in where it fits.

For pipers - the high in the 8th part is obtaining by venting it by opening the F hole first; it takes a bit of practice, also a good reed, of course. Leo Rowsome explains these venting techniques for notes in the top half of the 2nd octave very well in his tutor, which you can peruse at the NPU source website.

The Variant for the 10th part I didn’t transcribe as part of same, even though he plays it pretty much every time through; I thought it ruined the symmetry of a 12 part tune in a sense. ;) Fascinating music, and perhaps these extra big tunes are a part of Leitrim music in particular - Brian MacNamara and his family seem to have dug up a good few from manuscripts found in that county.

And done. Ack, that took me no less than three nights of work to write out, even in bare form. But well worth it - I was given the dub of this tune 8 years ago, and have always wanted to learn it, but cripes! Not just the 12 parts, but notice how some of them sound like parts of the Four Courts or Pinch of Snuff. Very confusing stuff to memorize.

Thanks to the gent who kindly sent me the dubs, and the gent he got them from, and Tom and Andy for recording Mike in the first place - they say he was a very reclusive type in his later years.

Epic tune! Just one question, what are the:

"[A}", "[B]" and so on for? And why does A have a curly and a square bracket?

Kevin, is there anywhere a public recording of this jewel?

The letters in brackets show where the variations are used - those are written out at the bottom. I accidentally used a curly bracket for A, fixed that now.

I was given the recording in confidence, and doubt the person who sent it would want it available as a download, sorry. But I’ll write him about my transcription and see; perhaps NPU could make it available, they’ve done great work with their Source website.

Kevin, it might be a great idea to give such a recording, or a good copy of it, to the archives of NPU to save it for eternity. If the person donates it, he will a good fame under pipers!

I’m almost certain they would have these recordings already; Seán Donnelly used to transcribe tunes recorded by Gallagher and Busby, and he regularly appears in An Píobaire, was part of their touring Piperlink presentation, etc. Whether they provide the tapes for the public on their website is another matter, here’s hoping. The audio section there is a bit threadbare at the moment, compared to the rest.

Kevin, are you sure about the 2nd bar in the 9th part where you write |F~B3 GABc| ?
I would expect it to start with either G~B3 or F~A3

Yes, that’s what he played. Doing the transcription I checked that bit pretty carefully.

So I take it you live in Switzerland and play the pipes? Any pipers in St Gallen? My great-great grandfather emigrated from there to the States 180 years ago. I see there’s a Rietmann who leads their local jazz big band.

One interpretation for "Rietmann" is "Man in the reeds," fitting that I’d play the pipes. ;) Also interesting that St Gall was from Bangor, and that the province had a long standing connection with Ireland via itinerant monks.

I’ m from the Zurich area, St.Gall is about 50m northeast
I would translate "Rietmann" man from the marsch or bog, so "Kevin Bogman" would be a good translation, too.

AFAIK no pipers in St.Gall, but some fiddlers, nearby Appenzell is an area with a lot of fiddle/dulcimer music.

The legend says Gallus was an Irish monk living in Reichenau near Constance, but then he argued abit with the boss there and had to start a new buisness 😉

Hi Kevin
You mentioned this tune has echoes of Pinch of Snuff etc. Have you checked out On the Road played by Mickey & Francies Byrne? There are many parts in common.
Great tune, not sure I’ve got the concentration to learn so many parts!

Do you mean On The Road from Glen to Carrick, to give it its full/older title? That’s a Donegal version of a tune called the Chorus Reel, and yes, I forgot to include it in the list of melodies this reel resembles here and there. In fact maybe Gallagher just played one part of each tune, then played one part of the next tune…

Interestingly enough the other unusual tune Gallagher played on this occasion was a piping version of the reel called Jackson’s in Donegal.

Yes Kevin, the Glen Road to Carrick/On The Road/Jacky Latin/Jackson’s- I’ve comes across all those names for variants of this tune played by Donegal fiddlers. Also Eddie Duffy’s tune The Wise Maid is very similar (it’s in Hidden Fermanagh)

Michael Gallagher’s Fancy

I played this for a friend who remarked that it sounded very much like a bagpipe tune popular in competitions in the 80s, the Wise Maid: https://thesession.org/tunes/7335 This is not the omnipresent session warhorse also known by that title. Johnny "Watt" Henry also plays this tune on his One Out of The Fort CD, as the Wise Maid, his parts are in a different order, and he remarks before playing the tune that he learned it from two different sources, one of whom had forgotten half of it at some point - no surprise there! - another musician supplied the forgotten parts later. The ultimate source for the tune was Johnny Gorman, a very famous blind piper, who wandered around Roscommon/Sligo/Leitrim, playing on occasion with later household names Michael Coleman and James Morrison, whose fiddling shows an awful lot of piping influence. Mike Gallagher was born and bred in Leitrim so very likely would have heard Gorman at some point - Gallagher emigrated before 1916, he is shown in famous picture of NYC musicians taken that year - he is shown with the pipes on, and was said to have learned that instrument in America, having played the flute at home. Gorman died in 1917.