Kitty O’Shea’s barndance

Also known as Kitty O. Shea’s, Kitty O’Neil, Kitty O’Neil’s, Kitty O’Neil’s Champion Jig, Kitty O’Neill, Kitty O’Neill’s, Kitty O’Neill’s Champion Jig, Kitty O’Niel’s, Kitty O’Niell’s, Kitty O’Shea, Kitty O’Shea’s Champion Jig, Kitty Sharp’s Champion Jig.

There are 19 recordings of this tune.

Kitty O’Shea’s has been added to 7 tune sets.

Kitty O’Shea’s has been added to 140 tunebooks.

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Two settings

X: 1
T: Kitty O'Shea's
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Amaj
|:AB|c2cB c2cB|c2cf ecBA|B2 BA B2 BA|Bagf (3efe (3dcB|
c2cB c2cB|c2cf ecBA|~c3A ~B3a|(3gfe (3dcB A2:|
|:AB|c2ac c2ac|d2b2 B3c|dcde fgaf|(3efe (3dcB c2 AB|
c2ac c2ac|d2b2 B3c|dcde fgaf|(3efe (3dcB A2:|
|:AB|cffg fedB|cffg fedB|cffg fefg|aecA B2:|
|:Az|A,C2E A2Ad|cAce fga2|A,C2E A2Ad|cBAc B3z|
A,C2E A2Ad|cAce fga2|(3agf (3gfe (3fed (3edc|(3dcB (3cBG A2:|
|:=f2|f2fa fecA|[E2A2][EA][DA] [E3A3][EA]|[F2A2][EA][FA] [EA]dcB|AEAc e2=f2|
f2fa fecA|[E2A2][EA][DA] [E3A3][EA]|[F2A2][EA][FA] [EA]dcB|A4A2:|
|:Dz|EccE cEcE|EccB cBAc|BggB gBgB|Bggf gfeB|
EccE cEcE|EccB cBAc|BggB Bgba|(3gfe (3dcB A2:|
|:Bc|fe c2 fe c2|fAca fecd|f2{g}fe dcBA|BAGF E3z|
fe c2 fe c2|fAca fecd|f2{g}fe dcBA|GABG A2:|
X: 2
T: Kitty O'Shea's
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:GA|B2BA B2BA|B2Be dBAG|A2 AG A2 AG|Agfe dcBA|
B2BA B2BA|B2Be dBAG|B3G A3g|fdcA G2:|
|:GA|B2gB B2gB|c2a2 A3B|cBcd efge|dcBA B2 GA|
B2gB B2gB|c2a2 A3B|cBcd efge|dcBA G2:|
|:GA|Beef edcA|Beef edcA|Beef edef|gdBG A2:|
|:G2|GB D2 G2Gc|BGBd efg2|GB D2 G2Gc|BAGB A3z|
GB D2 G2Gc|BGBd efg2|gefd ecdB|cAFA G2:|
|:e2|e2eg edBG|G2 GG D3G|G2 GG GcBA|GDGB d2 e2|
e2eg edBG|G2 GG D3G|G2 GG GcBA|G4G2:|
|:c2|DBBD BDBD|DBBA BAGB|AffA fAfA|Affe fedA|
|:AB|ed B2 ed B2|eGBg edBc|e2{f}ed cBAG|AGFE D3z|
ed B2 ed B2|eGBg edBc|e2{f}ed cBAG|FGAF G2:|

Sixteen comments

Kitty O’Shea’s Champion Jig

According to Kevin Burke, this tune was originally a “Sand Jig” a strange kind of jig in 12/8 with more of a 4/4 feel than a slide. This particular tune has elements of a slide, a hornpipe & a barndance. (kind of like a slippery barnpipe) but it’s obviously more American almost rag-time styled. I transcribed this from Kevin Burke’s playing on his “In Concert” Album. I think this tune originally showed up in “Ryan’s Mammoth Collection”, but I don’t have that tunebook so i can’t verify that. Oh yeah & the third part is only played once - at least the way Kevin did it. He could have also had a brain-lapse on such a long tune.


I’ve been playing this one a lot lately & I would put it in the Barndance category more than anything else. I’ve been pairing it with James Gannon’s & If The Were No Women in the World.

Kitty O‘Neil’s Champion Jig aka Kitty O’Shea’s

“Kitty O‘Neil’s Champion Jig” was the signature tune of Kitty O’Neil, a New York Irish stage dancer of the 1870s and ’80s. It is not a barn dance but a “sand jig,” a type of syncopated solo dance in schottische tempo, performed as a series of shuffles on a sand-strewn stage. Another such tune in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection is “Kitty Sharpe’s Champion,” named for another stage hoofer of the day.

On the 19th-century American stage, the word “jig” was used for minstrel or variety show dances in cut time as well as for Irish-style jigs in 6/8. Ryan’s includes many minstrel-style “jigs,” which were originally developed by five-string banjo players.

Tommy Peoples is responsible for reviving this tune (as well as for the false name “Kitty O’Shea’s”). A two-part version similar to that played by Paddy Keenan on his recent CD can be found in many old tune books under various names.

Late laughing

I realize it’s been over three years since the first comment, but I coudn’t help but laugh out loud to BMoloney’s intelligently creative “slippery barndance”.

Make that “slippery barnpipe”…… wish there was a delete feature for things like this.

Kitty O’Neil ~ excerpts from Don Meade’s valued write-up

Blarney Star Productions:
Presenting the Best in Irish Traditional Music in New York City

Kitty O‘Neil and her ’Champion Jig’:
A Forgotten Irish-American Variety Theater Star ~ by Don Meade

Kitty O’Neil’s Champion Jig

~ Despite the tune’s Irish-sounding name and its adoption into the contemporary Irish repertoire, ‘Kitty O’Neil’s Champion’ is actually a hardy survivor from 19th-century American minstrelsy and variety theater.

Kitty o‘Neil, the tune’s namesake, was a popular New York-based dancer and singer of the 1870s and ’80s. The revival of Kitty’s ‘Champion Jig’ hasn’t done much to revive her reputation, however, because the tune has become widely known as ‘Kitty O’Shea‘, the title under which it mistakenly appeared on a recording by Donegal fiddle great Tommy Peoples, who started playing the tune in concerts during the 1970s and included it on his 1982 LP ’The Iron Man.

Peoples found the tune in the pages of ‘1000 Fiddle Tunes’, an often-reprinted collection that has been popular in both Ireland and America since it was first published in Chicago in 1940. Many Irish traditional musicians of the past half-century, including the influential fiddlers Sean McGuire, Paddy Cronin, James ‘Lad’ O‘Beirne and Larry Redican, reintroduced tunes found in ’1000 Fiddle Tunes’ into the living tradition.

The contents of ‘1000 Fiddle Tunes’ were actually lifted wholesale from ‘Ryan’s Mammoth Collection’, a compilation of 1,050 reels, jigs, hornpipes and other dance tunes published in Boston in 1882 by Elias Howe (a relative of the inventor of the sewing machine) and his assistant William Bradbury Ryan. An eclectic grab bag of Irish, British and American dance music, ‘Ryan’s’ stands out from other well-known collections for its wealth of tunes from the 19th-century stage. The names attached to many of these tunes honor now-forgotten fiddlers, banjo players and dancers who, like Kitty O’Neil, were once famous variety or minstrel performers. ~

Following Tommy Peoples‘ example, celebrated fiddler Kevin Burke called the tune ’Kitty O‘Shea’ when he began performing it in the 1990s and on his 1999 recording ‘In Concert’. ~

~ ‘The Concert Saloon Bill’ of 1862 ~

The most prominent performers of early minstrelsy were Irish or Irish-American. ~ Throughout the 19th century, Irish singers, comedians, pipers, fiddlers, banjo players and dancers continued to fill the programs of the variety theaters. ~

Kitty’s Big Tune
‘Kitty O’Neil’s Champion Jig‘ is the most sophisticated minstrel-style ’jig‘ that survives from the 19th century. ~ Kitty’s namesake tune first appeared in print in a two-part tune version titled simply ’Kitty O‘Neil’ in ‘Howe’s 1000 Jigs and Reels’, an 1867 forerunner of ‘Ryan’s Mammoth Colleciton. ~ The expanded seven-part ’Kitty O‘Neil’s Champion Jig’ dates from the years of Kitty’s greatest celebrity and the period in which she was performing her ‘sand dance’ specialty. ~ Versions of the two-part ‘Kitty O’Neill‘ were printed in various tunebooks well into the 20th century. It has been collected from or recorded by fiddlers from all over North America, including 1950s Canadian TV performers Don Messer and Ameen ’King‘ Ganam. In Ireland the Kerry fiddle master Padraig O’Keefe interpolate it into a hornpipe called ‘The Smoky Chimney’.

The original two-part ‘Kitty O’Neil‘ was expanded into the seven-part ’Champion Jig‘ at least in part by incorporating sections from other minstrel-style ’straight-jigs‘. The second pard is very similar to that of ’Phil Isaack’s Jig‘ ~ The fifth and sixth parts are quite similar to ’Bird on the Wing’ ~

The name of the fiddling genious who put together Kitty’s ‘Champion Jig’ is lost to history, as are the details of Kitty’s dance steps. All we have are the syncopated rhythmic accents, long upward-sliding notes and cascading triplet rungs in the written music ~

When she died in 1893, the New York ‘Times’ described Kitty as “the best female jig dancer in the world” ~

~ Don Meade

* Thanks Don, the effort is appreciated, I enjoyed the read and information ~ all 13 pages of it…

This pocket history of one tune and its namesake and origins and revival also serves as an example and reminder of how sheetmusic, as you find on this site, skeleton as the dots may be, can nurture and revive old melodies…

Kitty O’Neil’s Champion Jig

Tommy Peoples was closer to the original score here, with the 4th part beginning with two quarter notes into one half note; Kevin kind of steamrollered through that, I notice. If you want to see the Ryan’s version: Lots of semitone leading notes and 8th note rests in there, which make the whole thing sound much more like a distinct form of tune instead of a funky hornpipe or barndance.

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Re: Kitty O’Shea’s

Elf, the link doesn’t work, even if you take the dot out of ‘’.

Re: Kitty O’Shea’s

That’s odd, it’s working for me.

It’s Éamonn Coyne and Kris Drever from the album Storymap under the name of ‘Kitty O’Neil’s Champion Jig’ if you want to look it up.

Re: Kitty O’Shea’s

Cheeky Elf, I get “This video is not available” so I guess it’s availabity may restricted to certain areas.

Re: Kitty O’Shea’s

Still listening to this one and plucking up the courage to take it on…