The Strayaway Child
Michael Gorman wrote this beautiful six-part jig and it’s been widely recorded (Kevin Burke on Sweeney’s Dream comes to mind). It likes a slow but steady pace, with maybe a few slides and slurs thrown in to emphasize the moodiness of the melody line. Though not overly difficult to play, Strayaway Child can take a fair amount of practice just to keep all the parts straight and in the right order.
This is one of my favorite tunes of all time. I first heard it as a child - my mother had a tape of Jerry Read Smith’s "Strayaway Child" album, which was the soundtrack to my life for a while. This tune made a big impression on me, even way back then, so when I started playing ITM myself, it was a tune that I absolutely had to learn. It’s true that the tune itself isn’t that difficult, but I still find it tough to play on the fiddle (it’s somewhat easier on the whistle, I find). Maybe I’m just too hard on myself - it’s such a lovely tune that I often don’t feel I can do it justice.
The Strayaway Child
I first heard this tune on a Chieftains album, (The Magic of the Chieftains 1992) and I loved it straight away because they used a didgeridoo in the background, to give a pipe-like back drone. Me being a didge player I have HAD to include it in our band’s set list! We play it in D minor as my didge is tuned to D, and we have the melody played by our fiddler. We also have a cellist playing a bass line, so we play it quite slow and it has a lovely fluid, slinky feel. If ever we record it I’ll try to download it onto this site (although I’m a complete computer numpty so I’ll have to get someone else to do it!).
Margaret Barry not Michael Gorman
This was composed by Margaret Barry, she had some autobiographical words to it too, none of which I can remember. Those two were cronies in London, that’s probably how it got mixed up
Margaret Barry wrote this? Bloomin eck, from the recordings I’ve heard, she couldn’t even put one right chord in front of the other….
well.. maybe thats a bit of hyperbole, but are you sure Brad?
I’ve always heard Strayway Child credited to Barry. I wouldn’t be too quick to diss her. She had a hard time of it at various points but she plugged away and kept the fire going. Whether you like her style or not, there’ll never be her like again!
Yeh, you’re write aidan, I shouldn’t be too quick to diss, indeed I’ve never heard her singing, its only her accompanying that bothered me, but even then the context is, as you say, an entirely foreign thing now.
By the way, Brad … my remembering is that rather than just being cronies, Barry and Gorman tied the knot! I also heard that despite being from Cork originally and having spent most of her adult years in London, she somehow ended her days in Moira, Co Down (near to Lurgan in County Armagh, where I grew up and - no disrespect to any Moira people - a bit of a characterless hole in the hedge). But that latter story was told to me by a mate who often blurs the line between fact, fiction and fantasy, so I don’t know whether to attach any creedence to it at all.
No, I think you’re right there - about her ending in Down, indeed I think she was buried there. I’m just dead impressed by this tune of hers, its bloody awesome.
Jamie … It might be worthwhile getting hold of a recording of her. There’s a great CD I have of her and Michael Gorman and a few others; I think it’s called "Her Mantle So Green" (well,that’s certainly one of the songs). Her singing is a phenomenon. Not a beautiful singer by any means; but a powerful and completely natural voice. I’d be hard-pushed to listen to an evening of her, but there are one or two songs on this album which blow me away. (The Cycling Champion Of Ulster - to the tune of Rosin The Bow - pushes all my buttons!).
right (not spelt write this time!) you are then Aidan, might have some dosh in a few months too…
Spending money …
Whoa, Jamie. I’d try to borrow some of her music before I hand over cash. The only reason I weighed in here at all is because a few weeks ago I spent a while arguing the merits of Margaret Barry’s singing to a friend who thought her singing was torture to listen to. I can well appreciate that her spartan banjoery and her unique vocal style are inaccessible to some people - as I”ve said above, I’d find it difficult to listen to a whole evening. But I think there’s a great power in her singing, a great lonesomeness and a a great deal of self-containment. But the singing aside, The Strayaway Child (I wonder if that’s an autobiographical reference) is a great gift to the music.
My favourite song on the album that Aidan mentioned is The Turfman from Ardee. She was a traveller and I heard that she lived with Michael Gorman but didn
Sorry about the repetition….!
Here’s a recording of Michael Gorman playing it. http://www.cranfordpub.com/mp3s/michaelgorman3.mp3
Beautiful tune. I first heard it played by the Bothy Band.
She has two recording that I have found. Her version of "My Lagan Love" is amazing as well as "The Flower of Sweet Strabane." Her voice was unique and had the power that did not require a microphone to capture.Her approach, breath and line to singing many of her songs unacompanied is worth a second listen. This style of singing, I thought, had been lost until I heard the sean nos singer from Connemara, Nan Tom Teaimin. Here’s another one to listen to.
My personal theory is, based on their respective talents only - Gorman wrote it and gave her the publishing credit.
More on Margaret Barry
Here is a piece from Irish TV that has her telling the story of how this tune came to her in a dream.
This is my version which is very close to the Kevin Burke version.
T: Strayaway Child, The
A|:BEE GEE|BEE G2 A|BEE BAG|FDF Adc|
|BEE GEE | BEE G2 A|BcB B2 A|GEE E2 A:|
|:Bee BdB|dBG AGA|Bee BdB|dBG A2 A|
Bee BdB|dBG AGA|BcB B2 A|GEE E2 A|
Bee BdB|dBG AGA|Bee BdB|dBG A2 f|
gfe dcB|AGA BGE|AGE DBD|~E3 E2 D||
|:EAG EDE|~G3 BAG|AGE DBD|E3 E2 D|
EAG EDE|~G3 BAG|AGE DBD|1 E3 E2 D:|2 E3 E2 B ||
|:efe ded|BcA BGE|GAB cBA|BGE D2 c|
BAG EDE||GAB cBA|BAG EAG|1 ~E3 E2 B:|2 ~E3 E3 :|
|:Bee efg|fdf edA|Bee efg|fdf e2 f|gfe dcB|
|AGA BGE|AGE DBD|1 ~E3 E2 A:|2 ~E3 E2 B||
|:edB edB|AGA BGE|edB edB|AGA ~B3|edB gfe|
|dcB AGA|BAG EAG|1 ~E3 E2 B:|2 ~E3 E3|
Beat Smash Square version
As played (more-or-less) in a hypnotic version by Beat, Smash, Square:
T: Strayaway Child, The
A|:BEE GEE|BEE G2 A|BEE DAG|FDF A3| BEE GEE | BEE G2 A|BcB B2 A|GED E3:|
|:Bee BdB|dBG AGA|Bee BdB|dBG A3| Bee BdB|dBG AGA|B2B B2 A|GED E3|
Bee BdB|dBG AGA|Bee B[d]B|dBG A2 f| gfe dcB|AGA BGE|AGE DBD|E2E E3||
|:EAG EDE|~G3 BAG|AGE DBD|E3 E2 D| EAG EDE|GzG BAG|AGE DBD| E2E E3:|
|:efe ded|cBA BGE|GAB dBA|AGE D2 z| BAG EDE|GAB cBA|BAG EAG|E2E EDE:|
|:Bed efg|fdf edA|Bed efg|fdf e2 f|gfe dcB|AGA BGE|AGE DBD| E2E E3 :|
|:edB edB|AGA BGE|edB edB|AGA ~B3|edB gfe| |dcB AGA|BAG EAG| E2E E3 :|
Chieftains Play It In Cm
Though the version here in Em is easier to play, I believe the Chieftains play it in Cm. (I had to use a Bb whistle to play along with them.) I think the digeridoo player drones in C. We’re working up a version in Em with the dig player playing E. In any case, their version is downright funky-nasty-cool.
Strayaway Child, The
Played here by John McEvoy and John Wynne
Just come across the first two parts of this tune in an occitane music website as a Basque tune called Borobila. I think it has been heard being used for the dance "Borobila" which appears to be basically the Circassian Circle.
the printing of this tune does not work. It prints the first page just with the title, then the second page and the third page is blank.
Maybe someone can fix this.
Martin, it works for me - did you click on ‘sheet music’ then on the resulting ‘print’ button? It’s usually quite reliable.
Looking at this tune reminded me of a local story about MB having a gig in what was my local (the Spancil Hill inn; sadly it closed some years ago). Apparently, she not only did the gig on her own but took the money at the door too. I must find out more - whether she used a microphone, how many were there, who organised it etc. So many stories are not written down.
Strayaway Child - link to standard notation by Michael Gorman
as played by Gorman and Barry on "The Sligo Champion" CD
with thoughtful commentary about authorship by Michael Gorman vs Margaret Barry.
Timeless and hauntingly beautiful whether played slow of at speed.
What is the most common version of strayaway child of the ones on session?
I try to keep things simple when I print off sheet music and usually just go with the first one in the long list of settings.
With this tune tho the first setting has weird annotation…whats up with the repeats on lines 3 and 4? I dont get why ‘1’ is in the middle of the part and ‘2’ is at the end?
So I printed off the second one but it seems shorter as the main middle bit doesnt repeat.
So which is the more commonly played one as i dont wanna waste time learning a non standard one like with the old yellow o neils debacle.
Re: What is the most common version of strayaway child of the ones on session?
Oh i think i get it with the first on the brackets dont show up on the transcription properly do they and the little ’ marks indicate the end of the part
Probably the most commonly played version is this one:
I first learned the tune from a recording of Jimmy Power.
I don’t know what is missing but only two lines show up in concertina.
I just love this song! My grandma likes it too because she likes to imagine what it is about!
the Strayaway Child
I remember Margaret Barry telling me with great pride, in the Bedford Arms pub in Camden Town, one night in the 50’s that she had composed a sixth strain to this jig. She always claimed it as hers and Michael never contradicted her in my hearing. -Bill Leader
The Strayaway Child
Nothing to add to the tune, but I’d like to welcome Bill Leader to the session.org. Your activities have shaped the folk scene enormously, and I look forward to your contributions.
this will probably be greeted with cries of ‘heresy’ but I followed the video link and checked out some of
Michael Gormans tunes on You tube, great rhythm and bowing but surely his intonation is off a lot of the time? it reminded me painfully of my own abortive attempts at playing the fiddle b4 giving it up for things
with frets or buttons. No I’m not comparing him to myself, he was 100 times the musician I will ever be
but to my ear he’s just not hitting those notes accurately. And don’t anyone say I just dont understand traditional Irish fiddle playing, I’m a great fan of John Doherty from Donegal, John and Julia Clifford from Kerry, countless ‘old time’ musicians. Now I feel like the boy who shouted ‘the Emperor’s not wearing any clothes’……………….