Women of the Sidhe
This tune was made famous by River Dance. It is played as the second part after ‘The Countess Cathleen’ in River Dance.
Isn’t this a Bill Whelan tune? I didn’t think any Riverdance music was traditional.
RTP, the tunes from Riverdance were written specifically for the show and are not "traditional" tunes. Without wanting to re-open for the nth time that writhing can of worms — what makes a tune traditional? — I would just say that you would be very unlikely to hear this tune or any of the Riverdance music played at any "authentic" traditional session. If overnight all the active trad musicians in the world took up the "Women of the Sidhe" and starting playing it at sessions, then I suppose you could say that it was on its way to becoming a trad tune. But I think it highly unlikely that Bill Whelan’s music will do so. And I am sure Bill doesn’t care whether it does or not. He was not attempting to write trad music. Many trad musicians/ dancers hate Riverdance, more, like myself, are indifferent to it, neither liking it or hating it, just glad that it is keeping a lot of talented dancers and musicians employed. True traditional music is "used" music, it bears the marks of place, people and time on it as well as the hands of the musicians who played/ play it. These are qualities which the Riverdance music does not have nor could be expected to have. It’s a kind of Catch-22. It will only acquire these qualities if accepted and played by trad musicians, but the musicians are unlikely to accept it because it lacks the qualities only they can give it.
Erm. I was in California at a session (listening, I didn’t have my fiddle with me) that shall remain un-named (there were some good players, too). They were playing a jig that sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it, you know how that goes. I quite liked it, though. And then they hit the fourth measure of the B and I recognized it. It was Women of the Sidhe. I couldn’t believe it — it sounded totally different and traditional the way they played it. I can’t remember off-hand what they played with it — figuring out what it was sort of knocked everything else out of my head, I was so surprised to hear it at a session.
So who knows. Maybe this one will become part of the tradition, I dunno. I wouldn’t have said so, but what the hey.
Like ‘The Countess Cathleen’, Bill Whelan borrowed ‘The Women of the Sidhe’ from the tradition and incorporated it into his music. He didn’t compose the tune himself.
Whether you like Riverdance, or it offends you as being non-authentic, there are thousands of people who love it, are inspired by it, and are attracted to Irish Trad because of it. Because of this I feel that posting this is tune is an asset to this site.
We just had an extensive debate on what kinds of tunes should get posted here and I believe it can be summarized as "if it gets played at your session and it’s a good tune, then post it". It seems as if "Women" is getting played, in California anyway, and in the process having the corners knocked off it. So maybe it’s on its way to becoming a "trad" tune. I can’t say I’ll be learning it any time soon because, there are many other tunes to learn and, it just isn’t played by the musicians I play with. I still believe "Women" is a Bill Whelan composition — as far as I know, the Riverdance posters say "Music composed by Bill Whelan" which I assume includes "Women". What we can say is that he has borrowed and adapted traditional dance rhythms to suit his ideas for the show. And done it pretty well too. I am in favour of just about anything which promotes Irish trad music and dance ("Lord of the Dance" as comic relief from dreary authenticity) and have nothing against Riverdance, apart from a personal lack of interest in it. However, I hope that when the show’s devotees encounter trad music as really played by active musicians, they aren’t disappointed. I once met a guy who came to trad music through the Chieftains records (aguably a purer source than Riverdance) and was very disappointed that (a) we didn’t "arrange" the tunes at the session (b) the session didn’t "sound as good" as the records.
Yeah - Ive met loads of up and coming young trad musicians inspired by riverdance/lord of the dance etc who drop out after a couple of weeks because the music we play sounds nothing like riverdance. I would say the tune is fine to post on the site as long as we have discussions like this so that people new to the tradition know exactly where the tune is coming from and that most (not all) serious trad sessions would not include tunes like this in them.
I was also under the impression that Whelan wrote all the, erm, well at least the Irish music in Riverdance…I mean, he didn’t write the spirituals? Or the flamenco, did he? Or did he?
Oh — and I should probably say that I was unfamiliar with the session (and I’m not even sure I remember what city in the Bay Area the pub was in, I blundered into the place by accident on a business trip more than several years ago), and so for all I know, it could have been a session situation with a band attending that was playing one of their arranged sets. I didn’t stop to talk to the musicians at the time, being as I was with business colleages discussing business.
Oh, and bb — it’s not just musicians…we run into that with dancers too! :)
See https://thesession.org/discussions/901 for a rather lengthy discussion on Riverdance and its place in ITM.
Zina, I recall reading the program for a certain Irish centre in London, which listed various classes on offer. Included in the list along with Irish language, Irish singing, fiddle, step dancing etc. were classes in ‘Riverdance’. This appears to have become a genre in its own right.
Aaaaeiiiiiiiieeeeee! LOL — Well, David, i suppose you could give it its own genre well enough. Sort of, stepdancing with arms and tap mixed in. I suppose we can only be thankful that they didn’t call it "stepdancing"! :)