The Song Of Oonagh reel

Also known as The Song Of Una.

There is 1 recording of this tune.

The Song Of Oonagh has been added to 1 tune set.

The Song Of Oonagh has been added to 3 tunebooks.

Download ABC

Two settings

X: 1
T: The Song Of Oonagh
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Cmaj
CDEF G^FGE|GAcd e2 de|cBAG AEGE|D4 C2 z|
|:G|eeef e2 dc|Adde d2 cd|edcB cAGE|G2 AG E3 D|C>D EF GGEG|
GAcd ef de/d/|cBAG AEGE|1 D4 C2 z:|TD4 H C4||
X: 2
T: The Song Of Oonagh
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
DEFG A^GAF|ABde f2 ef|dcBA BFAF|E4 D2 z|
|:A|fffg f2 ed|Beef e2 de|fedc dBAF|A2 BA F3 E|D>E FG AAFA|
ABde fg ef/e/|dcBA BFAF|1 E4 D2 z:|2 TE4 H D4||

Two comments

The Song Of Oonagh

The song of Oonagh

Source: Redfern Mason, The Song Lore of Ireland, 1911, pp. 147f

Mason gives this as an example of what is called fairy music and comments:

That the reader may know that the term fairy music means something more than mere sweet melody and that it does indicate music of a determinate character, “ The Song of Oonagh ” is subjoined. This air was regarded by Petrie as very ancient. Taken along with "The Song of the Pretty Girl Milking her
Cow," it will give a better idea of what fairy music really is—its delicate aroma—than could be conveyed
in many words. There is about this “Song of Oonagh” something dreamy and hallucinatory, as though the notes were of ivory or mother-of-pearl. It is the spirit of Tirnanoge expressed in music and has fitly been set by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford to a version of the already quoted Song of Midir, in the absence of the words originally sung to the air, which are lost.

Midir was the king of the fairies, and Mason gives the story of Midir and Etain on pp. 141f.

The air seems a rare one; I have found very few references to it under any variant of the name Oonagh. Songs of Erin by A. P. Graves and C. V. Stanford (London, Boosey & Co., 1901) gives on pp. 114ff the song with the lyrics by Stanford presumably referred to by Mason, though rather confusingly Graves and Stanford call their version “The song of the fairy king (Air: ‘The Song of Una’”). The music given by Graves and Stanford is similar to that given in Mason, though the former is in 5 flats and the latter in 3 flats. My transcription closely follows Mason, but I’ve transposed to C major.

I’ve also found a version of this tune in the book The Rhythms of Childhood: To the Little Children who Dance for Joy by Caroline Crawford and Elizabeth Rose Fogg (New York, Barnes, 1915 ,) on p. 82 under the title A Fairy Song of Ireland with the note “The Song of Oonagh is very ancient fairy music of the Celt.” This version is pretty clearly taken from Mason, though his book is not credited.

All the talk of fairy music notwithstanding, to my ear this tune has a definite martial spirit and also has, or at least lends itself to being played with, a strong marching beat. Because that’s’ how I hear it, I imagine it, on the basis of no evidence at all, as something that might have been played by the fife and drum boys of an Irish regiment in the British army in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. Accordingly I’ve composed a march version of it for piccolo and drum; a score and computer-generated audio demo file is available at:


or sound file only at: