The Sweets Of May jig

Also known as Aoibhneas Na Bealtaine.

There are 15 recordings of a tune by this name.

A tune by this name has been recorded together with The Sweets Of May (lots of times), Munster Buttermilk (a few times), The Peeler And The Goat (a few times) and The Soldier’s Cloak (a few times).

The Sweets Of May has been added to 1 tune set.

The Sweets Of May has been added to 89 tunebooks.

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Ten settings

X: 1
T: The Sweets Of May
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
GBd B2G|A2B cBA|GBd B2G|AFD G3|
GBd B2G|A2B cBA|GBd B2G|AFD G3:|
|ABA A2G|E2G A3|G2A B2A|B2c dcB|
ABA A2G|E2G A2D|GBd B2G|AFD G3|
G2D G2A|BAB cBA|G2D G2B|AFD G3|
G2D G2A|BAB cBA|G2D G2B|AFD G3|
d3 d^cd|D3 D3|c3 cBc|D3 DEF|
G2D G2A|BAB cBA|GBd B2G|AFD G3:|
X: 2
T: The Sweets Of May
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
d2c|\BAG AGF|G2G G2A|BcB GAB|c3 d2c|\
BAG AGF|G2G G2A|BdB cAF|1 G3 :|2 G3 G2
|:A|\ABA A2G|E2F G3|ABA c2d|e2d c2B|\
ABA A2G|E2F G3|A2A BAG|1 A3 A2 :|2 A3ABc|
d3 d3|D3 D3|c3 c3|D3 D3|\
G2D G2A|B2G B2c|ded cBA|G3 GBc|
ded dBG|D3 D3|cdc cAF|D3 DEF|\
G2D G2A|B2G B2c|ded cBA|G3 ||
X: 3
T: The Sweets Of May
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
d2c|\B2G A2D|GAG Gdc|BdB GAB|cBc Adc|\
B2G A2D|GAG G2A|B2B cAF|1 G3
X: 4
T: The Sweets Of May
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|: A |d>fa f2 d | e2 f g>fe | d>fa f2 d | e>cA d2 A |
d>fa f2 d | e2 f g>fe | d>fa f>af | e>cA d2- :|
|: d |e>fe e2 d | B2 c e2 c | d2 e f/g/f e | f2 g a2 f |
e>fe e2 d | B2 c e2 c | d>fa f2 d | e>cA d2- :|
d |d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d3 |
d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d2 ||
|: f |a>ba a>^ga | A3 A3 | g>ag g>fg | A3 A>Bc |
d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d2 :|
X: 5
T: The Sweets Of May
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|: GBd B2 G | A2 B cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 |
GBd B2 G | A2 B cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 :|
|: ABA A2 G | E2 G A3 | G2 A B2 A | B2 c dcB |
ABA A2 G | E2 G A2 D | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 :|
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | G2 D G2 B | AFD G3 |
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | G2 D G2 B | AFD G3 ||
|: d3 d^cd | D3 D3 | c3 cBc | D3 DEF |
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 :|
X: 6
T: The Sweets Of May
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|: GBd B2 G | A2 B cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 |
GBd B2 G | A2 B cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 :|
ABA A2 G | E2 G A3 | G2 A B2 A | B2 c dcB |
ABA A2 G | E2 G A2 D | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 ||
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | G2 D G2 B | AFD G3 |
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | G2 D G2 B | AFD G3 ||
|: d3 d^cd | D3 D3 | c3 cBc | D3 DEF |
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 :|
X: 7
T: The Sweets Of May
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|: A |d>fa f2 d | e2 f g>fe | d>fa f2 d | e>cA d2 A |
d>fa f2 d | e2 f g>fe | d>fa f>af | e>cA d2- :|
d |e>fe e2 d | B2 c e2 c | d2 e f/g/f e | f2 g a2 f |
e>fe e2 d | B2 c e2 c | d>fa f2 d | e>cA d2- ||
d |d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d3 |
d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d2 ||
|: f |a>ba a^ga | A3 A3 | g>ag gfg | A3 A>Bc |
d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d2 :|
X: 8
T: The Sweets Of May
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
A |:dfa f2 d | e2 f gfe | dfa fdf | ec/B/A d2 A |
dfa f2 d | e2 f gfe | dfa fdf | ec/B/A d3 :|
|: efe e2 d | B2 d e2 c | d2 e f2 e | f2 g a2 f |
efe e2 d | B2 c ecA | dfa faf |[1 ec/B/A d3 :|[2 ecA d2 ||
A |d2 A d2 e | fef gfe | d2 A d2 f | ec/B/A d2 A |
d2 A d2 e | fef gfe | d2 A def | ec/B/A dfg ||
|: a3 a^ga | A3 ABA | g3 gfg | A3 ABc |
d2 A d2 e | fdf gfe | d2 A def | ec/B/A d3 :|[2 ec/B/A d2 |]
X: 9
T: The Sweets Of May
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
A |:dfa f3 | e2 f gfe | dfa f2 f | ecA d3 |
dfa f2 A | e2 f gfe | dfa faf | ecA d3 :|
|: efe e2 d | B2 d e2 A | d2 e f2 e | f2 g a2 f |
efe e2 d | B2 d e3 | dfa faf |[1 ecA d3 :|[2 ecA d3- ||
d2 A d2 e | fef gfe | d2 A d/e/fd | ecA d3- |
d3 d2 e | ff/f/f gfe | d2 A d2 f | ecA d2 ||
|: f |aba a^ga | A3 A3 | gag gfg | A3 ABc |
d2 A d2 e | f2 f gfe | d2 A def |[1 ecA d2 :|[2 ecA d3 |]
X: 10
T: The Sweets Of May
R: jig
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|: dfa f2 d | e2 f gfe | dfa f2 d | ecA d3 |
dfa f2 d | e2 f gfe | dfa faf | ecA d3 :|
efe e2 d | B2 c d3 | d2 e f2 e | f2 g a2 d |
efe e2 d | B2 c d3 | dfa f/g/af | ecA d3 ||
d2 A d2 e | f2 f gfe | d2 A d2 f | ecA d3 |
d2 A d2 e | fd/e/f gfe | dfa gag | ecA d3 ||
|: a3 a^ga | A3 A^GA | g3 gfg | A3 AA/B/c |
d2 A d2 e | fdf gg/f/e | d2 A d2 f | ecA d3 :|

Twenty-six comments

The Sweets of May

This tune, which my wife told me about, was used for ceilidh dancing during the Scoil

The Sweets of May

This is also known in the English country dance tradition, but I don’t suggest playing the two versions simultaneously, as some of the differences would be quite discordant.

Whoa…this setting is a LOT different from the setting I know of this tune. Sweets of May (sometimes written, for some inexplicable reason, as Sweet’s of May, as if Sweet is a person) is one of those "hairball" dances. The first figure is Rings to the Right and Left, then the Body, which goes through a full rendition of the tune. The the next rendition of the tune is the second figure, which is a leadaround, then the Body. Then there’s another two figures, each followed by the Body. By the time you’re done, you’re really ready to be done with the tune.

My dance school is taking three eight hands of Sweets of May to Oireachtas. God help us. My band is learning to play it as we’re playing for a fundraiser for them busking out on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. Be kind of fun to take part of this setting and incorporate it into the one we use just to confuse the dancers… ;)

Zina

Quick like bunnies, here’s a setting that’s more or less the setting I know…

d2c|\BAG AGF|G2G G2A|BcB GAB|c3 d2c|\
BAG AGF|G2G G2A|BdB cAF|1 G3 :|2 G3 G2
|:A|\ABA A2G|E2F G3|ABA c2d|e2d c2B|\
ABA A2G|E2F G3|A2A BAG|1 A3 A2 :|2 A3ABc|
d3 d3|D3 D3|c3 c3|D3 D3|\
G2D G2A|B2G B2c|ded cBA|G3 GBc|
ded dBG|D3 D3|cdc cAF|D3 DEF|\
G2D G2A|B2G B2c|ded cBA|G3 ||

Oh, and of course when you’re playing this for the ceili dance by The Book (An Rince Forne), you have to play 3 As, and then the tune through as usual, four times through total with that extra A for an intro.

The Savages & Nan Quinn

The tune as given here is from the playing of the fiddler Hugh Savage and family, Outlacken, County Armagh. The tune and the dance, as well as ‘The Three Tunes’, were collected by Nan Quinn, Newry, County Down,to be incorporated in the Irish Dance Commission’s (‘An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha’) publication of ‘official’ ceili dances - ‘Ar Rinncide Foirne: Thirty Popular Figure Dances’. This was originally printed as three small pamhlets and has now been incorporated into one - but remains long overdue for corrections and an update…

Addendum? ~ the melodies given here by Dafydd and Zina are versions of two of the three set tunes I’ve known used for this dance…

Cunningham version

I recently learned a version of this tune from the Matt Cunningham set of 12 CDs that covers lots of set and ceili dance tunes, and it is similar to Zina’s setting. The Cunningham version or something close seems to be used by international folk dancers who have incorporated the dance into their repetoire.

This is how I heard the A section:

d2c|\B2G A2D|GAG Gdc|BdB GAB|cBc Adc|\
B2G A2D|GAG G2A|B2B cAF|1 G3

There are four figures in the dance, each followed by the body, and the first figure is repeated at the end. So for the full dance you have to play the thing through four full times, with an extra A at the start for an intro and an extra A at the end for the repetition of Figure 1 (the circling figure). It’s over in no time when you’re dancing it. I was teaching and learning this dance this week, and it would no doubt throw the dancers for a loop to throw in a different melody - at least wait until they know the dance well…

“The Sweets of May” ~ Hugh Savage, fiddler, County Armagh ~ D Major, 56 bars

Hugh Savage, as said earlier, was the source for this tune, as collected by Nan Quinn, however, he didn’t play it in G, he played it in D Major…

X: 2
T: Sweets Of May, The
S: Hugh Savage, fiddler, County Armagh
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
R: jig
K: D Major
|: A |\
d>fa f2 d | e2 f g>fe | d>fa f2 d | e>cA d2 A |
d>fa f2 d | e2 f g>fe | d>fa f>af | e>cA d2- :|
|: d |\
e>fe e2 d | B2 c e2 c | d2 e f/g/f e | f2 g a2 f |
e>fe e2 d | B2 c e2 c | d>fa f2 d | e>cA d2- :|
d |\
d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d3 |
d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d2 f |
a>ba a>^ga | A3 A3 | g>ag g>fg | A3 A>Bc |
d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d2 f |
a>ba a^ga | A3 A3 | g>ag gfg | A3 A>Bc |
d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d2 |]

“The Sweets of May” ~ the G transcription given here with minor corrections

X: 1
T: Sweets Of May, The
N: corrected transcription based on origin, Hugh Savage, fiddler, County Armagh, & dance
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
R: jig
K: G Major
|: GBd B2 G | A2 B cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 |
GBd B2 G | A2 B cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 :|
|: ABA A2 G | E2 G A3 | G2 A B2 A | B2 c dcB |
ABA A2 G | E2 G A2 D | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 :|
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | G2 D G2 B | AFD G3 |
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | G2 D G2 B | AFD G3 ||
|: d3 d^cd | D3 D3 | c3 cBc | D3 DEF |
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 :|

“The Sweets of May” ~ as it is ‘officially danced now ~ 48 bars

X: 1
T: Sweets Of May, The
N: adjusted to fit the ‘official’ dance
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
R: jig
K: G Major
|: GBd B2 G | A2 B cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 |
GBd B2 G | A2 B cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 :|
ABA A2 G | E2 G A3 | G2 A B2 A | B2 c dcB |
ABA A2 G | E2 G A2 D | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 ||
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | G2 D G2 B | AFD G3 |
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | G2 D G2 B | AFD G3 ||
|: d3 d^cd | D3 D3 | c3 cBc | D3 DEF |
G2 D G2 A | BAB cBA | GBd B2 G | AFD G3 :|

X: 2
T: Sweets Of May, The
S: Hugh Savage, fiddler, County Armagh
N: adjusted to fit the ‘official’ dance
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
R: jig
K: D Major
|: A |\
d>fa f2 d | e2 f g>fe | d>fa f2 d | e>cA d2 A |
d>fa f2 d | e2 f g>fe | d>fa f>af | e>cA d2- :|
d |\
e>fe e2 d | B2 c e2 c | d2 e f/g/f e | f2 g a2 f |
e>fe e2 d | B2 c e2 c | d>fa f2 d | e>cA d2- ||
d |\
d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d3 |
d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d2 ||
|: f |\
a>ba a^ga | A3 A3 | g>ag gfg | A3 A>Bc |
d2 A d2 e | f>ef g>fe | d2 A d2 f | e>cA d2 :|

“The Sweets of May” ~ the ‘official take’ ~ by-the-book ~ 48 bars = AABCDD

"Ár Rinncidhe Foirne: Thirty Popular Figure Dances" (the ‘official’ manual of limitations)
An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, 1939

One volume edition (originally three seperate volumes)
Page 59: "Aoibhneas na Bealtaine" - "The Sweets of May" (the dots)

Pages 60 & 61: "Aoibhneas na Bealtaine" - "The Sweets of May" (the dance)

The ‘official’ transcription as printed in the manual, page 59, is identical, note-for-note, to the original transcription given here, except, it is as the just previous 48 bar transcription shows it ~ AABCDD…

Oirialla version

Just a quick note to say that the version of this tune on Oirialla is also in D and, I think pretty much matches Ceolachan’s D transcription from Hugh Savage.

And from the sleeve notes they got it from a recording of the McCusker Brothers.

The South Jersey Ceili Band, with which I play, is led by a older Scottish lady, Jean MacNaughton, who plays a very big accordian. She has given us a version to play which is very similar to Zina’s, but in D. It is a copy from some book or collection and marked No. 7.

X: 8 “The Sweets Of May” ~ AABBCDD

S: "Gerry O’Connor, Gilles le Bigot, Nuala Kennedy & Martin Quinn: Oirialla"
3. ) I Lost My Love And Care Not / MacLeod Of Mull / The Sweets Of May
https://thesession.org/recordings/4280

AABBCDD as played by this group, but would fit the actual dance, as most transcriptions have it, as AABCDD, as previously mentioned. This could be the case of ‘no dancers present’, meaning that part of the necessary definition of a dance tune, especially in this case, is the dance it is designed to complement. I have looked and have nowhere found an extra 8 bars of dancing to fit this structure, the band giving its source as "The McCusker Brothers"? Hmmmmmm? I’ll have to pull out my recordings of the lads and add that too. It does fit with the Henry Savage recording I’ve given a transcription of above, X: 4…

"no dancers present" ~ meaning a full set of dancers to play for, while Henry Savage and others who played for the dance and dancers were just as game to step out on to the dance floor to move to someone else’s playing, the ‘tradition’ among these older roots of being both musician and dancer ~ and much more…

X: 9 “The Sweets Of May” ~ AABBCDD

S: "Dermot Rafferty, Emily Rafferty, Seamus Sands: The Green Bunch Of Joy"
10. ) Madam Bonaparte / The Sweets Of May

Much of Dermot’s music is handed down the family line, this one via Henry Savage, see the transcription earlier, X: 4. Also, see the previous comments regarding the unusual extra 8 bars more than the actual dance has, the body, in most descriptions of the dance, being 32 bars, not 40. So, as already said, maybe Something along the lines of AABCDD? I’m still looking to see what else there is to learn about this tune and dance…

X: 9 "The Sweets of May" ~ this transcription, I’d meant to say, is a reduction and simplification of Dermot’s take on it. He uses quite a few rolls, for which there are many obvious opportunities in this take on the tune…

The McCusker Brothers Ceili Band = AABBCC

https://thesession.org/tunes/8252
X: 5 "The Sweets Of May" - transcribed from the playing of the nine McCusker Brothers, as recorded by Peter Kennedy in the early 1950s…

S: "The Flax In Bloom: Traditional songs, airs & dance music in Ulster" ~ CD: 2 of 3 - various artists
14. ) The McCusker Brothers Ceili Band: The Sweets of May
https://thesession.org/recordings/5347

S: "The Nine McCusker Brothers & Hugh Savage: The Princess Royal: Dance Music From South Armagh"
https://thesession.org/recordings/1178
17. ) The Sweets of May
20. ) The Three Tunes: Haste To The Wedding / Leslie’s / The German Beau // The Sweets Of May

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

X: 8 "The Sweets of May" ~ AABBCDD as played by the group "Oirialla", I suspect that there was some confusion with regards to the notes for the band’s CD which crediting the McCuskers as their source, that instead theirs was also rooted, as too X: 9, in that early Peter Kennedy recording of Henry Savage, which was released as shown just above, "The Nine McCusker Brothers & Hugh Savage: The Princess Royal: Dance Music From South Armagh", the X: 4 transcription…

Correction - Hugh Savage, not Henry…

Sadly Henry was gone by the time of Peter Kennedy’s visit. It was the Armagh fiddler Hugh Savage he recorded…

X: 8 “The Sweets of May” ~ as played by the group “Oirialla”, on their CD

https://thesession.org/recordings/4280
Notes from their CD that are relevant to this tune:

3. ) McCuskers’ Jigs:
I Lost My Love and Care Not - was sourced from a recording of the McCusker Brothers Ceili Band made by Peter Kennedy in Kilcreevy, Armagh, and Belfast, in July 1952. (Peter gives the date as 1952, while in August 1953)

/ MacLeod of Mull /

The Sweets of May - is another tune from the McCusker brothers recording. It is an older setting of the tune generally played for the popular ceili dance.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

I can only guess that the writer of these notes didn’t realize that their source for "The Sweets of May" wasn’t played by the McCusker brothers but was a solo from the fiddle & bow of Hugh Savage… Hugh’s sister was married to Vincent McCusker of the McCusker Brothers Ceili Band. Hugh also played button accordion, including with "The Heather Breeze Ceili Band" in the late 40s, early 50s. ( I haven’t specific dates for this, only that Peter had a photo of Hugh and the band dated 1950. )

X: 10 “The Sweets Of May” - AABCDD

A transcription relative to Xs 4 - 9 and taking its guidance from the notes for this tune, and AABCDD, found in the following book:

"The Sweets of May/Aoibhneas na Bealtaine: The Céilí Band Era, Music & Dance of South Armagh"
Ceol Camlocha - Tommy Fegan, Josephine Keegan, Kieran Burns, Walter Bradley, Tom Quinn, and Sean O’Driscoll
Part 2 - Sheet Music, pages 121 - 136
page 122: "The Sweets of May" (* older version) / "The Sweets of May" (common version)

The first transcription in this book, the older version, is basically the same as the above transcriptions, 4 - 9, and is as I’ve suggested and in some instances notated - AABCDD.

Henry & Hugh Savage

Henry Savage (1869 - 1938, Outlacken, Belleeks), also a fiddler, was Hugh’s father…

And, as tradition goes, Henry’s father was a Henry and a fiddler too…