Thanks to the boul’ Danny for drawing this tune to my attention (and for nagging me to set it out in abc). This is transcribed from The Long Strand featuring Sean McNamara, Eamonn Coyne and Peggy Peakin. The version on the album - a grand listen, by the way - is a tad "ambiguous" in parts and there are probably some phrases here which I’ve made a haims of! Anyone familiar with the tune, please feel free to correct me if my ears have led me astray. If you’re not familiar with the tune, then I suggest you get your instruments out of their cases and give it a crack. This is a king among polkas!
Ye’re a star, Aidan. Well done for that. And it is, as you say, the king of the polkas!
Here’s another interpretation of this great polka which I think is closer to the way Peggy (Margaret) Peakin used to play it at our sessions in Dublin, particularly the second part.
AF BF|AF BF|AB cd|dc G>G|
GE BE|GE BE|GA Bc|BA F>G|
AF BF|AF BF|AB cd|eB B2|
ed cB|BA A2|^GA Bc|d2 d2:||
ba fd|dc c2|B>B Bc|BA A2|
^GA Bc|dc df|ba ^gb|a2 d>d|
dc ed|cB B2|^GA Bc|BA F2|EF GA|Bc ed|(3cBA (3GFE|D4:||
f2 (3efe|dd dB/2c/2|dd ed|dc c2|
g2 (3fgf|ee e2|ee fd|dc BA|
f2 (3efe|dd dB/2c/2|dd ed|c2 B2|
B2 Bc/2d/2|e2 ef|ed cB|A4:||
FA FE|DF BF|AG GF|G3 A|
B2 B>B|BB cB|BA A^G|A2 Bc|
d2 dc/2d/2|ed AB|cB BA|B3 B|
cc c>B|AA Bc|ed dc| d4:||
Thanks a lot, I’ll give this version a bash as compared against the one I posted and let you know how I think they match up against each other! (By the way … in my home town, Lurgan (Armagh, not the Connemara Lurgan), there used to be a textile factory called Bannerman’s. Nothing to do with Clare, mind you! The owners were, as far as I know, "ascendancy" types, if you know what I mean!
Bannerman, the version you have seems closer to what I learned from Peggy and Sean in my days with the Liverpool Ceili Band. I have wondered all these years what the tune was called. Why I didn’t just ring Sean Mac I don’t know but I’m a bit out of touch with Liverpool. Now I’m back in the saddle it’s one of those tunes that’s been in the very back of my mind to introduce to the sessions I play in in Manchester. It’s debuting tomorrow!
"McKeown’s" ~ it ain’t, but he may have been the source
This is an old ballroom type polka, or barndance. Some of it was immediately familiar, though I have some differences on the melody. Other parts seem confused, so I take it memory was failing, or time had its effect. I have been looking for it but haven’t found it yet. I will return with a transcript later, if I can clear the rough bits of this transcription out of my head first. If not, I will at least add what I can remember. I’ll also keep an eye out and may stumble across this in one of the collections or sheets from the 1800’s. For now, and it should have been obvious, here is Bannerman’s transcript, in tact if slightly simplified, except for the removing of some of the bar lines so the tune sits more the way it most likely did before this curious ‘polkafication’ transcript in 2/4, where it could also fit, except as, first measure only ~
|: A/F/B/F/ A/F/B/F/ |
Here it is ‘adjusted’ to 4/4:
K: D Major
|: AFBF AFBF | ABcd dc G2 | GEBE GEBE | GABc BAFG |
AFBF AFBF | ABcd eB B2 | edcB BA A2 | ^GABc d2 d2 :|
|: bafd dc c2 | BBBc BA A2 | ^GABc dcdf | ba^gb a2 dd |
dced cB B2 | ^GABc BA F2 | EFGA Bced | (3cBA (3GFE D4 :|
|: f2 (3efe dd d2 | dded dc c2 | g2 (3fgf ee e2 | eefd dcBA |
f2 (3efe dd d2 | dded cB B2 | B2 Bd e2 ef | edcB A4 :|
|: FAFE DFBF | AGGF G3 A | B2 BB BBcB | BAA^G A2 Bc |
d2 dd edAB | cBBA B3 B | cccB AABc | eddc d4 :|
Note, this was also used, if memory serves me right, as a tune for the Can-Can or Burlesque… Can’t you hear it? Grab your feather boas all, and let’s dance ourselves legless… 😉
Steve, just spotted your comments about this great tune today. I hope you were successful introducing it to your Manchester sessions as it’s one of those marvellous trad tunes that can’t be played too often. In fact it’s become a kind of an anthem at the Fleadh Nua in Ennis each May (possibly due to the regular attendance of Seán and the Liverpool lads) and is guaranteed to get several airings throughout the weekend! If you or any of the Manchester musicians get to Ennis in May, hopefully we’ll get a chance to play it together - however, in view of Ceolachan’s "Can Can" comments above, the tune takes on a whole new dimension and we’ll only be able to play it after the watershed time of 10.00pm or so!
Set your watches and don’t forget your feather boas… 😎
Eamon Coyne, son of the Eamon Coyne on this recording (which I’ve not heard) and a brilliant fiddler himself is head centre at several sessions here North of Boston; he calls this tune "Umpi-Umpi" and nothing else. According to Eamon, it was discovered by Peggy Peakin in a mid-19C sailor’s tunebook in the Liverpool library and entered the tradition by that means.
Re: the "can-can" comments—there’s not a doubt in the world that this is just a plain old standard mid-19C ballroom polka; but there’s a certain strange mindset that somehow either thinks—or would prefer to think—that Ireland was somehow insulated from the rest of the world. They were not culchies: WE’RE the culchies. All they were interested in were good tunes, and by and large, they didn’t care where they came from or what they were: the fact that there are polkas, waltzes, mazurkas, and redowas in the trad repertoire clearly shows that Irish folks were doing their best to keep up with the times, as well as keep up the tradition. Umpi-Umpi (or McKeown’s) is a witness to that truth. The shape of the melody may be pure Bohemia…but when you hear Eamon light into it, it speaks with a distinct Clare accent :>) (by way of Liverpool, by way of Roscommon, of course :>) )
Nice contribution FC, and I love the alternate title…
Eamon thinks the tune book may be in a public collection in Liverpool; and if I ever get that way, I’d sure love to look it up and find out what, exactly, this tune is called in the source: never having heard it called anything other than "Umpi-Umpi", on seeing "McKeown’s" I of course begin to wonder if the book might perhaps be the commonplace book of a sailor named….McKeown. But there are too many other possibilities to make that more than a tickle to the brain. It’s not impossible, of course, that the tune is ACTUALLY titled "Umpi-Umpi" in the MS: Christ knows, I’ve seen stranger things in similar collections from similar dates. Although it’s also a tickle to the mind to imagine it as the onomotopoeic effort of some Irishman being exposed to a polka for the first time :>)
N: # Posted on May 19th 2004 by Bannerman - see above
N: converted from his 2/4 to 4/4 & (3s approximated to an unswung meter
|: AF BF AF BF | AB cd dc G>G | GE BE GE BE | GA Bc BA F>G |
AF BF AF BF | AB cd eB B2 | ed cB BA A2 | ^GA Bc d2 d2 :|
|: ba fd dc c2 | B>B Bc BA A2 | ^GA Bc dc df | ba ^gb a2 d>d |
dc ed cB B2 | ^GA Bc BA F2 | EF GA Bc ed | c/B/A G/F/E D2- D2 :|
|: f2 ef/e/ dd dB/c/ | dd ed dc c2 | g2 fg/f/ ee e2 | ee fd dc BA |
f2 ef/e/ dd dB/c/ | dd ed c2 B2 | B2 Bc/d/ e2 ef | ed cB A2- A2 :|
|: FA FE DF BF | AG GF G2- GA | B2 B>B BB cB | BA A^G A2 Bc |
d2 dc/d/ ed AB | cB BA B2- BB | cc c>B AA Bc | ed dc d2- d2 :|
Old friend, you are missed…
Nice to come back to this tune. I started playing it on the box just now and at a hiatus I thought I’d check out the transcriptions on this site. They are all pretty good I must say, thanks again Aidan for originally putting it up here. Ceolachan’s latest one of one year ago is to my ears the most accurate, so thanks for that C, and for dedicating that to our departed friend Mr B. Thanks also to the very informed comments. Apart from myself playing it occasionally at local sessions down in SE London, I have never heard it played out at sessions, which is a great shame…nay, a crime almost 🙂 However I intend to rectify its sessional dearth forthwith…..
On: The Long Strand
Can be found on this album: https://thesession.org/recordings/4816