I have a great recording of this on Proper Records’ "Farewell To Ireland" by Hugh Gillespie. I’m sure this tune goes under a variety of titles … I’ve heard it called Shoe The Donkey but I’ve also heard a couple of other mazurkas called Shoe The Donkey or Shave The Donkey. Since there are so few mazurkas, I reckon there’s a lot of name-sharing goes on. I gather that the title is a bastardisation of "Valse de Vienne" and I’m also told that Versevanna rather than the name of *a* tune is the name of a dance which can be performed to waltz tunes. Whatever … it’s all smoke, mirrors, nudge-nudge-wink-wink, codology anyway in the Irish music world and if truth is stranger than fiction in some cases, there’s many a hard fact that’s all the better for incorporating the odd bit of fiction. Last time round the final bar is |G6| (with a flourish!).
I always thought that this word was "Varsoviana" i.e. something from Warsaw, and generally meaning central European mazurka type tunes. I first heard the expression from the late Packie Russell of Doolin and the way he pronounced it sounded like "Verse of Vienna". The older musicians (those who played in the 30s, 40s and 50s) certainly used to play a lot of those tunes together with marches and waltzes between the jigs and the reels.
This tune is more commonly known as "Shoe the Donkey". There’s also a special dance (set dance?) that goes with the tune.
Your right Bannerman, there is a special dance that goes along with this as with Johnny Will You Marry Me *that tune has sooo many names!* Here is how its danced:
Advance along line of dance Open waltz hold with partner facing along line of dance, weight on inside foot and outside foot raised - hop-step-step hop-step-step hop-step-step and turn (step in inside foot turning toward partner, then stamp outside foot continuing turn to face against line of dance while changing to a reversed open waltz hold against line of dance). 4 bars
Advance against line of dance Reversed open waltz hold, weight on inside foot and outside foot raised - hop-step-step hop-step-step hop-step-step and turn 4 bars
Repeat advances Advance along line of dance and turn + Advance against line of dance and turn 8 bars
Singles and turn Open waltz hold with partner facing along line of dance, weight on inside foot and outside foot raised - hop-step-step and turn to face against line of dance + hop-step-step and turn to face along line of dance + repeat 3 more times 16 bars
Repeat dance Repeat for as many repetitions as the music dictates… 32 bars
Just thought I’d share that with any dancers out there that might be interested in dancing it. This was the first tune I learned on the harp and its quite pretty. Although, I learned it as Shew The Donkey and not Versevanna. And also there are two ways people spell the former. Either Shew The Donkey or Shoe The Donkey. I learned it Shew.
Shoe the Donkey
The tune, and possibly the dance, of Shoe the Donkey has a pedigree that goes back further even than Brendan Shine!
It is supposed to have originated in Napoleonic France and was brought back to Ireland in the first quarter of the 19th century by soldiers who had fought in the Napoleonic wars.
Set dances found their way to Ireland by the same route, hence the "military" names (The Lancers, The Cameronian,etc.) of some of them,
In the North East of England, the dance is still danced and seems to be locally called Varsevienne.
Shoe the donkey
My wife says those steps are the ones she does in set dancing in Bristol. And they know the tune and dance as Shoe the Donkey.
I believe it’s "Shoe" in the Rince Forne, though of course that’s suspect as it was only published in what, the 20’s or 30’s?
Steps for Shoe the Donkey
Many thanks Harper_Lad for providing the steps for this set dance. While it may take much effort to master dances such as the Caledonian, Plain Set, etc, I think we’ll all agree it’s not "Rocket science" to learn this one which thankfully makes dancing more accessible to us "two left footed" types!
I played this on an eponymous CD with the McPeake family many moons ago. We were all kids then, so of course we came up with the alternative title among ourselves of Do the Shonkey. Still available on Outlet records, I think!
To further confuse the issue, the tune is also known as Father Halpin’s in some parts of Clare!
Varsouvienne - part deux, a slight alteration
Bless my dyslexic soul. I should look before I leap. With the way the tune is transcribed here for the session.org, the emphasis would be on the 1st and 2nd beats. When I first collected this from several sources, including SolFa, ABC and those black dots, it was transcribed:
DG B2 B2|DG B2 B2 - etc…
and I still tend to think along those lines…thus I had said previously the 2nd and 3rd beats… C’est la vie…
Varsouvienne - part III - part I is missing???
Sorry guys, I’m not writing all that again tonight. For some reason my original contribution for this tune didn’t register. I had just thought it would show later, but when part II appeared - - - ??? I am confused, it is late, and I will rewrite part 1 tomorrow or later in the week. I’ll write the ‘boss’ on this one…
Varsovienne Uno - I - the missing file
Well, here it is, and I promise, though it may not seem that way, it has been edited down. Let’s first get some of the names out of the way, and lyrics.
Varsovienne/Varsouvienne (of Warsaw, Poland)
Varsovienne (basically French for ‘Polish’ - dance, or chocolates, or recipe, or - - - )
Tripes à la Varsovienne - a Polish dish in French…Beef Tripe soup…!
Petit Masovien à la Varsovienne - and desert
and after it all - Chocolates Varsovienne
(La) Varsaviena/Varsovania/Varsovia/Varsovia mazurka/Varsoviana/Varsovienna - - -
A number of the names going about are from comic lyrics that have been put to the tune - for example:
Father Halpin/Father Halpin’s/Father Halpin’s Top Coat
Father Murphy/Father Murphy’s/Father Murphy’s Top Coat
Joe the Yankee/Joe the Yankee’s Big Toe
Little Foot/Put Your Little Foot (Right Here/Out)
Shoe the Donkey/Shoot the Donkey
and the first 4 bars worth of a few of these:
"Father Halpin, Father Halpin, Father Halpin’s Top Coat-" (or Father Murphy’s)
"Joe the Yankee, Joe the Yankee, Joe the Yankee’s Big Toe-"
"Put Your Little Foot, Put Your Little Foot, Put Your Little Foot Right Here(Out)-"
I do remember that some lyrics were rude, and I imagine that ‘Shoot the Donkey’ is a bit too non-PC for some modern tastes, though as a meat eater I have bit into, chewed and enjoyed a jackass steak, and the French eat horses…
Places where it has been found, recorded, played, danced, include - England, Wales, Scotland, Eire, Sweden, Norway, Finland, The Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Russia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, North America (USA & Canada), Mexico, Chile, The Carribbean (Cuba)…
Based on the earliest notations I’ve been able to find and view, sources from the mid 1800s, European and North American, the actual barring for the tune would be different than the way it is given above. This is also as I had first collected and learned this, whether SolFa, ABC or the black dots.:
|:DG B2 B2|DG B2 B2|DG B2 c2|B2 A4| - - -
Also danced in Eire/Ireland, and elsewhere, were sets of quadrilles (the ‘sets’ of ‘set dancing’) built around a music forms other than the now usual 4/4, 2/4 and 6/8 tunes. These included square sets in 3/4 time, waltz quadrilles, mazurka quadrilles (though, as one example, the ‘Mazurks’ or ‘Set of Mazurks’ or ‘Mazurka Set’ is no longer danced to 3/4 time) - and The Varsouvienne Quadrille.
Above is the first time I’ve heard it referred to as ‘Valse de Vienne’. No, it’s not a bastardization of anything similar to that. As far as ‘Shoe the Donkey’, that name has become associated with the dance, and the few tunes that fit it are similar in their makeup, meaning a pronounced ‘NN N2 N2’(quick quick slow slow)…
Varsouvienne is both the name of the dance, several related dance holds/positions, and a member of the 3/4 time gang of tunes, a type of mazurka as some would have it. It and mazurkas are not waltzes despite the similar time signature. Sorry, I get a bit fed up with those who lump everything in 3/4 time under ‘waltz’.
It is nice to see some trying to reacquaint the dance music with the dance. Most classical and session musicians do a crap job of giving these tunes the lift and drive that distinguishes them from the likes of ‘The Blue Danube’. They can finger the notes, often with great flair and decoration, but they can’t sing the music. It’s not their fault. When you have the dance in front of you there’s that physical reminder of where the accent is, the flow and the beat of the dance music is reinforced by the dancer, footwork and movements, a two-way communication, something usually lacking in a session, performance or studio. There was also a playfulness amongst these partners, with musicians tending to tease the dancers by varying the tempo, progressively faster on up to even a frenzy, or slower, or a mix of tempos moving back and forth. Rather than sloppy, tempo changes tended to be made with the start of the tune or phrase and carried forward through, more often a full 32 bars, but also possible using 16 or 8 bar phrases.
To use vocalizations, while waltzes tend to be ‘Bang-tuckuh-tuckuh’, mazurkas share with another tune/dance form, the pols, a ‘Bang-tuckuh-Bang’, and the Varsouvienne is ‘tuckuh-Bang-Bang’. It’s easier to see the closer ties between the latter two, little difference really, a matter of barring. The Varsouviennes, those few, are obvious in the notes, having a strong repeating (N=note) ‘NN N2 N2’. It fits the more common and widespread form of the dance. Classic, 32 bars, is the following for the A part of the music (the long part of the dance):
|:NN N2 N2|NN N2 N2|NN N2 N2|N2 N4|
NN N2 N2|NN N2 N2|NN N2 N2|N2 N4:|
- and for the B part (short part of the dance):
|:NN N2 N2|N2 N4|NN N2 N2|N2 N4|
NN N2 N2|N2 N4|NN N2 N2|N2 N4:|
- with dotted skip rhythm, eighth notes/quavers, as with the hornpipe family (3/4 & 4/4, including barndances, Germans, Highland Flings…
The older the sources, music or dance; printed, recorded or live, the closer the name is to the original, Varsovienne, and the closer the bits are, for example the ‘Varsovienne hold/position’, which has survived in some of the sets of quadrilles (sets) danced in Eire.
The Varsovienne goes back at least to the mid 1800s but was also part of the old time dance revival of the 1920s and 30s, promoted at the time by, amongst others, Henry Ford and his wife (w/Ira W. Ford, fiddler), their activities including publications (‘Good Morning’) and recordings. Yes, I do mean that Henry Ford, of motor car fame, Model Ts and As and the assembly line. They were crazy for the old time dances of the 1800s, including quadrilles (& squares), grand marches (polonnaise/big circle) contras, and couple dances like the Varsouvienne. My sources on the whole were either music and/or dance in print or up front and alive. However, my living sources only stretched back to the last quarter of the 1800s. My work here began in the 1970s. The Varsovienne was also part of several revivals in the first half of the twentieth century, from Henry Ford’s work to the early square dance movement, the later as featured in the early work and publications of Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw, featured in his ‘Cowboy Dances’, first published in 1939, and ‘The Round Dance Book’, 1946, an ‘old time cowboy dance’… For a little celluloid gossip, Lloyd Shaw is supposed to have taught the Varsovienne to Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones for the movie ‘Duel in the Sun’ (1946). later known jokingly as ‘Lust in the Dust’…
Some early definitions:
Webster’s 1913 Dictionary
n. 1. A kind of Polish dance.
Definition: \Var`so`vienne"\, n. [F., prop. fem. of varsovien
pertaining to Warsaw, fr. Varsovie Warsaw, Pol. Warszawa.]
(a) A kind of Polish dance.
(b) Music for such a dance or having its slow triple time
characteristic strong accent beginning every second
n. polka-like Polish dance.
Here’s a sweet one from France:
G |:ed e2 g2|ed e2 G2|ed e2 f2|d4 G2|
ed e2 g2|ed e2 G2|dc d2 e2|1. c4 G2 :|2. c4 c2||
BA G2 d2| d4 c2|BA G2 e2|e4 c2|
BA G2 d2|d4 f2|1. ed cd ef| g4 c2:|2. ed c2 e2| c4 G2||
http://www.tradfrance.com/mgtfm04.htm - for dots and midi
Now, back to the dance - - -
‘Varsovienne’ also defines a dance hold/position. In Country Western Dancing it is also called ‘Shadow’ or the ‘Horseshoe’. Here follows the standard one.
Partners are side-by-side, the man on the left, the woman on the right and just slightly forward. The couple is facing the ‘line of direction’, which for most couple dances and halls is Counter (or ‘Anti’) Clockwise around the hall. They hold left hands in front at about her shoulder level. The man’s right arm is stretched to the right and across behind her shoulder blades as they hold right hands, with her bending her right arm so that her right hand is besides her right shoulder.
The opposite of this, after both turn clockwise at the end of a phrase, finds facing clockwise around he hall, holding right hands in front with the man’s left arm across the woman’s back and their holding left hands at her left shoulder.
There is also what is called a ‘Reverse Varsouvienne’ hold/position.
There are also other holds used for the dance besides the ‘Varsovienne hold’.
Another dance that isn’t uncommon in Eire/Ireland, I’ve danced it north and south, is the Gay (Gei) Gordons, which also typically uses the standard Varsovienne hold/position.
While the ‘open-waltz hold’ (shoulder-waist) is given above the Varsovienne could also be done in a ‘cross-back hold’ open or closed (as we’ve danced it in Clare), a ‘closed-waltz hold’ and the original ‘varsouvienne hold/position’… Some are crazier than others as far as getting tied up in the turns, especially when the tempo increases beyond reason, part of the fun… The dance can be as more commonly danced, forward, turn and back, etc., or always forward in the line-of-direction, or ACW (CCW), with partners just exchanging sides at the point of the turns, at the end or the long and short phrases.
When opportunity allows, I’ll give you a version of the dance, the most common as it was and is done in Eire/Ireland, and in a concise manner. I promise. I may have opened up a can of worms with this one, but all the better for fishing, live bait…
‘Round the House and Mind the Dresser: Irish Country-House Dance Music’
- another recording.
Topic TSCD606; 75 minutes; 2001.
This includes a track with Sligo fiddler Michael Gorman playing a Varsovienne. This was a recording made just before his death.
‘Joe Derrane and Jerry O’Brien: Irish Accordion Masters’
1953 - Copley Irish Records COP 5009, 1995. Reissue of all 78 rpm records by either musician, dating from 1928 through the early 1950s. – Re-released as a CD under the Rego label, 1992, #1225328
Track 11. Varsouviana
‘Michael Gorman The Sligo Champion’
Michael Gorman - The Fiddle Music of County Sligo, a 2 CD set – Topic Records, #525, 2001, - available and simply grand… Check out cuts on http://www.amazon.co.uk/
CD 1, track 4 – Shoe the Donkey
Dan Herlihy & John Drew - ‘The Ballydesmond Polka’
2001, Claddagh Records, DHJDCD 001. Dan Herlihy is a B/C box player from Ballydesmond, Sliabh Luachra (Cork/Kerry border), John Drew plays mandocello…
Track 12 – played in a ‘mazurka’ set with Sonny’s Mazurka.
Varsovienne Quattro - ‘Reverse Varsouvienne’
‘Reverse Varsouvienne’ hold/position. In one form this version of the hold can also allow the woman to cross back and forth behind the gent. One version of this, keeping the positions as a couple facing the same direction, the man on the left and the woman on the right and slightly back from the man, he extends his right arm across in front of the woman right hands with her at about her shoulder height and slightly in front, while she crosses her left arm behind this back and diagonally down to hold his left hand at the left of his waist, his arm down and left hand with that back of his hand just against the back of his left waist. This hold is usually shown with the reverse complete, that is with the couple having changed sides, his left arm across in front and her right diagonally down and across his back, the hold still as right hand in right and left hand in left…
Damned Englisher - something from the neighbours…
The Albion Dance Band - "The Prospect Before Us", 1976, BGO Records BGOCD486
Track 3 – Varsovianna – two Varsouviennes in a set.
"Stephen Baldwin: English Village Fiddler", 1976, Leader, LED 2068 – this is a great album, but I haven’t been able to source it as a CD…
Track 29 - Varsoviana
Varsovienne V - mia copa, mia copa - a missing bit and a link…
The Varsovienne could also be done in a cross-hold in front, sometimes called ‘promenade’ or ‘skaters’, with right-hands held in front of lefts ‘(rights over lefts’).
Also, Quite sometime ago I came across a lovely and simple description of two-hand dances, with pictures, and I’d forgotten about it, well, for the rest of you who love making the ‘connection, dance music to dance, here’s some fun from Philidelphia and the lovely Ed Reavy clan. There’s some great music in those collections.:
Who’s a bastard?
The first time I’d heard the ‘Varsovienne’ referred to as ‘Valse de Vienne’/’Waltz of Vienna’’ was in parenthesis on page 2 of a book I highly recommend, by people and dance researchers I hold in esteem, the Fletts, in their ‘Traditional Dancing in Scotland’. Included in those parenthetic marks is the wisdom - “sometimes mistranslated as –“… And, to the suggestion otherwise, found as one of the comments to the tune here - - - NO!, NO!, NO!, ‘Varsovienne’ is not a bastardization of anything similar. These names are the bastardizations.
Varsovienne - Versevanna -
|:GA B2 D2|GA B2 D2|GA B2 c2|B2 A4|
FG A2 D2|FG A2 D2|FG A2 c2|F2 G4:|
Bc d2 g2|f2 c4|AB c2 e2|d2 B4|
GA B2 A2|B2 c4|ce e2 E2|A2 G4:|
Yes, a version of what is already notated here on TheSession.Org site as ‘Versevanna’ but a version and one with a date that pre-dates the Internet or the Arpanet…
"Shoe the Donkey"
from "Dances of Donegal" by Grace Orpen, D.M.Wilkie, London, 1931, on page 26, music and dance description…
This is pre ‘The Public Dance Halls Act’ of 1935.
NOTATION (basically Orpen, with correction to coincide with phrasing and the earlier norms for the natation of this form, bar placement.
- Orpen notated it with the barring as so:
|:GA|B2 D2 GA|
In playing emember the ‘HORNPIPE SKIP’ for mazurkas/Varsoviennes, with paired crotchets/eighth notes - |G>A B2 A2|, not in the notations given on TheSession.Org, but this is a common oversight and practice.
And closer to another version I’ve known, with a ‘variation’ given - a ‘variation’, not the norm and lost if repeated too often:
|:GA BD GB|DG BD GB|DG (3BcB (3cdc|(3BcB A4|
FG AD FA|DF AD FA|DF (3ABA (3BcB|(3ABA G4:|
|:Bc dG Bd|gf c3A|AB cF Ac|ed B3G|
GA (3BcB (3ABA|(3BcB c3B|ce (3efe d2|1 F2 G3A:|
2 F2 G3D||
SHOE THE DONKEY - one version in history
"- as for the woman, the man starts with the opposite foot."
This vesrion of the dance is very close to that described in dance manuals as early as the mid 1800s.
STEPS - from ‘Dances of Donegal’ by Grace Orpen, 1931 - a 30 page pamphlet…
MUSIC: Varsovienne (a close relation to the mazurka)
Two parts, 32 bars: A/AA/B/BB
an 8 bar introducion, the A-part played three times for the first time through the tune, is usual.
Hold: Waltz/Ballroom - with partners facing, man’s back to the centre of the room, woman facing the centre - in other words, the woman’s right shoulder and the man’s left is in the line-of-direction (LOD), or aimed Anti-Clockwise (ACW=CCW=Counter-Clockwise). The man’s left-hand holds the woman’s Right near shoulders and at that level, with compromise for differences in height, elbows bent and down. The man’s Right-arm is around her back, under and lower, while her Left-arm is around his back, over and just above. This can be a cross back hold, with variations in where, usually from shoulder-blade to waist, or a shoulder-waist hold.
Steps are described for the woman, the man’s footwork is opposite to hers.
PART A of the music, 8 bars (-the ‘long’ part = 4 bars)
- BAR 1 - moving in Line-Of-Direction/ACW
COUNT 1: Hop on Left-foot, raising Right-foot slightly.
COUNT 2: Step on Right-foot to the right, LOD.
COUNT 3: bring Left-foot to Right-foot and step beside, feet together.
- BARS 2&3 - moving in LOD/ACW
REPEAT this twice more
- BAR 4 -
COUNT 1: step forward on R-foot, change direction by turning body and step on L-foot
COUNT 2-3 stamp L-foot to the Left without taking weight on it.
The hold doesn’t change but opens up slightly so you can face the opposite direction, Clockwise (CW), toward the cross-back hold.
- BARS 5-8 - moving Reverse-Line-Of-Direction (RLOD/CW)
REPEAT all that in the other direction with opposite footwork.
PART AA - the REPEAT of the first part of the music, 8 bars
- BARS 9-16 -
REPEAT ALL THAT AGAIN, as before, first LOD/ACW then RLOD/CW, or back
and fourth - twice…
PART B of the music, 8 bars (-the ‘short’ part = 2 bars)
- BAR 1 - turning with your partner as a couple CW while traveling in LOD/ACW
COUNT 1: Hop on L-foot,
COUNT 2: Step forward on R-foot,
COUNT 3: Step on L-foot beside R,
- BAR 2 -
COUNT 1: Step forward on R-foot then change direction and
COUNT 2-3: Sstep on L-foot in LOD with a stamp, without weight.
- BARS 3-4 -
REPEAT with opposite footwork, and continuing to move around in LOD/ACW around dance space/room/hall.
- BARS 5-8 -
REPEAT bars 1-4
PART BB - the REPEAT of second part of music, 8 bars
- BARS 9-16 -
REPEAT bars 1-8
For the whole of twice through the B-part of the music the couples travel round the room ACW as they turn CW halfway with each ‘short-step’ of two bars worth. The stamp tended to be almost as a ‘point’, made forward with the toe pointed in the LOD, as it tended to travel.
NOTE FOR MUSICIANS - these dances, and other couple dances as danced in Eire, have always had an element of tease, which also says something for the older musicians ability to control tempo and hold it, and collectively too, as with the McCusker Brothers’ Ceili Band, or The Pride of Erin, both Ulster bands. They would often give it as a nice relaxed tempo, maybe a few times to start, and then either progressively increase it and the level of sweat amongst the dancers, or they might also move back and forth with tempos, even to funeral march tempos. These variations were tune or phrase conscious, and in steps, rather than ‘accelerando’, or out of control and sloppy.
This is just one version of how this dance was danced in Eire - and elsewhere, this one as recorded in the 1930s… I’ll make at least one more contribution in this area later, as I like seeing the music connected to the dance, a partnership I feel is important. It’s dance music. One common way this was and is danced is with the partners in a couple being side-by-side and facing LOD to start, with any of a number of possible dance holds/positions, and movements.
I hope you enjoy it, and if the craic is open, welcoming and social first, that shouldn’t be a problem…
"Good Morning" - After a Sleep of Twenty-five Years,
Old-fashioned DAncing is Being Revived by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford
Published by The Dearborn Publishing Company
1926 - pages 160 - 161
"The Varsovienne is a delightful dance, much favored by those who learn it. Dancers take the waltz position, but the movement is sidewise, starting to the gentleman’s left and continuing until the movement is completed on "point." This is the first part.
ETC… - this earlier description of the dance is virtually the same as given by Grace Orpen in her ‘Dances of Donegal’, as given above. The one clear difference is that there’s no ‘hop’ anywhere, as the likely writers of the Ford book, "Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin Lovett" describe it, but a mere rise of the free foot.
""Raise" in the following description means to raise the free foot to the side; toe pointed to the floor, and at the same time raise and lower the heel of the foot you are standing on. Practice this movement by itself and it will be clear."
Well, almost a ‘hop’, quite Irish really…
"Good Morning" - back to the future - 1926
One of 5, pages 162-163
|:DG B2 B2|DG B2 B2|DG B2 Bd|cB A4|
DF A2 A2|DF A2 A2|DF A2 Ac|BA G4:|
|:DG B2 B2|c2 d4|ed c2 B2|A2 A4|
DF A2 A2|B2 c4|ed c2 B2|A2 G4:|
metronome markings in the book -
138 beats a minute
In this book, as true of other twentieth century notations, and the one this is attached to, it is notated off phrase as:
|:DG|B2 B2 DG|
But, also, without any markings to repeat the A or B parts of the five tunes given… The dance descriptions is similarly truncated, meaning that both the ‘long’ and the ‘short’ are half as long as is usual elsewhere, probably a little free ‘arranging’…considering as given in "Good Morning" it’s pretty much five tunes on the trot, except that the one given here is the only one repeated amongst the others, as ABAB…
DONEGAL - another variant from the Northwest
|:AG F2 D2|AG F2 D2|FG A2 d2|F2 E3 F|
GF E2 EF|GF E2 ED|EF G2 B2|A2 D4:|
|:FG A2 d2|F2 E3 D|EF G2 B2|A2 F4|
FF F2 E2|EF F2 E2|EF G2 B2|A2 D4:|
This occurs as "Father Halpin’s Topcoat" (Shoe the Donkey) on page 127 of the book of music transcribed from Packie Manus Byrne of Donegal, "A Dossan of Heather", compiled and edited by Jean Duval and Stephen Jones, Mel Bay Publications, 2000, ISBN 0-7866-5375-2, which also has some interesting variants on well known mazurkas and other tunes. In the book the transcription is barred as often happens now, |:AG|F2 F2 AG| - - - there is an interesting crossing of the bar that is sometimes played, which I’d heard by others, in the B part of the music, bars 5 & 6, reverting to the other barring, it would read so:
FF|F2 E3F|F2 E3F|G2
This tune was taught at a workshop I attended a few months ago. My little sister (who’s an irish dancer anyway) learnt the dance with the tutor and then when we performed they sang these words while dancing it (I don;t know if these are just made up/instructions for dance?!?)
"Shoe the donkey, Shoe the donkey, Shoe the donkey and fold" repeated lots and lots of times!!
The tune then cahnged it’s name to Shoot the donkey and has become a bit of a running joke now!
"Reversavianna" - North and South
‘Reversavianna’ was another name that Francie Mooney had for the dance, along with the classic "Shoe the Donkey". As also learned in Clare, Francie showed the dance with arms crossed behind the back, right hand in right, left hand in left - with variations in the figure. The name ‘Reversavianna’ came from the tendency of the dance to travel one way and then reverse directions, as you’d guess if you were familiar with any of the various forms of the dance.
And from further south, here’s lyrics for one of the names this dance and tune take, from Peter (brother of Vincent) and Ethna Broderick and family of Cosmeena, Lough Rea, County Galway - more lovely folk, fine musicians and dancers, and one fine repairman of clocks, and one of the best soda breads I’ve had. I wish I’d said yes to that offer of an Irish military jacket as I stepped into the lashing rain:
Come to bed love,
Come to bed love,
Come to bed love say’s he.
What to do love,
What to do love,
What to do love say’s she.
Armagh and John McCusker’s playing of it - - -
McCusker Brothers Ceili Band
|:f>e f2 A2|f>e f2 A2|f>e f2 g2|f2 e4|
e>^d e2 A2|e>^d e2 A2|e>^d e2 f2|e2 d4:|
|F>G A2 d2|c2 B2 G2|E>F G2 B2|A2 F4|
F>F F2 E2|F2 G3 F|G>A B2 A2|^G2 A4|
F>G A2 d2|c2 G4|E>F G2 B2|A2 F4|
F>F F2 E2|F2 G3 F|G>A B2 A2|C2 D4||
Request for 3rd Part for Shoe the Donkey - - -
There was an out of place discussion topic today that had started and then was axed, someone looking for a third part they’d heard played for the ‘usual’ "Shoe the Donkey". I promised I’d do a search, knowing a few sources. Well, the Danish one I eventually remembered was three parts but is not a related melody. There was a Swedish version, same basic melody for both the A and B parts, but without repeats, and no third part version found, not yet. The German’s have a third part, but for that one the A part is pretty much the same, though only 8 bars, but while the B and C parts repeat they are distinctly different. I hesitate to give that version here at TheSesh, unless pushed. The one early American version/arrangement I did find was a 5-parter, one of the parts resembling the A part to the ‘usual’, the other four parts being different. None of these versions, to the best of my knowledge, were played in Eire/Ireland… The French and the Belgians also have a take on this one, and it was, as previously said, danced all over the globe…with many variations developing over time. I have some recollection of a three-parter down under but couldn’t find a notation for that, at least not yet… I do have a contact with a similar interest and I’ll see what I can find out for the person who posed this question.
Been thinking about simple tunes to give my new young student. Shoe the Donkey came to mind. In Limerick, a third part is often played. I think it’s nice and melodic, and it winds up the tune nicely. There’s usually a few triplets thrown in, but this is the gist of it:
Bc|:d2 b2 d2|g4 dg|f2 e2 d2|A3 BAG|F2 A2 d2|f4 fe|d2 cd ed|B4 Bc|d2 b2 d2|g4 dg|f2 e2 d2|A3 BAG|F2 A2 d2|f4 fe|d2 cd ef|g4
Nice, a fun fragment of melody ~ but it does nothing for the actual dance that comes with the tune form, but as a listening piece, something just for performance’s sake?
Where did this 3rd part come from? Who introduced it? It really deserves a place of its own, and if intended to work for the dance in a set of similarly intended tunes, AABB, 32 bars, which is the length of the usual dance in its several variations ~ once through…
Alright, I’ve played it a few times, and it’s alright, but it fits with "Shoe the Donkey" like welding a wind vane to a lawn mower… Personally, it doesn’t compliment the tune, and by that I also mean note and rhythm wise… It feel out of character, as if it should be a completely different tune, which has me wondering that maybe it is, missing the AA… I wouldn’t be surprised, because it comes a clunker adding it onto the end of "Shoe the Donkey". It just don’t, IMIO, fit…however cute it might be…
Hehe, "a wind vane to a lawnmower" eh? Fair enough, I suppose I haven’t convinced you then!
I got it from a Sliabh Luacra box player that I play with in Limerick. Not sure where he got it. Seems to work well enough rhythm wise when we play it - maybe we put a different bounce in the tune or something. I dunno.
As for dancing, I pretty much rarely think about dancing when I’m playing. Nothing like a dancer to make a bollix of a perfectly good tune.
Anyway, up to yourself, I just thought I’d share it.
Hey tradshark, if not clear, I like it, it just throws a monkey wrench into the dance, doesn’t fit there, and I don’t think it fits this melody. In fact, it is familiar. My suspicion is as said, that it is missing the AA to its BB. My guess is that they may have been in a set originally and the first part of this one went missing? It may even be on site already, as there are a number of ‘varsoviennes’ on the database here. I had been considering a search, and hopefully will remember. At the moment I’m doing other work, and transcribing some tunes in another realm… 😉
Sharing is a good thing. I’m glad you gave a source. I’ve danced the dance in Sliabh Luachra and played it with a number of musicians from there, as well as elsewhere. Who’s the box player? Does he have a source for it?
The dance and tune were well known in a lot of places, including Cork, Kerry, Tipperary, Limerick, Clare, Galway, and was part of an evening’s dancing, along with the local set(s) and a bit of waltzing, etc…
I had also tried it as a ‘trio’, or AABBAACC ~ but that doesn’t ring right either, in my ears… But hey, I do have tinitus in one of those…
Teaching, passing on the tradition, is a good thing, so, while this one may have me slightly cringing, you are in my prayers… 🙂
No worries Ceolachan. It might very well be the B part of another tune that may have been in a set. I’m afraid I don’t have enough info to defend its place as 3rd part of Shoe the Donkey.
I hadn’t heard it played before playing it with Austin (Austin Florish - box player). It certainly isn’t heard much. I’ll ask him where he got it - see if I can dig up some more info.
Thanks for the prayers, I can use all I can get 🙂
in classical/ballroom terms it’s a ‘Viennese Waltz’ (Valse being french for waltz) hence the origin of the name I presume. These are/were danced faster than the English (slow) waltzes. Although it’s a generic style name, this tune in particular seems often to have been referred to as ‘the’ Viennese Waltz in both classical and ITM circles. The Albion Band and others recorded it as the Waltz of Vienna, etc as discussed above. Worth noting that the feel of a Mazurka is a bit different rhythmically to a standard waltz though. I know it as Shoe the Donkey and noticed it recently on the Comhaltas Foinn Sesiun CD1 in a set with Sonny’s Mazurka https://thesession.org/tunes/5476 -
Varsovienne ~ BPM
Yes, it often gets thrown in with mazurkas, because it bears a closer affinity to that form than to waltzes, though they all fall under the 3/4 time signature, as do some marches and other forms. To be mad, the basic rhythmic drive of these goes something like this, using the ol’ Boom chuck’ in groups of 3s for the 3/4 bar/measure ~
| Boom chuck chuck | ~ waltz
| Boom chuck Boom | ~ mazurka ( & sharing rhythmic identity with the pols )
| chuck Boom Boom | ~ varsovienne
The dances reflect this…
BPMs ~ from 105 to 175 ~ or for balance 130 to 150
The dance could be played steadily, 130 - 150 bpm
~ or as a tease ~
varied in tempo, for example 105 - 175 bpm, for example, going from a nice relaxed pace and changing tempo up or down, reaching roasting and manic for the penultimate go of the 32 bar tune/dance, and then to finish once through back at a relaxed or even painfully slow tempo… Such tempo variations were one of the playful approaches by musicians and ceili bands used to tease the dancers, for a laugh, with some dances…
NOTE: see dance description given above…
While only one is described above, there are several different holds used for the dance, for examples:
* Varsovienne (over-the-shoulder)
* cross -hold in front (skaters’, L-hand in L/R-hand in R, held in front)
* cross-hold behind
* waist shoulder (ballroom/waltz, open or closed)
* inside hands held
"The Silver Lakes Varsovienne" ~ 1866 comment
~ courtesy of The Fiddler’s Companion ~ Andrew Kuntz
Her’s an interesting note from that valued source ~
In 1866 during the Canadian gold-rush Robert Burrell grumbled in a letter that the music from Bakerville’s Hurdie house across the street was disturbing his sleep. He mentioned four of the songs that were ringing in his ears: "Silver Lakes Varsovianna,” "King of the Cannibal Islands,” "Sultan Polka" & "Edinburgh Quadrille.”
My Pop, Edwin…
used to dance the "Varsaveene" in Cleveland in the 1930’s at German social dances, with fiddles and zithers playing the tune. I later found the tune in Southeastern Utah where they do a Mexican style waltz to it! Interesting how a good tune finds its way around.
Tradshark’s 3rd part ~
Yes, coming back to this, it is familiar, as a variant on the B-part… There are a lot of interesting variants, or other tunes for the dance…
|: Bc |\
d2 b2 d2 | g4 dg | f2 e2 d2 | A3 B AG |
F2 A2 d2 | f4 fe |[1 d2 cd ed | B4 :|[2 d2 cd ef | g4 |]
# Posted on June 15th 2007 by tradshark
"The Roche Collection of Traiditional Irish Music, Volume III" ~ 1927
Frank Roche (1866 - 1961)
page 49, tune #150 ~ "The Versevianna" / "Father Halpin’s Top Coat"
T: Versevianna, The
T: Father Halpin’s Top Coat
|: B>c |\
B2 D2 B>c | B2 D2 B>c | d2 e2 d2 | A4 A>B |
A2 D2 A>B | A2 D2 AB | c2 e2 d2 | G4 :|
|: Bc |\
d2 g2 f2 | A4 A>B | c2 e2 d2 | B4 B>c |
B2 A2 B2 | c4 A>B | c2 e2 d2 | G4 :|
"Trio" ~ included with the Roche collection transcription ~
|: Bc |\
d2 B2 d2 | g4 d2 | f2 e2 c2 | A4 G2 |
F2 A2 c2 | f4 e2 |[1 ed ^cd ed | B4 :|[2 ed cA FD | G4 ||
Bc|:d2 B2 d2 | g4 de | f2 e2 c2 | A4 AG | F2 A2 d2 | f4 fe |1 de fe dc| B4 Bc:|2 de dc AF | G4 Bc||
I’ve heard Carlow box player, Joe Dowling play a third part and recorded it to learn there a while back. More or less the same as Tradsharks above but this is how Joe has it.
I first heard this tune at mother’s knee. We sang the words _ Have you seen my, have you seen my, have you seen my new clothes?. Of course I am aware of many names it’s known as. My father in law use to call it ‘Cock your leg up’ and danced to it in the style not unlike a Velita Waltz. I also came across an old version of it in a book. It was called The Versevianna’ and consisted of three parts. Three very nice parts they are too. It also stated that it was classed as a Redowa, which I take to mean a particular type of dance.. Incidentally that is the version I play. I also liked the version that Alan Ladd danced in the movie ‘Shane’
"Trio" ~ as suspected, for "The Varsovienne" / "Shoe the Donkey"
Check out the Roche ‘trio’ compared to Joe Dowling’s and the one TradShark has offered up ~
"Trio" ~ included with the Roche collection transcription, then WH’s offering, and finally tradsharks ~
|: Bc |\
d2 B2 d2 | g4 d2 | f2 e2 c2 | A4 G2 |
F2 A2 c2 | f4 e2 |[1 ed ^cd ed | B4 :|[2 ed cA FD | G4 |]
d2 B2 d2 | g4 de | f2 e2 c2 | A4 AG |
F2 A2 d2 | f4 fe |[1 de fe dc| B4 Bc:|[2 de dc AF | G4 Bc |]
|: Bc |\
d2 b2 d2 | g4 dg | f2 e2 d2 | A3 B AG |
F2 A2 d2 | f4 fe |[1 d2 cd ed | B4 :|[2 d2 cd ef | g4 |]
Years ago we used to play this for the ex-County Kerry ceili dancers at the Shamrock House in East Durham, NY, USA each Sunday afternoon. I like the name that Paul O’Donnell says his County Cavan mother calls it - ‘Peter Big Toe’ - the best.
Shoe The Donkey
X:13 from Jackie Roche and His Irish Dance Band: https://app.box.com/s/cwph5wrmcphimobbje7l And for good measure, here’s John McGettigan and his boys: https://app.box.com/s/35x68qdauzzx4u2frymr And then Dan Sullivan’s Shamrock Band: http://www.itma.ie/digitallibrary/playlist/dan-sullivans-shamrock-band All of these Irish (-American) ensembles based in the States played the elusive 3rd part described and occasionally transcribed on this complete mess of a page, so perhaps it made its way back home via one of their discs.
There isn’t a Shoe in either the James Morrison or Jerry O’Brien books I have. Morrison was Roche’s teacher. The Irish All Stars featuring Joe Derrane and O’Brien didn’t have a 3rd part, note. Roche & Co even play a 4th part here, which sounds suspiciously like a bit of a song, I’m not wholly conversant with the mainstream Irish vocal repertoire, Roche’s ensembles in fact recorded a lot of that stuff which I went over seeing if this isn’t something I need a few bars hummed of to recollect, Queen of Connemara or Rose of Tralee etc. None of those fit the bill, perhaps one of you can spot this item.
The ‘MESS’!!! 😛
That was caused when the site went through that major overhaul over a year ago, and all ‘comments’, even fragments of ABCs, suddenly were raised to the notation section, with dots, and whether or not there were any clear headers for them. I have been regularly updating things where they are entries I’ve made, but I’m following notifications I receive when someone adds a tune where I’d made the first submission. But where I hadn’t, like here, I don’t get a notice, I have to go looking for these strays. I’ll now do my best to make sense of what is above.
As already said, that third part, I’ve seen and have earlier notations where it is given as a ‘trio’, not actually a ‘third part’ per say, but some folks have taken to playing it that way. The dance is in all the notations I have for it, going way back, at most a 32 bar dance, not 40… But, dancers can work around any discrepancy, so long as the basic units/phrases are made up of 8 and 16 bars. But, also, it’s nice when the music and the dance fit one another well, in this case as 32 bars and AABB… 😎
X: 14 "The Versavienna" / "The Varsovienne" / "Shoe the Donkey"
This transcription taken from the bow of Michael Gorman, but not with his occasional use of double-stops, keeping it basic… This is in answer to a request from a friend. I hope this meets your needs. As already mentioned, this is after adjusting the goosed nature of the recording I used, which was a half step/one semitone sharp, something not unusual with old recordings, and some new ones…
Sometimes varsoviennes are notated in a way to emphasis a difference from the parent mazurkas, for example, using just the first four bar phrase:
|: D>G B2 B2 | D>G B2 B2 | D>G B2 c2 | B2 A4 | ~
I’ve always understood ‘trio’ to refer to an extra part slipped inbetween the major parts of a composition, only played once. You do see this in some old books trad music like Kerr’s, whose books were aimed at amateur violinists of all grades, which included a smattering of art music, Garucha waltzes and "Operatic Melodies." One quick definition I dug up is thus:
"From the 17th century onward the word ‘trio’ is used to describe a contrasting second or middle dance appearing between two statements of a principal dance, such as a minuet or bourée. This second dance was originally called a ‘trio’ from the 17th-century practice of scoring it for three instruments, for example two oboes and bassoon. Later examples continued to be referred to as trios, even when they involved a larger number of parts"
The fellows whose music I transcribed the tune from were playing something like ABABC - I think - too lazy to check. So odd forms are hifalutin? Is the Trip to Durrow an Irish trio sonata? ;)
I used "mess" in the fondest possible sense there too, I’m grateful just to have a site to do this work on, I wish the random transcriptions people posted over the years didn’t present themselves as settings per se but if correcting bugs like that is too much out of Jeremy’s time I’m not going to grouse about it.
I’m not sure why, but ‘trios’ were common with 3/4 tunes, especially waltzes, but also those of the mazurka family, and polkas too. I’ve seen them mostly in manuscripts from the 1800s, and with ‘dance music’, though not reflected in any change in the actual dancing, the dance continuing to fit within the main bar count of the melody, though sometimes only one part’s worth. Another way they are played, using ‘C’ as the trio is:
I have also come across it being described this way. It’s only natural, I think, when the music becomes separated from the tradition, such as ‘playing for dancers’, or ‘playing from a score’, for the ‘trio’, in this form, to become a third part:
Where it causes problems is that many pattern mazurkas, and various related forms, including the mazurka-waltz and polka-mazurka, as I’ve known them, actually fit the full 32 bars, so AABBAACC ~ works, but AABBCC ~ throws a monkey wrench in that lovely agreement that can occur between music and dance, musician and dancer…
It would make an interesting ‘discussion’ on site, especially to hear how our ‘classically trained and influenced’ members might interpret it and/or know it…
A tin whistle version here
Re: Shoe The Donkey
It makes an appearance in The Outlaw Josie Wales, along with the Irish Washerwoman. I will leave it up to others to figure out if that fails the authenticity test for that time and location.
Shoe The Donkey & De Ice House (Barbados): lyrics?
Amazing body of research-gathering by ceolachan (and others). - A Jamaican/English friend, preparing a book of Caribbean songs for ukulele (well, why not?), will include "De Ice House Song", a Barbados variant of "Shoe the Donkey". She knows the Barbadian lyrics (see below), but she’s curious to know about any lyrics from Elsewhere; I’m sending her a link to this page with attention to a few that ceolachan gave a taste of ("Father Halpin, Father Halpin, Father Halpin’s Top Coat" (or Father Murphy’s); "Joe the Yankee, Joe the Yankee, Joe the Yankee’s Big Toe"; "Put Your Little Foot … Right Here(Out)"). If anyone can give me the full lyrics to one of these, that would be splendid. - And here are the Barbadian ones, from a book quoted on mudcat (but I don’t know how to upload a copy of the staff notation):
Edited by me from Trevor G. Marshall, Peggy L. McGeary and Grace Thompson, 1981, Folk Songs of Barbados
DE ICE HOUSE SONG
Shake yuh right foot, shake you right foot, an’ leh yuh left foot stand! / Shake yuh right foot, shake you right foot, an’ leh yuh left foot stand!
1. On the mornin’ o’ de fire, Lord Nelson came down / He form de sojers in a line, an’ he blow de Ice House down.
Chorus: Save John Gill, save John Gill, an’ leh de Ice House burn / Save John Gill, save John Gill, leh de Ice House burn!
2. De Ice House in pawn for a five-dollar note / For to buy a rocking chair an’ a silk sofa coat.
Chorus: Cease firing, cease firing, don’t limber up on me* / Cease firing, cease firing, don’t limber up on me.
[*limber up- "a phrase with a salacious meaning."]
The Ice House burned in February 1860. Not only were ice and luxuries stored and sold there, but it served as a restaurant and hotel to the planter and commercial set and to the tourist [[i.e. the well-off people]]. (Nelson, of course, died some 55 years previously - "poetic license".) Barbadians believed that the fire was deliberate ("in pawn"). John Gill was a popular chemist who dispensed medicines to the poor at cheap prices.
Re: Shoe The Donkey
Shoe The Donkey
as sung by Brendan Shine to the mazurka (its on spotify etc)
Shoe the donkey, shoe the donkey for his feet on the peat
For the donkey will be wonky without shoes on his feet
Fill the nose bag for the old nag, with the finest of grog
For tomorrow beg or borrow we’ll be all in the bog
We’re all off today in the great USA
We’re heading for work in the town of New York
With our barrows and spades, we’ll forget all our pains
As we shuffle our feet to the beat on the street
Shoe the donkey, shoe the donkey and comply with the law
For the Yonkers will be Bonkers when they hear his He Haw
Make a sandwich Mrs Banbridge, make the tea in the pot
Now we’re frying, turf is drying, for the sun is so hot
Shoe the donkey, shoe the donkey, hurry up don’t be late
It’s the first time since old Ireland we had laugh and felt great
What handsome little creature, all our friends will remark
As he trots down Manhattan and across Central Park
We’re all here today in the great USA
We’re enjoying our for work in the town of New York
With our barrows and spades, we forget all our pains
As we shuffle our feet to the beat on the street
a little of my word drift may have slip in here All The Best Nick
Shoe The Donkey, X:15
This version of Shoe the Donkey was taught to me by fiddle player Martin McGinley at the Fiddler’s Farm workshop of 2018. It is thought to originate from Tory Island (Toraigh), Donegal.
Shoe The Donkey, X:16
My take on this tune.
Shoe The Donkey, X:17
As played by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh And Frankie Kennedy on their ‘Ceol Aduaidh’ recording (1983).
This video shows Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh playing the same setting following it with a more standard setting (recorded at the closing concert for Glencolmcille Fiddle Week 2015).
And if anyone wants to learn the dance there’s some help from loads of videos on youtube, such as this one
Re: Shoe The Donkey
I learned this dance as a teenager in the 50’s. It was The Varsouvienne and had 3 parts. Same tune. Sometimes called put your little foot.
First part is like the dance in the video.
2nd part the woman crosses in front of the man and points his foot. Repeat back. Do it 2x.
3rd part the couple waltz together.
Many opportunities for flirtation.
Concord New Hampshire USA
Shoe The Donkey, X:19
Setting as played by Michael Gorman on the album Round The House and Mind The Dresser.
Re: Shoe The Donkey
Just to add to the confusion, the usual name in Scotland is La-Va (from La Varsoviana) and was popularised by Jimmy Shand. Listen to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xui2DRHL6Bg