The Bluebell Polka barndance

Also known as The Blue Bell, Bluebell, The Bluebell Hornpipe, The Bluebell.

There are 13 recordings of a tune by this name.

The Bluebell Polka has been added to 4 tune sets.

The Bluebell Polka has been added to 141 tunebooks.

Download ABC

Eight settings

X: 1
T: The Bluebell Polka
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
(3Bdg|b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B2G2|FGAB c2e2|ed^cd B2(3Bdg|
b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B2G2|FGAB cdef|g2g2 g2:|
K:D
|:z2|A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2^g2 =g2e2|b2a2 ^g2a2|
A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2^g2 =g2e2|d2f2 d2:|
K:G
|:(3Bdg|b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B2G2|FGAB c2e2|ed^cd B2(3Bdg|
b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B2G2|FGAB cdef|g2g2 g2:|
K:C
|:z2|e2e2 efg2|e2e2 efg2|f2f2 fdB2|fefg fdB2|
e2e2 efg2|e2e2 efg2|f2f2 fdBd|c2e2 c2:|
X: 2
T: The Bluebell Polka
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:g|b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B3G|FGAB c2e2|ed^cd B3g|
b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B32G|FGAB cdef|g2g2 g3:||
|:B|A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|b2a2 f3d|
A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|1 d3d d3:|| 2 d3d =c4||
|:B2BA Bcd2|B2BA Bcd2|c2cd cAF2|c2cd cAF2|
B2BA Bcd2|B2BA Bcd2|c2cB cAFA|G2B2 G4:||
X: 3
T: The Bluebell Polka
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:g|b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B3G|FGAB c2e2|ed^cd B3g|
b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B3G|FGAB cdef|g2g2 g3:||
|:B|A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|b2a2 f3d|
A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|1 d3d d3:|| 2 d3d =c4||
|:B2BA Bcd2|B2BA Bcd2|c2cd cAF2|c2cd cAF2|
B2BA Bcd2|B2BA Bcd2|c2cB cAFA|G2B2 G4:||
X: 4
T: The Bluebell Polka
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
g/4a/4|bb g/f/g/e/|dd BB/G/|FA ce|e/d/^c/d/ Bg/a/|
bb g/f/g/e/|dd BB/G/|F/G/A/B/ c/d/e/f/|gf g:|D/4E/4F/4G/4|
|:AA A/B/d/f/|aa ff/4g/4|a^g =ge|ba ^ga|
AA A/B/d/f/|aa ff/4g/4|a^g =ge|df d>B||
X: 5
T: The Bluebell Polka
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
(3Bdg|b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B3G|FGAB c2e2|ed^cd B2(3Bdg|
b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B3G|FGAB cdef|1g2b2g2:|2g2b2g4|
|:B2B2 Bcd2|B2B2 Bcd2|cBcB (3cBA G2|cBcB (3cBA G2|
B2B2 Bcd2|B2B2 Bcd2|cBcB (3cBA GA|G2B2G4:|
|A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|b2a2 ^g2a2|
A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2^g2 =g2e2|d4 d4:|
X: 6
T: The Bluebell Polka
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|:b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B4|F2A2 c2e2-|ed^cd B4|
b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B4|FGAB cdef|g2g2 g4:|
K:Dmaj|:A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|b2a2 f3d|
A2A2 Adfa|a2a2 f4|a2^g2g2e2 |1b2a2^g2a2 |2d2f2d4:|
# Added by KLR .
X: 7
T: The Bluebell Polka
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
|: (3Bdg |b2 b2 g>fg>e | d2 d2 B2 z G | F2 A2 c2 e2 | ed^cd B2 (3Bdg |
b2 b2 g>fg>e | d2 d2 B2 z G | FGAB cdef | g2 g2 g2 :|
K: DMaj
|: z2 |A2 A2 FAdf | a2 a2 f4 | a2 ^g2 =g3 e | b2 (3aba ^g2 a2 |
A2 A2 FAdf | a2 a2 f4 | a2 ^g2 =g3 e | d2 d2 d2 :|
K: GMaj
|: (3Bdg |b2 b2 g>fg>e | d2 d2 B2 z G | F2 A2 c2 e2 | ed^cd B2 (3Bdg |
b2 b2 g>fg>e | d2 d2 B2 z G | FGAB cdef | g2 g2 g2 :|
K: CMaj
|: z2 |e2 e2 ef g2 | e2 e2 ef g2 | f2 f2 fd B2 | fefg fd B2 |
e2 e2 ef g2 | e2 e2 ef g2 | f2 f2 fdBd | c2 c2 c2 :|
X: 8
T: The Bluebell Polka
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
(3Bdg|b2b2g>f g>e|d2d2B2G2|F>G A>B c2e2|e>d ^c>d B2 (3Bdg|
b2b2g>f g>e|d2d2B2G2|F>G A>B c>d e>f|g2g2g2:|
K:D
z2|A2A2F>A d>f|a2a2f4|a2^g2=g2e2|b2a>^ga4|
A2A2F>A d>f|a2a2f4|a2^g2=g2e2|d2d2d2:|
K:G
(3Bdg|b2b2g>f g>e|d2d2B2G2|F>G A>B c2e2|e>d ^c>d B2 (3Bdg|
b2b2g>f g>e|d2d2B2G2|F>G A>B c>d e>f|g2g2g2:|
K:C
z2|e2e2 e>f g2|e2e2e>f g2|f2f>g f>e d2|f>e f>g f>e d2|
e2e2 e>f g2|e2e2e>f g2|f2f>g f>d B>d|c2c2c2:|

Forty-one comments

Bluebell Polka

Well, someone had to do it :-)

If I have understood all the recent discussion about tune genres, this is not a polka but a barndance, or German schottische, to be played in a swung hornpipey rhythm.

If you can get over the twee "country danceness" of this tune, it’s actually quite attractive with its inventive key changes.

Posted as a peace offering for someone on this site who likes to play this on the box :-)

Thanks Dow - a great tune which was played a lot back in the late fifties and early sixties but much neglected ever since. I think it was recorded by either Jimmy Shand or Dermot O’Brien (maybe even both). Will try and introduce it to our session as this seems to be a good year for "tune resurrection" - we’ve recently got to grips with McKeown’s polka which also has lots of nostalgia associated with it!

I’ve played this one for years already and I can continue to do so with a clear conscience now that the "tune police" here have given us permission. :-)

Hey John I’m the one who’s been campaigning for recognition and revival of dag around here remember. I’m not proud! :-)

Something about this tune makes me feel good - I think it might be because my dad used to play a piano version of it from an old tattered tunebook when I was a kid.

According to net sources it appears in Kerr’s Merry Melodies from the 1880s, so it’s been around for a while.

Bluebell Polka

This was played regularly and with enthusiasm at a session I used to go to (it’s now dormant until the autumn), perhaps because the principals in the session are members of a ceili band, and the set dancers enjoy dancing to it.

Trevor

HALELLUJAH! - DOW YOU SWEETHEART I COULD KISS YOU - oops, CAPS again…

Hey, another ‘barndance/schottische’. Yeah, I had this one and it was lingering there in the background as a consideration. Yes, Jimmy Shand made it widespread from accounts I’d heard, and its popularity infiltrated the Irish, especially in the North, Ulster, where I heard a few folks play it way back when, Donegal and Fermanagh. Your ear is obviously well developed. But hey, even 3/4 tunes have been referred to as ‘Polkas’. You were already on my good books, liking your cheeky curiosity, but this earns you a gold star.

NO - I’m not a teacher in that sense, but am married to a primary teacher.

That Feel Good Feeling -

This is back in the late 70s. A group of us, well, me and some folks from the North, were at one of those big events in Eire, a fleadh if I remember right, some session in a small back alley pub. We got into playing the ‘oddities’, including barndances. We were having a kick bouncing through these things, about six of us in total, different instruments.

This really nice looking woman approached, pint and instrument in hand, and with a ‘sashay’. She took the attention immediately of the males present, me included. She nodded and found a place to join our small intimate ring, clearly liking the attention. We finished the set of Germans we’d just been playing and she started up, in a bitingly clear Northeast Coast American accent something along the lines of:

"What are you playing that for, this is an Irish session isn’t it?"

Someone near her responded, quite civily, in a clearly Donegal accent, "It was a set of Germans."

To which she dug her hole further, "That figures, those are too cloyingly sweet to be Irish. Let’s get into something modal."

She didn’t last long, but I’m not sure if it was us that moved pubs or we just put our instruments aside for a spell until she moved on.

Dow…

Your peace offering has humbled me, but has been hopefully graciously accepted. Thank you. Maybe I do go off at tangents at times, but what you see is what you get with me. I ain’t no Machiavelli.

So where were we…And yes, it is twee and silly, but it’s still one of my fave tunes. It’s a great fun tune to play, especially on the box.

Hmm… my version is a bit different. It’s probably me, not doing it right. The trouble is that most of the South London sessionistas now play it the way I introduced it! Oh well. Maybe I should rename my version as Mackay’s Polka (joke).

This was also recorded by Will Starr, as well as Jimmy Shand and (probably) Dermott O’Brien.

Jesse Smith and Harry Bradley do a mad 2-part version of this, preceded by The Happy Birdy, or, as Jesse pronounces it, Da Hap-py Boidey.

Can you post the South London version? Maybe my setting is me not doing it right…

Another comment for John J

It occurs to me that this would go well with that tune you posted recently, "Jimmy O’ The Bu’s Polka" https://thesession.org/tunes/3118. That one seems to be another example of a schottische with "polka" in its title.

Top Of The Pops

Jimmy Shand actually took this to number 7 or 8 in the top 10 charts of the time, as far as I know, the only polka to do so. If it brings a declaration of peace between London and Sydney, fair play to it! :)

Posted by .

The only difference is in the 3rd part, where I don’t play the opening phrase of the first part again, just do all the 3rd part stuff, but in G.

- - - Love Of Evolution - - -

It is a kick to see how a tune evolves, or anything.

I was once generous, well, my wife still says too much so, and I give things out to those with an interest, including dance descriptions from my own fieldwork, including here. Yesterday I was reading several of these on Irish sets that originated in this hand and have gotten a wide distribution by others, including by an old and very well known acquaintance and friend Connie Ryan. I don’t mind not having credit, but I gave out the sources of these dances too, and none show in any description I’ve read, at least four late last night. Anyway, there are ‘evolutionary’ steps and figures. Things change.

I’ve seen this often with tunes too - and I’ve slight variations on The Bluebell, and I’ve heard it played as only 32 bars, the first two parts. As another musical example, one of the mazurkas I’d collected was the same in character and basic air, but I collected a number of distinct versions of it from different related Northern sources, as well as in a couple of different keys. ‘Related’ meaning that they were part of a chain, they’d learned it from each other in a chain, like ‘Chinese Whispers’. The further from the origin the more different it became. It would be nice to see the ABC here of some of those evolutionary forces as worked upon this tune…PLEASE? Share your ‘Chinese Whispers’, and maybe a bit about who whispered the tune to you. Maybe we’ll be able to follow the chain back…

OOPS!, sorry, I’m not shouting, honestly…

with appreciation - - -

I heard that on one recording, forgotten which, they do play it as a polka…

-Athena

Posted by .

Bluebell

As Joe Burke mentioned at a concert in D’shanbo quoting a friend who said "the old tunes are definatley the best - though it was sometimes diffucult getting the parts"

Bob Cann - English Melodeon - & The Bluebell Polka…

For me Bob Cann is the melodeon man for this tune. When I first heard Bob Cann’s playing and his ‘Dartmoor Pixie Band’, I fell in love, what joyous bounce. His CD on Veteran, ‘Proper Job’ VT138CD, is great, but the only recording I know of him playing ‘The Bluebell Polka’ is on an Ashely Hutchings production - ‘Kickin’ Up The Sawdust’, where it is tune three of a set of three played for the dance ‘La Russe’, track 1. Bob Cann got ‘The Bluebell Polka’ from the playing of Jimmy Shand.

Bluebell - written by Shand

All this stuff and no-one has given Jimmy Shand the credit for the tune’s composition.
Well he did write it so good on him.

Its a good dance too.
Noel

That’s cuz it wasn’t Noel! It was just recorded by him.

Oh no, he didn’t. :-)

He wrote a lot of great tunes but not that one.
It can be found in the Kerr’s books, though I’m not sure of its history. It has been attributed to an F Stanley. These books predate Jimmy Shand.

"Its composer, F. Stanley, is little known.
However, when Jimmy Shand recorded The Bluebell Polka in
1955 it became a radio hit, cementing Shand’s position as a
Scottish music recording artist. It is first found in
Kerr’s Collection of Merry Melodies, 1875, without a
composer. Around the turn of the 20th century, it was
published in Kerr’s "New and Popular Music" with Stanley’s
name as composer. "

And Shand was born in 1908, so he would have had to be at least (most!?) -33 years old (young!?) to have even had a whiff of the tune’s creation :-)

Don’t sit on my Jimmy Shands

"No shindig is half complete
Without that famous polka beat
That’s why they invite me I suppose
Waltzes, Strathspeys, Eightsome Reels
Now you know how good it feels
Crank the handle babe, away she goes!
But don’t sit on my Jimmy Shands …"

Posted by .

The “South London” Version

Danny suggested this …

Essentially, as played in these here parts, the tune has an AABBCC structure, as opposed to the AABBAACC structure elsewhere and the C part is in G rather than C. This is more or less how I play it, which is more or less how Danny plays it …

X:1
T:Bluebell Polka, The
T:Bluebell, The
M:4/4
L:1/8
R:barndance
K:Gmaj
|:g|b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B3G|FGAB c2e2|ed^cd B3g|
b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B32G|FGAB cdef|g2g2 g3:||
K:D
|:B|A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|b2a2 f3d|
A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|1 d3d d3:|| 2 d3d =c4||
K:G
|:B2BA Bcd2|B2BA Bcd2|c2cd cAF2|c2cd cAF2|
B2BA Bcd2|B2BA Bcd2|c2cB cAFA|G2B2 G4:||

X:1
T:Bluebell Polka, The
T:Bluebell, The
M:4/4
L:1/8
R:barndance
K:Gmaj
|:g|b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B3G|FGAB c2e2|ed^cd B3g|
b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B3G|FGAB cdef|g2g2 g3:||
K:D
|:B|A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|b2a2 f3d|
A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|1 d3d d3:|| 2 d3d =c4||
K:G
|:B2BA Bcd2|B2BA Bcd2|c2cd cAF2|c2cd cAF2|
B2BA Bcd2|B2BA Bcd2|c2cB cAFA|G2B2 G4:||



Whoops!!!!! (bar 6 part A)

Hahaha I was going to say - do the punters not get bored halfway through the A-part! :-D

T:Bluebell Polka, The
M:2/4
L:1/8
S:Jigs And Reels by Jesse Smith
R:polka
Z:g.m.pietrasanta
K:G
g/4a/4|bb g/f/g/e/|dd BB/G/|FA ce|e/d/^c/d/ Bg/a/|
bb g/f/g/e/|dd BB/G/|F/G/A/B/ c/d/e/f/|gf g:|D/4E/4F/4G/4|
K:D
|:AA A/B/d/f/|aa ff/4g/4|a^g =ge|ba ^ga|
AA A/B/d/f/|aa ff/4g/4|a^g =ge|df d>B||

Another slight variation

X: 1
T: Bluebell Polka, The
M: 4/4
I learnt this from Simon Mayor’s ‘Mastering Mandolin’ book and his is sort of a cross between Dow’s posted version and the ‘South London’ version.

The tune structure is AACCBB in terms of the parts shown by Aidan and Dow and it is the C part that is the greatest cross-over between the two tunes (played like Dow’s but starting on B like Aidan’s).

L: 1/8
R: barndance
K: Gmaj
(3Bdg|b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B3G|FGAB c2e2|ed^cd B2(3Bdg|
b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B3G|FGAB cdef|1g2b2g2:|2g2b2g4|
|:B2B2 Bcd2|B2B2 Bcd2|cBcB (3cBA G2|cBcB (3cBA G2|
B2B2 Bcd2|B2B2 Bcd2|cBcB (3cBA GA|G2B2G4:|
K:D
|A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|b2a2 ^g2a2|
A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2^g2 =g2e2|d4 d4:|

Perhaps this version comes from halfway between South London and Scotland? :-)

Oops! Sorry

I accidentally put my comments halfway through the ABC but I’m sure you get the idea.

Abac

I heard on Take The Floor, that Jimmy Shand took to playing twosteps and polkas in ABAC format, to pad a tune out to fit onto a 78 rpm record. We certainly keep up the tradition for twosteps - makes them a bit more interesting.

Bluebell Polka àla James Morrison

X:1
T:Bluebell Polka, The
M:4/4
L:1/8
R:barndance
K:Gmaj
|:b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B4|F2A2 c2e2-|ed^cd B4|
b2b2 gfge|d2d2 B4|FGAB cdef|g2g2 g4:|
K:Dmaj|:A2A2 FAdf|a2a2 f4|a2(3^gag =g2e2|b2a2 f3d|
A2A2 Adfa|a2a2 f4|a2^g2g2e2 |1b2a2^g2a2 |2d2f2d4:|

Posted by .

“The Blue Bell Polka ” - James S. Kerr

X: 7
T: Bluebell Polka, The
C: F. Stanley
S: "Kerr’s First Collection of Merry Melodies", 1880s, page 51
N: played AABBAACC (C = trio)
N: to reduce the black space this has been changed from 2/4 to 4/4
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: polka
K: GMaj
|: (3Bdg |\
b2 b2 g>fg>e | d2 d2 B2 z G | F2 A2 c2 e2 | ed^cd B2 (3Bdg |
b2 b2 g>fg>e | d2 d2 B2 z G | FGAB cdef | g2 g2 g2 :|
K: DMaj
|: z2 |\
A2 A2 FAdf | a2 a2 f4 | a2 ^g2 =g3 e | b2 (3aba ^g2 a2 |
A2 A2 FAdf | a2 a2 f4 | a2 ^g2 =g3 e | d2 d2 d2 :|
K: GMaj
|: (3Bdg |\
b2 b2 g>fg>e | d2 d2 B2 z G | F2 A2 c2 e2 | ed^cd B2 (3Bdg |
b2 b2 g>fg>e | d2 d2 B2 z G | FGAB cdef | g2 g2 g2 :|
K: CMaj
|: z2 |\
e2 e2 ef g2 | e2 e2 ef g2 | f2 f2 fd B2 | fefg fd B2 |
e2 e2 ef g2 | e2 e2 ef g2 | f2 f2 fdBd | c2 c2 c2 :|

The Bluebell Polka

I used to have a 78rpm record of this tune, but it was called "Little Pet", and I can’t locate it any more. I have it in a book under the "Little Pet Polka" title too, and the parts are in a different order (using the above settings as a guide, Little Pet goes AACCAABBAACCAA - and the "C" part, usually in C major, is given in D major, while the "B" part is in C major). No attribution is given in the book, nor on the recording, nor in Kerr’s Merry Melodies under the "Blue Bell Polka" title. Did Florence Stanley write it, claim it, or merely arrange it? We demand an answer…

The Bluebell Polka, X:8

This (X:8) is approximately how Jimmy Shand played it, on his 1955 recording. It is very close to the Kerr version (thanks Ceolachan). It is played AABBAACC, ending with a final half A.

(I’m not sure about the penultimate bar, I couldn’t work it out, so this has the Kerr version of that bar.)

Re: The Bluebell Polka

This tune is strikingly similar to the American Old Time tune, "Flop Eared Mule" (the Session/tunes/2147), which is an old "standard" (so popular that no one plays it anymore) of the Old Time genre.