The McCusker Brothers’ barndance

Also known as Henry Savage’s Barn Dance, Henry Savage’s Favourite, Henry Savage’s Favourite No. 1, The Quinn Family Barn Dance.

There are 2 recordings of this tune.

The McCusker Brothers’ appears in 1 other tune collection.

The McCusker Brothers’ has been added to 1 tune set.

The McCusker Brothers’ has been added to 21 tunebooks.

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Three settings

X: 1
T: The McCusker Brothers'
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:(3fg^g|a2 a2 f2 f2|d>A^G>A B2 A2|g2 g2 e2 e2|c>A^G>A B2 A2|
a2 a2 f2 f2|d>A^G>A B2 A2|c>Ac>e b>a (3gfe|d2 f2 d2:|
|:e2|f>^e (3fga d2 d2|e>^d (3efg B2 B2|c>Bc>B A>ce>c|d>cd<f b2 a>g|
f>^e (3fga d2 d2|e>^d (3efg B2 B2|c>Bc>B A>ce>c|d2 f2 d2:|
X: 2
T: The McCusker Brothers'
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:a2 a2 f2 f>e|d>A^G>A B2 A>f|g2 g>f e>fe>d|c>A^G>A B2 A2|
a2 a>g f>gf>e|d>A^G>A B2 A2|c>Ac>e b>a (3gfe|1 d2 f2 d>ef>g:|2 d2 f2 d2- d>e||
|:f>e (3fga d2 d2|e>d (3efg B2 B2|c>Bc>B A>ce>c|d>cd<f b2 a>g|
f>e (3fga d2 d2|e>d (3efg B2 B2|c>Bc>B A>ce>c|1 d2 f2 d2- d>e:|2 d2 f2 d>ef>g||
X: 3
T: The McCusker Brothers'
R: barndance
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:(3fg^g|a2- a>g f2 (3gfe|d>A^G>A B2 A2|g>a (3agf e>f (3fed|c>A^G>A B2 A2|
a2 a>g f>gf>e|d>A^G>A B2 A2|c>A (3cde b>a (3gfe|1 d2 f2 d2:|2 d2 f2 d2-||
|:d>e|f>^ef>a d2 c>d|e>^de>g B4|c>^Bc>=B A>ce>c|d>cd<f b2 a>g|
f>^e (3fga d4|e>^d (3efg B4|c>^Bc>=B A2 (3gfe|1 d2 f2 d2-:|2 d2 A2 D2||

Nine comments

One of the great Ulster ceili bands - the nine McCusker Brothers

When I met them in the late 1970s they were sadly down in numbers. I was welcomed with great northern hospitality and warmth. I also saw my first copy of the Roches collection, in three volumes, rereleased by Ossian in a single volume and highly recommended. Ulster had a rich store of tune types still in memory, as experienced with two of it’s fabulous ceili bands, these boys and the lads from ‘The Pride of Erin Ceili Band’.

Any more like this

Have you got any more of these funky little tunes from the McCusker Brothers? My fiddle playing partner, Anne McCusker, is also very interested.

DANCING - VIDEO CLIPS! - Yeah, I wasn’t too sure about this link, but - - -


Ignore the styling, very ‘Royal Scottish Dance Society’ stuff, and I admit I have a real problem with the affectations, O. T. T.!, and the attitude and the pomp usually attached to this stuff. I’ve enjoyed dancing all kinds of Scottish dance, but my wife and I hate pretentious shight, so we tend to avoid ‘balls’ like late night big city dark alleys, a similar feel to both places. We’re more in our element with other peasants, with the down-home style ceilidhs, or Cape Breton dancing, especially as found in the less well known venues there.

This is not in the style of the Irish, which was determined in part by the environment, including the dance floor. There wasn’t the bounciness as shown in these videos. Your achilles tendon would give out or you’d end up with bursitis or some other dance injury doing that much prancing about on your toes on an unforgiving floor. I’m talking about the ‘countryside’ as opposed to the big halls with sprung floors in the big cities of Belfast, Dublin, Cork, London and the like. The Irish way in home and village hall was by necessity lower to the ground, basically flat footed. The ‘points’ weren’t as exaggerated, the ‘hop’ was more just a raising and lowering of the heel, a light skip at most. Holds also tend to be closer to the body, since the size of the area of dancing was smaller or crowded with others, elbows bent, tight and close in movements and holds. There was less room to travel in and so the travelling was over a smaller distance, and was reflected in differences in the travelling and turning steps, whether a Waltz, Mazurka/Varsovienne, Polka or anything else, - smaller steps, closer in…

On specific videos in this set:

La Varsoviana - this is one version and very much like one of those danced in Eire, though here they start with the second part of the dance. The steps would not be so exaggerated and affected, the hold would have been with the arms bent and closer to the body, and the movement would have been over a shorter distance, depending on the dance space and the other dancers present, dancer density…

The Highland Schottische - This is a ‘short’ version of the ‘Highland Fling’, one step, one version. The Irish tended to dance this with an open hold and starting by facing in the line of direction, facing around anti-clockwise, again less exaggeration and affectation in the stepping, not so bouncy either. The first part, if you took this version as a guide, would be - step, travel forward and turn in toward your partner to face the other way and taking hold again, changing to man to the right of the woman, woman on his left, REPEAT in opposite direction with opposite footwork. Also, in Eire, they didn’t ‘double’ all around (step-hop). Instead, for the ‘short’ version, they would do the ‘change step’ twice (2 X 3s with or without a ‘skip’) and finish with four step-hops, to fit in this case, the ‘short’, 8 bars of music, using for music the usual 16 bar ‘Highland Fling’.

The German Schottische - This is a ‘short’ German, or one version of it. This is pretty much right on, except for the Scottish styling and the dress, and the big open spaces for dancing. The hold, again, in Eire, tended to be closer to the body, for reasons mentioned previously.

The Barn Dance - This is actually the classic Schottische, a simple version. You didn’t have to turn but could just continue forward in the line-of-direction (anit-clockwise around the hall) with the step hops. There were also other holds used in Eire, including the simple cross back hold, and a ‘barrel-hold’ (shoulder-shoulder).

The Music of James Scott Skinner


Dance Videos:

The McCusker Brothers Ceili Band




33-AV 113 - A Dance Visit To Ireland

33-AV 138 - Irish Country Dances

33-AV 154 - The Best Of Irish Dance Music
Which includes tracks by ‘The McCusker Brothers Ceili’ Band

TANZ! - Steps for the ‘seed’, including a couple of siblings:

The Seven-Step (originally 12 bars) / The German (short/long) / The German Schottische / The Seven-Step Polka / The Ulster 7-Step

(see ‘Lucy Farr’s’, including comments:

Sources: Include (Tyrone/Fermanagh) Paddy Joe Gromley, Sean Nugent and Family, Willie Johnston, Mchael & Margaret McKenna, Paddy Gallagher - and other people and other places…all grand folk and very much missed.

Holds: various possible, partners facing
Style: flat footed, low to the ground

- versions across Eire, North and South

Part A: bars 1-2
travelling sideways, man to his left/woman to her right - usually around the dance space anti-clockwise (ACW/CCW) -
1 - step to the side (man’s L/Woman’s R)
2 - step together
3 - step to the side
4 - step together
5 - step to the side
6 - step together
7 - step to the side
8 - stamp foot flat beside without giving weight

Part A: bars 3-4
REPEAT - in this case we’ll go back the way you came, Clockwise, with opposite footwork.

This next part can be just from side to side or turning once around Clockwise (CW) as a couple, traveling a short distance ACW.
Part B: bars 1
“3’s” - to the man’s left/woman’s right
1 - step to the side (man’s L/Woman’s R)
2 - step together
3 - step to the side
4 - stamp foot flat beside without giving weight

Part B: bars 2
REPEAT with opposite footwork
- to the man’s right/woman’s left

In the next part the couple may just ‘waltz/polka’ (2 X 3s, with or without ‘skip’) once around or do the ‘full-monte’ with the ‘step-hop’ - the intended twice around Clockwise (CW), traveling ACW.

Part B: bars 3-4
turning round CW as a couple, traveling ACW:
4 X step-hop - the man starting with his Left, woman with her Right.

Part B: bars 5-8
REPEAT - Part B: bars 1-4

A COUPLE OF GERMANS - as collected in Ulster

Within the above description are two other ‘Germans’. Both the ‘Long’ and ‘Short’ versions are built of similar material:

‘Long German’ - with the 7-step, 8 bars in length
As above -
Part A: bars 1-4
Part B: bars 1-4

‘Short German’ - without the 7-step, 4 bars in length
As above -
Part B: bars 1-4

Because of the short nature of these dances you could also use 16 bar Highland Flings, which accounts in part for some of the confusion in names - ‘Germans’ - ‘Barndances’ - ‘Schottisches’…

- - - The McCuskers’ Ideal Barndance - - -

A couple dance from John McCusker, partners in an open hold, side-by-side, man on the left/woman on the right, either a ‘cross-back’ hold or ‘back(waist)-shoulder’, man’s right arm around her back (and under for cross-back hold), her left hand on his right shoulder for ‘back-shoulder’.

The dance begins facing Anti-Clockwise around the dance space and starting on outside feet -

bar 1:
walk forward with a slow step - 1, 2 (M-L,R/W-R,L)
bar 2:
then a quick 123 turning in toward each other to face back the way you’d come (M-LRL/W-RLR)

Bars 3-4:
REPEAT all that back the way you’d come, finishing by turning in to face your partner and take a ballroom/waltz-hold.

Bar 5:
Moving to man’s left/woman’s right and ACW, step-together-step
Bar 6:
REPEAT in other direction, CW, to man’s right/woman’s left

Bars 7-8:
4 X Step-Hop(*)

The *HOP is not required. Some dancers danced this turn/‘doubling’/pivot/dreher ‘smooth’, sans ‘hop’.

You all deserve a rest from my ramblings for awhile, so I’ll be just participating for a spell, reading up on ‘Discussions’, learning from all you, and doing my work here at home. However, “I’ll be back!” (with a German Schwarzenegger type accent, with the saurkraut but sans the braun…)

1 McCusker, 2 McCusker, 3 McCusker - more:

The above set was from the solo playing of John, while this next transcription is from the three fiddlers of the McCusker Brothers, John, Vincent and Benignus…

|:a2 a2 f2 f>e|d>A^G>A B2 A>f|g2 g>f e>fe>d|c>A^G>A B2 A2|
a2 a>g f>gf>e|d>A^G>A B2 A2|c>Ac>e b>a (3gfe|1 d2 f2 d>ef>g:|
2 d2 f2 d3 e||
|:f>e (3fga d2 d2|e>d (3efg B2 B2|c>Bc>B A>ce>c|d>cd>f b2 a>g|
f>e (3fga d2 d2|e>d (3efg B2 B2|c>Bc>B A>ce>c|1 d2 f2 d3 e:|
2 d2 f2 d>ef>g||

“the nine McCusker Brothers” 😲

I always thought the joke was large families could field a full football team. Clearly, a ceili band is the goal.