The Blackbird hornpipe

Also known as An Londubh, The Old Blackbird.

There are 24 recordings of a tune by this name.

A tune by this name has been recorded together with Fisher’s (a few times) and Thomond Bridge (a few times).

The Blackbird has been added to 7 tune sets.

The Blackbird has been added to 264 tunebooks.

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Four settings

X: 1
T: The Blackbird
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:AG|FEFA GFD2|defd dcAF|G2GF GFDE|FGAF GBAG|
F2FA GFD2|defd dcAG|Ad (3cBA GBAG|F2D2 D2:|
|:fg|agfa gfeg|fdec dcA2|agfa gfde|(3fed gf e2fg|
(3agf ge f2fe|d2de fdec|dcAF GBAG|F2D2 D2:|
X: 2
T: The Blackbird
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmix
AG|F2FA GFD2|de (3fed d^cAF|G2GF GFDE|FdcA G2AG|!
F2FA GFD2|de (3fed d^cAG|AdcA GcAG|F2D2 D2:|!
|: fg|agfa gfeg|fd e^c d=cA2|agfa gfde|fdgf e2 fg|!
a2ge f3e|d^cde fdAG|AdcA GcAG|F2D2 D2:|!
X: 3
T: The Blackbird
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
AG|FEFA GFDA|de fe d=cAF|G2GF GFDE|FGAF GBAG|!
FEFA GFDA|de fe d=cAF|Ad=cA GBAG|F2D2 D2:|!
|: fg|agfa gfec|dc de fdA2|agfa gfee|fagf e2 fg|!
afge fdec|dcde fdA2|Ad=cA GBAG|F2D2 D2:|!
X: 4
T: The Blackbird
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
AG |: F2 FA GFD2 | de (3fed dc AF | G2 GA GF DE | FG (3AGF GB AG |
F2 FA GFD2 | de (3fed dc AG | Ad =cA Gc AG |[1 F2 D2 D2 AG :|[2 F2 D2 D2 A2 |]
|: ag fd gf ec | dc de fd A2 | ag fd gf eg | (3fed gf e2 fg |
(3agf ge f2 fd | Ad de fd AG | Ad =cA Gc AG |[1 F2 D2 D2 A2 :|[2 F2 D2 D4|]

Twenty comments

The Blackbird

This beautiful tune comes from Mayo flute player Paul Smyth’s solo album. There’re some other tunes with the same title, but this one wasn’t on this site yet, and so I ended up learning it by myself. Hope there is no serious mistake in the transcription.

According to the notes of the recording, it was from the repertoire of the Kilmovee Ceili Band, which P. Smyth used to play with. Smyth actually couples this with another nice hornpipe, and I will post it in a couple of days.


P.S. I know another lovely tune called "The Blackbird" but haven’t learned it. That is on Bothy Band’s "Out of the Wind, Into the Sun," Mick O’Brien and Kevin O’Reilly’s "Kitty Lie Over," and Angelina Carberry and Martin Quinn’s duet album. I’ll appreciate if somebody transcribes it from one of these recordings.

Aaagh, this tune is also on Paul McGrattan’s "Keelwest": the second hornpipe on track 3. What a mighty playing! It seems he learned it from Sean Potts in Dublin when he was young.

Isn’t this just a version of the Blackbird Setdance? I suppose it strays enough from the original to qualify for a separate entry.

Yeah, I think so. Bothy Band recorded three different settings in a set, but this one is different from either of them.

I disagree. It is very likely from a common source but, to my ear, is quite a different tune. For starters, it has a regular 32-bar hornpipe structure, unlike the set dance, which has the type of irregular structure typical thereof. Furthermore, whilst the two tunes may be descended from the air of the same name (and the same may be true of the other Blackbird, as recorded by The Bothy Band, O’Brien/Ó Raghallaigh etc.), the ways in which the notes are fitted into the respective rhythmic structures are entirely different.

Would you have noticed they were the same tune if they were not known by the same name?

Definitely worthy of its own entry.

This is also in Breathnach v.1 (207) as a hornpipe.

Posted by .

Another version of the tune can be found in Norbeck’s collection: hornpipe #9.

Also recorded by Kathleen Collins as New Century.

You mean this hornpipe? There’s another hornpipe of the same name, which I am going to transcribe hopefully in a few days.

Yes. Your transcription of the Blackbird is the first of two hornpipes on her great recording Traditional Music of Ireland. Very similar settings.

This particular HP setting of the Blackbird seems popular among box and melodeon players. Charlie Piggott recorded it with Gerry Harrington on their album "The New Road," and I heard John Halloran play it as "the Old Blackbird" on the radio ages ago. Then it’s on Connemara man John Gannon’s up-coming solo album, which Claire Keville recently introduced on her programme.

Not New Century… and what about the Cn…

Sorry Matt- but it isn’t The New Century. That’s a different, lovely tune with a few F naturals sprinkled throughout.

In this tune I hear lots of C naturals which haven’t been notated.

The Blackbird hornpipe

I think there is a case for Kathleen Collins’s "New Century" being a very close relative of ‘The Blackbird", if not the same tune at heart. Incidentally, like many of us, I have hundreds of photocopied sheets of tunes which I have been given over the years. I was looking through them and came across a page copied out of a book (I know not which book); one of the tunes on the page is called "The Sunny Banks (The Blackbird)" with the annotation, "This is a nice, often forgotten hornpipe with lovely switching of naturals in both parts." I don’t remember coming across "Sunny Banks" as an alternative name for this great tune (although I don’t think I should add it as another name, as it’ll confuse things, "Sunny Banks" being another tune altogether).

AKA Blackbird

Jaunty, happy, witty tune. Love the interplay of c sharps c naturals.

The Blackbird, X:3

This is how I play the ‘Blackbird Hornpipe’, (or ‘The Old Blackbird’ as I call it to avoid confusion with the set dance variation).
X: 1
T: Blackbird Hornpipe, The
T: Old Blackbird, The
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
AG|FEFA GFDA|de fe d=cAF|G2GF GFDE|FGAF GBAG|!
FEFA GFDA|de fe d=cAF|Ad=cA GBAG|F2D2 D2:|!
|: fg|agfa gfec|dc de fdA2|agfa gfee|fagf e2 fg|!
afge fdec|dcde fdA2|Ad=cA GBAG|F2D2 D2:|!

I learnt it from the playing of Eoghan O’Sullivan and Martin Hayes, on the 2008 "Masters of Tradition" live recording ( spotify:album:3yigmq8wpGrcaDLxYWxgBJ) ) Its also pretty close to the Tim Collins version linked by Slainte above.

Just to avoid (or add to ?) further confusion over various ‘Blackbird hornpipes, here is the link to the set dance version:
https://thesession.org/tunes/1104
(and of the 6 settings posted there, the third is the closest to how I know it).
X: 3
T: The Blackbird
R: hornpipe
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmix
|: cA |B2 d2 c2 B2 | A2 AG ABcA | d^cde d=cAF | G2 AF D2 DE |
FDFG A2 fe | d^cde fdAF | [M: 2/4] GAGF | [M: 4/4] D2 D2 D2- :|
|: Dg |fede fdfg | a2 ag fgaf | g2 gf gbaf | gagf d3 g |
f2 de fefg | abag fgaf | gagf d2 d2 | defg abag |
fgaf gage | f3 e dcAB | cBcd efge | a4 A2 AG |
FGAB cBce | dcAF GAGF | D2 D2 D2- :|

My favourite version is played by Johnny McCarthy on his ‘Steele Rock’ recording (both his CD’s are highly recommended). One of the very best box players, with a lyrical steady swing; a style very much his own. One I would aspire to play, but have little chance of ever emulating. I may try to transcribe from his recorded version if find time.
The Eoghan O’Sullivan / Martin Hayes version of the "Old Blackbird" is much more ‘do-able’ !

Also, there is a less heard Blackbird hornpipe, but quite a different tune here :
https://thesession.org/tunes/1996

Sunny Banks

From the first De Dannan album. There are other tunes with the same name but on the album cover this is the one referred to as Sunny Banks. Lovely the way they flatten the ‘c’ coming down!