Technically, this is a set dance. I’ve notated here as a hornpipe because I feel that the hornpipe "swing" best suits this tune.
You could play it more like a polka if you prefer. In fact, Horslips played it both ways when they recorded their, um…. "interesting" version of this tune :)
Oo, I like this one
I think it’s the modal feel to it. Yummy.
Included in O’Niel’s Dace Music of Ireland
This is a favorite of mine!
I learned my setting from the playing of the great feis fiddler Billy Furlong. He has a private label recording out titled "Strings for the Sets". I play it on anglo concertina where it falls very nicely.
Repeats in ‘King of the Fairies’?
I love this tune but I have never heard it played (knowingly) either in a session or on a recording. Looking at the ‘dots’ there are repeats after both the A part and the B part. Is this the way that it is normally played? I feel that because the B part is 16 bars it is almost more natural to return to the A part after one run through of the B part rather than playing it again.
Apologies - this sounds like that Marx Bros sketch - do you know it? ‘There ain’t no Sanity Claus (sic)……………’
Reading the comments in the tunes section it says that the tune is actually a dance - maybe that is why there are 32 bar of the B part? Anyway just wondered how it is normally played?
Thanks in advance. Keep the music strong ………….. Bob
Bob, King of the Fairies is, as Jeremy mentioned, one of the set dances (it’s considered a "non-traditional set" for modern stepdancers, which means that a stepdancer would dance choreographed set to it rather than one that’s been handed down), and in competition dancers dance first the step, which is the A part, and then the set, which is the B part. (They need an intro of the first A, too, so you’d play the first A three times.) Because of time constraints, they usually only dance the right foot of the B, so if you’re playing for a dancer’s set, you’d play AAA, B.
There’s no real reason that this is a crooked tune (meaning, a different number of measures in one part than in the others) — it may have been a song first or something. Many of the traditional and non-traditional sets ARE crooked.
HTH — Zina
Zina. Thanks for that. You certainly know your stuff. So if the tune were to be played in a session (without dancers) what would the most usual fomat be? Would it be AA, BB or AA, B or AAA, B or some other peculiar combination? Or does it just depend on who is leading the tune? As I said in my original posting AA,B AA,B seems to sound best to my ‘unscholarly’ ears. KTMS - Bob
King of the Fairies
At one of my sessions it is the tradition to play this tune at around 11pm, first slowly a couple of times, then double speed or faster.
The reason for the tradition is that it was the favourite tune of the very attractive landlady of the pub who used to request it and come and sit with us as we played it, and then she’d feed us some sandwiches. She left the pub some while ago for another job but we still play the tune at 11pm in the hope she will magically reappear. So far she hasn’t :(
Bob — no, it would be played AABB AABB by most sessions, although I know what you mean. (And it’s always best in any new-to-you session to listen carefully as you play to make sure that you’re following what they do — Castle Kelly is one of my favs for that — "one A? two As? one B? two Bs?") Wait til you hit one of the set dances that are something weird like 17 measures or something — plays with your brain. :) The Blackbird is 7.5 measures on the A part, for instance, and that’s weird to play at first too.
I’m a stepdancer, you see, so I know about it from that angle, is all. Everything is a mystery until you know about it, right? :)
I like this tune but i have heard it being played differently by my friend on the accordian.
this tune sounds great played as a hornpipe after the rights of man
I have some great harmonies if anyone wants them
post them! ( the harmonies )
Interesting recorded versions
This is a favourite tune of mine, and no mistake. I think I first heard it played by Ted Furey - sorry, I have the track on a tape, but not sure of the source album (can anybody help, it had John Wright playing on some tracks?). He plays it with huge attack - his King of the Fairies is one dangerous little bugger!
Then there’s the way Michael Gorman played it - it goes beyond mournful - it’s almost spooky. Interesting implied harmonies in the double stopping are partly responsible, I’d say. (Michael Gorman - The Sligo Champion. Topic Records)
Meath fiddler Frank O’Higgins recorded it with another set dance - The Ace and Deuce of Pipering - and they go really well together. His recording is more fun and "dancey" but far from twee - with some pretty edgy harmonies. A quicker tempo. (Milestone at the Garden - Rounder Records)
Kevin Burke also recorded it in 1973 (Sweeney’s Dream - Smithsonian Folkways Recordings). He plays it really slow. I love his playing, but wouldn’t say this track is his finest hour. However, I heard him play it live recently and liked it much more.
To my mind, the worst thing you can do here is think sugarplum fairies or tinkerbell. I’ve heard one or two folk bands do this over the years and nearly found myself reaching for a sledgehammer to smash up their little tinkling instruments. (I’m sure if Ted Furey’s rightful King of the Fairies had been there he would have busted up the joint.)
Kevin Burke told me a story about being asked to do a 20 min set once with Johnny Cunningham for a radio show (Folk on 2 ?) at a festival. They were a bit the worse for wear and completely unrehearsed, but they wandered onto the stage with a vague plan to start with King of the Fairies. They ended up playing it for the full 20 minutes and had a great time. (I wonder if it was ever aired….)
Jig or set dance?
Is King of the Faries just a jig or is it a set dance?
King of the Fairies
This is one of the first tunes I ever learned…off of Eileen Monger’s little-known harp recording, ‘The Lilting Banshee’…is that wonderful album still in print?
She plays it as a gentle hornpipe, along with uileann pipes, and segues right into the title song (a jig). They work well as a set.
I can’t think of another time that I’ve heard a tune done with harp, uileann pipe, and bodhran — interesting mix of instruments, but quite fetching!
this song is enchanting, how I wish the D tin whistle had just one more c note on the bottom, but so far, (only on the very first line as I’ve only discovered this song and began learning in within this half hour) I have managed to get away with subsituting a d instead of a c. still, there’s just something missing but I think it’ll be okay, what is your opinion?
“The King of the Fairies” ~ Kevin Burke
You can also find Kevin Burke teaching this on DVD #1 of a pair:
"Learn to Play Irish Fiddle: Polkas, Jigs & Slides" ~ 90 minutes
Homespun Videos / DVDs
“King Of The Fairies” ~ to B, or not to B ~ do B, do B, doo…
R: Set Dance
K: E Dorian
|: zB |
E>^DE>F G>FG>A | B3 A G>FG>A | B>E (3EEE E>F (3GFE | F>GF>E D3 B |
EzE>F GzG>A | B>AG>B d3 c | B2 E2 G<FE>^D | E2 E2 E2 :|
|: (3Bcd |
e2 B2- B>de>f |g>ag>f e>fe>^d | e2 B2 B>^AB>c |d2 d>c B>c (3dcB |
e2 B2 (3Bcd e>f | g>ag>f e>fe>d | (3Bcd e>g f>e (3dfe | e2- e>^d e2 e>f |
|g3 e f2 f>d| e>dB>c d3 e |d>BA>G F<GA>B | d>BA>F G<FE>D |
|B>E (3EE^D E>FG>A | B2 e2 e>^de>f | e2 B2- B>AG>F | E2 (3EEE E2 :|
In the 6th bar, the C# should be a C. With this in mind, the key signature should be E Minor (only one sharp) and so it’s in aeolian, i.e natural minor. Not modal at all.
This is how I know it, but maybe there are other versions.
“The King of the Fairies”
Yes, you’re right about the one measure, my screw up in the notation, it should have read:
~ | EzE>F GzG>A | B>AG>B d3 =c | ~
However, all other c’s are meant to be sharp, c# / ^c… So, only one sharp in the whole tune, one out of 7… But let’s add another take on this with more c’s & C’s just for the hell of it:
K: E Dorian
|: B2 |
E2- E>F G- G>A | B=cBA G>F (3FGA | B>EG>B E>F (3GFE | F2- F>E D>dc>d |
.E2 .E>F (3GGG G>A | B>A (3GAB d>c=c>A | B2 E2 G<FE>^D | E>eB>G E2 :|
|: (3Bcd |
e2 (3BcB (3Bcd e>f |g>ag>f e2- e>^d | e>BB>c B>^AB>c | (3dcd d>c B>c (3dcB |
e2 B2 (3Bcd e>f | g2- g>f e>f (3edc | (3Bcd (3efg (3fed (3Bcd | e2- e>^d e2 e>f |
g>Be>g f>cd>f | e>dB>c d>c (3def |d>BA>G F<G (3ABc | (3dcB A>F G<FE>D |
B>EC>^D E>FG>A | B2 e2 e>^de>f | e>B (3BcB B>AG>F | (3EDC (3BCD E2 :|
That should have read as I’d meant to say, only one =c and 7 ^c’s… And in this alternate madness ~ ^c & ^C = 24…
That’s not to say I don’t have the key signature wrong… ;-)
Man, you ol boys are right on with these tunes…
But you gotta get help with the titles. I can’t play this one down at the local bar without a brawl starting. I mean, King o the FARIES… comeawn…
How about "King of the Fairies" followed by a set with "How Do I Keep my Maidenhead" ~ just worrying that some guy in leathers with chains connecting both tits is going to ask you what the name of that tune is… Damn, you tell yourself, I must have walked into the wrong pub…
King Of The Fairies (hornpipe)
One way round the title problem is to give it in Irish. My copy of "O’Neill" tells me that the Irish name of this tune is "Ri Na Sidheog". This should get you off the hook if you say you haven’t any idea what it means if anyone asks. And it will be more convincing if you pronounce it all wrong - not difficult if you pretend not to know the language :-)
I’ve always been under the impression that "Maidenhead" is a town in Berkshire, England, so presumably it won’t change much when translated into Irish. Anyway, why would anyone want to keep Maidenhead? ;-)
The King Of The Fairies: I think it is a depressing, dull, horrible tune…
I have a hearty dislike for this tune.
I’ve never heard it played by any of the maestros mentioned above. But in the hands of even good players, it often seems to flounder along like someone or something in lead boots in a sea of porridge; in the hands of less good, it slumps into the musical dragnet like an unspeakably obese invisible corpse, practically reversing time. For me to hear it is to sit in a cage of sullen gloom till it is over. Not a "dag" tune, rather an exemplar of highly respectable structure, it seems designed to depress and imprison.
Back c.1980, the fringes of the world were visited by unusual numbers of rather sweet, serious German girls wandering about on a personal quest, one that sometimes involved Ireland and ITM. Two landed in the village I was living in. One acquired a fiddle and started to practise, you’ve guessed it, TKOTF. Was it dire, doesn’t begin to describe the sounds from down the street. But that was only a pimple on the bottom of my life in the unwilling company of this tune. (I wonder where she got to - might be on this website, for all I know..)
Come on, don’t hold back, Nicholas! Give us your real opinion! :)
Hey, I’m sure you’d just love the tune with F naturals, D sharps and G sharps—really gets the fairies howling!
The King Gets Butch
The word was that if you played this 3 times in a row at a gathering, the King of the Fairies himself would appear. If he liked the party he’d make it even better. If not, he’d exchange his regal garb for bike leathers. Maybe Nicholas has some bad party experiences locked away there in racial memory. Do any of the dancer’s know this one? Maybe someone could go round and cheer Nicholas up by performing it all night under his window. It might just be a healing experience (okay, maybe not for Nicholas)!
drperm’s right about Eilleen Monger’s Lilting Banshee. Lots of steel strung harp and dulcimer. She’s English but struck up a friendship with Julia Clifford and her husband and plucks out a few of the better known polka’s, as well as a very slow, quite stripped down version of the South Wind. It’s quite a meditiative album, although I can’t understand why anyone would be temped to record anything without a fiddle on it.
Dave Swarbrick does a good version on Swarbrick 2.
“Scollay’s Reel” ~ the Shetland reel take on it
Key signature: E Dorian
Submitted on December 5th 2006 by litestikpilot.
King of the faries- speed-wise
How fast should king of the faries be played
Re: King of the faries- speed-wise
Faster than Kevin Burke played it on Sweeney’s Dream, IMHO. Somewhere I have an old record of, I think, Eugene Leddy’s Co. Cavan Ceili Band, and they do it with a nice hornpipe bounce.
Re: King of the faries- speed-wise
I read the comments on the tune (https://thesession.org/tunes/475) Some commented that it is a set dance, which would imply to me that it should move along. Others said they play it slow at first and speed up (after three times, the king himself may show up and, if pleased with the rendition, improve the party). Others said they play it slow, mournful, even spooky. I like spooky on a low d whistle.
Re: King of the faries- speed-wise
I think you play it however you want to. I play it at my local session and if it’s getting late and people are getting fed up because they haven’t had a chance to perform (ooh! I used the P word!! How very dare I?!) then I give it a bit of a kick, but not too fast, so everyone can join in. If I’m playing it in a band I go at top whack and make it a right bow burner!
Re: King of the faries- speed-wise
I play it around 70-80 bpm, I think. It does sound very haunting at that speed on a fiddle.
Discussion: Set Dances
# Posted on December 9th 2006 by justwhistle
Oh the erosion of tradition & its understanding ~ dear ‘feardearg’, i isn’t ‘set dances’ in the sence of polkas, slides, reels, jigs and the sometimes speed crazed mayhem that can be ‘sets of quadrilles’, as Johnny O’Leary himself used to bewail ~ "King of the Fairies" isn’t that species of ‘set dances’… The earlier use of the tag, and the only use when applied as a ‘tune form’, is for tunes used for step dancing, and the steps and dance itself, usually solo, used to accompany it. So for the ‘King’ here there was usually percussive accompaniment, meaning feet, tapping away to and following the melody. With that in mind, if you were playing it for a dancer, you’d take it as they needed it, which is usually relaxed and with that hornpipe definition ~ swing, or as someone mentioned earlier, ‘bounce’…
Outside of playing it for dancers we also had fun with it, and sometimes do as someone else mentioned, take it slow ~ and sometimes overly jazzy, Tommy Hayes comes to mind, bless him, and then we might really rock on and give it the goose… Or, if we had someone that was obviously being irritated by it, like nicholas, what joy, we’d dig in and see what was required to get the most excruciating reactions from our victim… :-P
king of the fairies tab ?
Can anyone direct me to tab music for the above on tenor banjo or fiddle/ mando please ?
Many thanks and a Happy New year
Re: king of the fairies tab ?
Is this the one?
Re: king of the fairies tab ?
At the MandolinCafé:
Search for fairies. You’ll get two versions, one of them by Aidan Crossey, member of this site.
Re: king of the fairies tab ?
I know I get much the same reply when I complain about ABC, but my answer would be "Learn to read music ". Only a small amount of the tunes you will hear in this style of music will have been rendered into tab, but if they’re on this site they’ll be in notation, and often variations posted in ABC too.
It also occurs to me that King of the Fairies is one of those tunes that I never learnt by reading in any way, I just heard it enough and suddenly it was there under my fingers. I’ve even had tunes that I hadn’t thought about for years suddenly come out of the instrument without effort. If you just immerse yourself in the music and keep playing you’ll find you know more than you realise.
Thanks for the directions ,
I got some of it from playing along to the file on this site , but I only have a couple of days to fil in the gaps . Thanks again
Third part from Lancashire
The following is a a third part to The King of the Fairies , learned from singer, fiddler and English concertina player, Ruth Jepson from Lancashire. She heard it at Preston Folk Club and believes it is only played in the Preston area of Lancashire (although she, myself and a whistle player intend to unleash it on the Mid-Wales traditional music scene shortly).
efed B2B2|efed B2B2|fgaf A2d2|fgaf A3z|
b2gb a2fa|g2eg f3z|edef gfed|e2ff2g2z2|
efed B2B2|efed B2B2|dcBA cBAG|FGAF D2EF|
GFGA BABd|edef g2e2|dcBA BAGF| E 3(DEF E3z||
I have put it in E minor, since all the Cs are natural. Incidentally, I have heard the first two parts played without any of the Cs sharpened.
Maybe it is my ears, but this sounds like a ‘recent’ addition, not necessarily complimentary…someone’s fancy in other words…
Someone should threaten nicholas with this… ;-)
"this sounds like a ‘recent’ addition"
I don’t kow. It definitely sounds ‘English’ - but then, the whole tune could well be English in origin. It sounds a bit like the second part of Scully’s/Scollay’s Reel. I suspect that there have been a couple of different B-parts (after all, the A-parts to King of the Fairies and Scollay’s are almost identical) floating around for a while and, at some point, someone decided to put all three parts together - that could have been ‘recently’ or not.
BTW, C, do you know Ruth Jepson? A Lancashire lassie living in Mid-Wales - very nice singer.
Don’t like this tune?
I believe that all who don’t like this tune MUST hear it played by Leahy… it’s an absolutely masterful rendition.
I second that… actually, Leahy is the reason I looked this tune up. I just started playing it… it’s a song that emerges out of nowhere in my mind. I must like it.
I for one really like this tune, used to be one of my fav’s to watch at dance competitions. A good example of this tune and someone dancing is "Feet of Flames" where Michael is playing it on flute,
King Of The Fairies
I love picking this magic tune out on the guitar, first heared it from a musician friend who played it in D minor with low E dropped to D, it was well after midnight and I’ll always remember the magic sound complete with a poem put to the tune, it started " Up the eary mountain and down the shady glenn " etc. I think he may have heared it from the singer "Johnny Moynihan " If anyone knows the poem or song and tune put together please post your comment, I would love to find a recording of it. I can just picture the great Johnny Moynihan playing it. Thanks, john T
some similarity with The Rambling Rake Set Dance
Love this - just found a recording…
of it on YT at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZOR-9Q_bfE&feature=PlayList&p=B376C872A665CDCB&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=21, wonderful duo beginning their set with it. Thanks for making music avail to this.
…hear his majesty’s royal consort at:
(The Queen Of The Fairies hornpipe)
King of the Fairies
I’ve been trying to find the history of this tune and it’s a mystery!
It is most likely Scottish and derived from "Bonny Charlie"- the A part at least, and the B part of "BC" is similar to Ruth Jepson’s 3rd part which I remember Tom Walsh playing at sessions in Preston.
(by the way, I knew Ruth when she was in Lancaster and have lost touch so if you see her, say hello from me!!)
Compare this, from the Winder Manuscripts (see andyhornby.net)
T:432 Bonny Charlie (HJ)
C:aka King William of Orange
B:H.S.J. Jackson, 1823
S: Not "Will ye no Cam Back Again" (aka Bonnie Charlie)
S:version of King of the Fairies, appears in Airds2 1789
E2EF G2GA | BcBA G2GA | B2E2 E2G2 | FGAF D4 |
E2EF G2GA | BcBA G2GA | B2E2 GFED | E4 e4 :|
||efed B2B2 | efed B4 | fgaf d2g2 | fgaf d2ga |
b2gb a2fa | g2eg f2df | e2ef gfed | e2ef g4 |
efed B2B2 | g2ab d4 | dcBA cBAG | FGAF D4 |
GFGA BABd | edef gfed | dcBA BAGF | E4 e4 ||
With this as I remember it being played up here.
T: King of the Fairies
B|EDEF GFGA|B2B2 G2GA|B2E2 EFGE|FGFE D2B2|
EDEF GFGA|BAGB d3c|B2E2 GFED|E4 E3 :|
|B2|e2B2 Bdef|gagf e3f|e2B2 BAGB|dedc Bcde/f/|
e2B2 Bdef|gagf e3d|Bde/f/g fedf|e2 ed e3f|
g2bg f2af|edB^c d3e|dBAF GAB^c|dBAF GFED|
B,2E2 EFGA|B2e2 edef|e2B2 BAGF|E4 E2z2||
efed B2B2|efed B2B2|fgaf d2d2|fgaf d2ga|
b2gb a2fa|g2eg f3d|edef gfed|e2f2g3f|
efed B2B2|efed B3c|dcBA cBAG|FGAF D2EF|
GFGA BABd|edef g2e2|dcBA BAGF| E4 E3||
As to the name, my guess is that it may refer to Bonnie Prince Charlie who had a "Fairy Flag" that would lead him in battle.
I had always assumed, though with no basis, that the title "King of the Fairies" was due to the association of the tune with William of Orange and was a reference using a term now distinctly un-PC, referring to William’s supposed homosexuality. It hadn’t even occurred to me that it might have anything to do with Bonnie Prince Charlie.
“King of the Fairies”
Then again, Bonnie Prince Charlie is often referred to as "effeminate" perhaps we are on dodgy ground!
King of the Fairies
John Edward Pigot collected a tune very much like this about 1840-1850, but in the 1909 publication of his "Old Irish Folk Music and Songs" he calls it Gradh Mo Chroidhe Do Shean Wig (Your Old Wig is the Love of my Heart).
I’m trying desperately to find sheet music to this version of the song:
Which doesn’t seem to match up with any sheet music I come across. Can anyone help me?
the first part of Bonny Charlie is obviously the same, the two other parts sound different:
A Dubliner’s interpretation
I like that low D#!
How could this tune be anything less than alluring? :0) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uPdC-GgkNk
Another performance version-interesting harmony.
By Wendy Songe:
The Leahy Version
I agree with flyboy04’s comment that the Leahy version is a "masterful rendition." I just posted a rough transcription of King of the Fairies as played by Donnell Leahy on his album titled "Leahy." You can also hear him play the tune on this Youtube video: http://youtu.be/AfucEg9iQcE
Leahy plays it clearly as a hornpipe but with a lot of rubato. There are several places where he consistently plays "Scottish snaps" and I have scored those spots - otherwise the eighth notes are played in hornpipe fashion, albeit with much rubato. You will note his use of D sharps in unusual places which add some tension to the tune. The first time through, he plays at about 75 bpm and then speeds up slightly to about 80 bpm the second time. The piano accompaniment is inspired with some wonderful chord progressions. The style of piano playing changes from graceful arpeggios the first time through to a bouncy dance beat the second time through. The piano styling makes the second play through sound faster than it really is.
I came across this tune while reading a mystery novel, "The Brutal Telling," by Canadian author Louise Penny. The book makes reference to a "haunting Celtic melody" titled "Colm Quigley" played on an old fiddle found in the hermit’s cabin. A quick Google search led to the Leahy video. Ms. Penny has clearly not done her research well. Although the title of the track on the recording (and the title of the video) is "Colm Quiqley," the liner notes clearly state that Colm Quigley is a medley of three tunes - King of the Fairies, a traditional Strathspey and Colm Quigley. Colm Quigley is actually a rollicking reel composed by Leahy which deserves a transcription of The Session someday.
Other recordings of King of the Fairies
The late, great Horslips released their version of the tune as a single back in the late 70’s, early 80’s. It’s on YouTube, naturally’
Horslips - my trad gateway
Jeremy lead off discussions on this (rather a long time ago) by being rather ambivalent on the Horslips version of King of the Faeries. If that is the case, I wonder what you think of their ‘Lagan Love’ Hoedown, Jeremy?
I am sure I am not the first to be ‘turned on’ to trad by way of a few Rockin’ Irish Horslips Albums. Celtic Symphony still lights me up. These were the first tunes I taught myself to play on the whistle and have started me down the glorious, endless, road of learning ‘tradition’ tunes, old, new and yet to be written.
King Of The Fairies, X:7
This is a setting of the tune that works fine for flute but also for pipes. I don’t play uilleann pipes but Northumbrian smallpipes, and with the drones set at E this tune works very nicely on the instrument.
King Of The Fairies, X:8
Setting as played at the Golden Guinea pub session, Bristol, UK.
King of the Fairies - Lonesome Wedding
Second tune here is a relative https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZgjHKIfDAw
I have heard the B part played something like this in English sessions and have a note that it is in the Roche collection under this name, but am not sure where I got that from.
Re: King Of The Fairies - Playing for Dancers
If you are playing for a stepdancer, please be aware that King is now both a traditional and non-traditional set dance - same music, but vastly different speeds. As was mentioned above fairly early on, please play the A part 3 times - one is an intro so the dancer can hear your tempo, the other 2 times the dancer will be dancing what we call the "step" (same choreography on right and left), followed by the B part once (what dancers call the "set"). Also, stepdancers tend to be more familiar with the "swing" hornpipe (dotted 1/8 and 1/16 note rhythms) than one played with straight 1/8 notes.
If playing for a traditional set dancer, the approved tempo is 130 (this is a bit slower than the other traditional set hornpipes, which are usually played at 138). If playing for a non-traditional set dancer, the tempo is anywhere from 76 through about 110. The slower tempo for a non-trad set dancer is needed because they are throwing in so much footwork. Even a tiny difference, say from 108 to 110, can make a huge difference in whether the dancer can make it through, so please ask if you’re not certain how fast they want the music.