The Sunset reel

By Cathal McConnell

Also known as The Flying Rocket, Mrs McConnell’s Shakin’ Ould House, Robert Emmet’s Spaceship, Rowland Emett’s Spaceship, The Spaceship.

There are 27 recordings of this tune.

This tune has been recorded together with

The Sunset appears in 1 other tune collection.

The Sunset has been added to 4 tune sets.

The Sunset has been added to 227 tunebooks.

Download ABC

Four settings

X: 1
T: The Sunset
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
ed|cF~F2 c2dc|BGBd (de)ed|=cdeg d2Ad|dfed (3Bcd ed|
cF~F2 c2dc|BG (3Bcd (de)ed|=cdeg fde^c|dfec d2:|
ag|fdfg (ga)gf|e=cef g3a|fggf gfec|dfed (3Bcd ed|
cF~F2 c2dc|BG (3Bcd (de)ed|=cdeg fde^c|dfec d2ag|
=f=cfg (ga)gf|e=ce=f g3a|fggf gfec|dfed (3Bcd ed|
cF~F2 c2dc|BG (3Bcd (de)ed|=cdeg fde^c|dfec d2||
X: 2
T: The Sunset
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|F#m|G Em|C G|D|
F#m|G Em|C DA|DA D:|
|:D|C G/B|D A|G D|
F#m|G Em|C DA|DA D|
|:F|C G/B|D A|G D|
F#m|G Em|C DA|DA D|
X: 3
T: The Sunset
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|F#m|G Em|C G/B|D Em7|
F#m|G Em|C G/BA/C#|D A/E D|x2
D|Am G|D/F# A/E|D Em|
F#m|G Em|C G/BA/C#|D A/E D|
F|C G/B|D G/E|D Em|
F#m|G Em|C G/BA/C#|D A/E D|
X: 4
T: The Sunset
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:"F#m"B/c/d ed cF~F2|"Bm"{B}c2dc BGBd|"D"deed "C"=cdeg|"G"d2Ad "Bm"dfed|
"F#m"B/c/d ed cF~F2|"Bm"{B}c2dc BGBd|"D"deed "C"=cdeg|1 "D"fd"C"ec "Bm"dfed:|2 "D"fd"C"ec "Bm"dfec||
"F#m"d2 ag fdfg|gagf "C"e=cef|g3a fggf|gfec "Bm"dfed|
"F#m"B/c/d ed cF~F2|"Bm"{B}c2dc BGBd|"D"deed "C"=cdeg|"D"f/e/d "C"ec "Bm"dfec|
"F"d2 ag =f=cfg|gag=f e=cef|"Dsus4"g3a fggf|gfec dfed|
"F#m"B/c/d ed cF~F2|"Bm"{B}c2dc BGBd|"D"deed "C"=cdeg|1 "D"fd"C"ec "Bm"dfec:|2 "D"fd"C"ec "Bm"dfed||

Twenty-six comments

The Sunset

Composers: Cathal McConnell and Seamus Quinn
Rhythm: SLOW reel
Source: Frankie Gavin & Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh - ( Altan )
Transcription: Gian Marco Pietrasanta

One doesn’t come across many tunes in ITM attributed to two composers - perhaps either one OR the other, but not both (although all trad tunes are, over time, the work of many hands and many ears).

Cathal McConnell plays this tune on whistle (‘In The Tradition’, Boys of the Lough) with bars 1-8 of the B-part simply repeated intstead of continuing to bars 9-16. I don’t know whether that is the ‘original’ version or if he just simplified it slighlty to make it more whistle friendly. He’d be entitled to - he half wrote it, after all.

I was among the first people to hear this tune well over 20 years ago. Then it was provisionally known as “The Accompanist’s Nightmare” due to its little quirks. However, i seem to recall McConnell threatening to call it “Mrs McConnell’s Shakin’ Ould House”. I think they eventually found the best name.

I spent days/months of blood sweat and tears last year learning this one by ear.I would have pulled my hair out if I wasn,t already bold.But it was worth it in the end!

Ballad or reel?

I’ve never heard Sunset played by anyone, but was recently told that it is to be played like a ballad. I see that it’s listed here as a “slow reel”. (What’s the diff between a ballad and slow reel?)Anybody got any comments to this?

I think what your pal was getting at is that this tune has a lyrical quality, not to be hurried along. Everyone I’ve heard play it (including Cathal) keeps the momentum and beat going, though, so it’s not as loose as a song or air.

To me, slow reels are a category unto themselves--reels in meter, and with a certain degree of pulse, but spread out more leisurely than typical session speed. The point is to let them flow, rather than push or drive them. The Sunset is a great tune for this.

Posted .


This tune is probably my favorite tune for flute that I play. I love the way it has those F naturals in the second part. They are quite hard to play, though. Does anyone have any suggestions about how to half hole so as to get a better sound?

Posted by .

Half-holing is a great place to see many different fingering methods. Sam2, you were talking about playing it on a flute. I’m sure it varies instrument to instrument. I have to assume you’re talking about something keyless.

Anyhow, at a glance, any sideways movement that low on the instrument means your whole hand will have to shift that much more. As I said it depends on the instrument, but my High D Kildare Susato pennywhistle did a good and comfortable F natural when I covered the bottom section of the hole in question. So I just extended my ring finger down a bit instead of shift my hand away from the instrument.

If you are talking about a keyless flute, I’m not sure if you finger with the mid parts of you fingers, as you might do on a low whistle, or what.

Good luck.


ok…. correction…. I meant my middle-finger….. not ring finger

The wind beneath my fingers ~

Classic approach, to slide into the accidental, as from E to =F, some folks are pullers and some are pushers, as far as musculature, the ‘pull’, that is pulling/curling the finger top toward the palm and creating the ‘half-hole’, creates the highest tension, while the ‘push’ or straightening of the finger until the front of it angles upto open the hole partially creates the least tension and is in my opinion the better for it. Once you’ve achieved the right tone for your instrument, either way, but you know my preference, then you can drop the finger to the hole in whichever style you choose, worth practice either way, sliding or not.

On my preference, with winds of all types, the worst habit is to play ‘claw fashion’, that is with the fingers curled and attempting to cover the holes of an open system instrument with your finter tips, literally. If you shake your hands out and just allow your fingers to go limp, take note, unless you’ve something wrong, they don’t curl and are almost flat. This is you ‘relaxed state’ and what you should try to emulate with your playing, avoiding tension at all cost. Tension will literally cramp your style, and I’ve known a few people where it was serious enough that they had to give up their music because of either pain or loss of control. Don’t play with your finger tips, play with the pad of the fingers, like the pad in keyed flutes, finger relatively flat and ‘relaxed’… With all holes covered, whatever the woodwind, someone should be easily able to pull the instrument from your hands with little effort. If you are clinching it, you are holding it too tightly and need to ease up.

It is possible to do either ‘push forward’ or ‘pull back’ with or without tension, and it will also depend on the finger or the shape and structure of your hand. Find the ‘easiest’ and most ‘relaxed’ way for you…


Anyone know the chord at the start of the 2nd part of ‘The Sunset’ by Dervish? it should be a ‘D’ but the bass seems to be playing a B flat or something giving it a nice edge ….

I was taught this tune by Cathal many years ago at Girvan Folk Festival where The Boys Of The Lough were regularly booked.

Twenty five years on and I have rarely heard a decent accompanyment for the tune.

Well done for posting the thread and getting some chords sorted out for accompanyists.

Oh, by the way, I play it on an eight key flute.



Each group represents a line of music (see sheetmusic)

first 2 notes pickup then:

change every 2 beats exept when mentioned:
f#minor, AMajor/ GMajor, CMajor/ CMajor, GMajor/ DMajor, DMajor

/f#minor, AMajor/ GMajor, CMajor/ CMajor for 3 beats then AMajor for 1 beat/ DMajor, DMajor/

pick up 2 notes then:
DMajor, DMajor/ CMajor, AMajor/ DMajor, AMajor/ DMajor, DMajor/

f#minor, AMajor/ GMajor, CMajor/ CMajor, AMajor/ DMajor, DMajor/

FMajor, FMajor/ CMajor, AMajor/ DMajor, DMajor/ DMajor, DMajor/

f#minor, AMajor/ GMajor, CMajor/ CMajor, GMajor/ DMajor, DMajor

Someone mentioned that they like Aminor instead of Major in the FMajor section - but I still prefer the brightness of A Major.

Chords to The Sunset

| F#m | G Em | C G | D |
| F#m | G Em | C DA |DA D:|
|: D | C G/B | D A | G D |
| F#m | G Em | C DA|DA D|
|: F | C G/B | D A | G D |
| F#m | G Em | C DA|DA D|


This tune was driving me nuts for a while, because I couldn’t figured out the harmony. Now the rescue came: a friend of mine, a fiddle player with a perfect pitch is staying over today. I asked him to write the precise chords of the Altan version of the tune, here it is:

|F#m|G Em|C G/B|D Em7|
F#m| G Em|C G/B-A/C#|D A/E D| x2
D | Am G| D/F# A/E | D Em |
F#m | G Em| C G/B-A/C#| D A/E D|
F | C G/B | D G/E | D Em |
F#m | G Em| C G/B-A/C#| D A/E D|

Not many people figured out the Amin in the second part. I played it, it’s definitely there. Also the G/B between C and A/C# is unexpected, and so is G/E. The rest is what you guys have already posted.

for other early examples of unusual modal/tonal Irish trad compositions, see, for example, Cathal McConnell’s Scotland-Ireland or Liz Carroll’s stuff..

The Honey Moon

Found what appears to be a precursor to this tune in ‘Tunes of the Munster Pipers’ (

T:No. 110 - The Honey Moon
S:Shields, Hugh, ed., ’Tunes of the Munster Pipers /
S:Irish Traditional Music from the James Goodman
S:Manuscripts, Vol.1’, Dublin, 1998, p.46.
dcBA BcdB | cABG FAA2 | dcBA Bcd2 | edeg fdd2 |
dcBA BcdB | cABG FAA2 | dcBA Bcd2 | edef d2d2 ||
Add2 fga2 | gfed cde2 | Add2 fga2 | edeg fdd2 |
Add2 fga2 | gfed cde2 | Add2 fga2 | edef d2d2 ||

A little foggy, though similar in the first part, and nearly identical, though simplified in the second part.


I don’t have any information about this slow reel, except that I learned it in Allihies, in Ireland.

Re: The Sunset

How do I change that ?

Re: The Sunset

Cathal Hayden taught us this tune this past weekend at O’Flaherty’s retreat in Texas, and said he knew it as “The Weird Reel.”