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Emily Grossman

A Jig for All Occasions

October 21, 2008 at 10:40 AM

It was a slow evening at the coffee shop, and since it was mostly my friends that comprised my audience, I took things a little more casually with my fiddle paying. With O’Neill’s 1001 Jigs and Reels before me, I had no shortage of repertoire, to say the least. So tonight, rather than playing through the usual fare, I decided it would be more interesting--at least to myself--if I sight read through some new stuff.

The most interesting thing about O’Neill’s jigs is definitely the titles. I often wonder about the stories, long forgotten, that brought about their naming. ...I know. Maybe I could take turns dedicating a jig to each of my friends. With the rosin to the bow, I began.

Paul, this one’s for you, it’s called “The Jolly Old Man”. Paul smiled and chuckled as I played for him. And for Janette, I played “Get Up Old Woman and Shake Yourself”–she laughed as I fiddled along. There’s Joe now, come in from who knows where, with drink on his breath and red on his nose; for him, I play “The Humors of Whiskey”. And for my absent brother, there’s that one called “Tom Steele.” And to the early change of seasons I played “The Frost is All Over” and “The Snow on the Hills”.

At one point, I began a random jig and played it through three times before I began to look for an exit and discovered none existed. It looped until finally I stopped mid-phrase: “There’s no ending to ‘Up and Down Again!’” I cried with a shout. Another I began in a major key and played it through before realizing the key signature had requested minor. This jig was a grump, not a grin! And the title? “Get up Early.” Ha, I should have known...

“This next one reminds me of my parents.” I announced.
“What’s it called”
“Smash the Windows.”
“Hey, do you know Orange Blossom Special?”
“Um... no. This next jig’s called ‘Another Jig Will Do.’”
The flitch of Bacon. Mixing the Punch. The Barronstone Races, and First of March. Denis Delaney and Doctor O’Niell, Drive the Cows Home, the Maid at the Well.

“Evening was Waning”, and soon it was dark. “Happy to Meet You and Sorry to Part!”

From Jerald Archer
Posted on October 21, 2008 at 9:55 PM
O’Neill’s Collection, among many others available are music history books in themselves. Some people (though, I've met very few) don't favour fiddle tunes, as they say they all sound the same. It is because they don't understand the history. Tell them the reason why the tune is called what it is called, and they seem to get interested. Ideally, the name describes an event, or a person is honored by the tune. Sometimes there may be a dozen names for one tune, and this can get friendly and informative debates going, even though there is no real answer to what the original name actually is! With the research ablilites of the internet today, one can be boggled down with the information available. There are no real "experts" in the field, only dispersed knowledge as one fiddle player has aquired from another traditional fiddler or musician and the intrepretation is constantly changing. Many books have been written, but the real educational reward comes from speaking and hearing the tunes from a fiddler who is "the real deal". They are getting more difficult to find these days. But one thing is certain, you will learn something new every time, and you never know where your research will lead you. Traditional fiddle music is vastly rich and I would venture to say it's evolution really never ends, as there is always a new generation of musicians creating new tunes, and preserving the traditional ones, in various regional styles. I find it a truly facinating and educational research.
From Patricia Baser
Posted on October 22, 2008 at 12:08 AM
My favorite title for an Irish tune is "When Sick is it Tea You Want". I would love to sit down now and play some Irish tunes, but now that I am done preparing for tomorrow's day of recorder classes, I have to practice the first violin part to Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass. It's like a violin concerto on every page.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 22, 2008 at 2:36 AM
By the way, Smash the Windows actually reminds me of my parents because they picked out that tune after hearing it in colonial Williamsburg when we visited there when I was a child. Nothing to do with actual violence, really...

I like Kitty's Rambles.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on October 22, 2008 at 6:20 AM
I like the tunes as tunes, regardless of historical intent, although it is fun to read the stories behind the tunes sometimes.

Here are some names of fiddle tunes that I like. The Muckin' of Geordie's Byre (The Cleaning of Geordie's Horse Stable"), Sally with Mud between Her Toes, Cherish the Ladies, Dill Pickle Rag, Give the Fiddler a Dram (measure of alcoholic beverage), Going to Jail, Jock Broke da Prison Door (and escaped), Whisky before Breakfast (dedicate that to someone you really like), The Ale is Dear (The Ale is Expensive), Faroe Rum, The Iron Man, Snoring Mrs. Gobeil (I wonder who she was), Rights of Man, You Married My Daughter and Yet You Didn't (I wonder what that means), Bonaparte Crossing the Rocky Mountains, The De'il's Awa with the Excise Man (The Devil's Away with the Tax Man), Sail Away Ladies, Shoot the Turkey Buzzard, I love My Love in Secret, Devil in the Kitchen (dedicate it to a fellow cook)...It would be fun to go on and on with this.

It must have been fun pairing the tunes with the people you know. It was a good idea for a really fun gig.

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