The Swallowtail Jig

It is presumed that The Swallowtail Jig was written in the middle of the Nineteenth Century and came to America with the Irish migrant caravan of that era. It is also known as The Dancingmaster and both names come from the men’s coat that forks in the back like the tail of the swallow.   HereContinue reading “The Swallowtail Jig”

Why The Irish Are The World’s Greatest Lovers

Ireland has been inhabited for the last twelve and a half millennia. There are more than six million people living on the emerald isle today, down from a peak of eight million in 1840, before the famine. By 1850, the Irish were a quarter of the population of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Buffalo.Continue reading “Why The Irish Are The World’s Greatest Lovers”

Down In The Salley Gardens

  A friend recently turned me on to a poem by William Butler Yeats called Down By The Salley Gardens. It was first published in 1899 in a collection called The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems. According to Wikipedia, “Oisin introduces what was to become one of his most important themes: the appeal ofContinue reading “Down In The Salley Gardens”

Demo: Ballyfin Polkas

On the Chieftains collection Water From The Well is a track called Ballyfin Polkas. There are five sections and I noodled around with them enough to get three, played here. Ballyfin is a village in the midlands of Ireland among the Slieve Bloom Mountains. Here’s a view of the mountains from the Glinsk Castle HikingContinue reading “Demo: Ballyfin Polkas”

The Kesh Jig

Here’s another Irish jig I picked up from Bucky Reed’s excellent site.It’s also known as The Castle, Kerrigan’s, The Kesh Mountain, The Kincora, The Mountaineers’ March, among others. Michael Coleman recorded the melody on 78 RPM as “Kerrigan’s Jig.” The first printed version appears to be in George Petrie’s 1850’s collection under the title “TearContinue reading “The Kesh Jig”

Tripping Up The Stairs

I’d like to admit up front that this was a perfectly fine tune when I met it and it wasn’t hurting anybody. I learned it as “Tripping Up The Stairs” from Bucky Reed’s excellent site for people interested in learning how to play such things. The tabs from his site are below the video ifContinue reading “Tripping Up The Stairs”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Cooley’s Reel

I wanted to learn a reel for St. Patrick’s Day and this was literally the first one to come up in a Google search. So I learned (more or less) how to play it (OK, less). The history of this reel, like many Irish things, is a little foggy. First, Joe Cooley may have stoleContinue reading “Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Cooley’s Reel”


They don’t write ’em like this anymore. Probably for good reason, but that doesn’t take anything away from the genius behind this piece of music from the 1630s. It was written for a four-person choir and a five-person choir to sing together. At one time it was an offense punishable by excommunication to transcribe itContinue reading “Miserere”

The Parting Glass

The lyrics to this song date back to at least the early 1600s. The melody came a century or so later. It’s usually played at the end of the night as a farewell song.William Christie, who compiled two volumes of Traditional Ballad Airs, wrote in 1876 that The Parting Glass was still the last playedContinue reading “The Parting Glass”