Tunes of the Month is a series designed to engage the readers of the blog to learn a new tune (or two) each month. Come learn with us and expand your piping repertoire!
Novice Level: 2 Part Tune of the Month is Patrick O’Connor’s Polka. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “polkas are cheesy.” Well, good thing you don’t play the accordion. I like to think of polkas as easy little reels. They are great tunes that are easy to play, and easy to play quickly which is what makes them so fun. Next month we’ll have another polka (Tom Billy’s) you can pair with this one; both were obtained from Jerry O’Sullivan at the Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat back in September 2016.
Patrick O’Connor’s Polka – sheet music
Patrick O’Connor’s & Tom Billy’s Polkas – Tom Billy’s will be the Novice Tune of the Month for February 2017
Intermediate Level: January’s 4 Part Tune of the Month is actually a 5 part reel. The Foxhunter’s Reel, usually played in the key of G in Irish sessions, actually goes beyond the highland bagpipe scale even if transposed up to the key of A. Most importantly, it requires a low E in the 2nd part which we simply don’t have. However, the tune is so cool it’s worthwhile to play on the pipes even with the modifications it takes to make it fit our scale.
To get some potential confusion out of the way first, this is NOT a reel version of the 9/8 jig that is so popular; Alasdair Gillies was well known for playing jig, reel, and waltz versions of that tune. But this month’s The Foxhunter’s Reel is not that tune at all. It is a completely different tune. Here it is, doesn’t it just sound like a party you want to be part of!?
If you search for the tune in the Pekaar Tune Encyclopedia, there’s only one result that is pertinent to the version heard above; all the other references are to the 9/8 jig and its many manifestations. The version found in Barry Shear’s Cape Breton Collection Of Bagpipe Music is the only relevant published version I could find. Handily enough, Barry gives you the sheet music as a snapshot of his collection on his website (scroll down to the green book for the pdf of the sheet music). Apparently this tune survives in the Cape Breton tradition as evidenced by its inclusion in Barry’s book.
I did not come across Barry’s version until compiling this blog entry having first heard the tune in a facebook video played by a couple fiddlers playing it together on one fiddle, one bowing the other fingering (anyone have a link to this band/video? It is super cool). Barry’s version is different than mine by how it adapts the tune to fit the highland bagpipe scale. Try arranging the tune yourself! The stripped down score can be found on thesession.org in ABC format. Transpose up from G major to A major, ignore all the transient G sharps and just play our usual G naturals instead, and then adapt the rest!
The Foxhunter’s Reel – Patrick McLaurin’s version
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