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Irish set dance music introduction

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    ~ about this music

This music was put together over a couple of years or so for the set dance class programme held by The Southside Traditional Dance and Music Society in Edinburgh. The inspiration for this book came from some crib sheets given to me by fiddler Bernie Stocks of Belfast, which gave the opening bars of a tune as an aide memoir. When I discovered that I didn't recognise the tune or its name, I clearly had to insert something else. This was not always successful however, due to the different lengths of many tunes such as single reels or 3-part jigs. This neccessitated the production of my own version, which has since grown into this collection.

The choice of tunes is personal, but also reflects the fact that a few musicians would drop by on an informal basis or sit in for a figure when not dancing the sets. So there are some well-known tunes here, but also some which are not so obvious, in order to keep things interesting for everyone. In general I have tried to keep the tunes as varied as possible.

The tunes come from a variety of sources: sessions, recordings, personal transcriptions, books and the internet. In almost all cases, the tunes have been modified to reflect what I play on the flute and the reader should bear in mind that I may not play them this way any more. Other versions are undoubtedly available. The tunes are all considered traditional, except where indicated. If any copyright is inadvertantly breached by the placing of a tune here, plase let me know and I will rectify the situation. Suggested corrections to this and other aspects of the music are welcome.

As the Southside dance group teaches itself, some of the dances were learnt at workshops and brought back to Edinburgh, while others were picked up at ceilis and classes around Scotland and Ireland. From the point of view of the music, the lengths of the sets and types of tune are mostly taken from Pat Murphy's 'Toss the Feathers', except where the teacher has a different source. Where a set has variations, the music given merely reflects the choice of the Southside classes.

In the main, the instructions for playing include an eight bar introduction for the dancers for each figure. The exceptions to this are The Ballyvourney Jig Set and Hurry the Jug, where the dance and figures are shorter than usual and the tendency is to dance the entire set straight through; in those cases, the 8 bar introduction occurs just once.

The music for these sets is constantly evolving and should be seen in this light. Some sets work better than others and some tunes get dropped and replaced by new ones in a modular fashion. Players and dancers may become bored with hearing the same tunes without variety. In the end, the music should work for players and dancers alike. If you are not happy playing the tunes, then this will be communicated to the dancers who will find it harder to pick up on rhythm and phrasing. When it works, the discipline of playing for dancing can be rewarding as the dancers reinforce the shape of the music in a positive feedback loop.

Finally, I am grateful to a number of people for their encouragement in this project, not least the Southside dancers, but particular thanks must go to the other musicians who have played this music and given their comments:

    Fiona Farris: fiddle
    Mark Gene-Hughes: uilleann pipes and flute
    Philip Hughes: fiddle
    Davy Muir: fiddle
    Graham Paton: whistles
    Stan Reeves: accordian
    Bernie Stocks: fiddle

Some of these tunes are known to have been composed and the authors are credited where ever possible. If you are aware of a mistake in this regard, please let me know and I will rectify it. Additionally, if you are the author of a tune on this site or represent an author and have any objection to the existence of the tune here, please let me know and I will remove it.

The music was produced using Chris Walshaw's ABC music language and BarFly for Macintosh. These files may be freely distributed provided that this is not done for commercial gain. Full details are included within each file.

Gordon Turnbull
Portobello, Edinburgh
October 1998, September 2000, September 2002

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Mary Fox
Mary Fox, Belfast, at her wedding.

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