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Chris Smith: Words & Music

Jigs: Gallagher's Frolics/The Pipe on the Hob/The Hag at the Churn

(Chris Smith (banjo), Randal Bays (fiddle), Roger Landes (bouzouki))
2005-09-08
Starts out as a tribute to the original Tulla Ceili Band, and winds up as a tribute to the Bothy Band. Though other tunes from the Bothies's discs Live in Paris and 1975 probably get played more often, there’s no denying that pairing “Pipe on the Hob” and “Hag at the Churn” takes me back to first hearing the records, and thinking “Holy cow, this music is incredible!” Nice to rediscover that, after 30 years.

“Gallagher’s Frolics” is a variant of the piping jig called “The Frieze Britches,” and appears in a couple of different keys in both Joyce’s (#350) and O Neill’s collections (1850 #1008). Leo Rowsome and Willie Clancy both recorded “The Piper on the Hob” (in O Neill’s 1850 as #705) in addition to Paddy Keenan, and it certainly exploits the pipe’s ability to bend and “flavor” certain key notes. With his usual magisterial authority, Séamus Ennis used to insist that the title should be “The Piper on the Hob” and understood as a reference to a cricket singing on the hearth, but that might have just been Séamus’s way.

We hadn’t intended to include the final tune, but we’re all a product of our raisin’, and the Bothies made quite an imprint. The title of the “Hag” (in Breathnach’s CRE II as #43) refers to the country peoples’ belief that if the butter being churned refused to “come,” it was because a witch had stolen it away; John Doherty used to play this tune as a kind of “witch repellent.” There’s a great description of all the financial, social, and supernatural associations of butter in Henry Glassie’s book Passing the Time in Ballymenone.