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Chris Smith: Words & Music

Jigs: The Rose in the Heather/Langstrom's Pony/Tatter Jack Walsh/The Newport Lasses

(Chris Smith)
2005-09-08
“The Rose in the Heather” (a/k/a “An Rós sa bhFraoch” or “The Corofin”) might be one of the first Irish tunes I ever learned, along about 1978, on a borrowed Gibson A mandolin in a two-room 17th-century fisherman's cabin on Lee Street in Marblehead Massachusetts. Recorded by “Professor” James Morrison, it’s also in CRE I #37, sourced by Breathnach from Tommy Potts. Thanks to Alan Sorvall for his part in introducing me to The Music.

“Langstrom’s Pony”, a great four-part jig, is a venerable tune. It appears under numerous “A/K/A’s” in many sources, including O Neill’s 1850 (#885), Neal’s A Choice Collection of Country Dances with their Proper Tunes (Dublin, 1726), Oswald’s Caledonian Companion (1765), The Hibernian Muse (1780), and in O Farrell’s Pocket Companion piping tutor (1806). Some of the sources, the key of A, and the general melodic outline (within a 9th) suggest that it might be a Scots tune originally, but I have it from Willie Clancy and from Séamus Ennis.

The third jig's title is an Anglicization of the Gaelic an t-Athair (Father) Jack Walsh. This is another old piping tune, found in Philip Goodman’s 1898 repertoire list (cited above), but also in Joyce’s Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909); Con O Drisceol has a hilarious King Lear parody to this tune. I don’t know where I first learned it.

We recorded the fourth tune as “The Newport Lass,” and I realized only later that I had learned it earlier under the commoner title “The Trip to Athlone”—I’m sensing a little De Danann influence there. Breathnach has it as CRE I (#42)