Colonel Irwin

In Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 page 20, there is a line of dots which I have always marked as “unidentified tune”. I just could not work out what is going on here.

However Sylvia Crawford has analysed the mode of the dots and suggests that they represent Bunting’s first attempt to transcribe a harp version of the tune of DOSC 60 Colonel Irwin.

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Bacach buí na leimne

Edward Bunting wrote a notation into one of his little transcription pamphlets in the 1790s, showing two tunes (Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 page 7). I think these may be live harp transcription notations.

Just glancing at the notations you can’t see them as two different tunes; there are three sections of notation with two sets of double-bar-lines dividing them up. But we can recognise them as two different tunes; the first two sections of notation are the tune of “The Beggar”, and the third section of notation is the tune of “Plangsty Irwin”.

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Casadh an tSúgáin

Edward Bunting made what looks to me like a live transcription notation of the tune of Casadh an tSúgáin, probably in Summer 1792. He writes 50 years later that he took this down from the harper Rose Mooney, but I don’t know if we can rely on his memory. Anyway, the transcription notation is very interesting and presents a very lovely version of the tune with a lot of what I assume is old Irish harp idiom and style in it.

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Irish Harpers particularly from Belfast

File AI.80.019 in the NMI archive contains papers associated with a harp (NMI DF:1980.6) which is said to have originally belonged to Valentine Rainey, master of the Belfast Harp Society school in the early 19th century. The file includes letters relating to the purchase of the harp, as well as photocopies of a selection of other documents which may have come with the harp; there are some pages from Charlotte Milligan Fox’s book, Annals of the Irish harpers (1911), a photo of the harp with some information about its provenance, and a couple of handwritten pages of information about harpers.

There is no other information about these handwritten pages; all we have is the photocopies themselves. One is obviously a quick draft version, and the second a neater and slightly fuller version. The handwriting is difficult to read. This is my transcription of the two sheets.

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Mailí Bheag Ó

There are three different versions of the tune of Mailí Bheag Ó in Edward Bunting’s books and manuscripts. In this post I’m going to look at each of the three in turn, and then see if we can say anything useful about them and where he got each of them from. I think it is obvious that two of the versions come from two different harper informants on two different occasions, and one of them was lifted from older printed books.

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Part 2 summary

Back in the Autumn, I posted a summary of part 1 of my Old Irish Harp Transcriptions project. By then, I had worked through the first section of Edward Bunting’s main transcription manuscript from the 1790s (now Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29).

Now I have finished working through the third section of the manuscript, I think we can have a retrospective of the project so far.

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Madge Malone

In Edward Bunting’s notebooks from the 1790s, there is what looks like a live harp transcription version of the Carolan tune, Madge Malone (DOSC 98).

The transcription is on Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 page 234/232/241/f115v. It shows what seems to be a dots transcription expanded out with note stems and beams. Then Bunting has made a neat copy based on and derived from the transcription, on the facing page 235/233/242/f116r.

This is a lovely tune, and this transcription has lots of interesting harp idiom in it. But, it is the only source for the tune of Madge Malone as far as I am aware. Because we have three consecutive versions (the transcription, the neat copy, and the published piano arrangement), we can use the changes from one to the next to understand Edward Bunting’s working method, starting from him listening to a live performance by an old Irish harp tradition-bearer, and finishing with a very pianistic classical arrangement intended for wealthy piano amateurs.

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Ríoghán an uaigneas

Edward Bunting made a transcription of the tune of Ríoghán an uaigneas into one of his collecting pamphlets, now at Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 page 233/231/240/f115r.

This is a very interesting notation that looks like it was written live from the performance of an old Irish harper.

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