An londubh agus an chéirseach

The Blackbird and the Thrush is a very beautiful old tune. We have what may be a live transcription of a traditional harp performance, noted down by Edward Bunting in the 1790s. However, as usual with Bunting’s work, all is not straightforward, and he has messed us around a lot.

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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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Two more mystery tunes

Bunting has written two tunes on Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 page 220/218/227/f108v. At first they seem clear, with clearly written titles. But I cannot find other versions of them, and I do not know if these are harp transcriptions, or fiddle or vocal performances that Bunting has transcribed.

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The Weaver’s Lamentation

Edward Bunting wrote a song with a full piano arrangement into one of his collecting pamphlets, probably in the summer of 1792. I was going to silently pass over these pages as part of my Old Irish Harp Transcriptions Project, but I thought that actually this is an interesting enough thing to do a post about it.

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Mrs. Anne MacDermot Roe

Edward Bunting made what looks like a live field transcription of a tune titled “Mrs McDermottroe” or “Nanny O Donnely” on p. 18/18/27/f8v of Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections MS4.29. Bunting made an edited neat copy on the facing page, and he published a piano arrangement in his 1797 book (No.53, Anna ni ciarmuda ruaidh / Nanny McDermotroe / Carolan). There don’t appear to be any independent variants of this tune, so the only way to understand it is to analyse Bunting’s very unsatisfactory notations.

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Old Irish harp transcriptions project

I first got hold of a facsimile of Bunting ms29 (Queens University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4/29) when it was first published online at QUB Library web site, back in 2006, and I have been working from the facsimile ever since.

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