2020-02 Tune of the Month Planxty Irwin

  1. HonketyHank
    This month the tune is Planxty Irwin, aka Colonel John Irwin, by O'Carolan. A planxty is a tune composed in honor of a patron. Colonel John Irwin was an English protestant landlord of a large Irish estate but was well enough regarded by his Irish Catholic neighbors for them to give him shelter during the Jacobite rebellion.

    Turlagh O'Carolan is the defacto national composer / poet laureate of Ireland. He was a blind itinerant harper who travelled around Ireland playing his harp for room and board in the early 18th century. In many cases, wealthy patrons would house and feed him for extended periods and in return he would compose a planxty in the patron's honor. Thus, among O'Caralon's many compositions there are quite a few planxties. This one is one of his better known.

    This is another one of those O'Carolan tunes that folks argue about. Is it a waltz or a jig? You can find multiple transcriptions in both 3/4 time and 6/8. I think the answer is "neither" and I think it is sad when one tries to force the tune into one category or the other. Bits and pieces of it certainly sound "jigsy" to me but other pieces don't. I don't hear a waltz at all unless somebody is hammering out an "OOOM-pah-pah" beat. It should be interesting to hear the interpretations among us Newbies. It is worth pointing out that the waltz was not invented until after O'Carolan's death, but music in 3/4 time did exist.

    thesession.org has six settings at https://thesession.org/tunes/790.

    Be sure to check out the SAW thread (click here) to find an ABC text for one version, and videos contributed back in 2010.

    Here is David Hansen's video from the SAW thread. I really like his videos and that cittern sounds wonderful.

  2. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Aaack! It's not a waltz, it's not a jig. Not a tango, foxtrot, minuet, two-step, or schottische either. It's not a dance tune at all. Nor is it in 3/4 time—it's 6/8 all the way, just like Niel Gow's Lament and Hector the Hero are. Yet all the versions on The Session are identified as "waltz" and marked in 3/4 time, although the notation makes it clear the tune is in 6/8.

    What Henry said: it's sad to try to make a perfectly lovely tune into something it's not.
  3. maudlin mandolin
    maudlin mandolin

    Although this piece is in 6/8 the rhythm sounds to me more like a slip jig than a double jig and it is certainly not a waltz.
  4. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    I'm a David Hansen fan, too!

    Good job, Maudlin! You're right on to it, as usual!
  5. HonketyHank
    Nice tempo and rhythm, Maudlin M. It moves along nicely without being rushed.

    I hope we get more videos this month. I plan to get one in later today. There is no deadline, folks!
  6. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Nice job, Maudlin!
  7. HonketyHank
    Well, I ended up with three 'takes' on three different instruments and at slightly different tempos. I am going to embed the one with my latest addition to the herd, a Red Valley AM custom. It is a neat little flat top that I plan to use as a travel mandolin. Lightweight, fun to play, sounds pretty nice, and looks great. I'll put links to the other two: one features a Gibson F2, the other my Weber Bitterroot mandola.

    Red Valley version at https://youtu.be/OJwKSFn2GVk

    F2 version at https://youtu.be/riQSDEWkwGo
    Mandola version at https://youtu.be/ytrSRv4gWPo

    Here is the Description that I put onto each YouTube video (with minor changes to indicate which instrument I was playing):

    Planxty Irwin, aka Colonel John Irwin, is the tune of the month for February, 2020, for us Newbies over at mandolincafe.com. I have posted three takes of the tune on YouTube, recorded on three different instruments. This one is recorded on a Red Valley AM flattop mandolin at about 60 beats per minute. You can find the other two on my YouTube channel.

    The tune is by Turlagh O'Carolan, a blind itinerant harper who travelled around Ireland in the early 18th century. Nowadays we might say he was a "homeless person" -- he played music in return for food and board. He had many wealthy patrons who would have him stay at their estates for extended periods.

    O'Carolan composed many tunes still heard today and is considered by many to be the national composer of Ireland. A significant number of those tunes, if not most, were "planxties". A planxty is a song of praise written in honor of a person; most of O'Carolan's planxties were written in honor of a patron.

    Colonel John Irwin was a protestant Englishman who fought for the king in the late 17th century in Flanders. He was awarded an estate in Ireland as a reward for his service. Despite being a supporter of King William, he was well liked by his Catholic neighbor landlords in Ireland -- during the 'troubles' (aka Jacobite Wars or Williamite Wars, depending on who you ask), Col. Irwin was given shelter by his neighbors.

    Colonel Irwin conducted many musical entertainment events at his manor with both local and itinerant musicians. It is believed that O'Carolan composed this tune in Irwin's honor in about 1737.

    Some folks play this a lot faster than I do. In fact my Gibson F2 version is too slow for me at about 45 beats per minute. But I like the tempo on my mandola version at 50 bpm. I think that a slow tempo of 50 or 60 is well suited for instruments with a lot of sustain. But, for a mandolin, with less sustain, I would bump that up to maybe 70 or 80. On the other hand, I saw at least one score for this tune in my research that was marked "allegretto", which would be 100 to 120 bpm. I think that is way too fast unless you are trying to pretend this tune is a slow-ish jig (which it isn't, despite being in 6/8 time).

    I was busy this month and didn't do any production work with the video. So what you see here is everything from when I hit the "record" button to when I hit the "stop" button. Nothing more and nothing less.
  8. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    I watched and thoroughly enjoyed all three, Henry. I really love the F2.

    There is a new member at the cafe, he calls himself pluckinstrings, and introduced himself in this thread: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...xty-Miss-Burke

    I checked out his YT channel and found that he'd done Planxty Irwin there himself, earlier this month. And since his version was a nice thing to hear, I'm posting it here:


  9. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Only one day late, but it was a short (and for me, busy) month. As O'Carolan was a harper I have been working on a version with some chords and arpeggios, but it ain't ready for prime time—or even the Newbies forum. So here's a barebones Planxty Irwin.

  10. HonketyHank
    That is mighty fine, Louise. Nice shift up the neck and back and confident use of the pinkie, too.

    Hey Mark, thanks for the comment. The F2 is on its way to the East coast. Sold it on the day after I shot that video. It's a good mandolin but I played my Weber a lot more than the F2. None the less, it was still difficult to part with it.
  11. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    Beautiful stuff, Louise NM. Great sound from your Kentucky oval. There is everything to like about your recital there, nice double stop on the ending. Hope to hear your version with the harmonies as well!
  12. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Hey, Henry.

    Somehow I missed seeing yours sooner. What a sweet tone you get out of the flattop! And, I like your tempo.
  13. HonketyHank
    Thanks, Louise.
  14. bbcee
    Good job, one & all!
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