Monday, February 20, 2017

Did You Get Your Shot for Polka Season?

What? Joe Bane AGAIN?

As you know, I'm what I like to call "Clare-nerdy" and I keep bringing these tunes I learned from folks in County Clare. The "Clare Polkas" (a/k/a Joe Bane's or Bill Malley's) seemed to be popular on my trip to East Clare this year. And yes, here's Joe Bane again! I don't know why. I'll try to share something about him in an upcoming post.

Why did I bring a polka for the "learn by ear" tune for last week's February Irish Slow Session? Glad you asked! (You didn't really care, did you?) Firstly because I've always wanted to learn those tunes, and secondly so I could torture you all (of course).

Q. Why was the River Shannon Invented?

Polkas are pretty much associated with counties Cork, Kerry and Limerick, according to Fintan Vallely, and also the Cork-Kerry border area called Sliabh Luachra (say SHLEEVE LOO kruh). You don't hear a lot of polkas in the east of county Clare, but go out to the western side to Miltown Malbay where Jackie Daly lives and you'll hear plenty. Sadly, I couldn't find a recording of Jackie playing them. Listen here to Paddy O'Brien and friends playing Joe Bane's #1 in G major (really nice bouzouki work on this track):

Start at :50 seconds to hear Joe Bane's (p.s. Sue and John, you were right about the more square rhythm of the first few phrases of the tune)

On the subject of Polkas, Fintan Vallely also had this to say:

A popular dance form which was developed in Bohemia in the early 1800s, gained popularity and spread epidemically all through Europe. It reached England by the middle of the century, and there was called the 'German polka'...Introduced to Ireland in the late 1800s, two distinctly different kinds are now found - the simple polka of Sliabh Luachra music, and the 'double' polka associated with such as John McKenna.
       - The Companion to Irish Traditional Music (1st Ed.), Fintan Vallely

A. To keep the Polkas out of Clare!

So, how in the heck did this polka break into county Clare? No clue, because I've heard it said that the River Shannon was invented to keep the polka out of Clare. They probably just forgot to get their polka shots to keep the epidemic under control... Just a joke, folks, just a joke...

[Read all the way to the bottom for a special surprise]

It's all just to say "Thank You" to you all for going with me on this! It was really fun to work on the tune, and I'd like to continue working on it some more next month, if you all don't mind.

Anyway, Moving On...

I'd like to recap what we did last week at the February session so there's some institutional memory for it! Also, thank you very much to Paul for giving us next month's Reel of the Month! Keep reading to find out what it is...

Learning Tunes

Learn by Ear Tune: Clare Polka #1 (Joe Bane's Polka/Bill Malley's Polka)
Promenade - This was so much fun! You all did so well. Here's a clip of us playing it together
Reel of the Month: Man of the House sheet music w/chords (PDF)

Tunes We Played in February 2017

Clare Polka #1
Promenade (Hop Jig)
Father Kelly's (Reel)
Kinnegad Slashers (Jig)
Mug of Brown Ale (January Learn by Ear Tune)
Connaughtman's Rambles (Jig)
Torn Jacket (Reel)
Trip to Parliament (Reel)
Boys of Blue Hill (Hornpipe)
Man of the House sheet music w/chords (PDF) (February's Reel of the Month)
Merry Blacksmith (Reel)

Question of the Week: Are Polkas Easy or Hard?

Post in the comments below! Please send me tune suggestions! You can get me at I'm loving that you guys have cool tunes you want to work on. Thanks for sharing them.

If you haven't come to our slow session yet, but you've been reading the blog or you are on the email list, we'd love for you to come join us! We're having a lot of fun learning one tune by ear and then playing our learning tunes and finally ending up choosing music from our repertoire. There's a chair for you in the circle so come join us!

All I can say is "Keep on playing!" and...

Happy Monday,


You Found It! Here's the special surprise!

March's Reel of the Month - Flowers of Red Hill Sheet Music w/chords (PDF)
Flowers of Red Hill M4A (melody only)

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