Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day

This year in honor of St. Patrick's Day, a few polkas.

Most people would be surprised to learn that the Irish dance polkas, but it's true. In the middle of the 19th century, a polka craze swept through Europe, starting in central Europe and going all over the world--for instance, German settlers brought the style to Texas, where Mexicans adapted it until it became Norteno/Tejano music. Polkas were brought to Ireland at the same time, but until recently the polka craze was generally confined to two small regions within Ireland. The first region was Sliabh Luachra, the hill country along the River Blackwater on the border of Cork and Kerry. In Sliabh Luachra, the style of polka played there is very fast and very syncopated and obviously meant for crossroads dancing. There the fiddle and button accordion were the primary instruments for dance music and still are today. The first clip features two well-known Sliabh Luachra musicians playing a set of polkas: Jackie Daly on accordion and Seamus Creagh on fiddle. Notice how on the first tune Jackie Daly plays an octave lower the second time through.


Here is a link to another set of polkas (the video could not be embedded), played by another fine fiddle-accordion duet from Sliabh Luachra: Matt Cranitch and Donal Murphy.

The other region where polkas were played was in the northwest around Sligo. There the style is slower and less syncopated and a bit more graceful. There the fiddle is also popular, but the flute is more common than the accordion. The following video features Matt Molloy, from Ballaghadereen on the Roscommon-Mayo border, playing flute and on fiddle John Carty, who was born in London but whose family hails from Sligo. The second tune they play is called "The Killavil Postman"; Killavil is the village in Sligo where the famous fiddler Michael Coleman was born. The set of polka begins at about 3:30, with "The Killavil Postman"
 starting at about 4:38.


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