This week in the Improvers class we looked at a slip jig as a companion to The New Claret, which we learned earlier in the term. The main focus was The Peacock Followed the Hen, a Northumbrian tune that is known in Scotland. We also took time to learn a slip jig melody for a Gaelic song, Rachainn a shuiridh’ air Oighrig.
The Peacock Follows the Hen appears in the William Vickers’ Great Northern Tunebook of 1770, which features tunes from Scotland and Northumberland. It also appears in numerous Northumbrian piping collections, which are incidentally worth checking out from a flute and whistle perspective due to their friendly keys.
The tune has many titles and Johnny Get Brose and Brose and Butter are alternative titles for a Scottish version of the tune. Slip jigs seem to be strongly associated with song and in this case both Scottish and Northumbrian versions have bawdy lyrics associated with them.
The tune itself is short and very simple consisting largely of repeated rhythmic phrases or riffs. In this case, the c natural and A relationship is very prominent and it is a good way to practice that transition.
I have written some suggested simple harmony lines for beginners, but it became quickly apparent that there is good scope for variation with this tune and I feel we might be revisiting it at some point. For example, the A and B parts can be played simultaneously, as in a round, to good effect.
I played this tune at the tutors’ concert at last year’s Border Gaitherin’ in Coldstream. The full set of tunes consisted of: The Duke of Gordon’s Birthday/ The New Claret/ The Peacock Followed the Hen. For that I was accompanied by bodhrán player Paul Dorricott and guitarist Graeme Armstrong. We were thrown together and had just one rehearsal in the afternoon, but went really well.
The festival is on again this weekend and after I finish work on Saturday morning I’ll be heading down for an afternoon catching up with Paul, Graeme and other friends — and hopefully playing some tunes too. If you can make it, it’s a festival I have been attending for many years and is highly recommended.
The second tune we looked at I learned from a recording by the Gaelic group Cliar on their album Gun Tàmh (Restless).
Rachainn a shuiridh air Oighrig (I would go courting Oirigh) is a piece of mouth music and while I haven’t heard this played in Edinburgh, it fits the flute and whistle well and once more there is scope for arrangement. I have written out parts for beginner and more advanced players.
Once again, resources for these tunes, including recordings and PDF and ABC files of the music can be found on The Flow.