New flute and whistle tunes for May: a jig and a fling

Last night the SMG whistlers made good progress with what seemed to be a daunting task a couple of weeks ago, learning the Scottish jig A Fisherman’s Song for Attracting Seals.

A very unusual tune in its use of repetitive phrases and uneven structure, whistler and Nigel Gatherer mentions in this discussion that it may have first appeared in The Patrick McDonald Collection of Highland Vocal Airs (1784). A quick search reveals that this collection may be available as a PDF via a number of sources if you’re interested in hunting down some more of this music. I’m not aware that lyrics exist for this “song” and it it may be that they were never collected.

The version we’re learning is close to that of Iain MacDonald of Glenuig and former Ossian member that is included in the link above. Another version can be found on Ossian’s Seal Song, which is the first traditional album I bought. Here’s a link to the tune from the Ossian recording on Youtube.

The two part jig has an A part of just 8 bars, including repeats and a B part of 10 bars (8 or 16 would be expected). The B part also bears 4 of the bars of the A part, so that when going from the A part into the B part it becomes difficult to distinguish the parts. The effect however is of a groove that can feel infectious.

We’re going to be putting this tune into a set with our previous tunes this term: The Iona Boat Song/ Ciamar a nì mi a Dannsa Dìreach/ A Fisherman’s Song for Attracting Seals.

Meanwhile, the Thursday night FluteFling Improvers class has led to learning the first of two flings by Terry “Cuz” Teehan. I came across these in the 90s played as a pair, although I can’t recall who first popularised them as a set.

Flings occupy an uncertain place in Irish traditional music and appear to have a connection to Scotland. This discussion on The Session attempts to clears up a few questions. In Ireland they appear to occupy an area closer to hornpipes and barndances in terms of style, than Scottish strathspeys or even Donegal highlands. I sense that a connecting line can be drawn between them all, although I have no idea how accurate that might be.

As it happens, concertina player Niamh Ní Charra has just released Cuz - A Tribute to Terry “Cuz” Teahan. In addition, this original and out-of-print recording may be of interest. Some more background information here back at The Session.

As usual, all resources for the tunes can be found over on The Flow.

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