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Off She Goes (1)

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OFF SHE GOES [1] (Ta si ag imteacd). AKA and see "Off She Goes for Butter and Cheese" (Pa.), "Up She Got and Off She Went" (Pa.), "Peel the Willow" (Pa.), "Danse des Sutins (La)" (French-Canadian), "Gigue du bonhomme (La)," "Lancer's Quadrille," "Launch (The)," "Rustic Reel (2)," "Rustic Dance (2)." English, Irish, Scottish, American; Single Jig (6/8 time), Slide (12/8 time) and Country Dance Tune. England; Dorset, Sussex. Ireland, West Kerry. USA; New England, southwestern Pa. D Major (most versions): C Major (Cazden, Howe, Hughes): G Major (Clinton). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Kerr, Moylan, Wilson): AABB (most versions). "Off She Goes (1)" is of the most popular and long-lived of traditional 6/8 tunes in history. British musicologist William Chappell, writing in the 19th century, seemed to imply that Englishman George Macfarren composed this very popular tune. This is impossible, according to Bayard (1981), since it appeared in print in the Irish Murphy MS. when Macferren was age 2 (1790). The Irish uilleann piper 'Piper' Jackson has also been credited with the tune (by Alfred Moffat) which he supposedly wrote c. 1760, but Bayard again thinks it unlikely due to stylistic reasons (it does not sound like Jackson's other tunes, or even particularly Irish). He concludes the composer and date of composition are both still unknown, although he doubts it is older than the 1780's. An early printing occurs in the Calvert Collection (1799), assembled by musician Thomas Calvert of Kelso, Scotland. A note with his collection states that Calvert supplied "a variety of music and instruments, instruments lent out, tun'd and repaired."

"Off She Goes" was popular throughout the British Isles and North America. One unnamed source gives that in the days of sail it was a tradition for the fiddle player to sit on the deck of the ship playing "Off She Goes" as the ship departed harbor. In French-Canadian usage the melody is known as "Danse des Sutins (La)" although Gaspésie fiddle Yvon Mimeault (b. 1928) called his version "Gigue du bonhomme (La)" ('my old man's tune') since his it was a favorite of his fiddling father, Odilon. The author of English Folk-Song and Dance found the melody in the repertoire of fiddler William Tilbury (a resident at Pitch Place, midway between Churt and Thursley in Surrey), who, in his younger days, played the fiddle at village dances. Tilbury learned his repertoire from an uncle, Fiddler Hammond, who died around 1870 and who was the village musician before him. The conclusion was that "Off She Goes" and similar type country dance tunes survived in English tradition (at least in southwest Surrey) well into the second half of the 19th century. "Off She Goes" is contained in several 19th century English musicians' manuscripts, such as the Joshua Gibbons, John Clare, Joseph Kershaw and the Hardy family manuscripts. Kershaw was a fiddler who lived in Slackcote, Saddleworth, North West England, in the 19th century, and his manuscript dates from around 1820 onwards. Clare (1793–1864) was a poet and rural labourer from Helpstone, near Stamford, in the East Midlands. Gibbons was from Lincolnshire-his setting, originally appearing in the mss. in the key of 'C' major, has a somewhat divergent second part, as does the Kershaw setting. "Off she goes" in H.S.J. Jackson's (Wyresdale, Lancashire) manuscript book of 1823 is a different—but interesting—tune altogether (see [1]). See also the version in keyboard player Ann Winnington's music manuscript book (No. 16), c. 1810, wherein the frontispiece indicates she resided in New York. The melody was published in England in Thomas Wilson's Companion to the Ball Room (London, 1816) and in America in (Edward) Riley's Flute Melodies (New York, 1814).

"Off She Goes" was included in the large mid-19th century music manuscript collection of Canon James Goodman, County Cork. The late button accordion player Jim Coogan (Newburgh, N.Y.), a fountain of Irish accordion lore, related the following anecdote in a discussion about the relative abilities of musicians to talk and play at the same time, not an easy thing to do for most:

Joe Mills (rip), the original accordion player with the Aughrim Slopes Ceili Band when they started in 1932, used to tell the story about when they were playing on R2N—which radio station later became Radio Erinn and now is RTE—that they were playing a set of jigs and coming up on the turn which was to be "Off she goes" when Paddy Kelly, the fiddler looked over at Joe to find out what tune—Joe got excited and forgot the name and could only shout "feck off"—and they all immediately turned the tune and it went very well—except they forgot they were on live radio...

Grace Orpen included the melody in her 1939 volume The Dances of Donegal [2], where it is the vehicle for the dance Berlin Polky. The title is among those mentioned in Patrick J. McCall's 1861 poem "The Dance at Marley," the first three stanzas of which goes:

Murtagh Murphy's barn was full to the door when the eve grew dull,
For Phelim Moore his beautiful new pipes had brought to charm them;
In the kitchen thronged the girls – cheeks of roses, teeth of pearls –
Admiring bows and braids and curls, till Phelim's notes alarm them.
Quick each maid her hat and shawl hung on dresser, bed, or wall,
Smoothed down her hair and smiled on all as she the bawnoge entered,
Where a shass of straw was laid on a ladder raised that made
A seat for them as still they stayed while dancers by them cantered.

Murtagh and his vanithee had their chairs brought in to see
The heels and toes go fast and free, and fun and love and laughter;
In their sconces all alight shone the tallow candles bright –
The flames kept jigging all the night, upleaping to each rafter!
The pipes, with noisy drumming sound, the lovers' whispering sadly drowned,
So the couples took their ground – their hearts already dancing!
Merrily, with toe and heel, airily in jig and reel,
Fast in and out they whirl and wheel, all capering and prancing.

"Off She Goes," "The Rocky Road," "The Tipsy House," and "Miss McLeod,"
"The Devil's Dream," and "Jig Polthogue," "The Wind that Shakes the Barley,"
"The First o'May," "The Garran Bwee," "Tatther Jack Welsh," "The River Lee," -
As lapping breakers from the sea the myriad tunes at Marley!
Reels of three and reels of four, hornpipes and jigs galore,
With singles, doubles held the floor in turn, without a bar low;
But when the fun and courting lulled, and the dancing somewhat dulled,
The door unhinged, the boys down pulled for "Follow me up to Carlow."


Sources for notated versions: 8 southwestern Pa. fifers and fiddlers [Bayard]; Everett Douglas [Phillips]; accordion player Johnny O'Leary (Sliabh Luachra region of the Cork-Kerry border) [Moylan]; the 1823–26 music mss of papermaker and musician Joshua Gibbons (1778–1871, of Tealby, near Market Rasen, Lincolnshire Wolds) [Sumner]; melodeon player Walter Bulwer [Callaghan].

Printed sources: Hopkins (American Veteran Fifer), 1905; No. 66. Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 544A-H, pp. 485-487. Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 204. Callaghan (Hardcore English), 2007; p. 62. Cazden (Dances from Woodland), 1955; p. 13. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 58. Clinton (Gems of Ireland), 1841; No. 178, p. 91. DeVille (The Violin Player's Pastime), p. 13. Ford (Traditional Music of America), 1940; p. 53 (appears as part of "Rustic Dance"). Gallagher & Peroni (Irish Songs and Airs), 1936; No. 11 (appears as "Off They Go"). Harding's Original Collection (1928) and Harding Collection (1915), No. 43. Harding's All Round Collection, 1905; No. 190, p. 60 (appears as "Old Virginia Reel"). Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs, vol. 2), 1858; No. 140, p. 64. Holden (A Collection of Old Established Irish Slow and Quick Tunes), p. 35. A.F. Hopkins (American Veteran Fifer), 1905; No. 66. Howe (Complete Preceptor for the Accordeon), c. 1843; p. 5. Howe (Musician's Onmibus, No. 2), 1861; p. 107. Hughes (Gems from the Emerald Isle), c. 1860's; No. 53, p. 13. Huntington (William Litten's Fiddle Tunes, 1800–1802), 1977; p. 30. Jarman (Old Time Fiddlin' Tunes), No. or p. 18. S. Johnson (Kitchen Musician No. 6: Jigs), 1982 (revised 1989, 2001); p. 2. The Joseph Kershaw Manuscript, 1993; No. 23. Kennedy (Fiddler's Tune-Book, vol. 1), 1951; No. 89, p. 44. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880’s; No. 14, p. 29. R.M. Levey (Dance Music of Ireland, 1st Collection), 1858; No 89, p. 35. Mac Amhlaoibh & Durham (An Pota Stóir: Ceol Seite Corca Duibne/The Set Dance Music of West Kerry), No. 57, p. 37 (appears as "Port Dalaig" [7]). MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 175. Miller & Perron (New England Fiddler's Repertoire), 1983; No. 35. Moylan (Johnny O'Leary of Sliabh Luachra), 1994; No. 98, p. 56. O'Malley & Atwood (Seventy Good Old Dances), 1919; p. 39. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 41. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 914, p. 170. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 385, p. 78. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 2), 1995; p. 373. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 101. Robbins (Collection of 200 Jigs, Reels, and Country Dances), 1933; No. 98, p. 31. Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 86. Saar: (Fifty Country Dances), 1932; No. 49. Silberberg (Fiddle Tunes I Learned at the Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 108. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 137. Sumner (Lincolnshire Collections, vol. 1: The Joshua Gibbons Manuscript), 1997; pg. 18. Sweet (Fifer's Delight), 1965; p. 28. Trim (The Musical Legacy of Thomas Hardy), 1990; No. 5. Tubridy (Irish Traditional Music, vol. 2), 1999; p. 28. White's Excelsior Collection, 1907; p. 3. Wilson (A Companion to the Ballroom), 1840, p. 121.

Recorded sources: Antilles (Island) 7003, Kirkpatrick & Hutchings – "The Compleat Dancing Master" (1973). Folkways 8826, Per's Four – "Jigs and Reels." Folkways FG 3575, Barry, Gorman, Ennis, and Heaney – "Irish Music in London Pubs." Front Hall 010, Fennigs All Stars – "Saturday Night in the Provinces." John Edwards Memorial Foundation JEMF-105, Everett Dwyer – "New England Traditional Fiddling" (1978). Maggies Music MM-220, Hesperus – "Celtic Roots." Topic TSCD607, Billy Cooper, Walter & Daisy Bulwer – "English Country Music" (2000. Originally recorded 1962). Topic 12T357, Johnny O'Leary – "Music for the Set" (1977).

See also listings at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [3]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [4]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [5]




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