Baltiorum

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BALTIORUM. AKA - "Baltighoran (2)." AKA and see "Baltyoran," "Baulthy Oura." Irish, Slip Jig (9/8 time). G Major (O'Neill): D Major (O'Sullivan/Bunting): C Major (Heymann). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (O'Sullivan/Bunting): AABB (Heymann, O'Neill). The title comes from the Irish Baal Tighe Abhran (Baaltigh abhoran) according to Belfast collector Edward Bunting (1774-1843) who translated it as "The Song of the House of Baal." The song was sung at the St. John's Eve bonfire, and there is an implied connection with the fire-god Baal.

O'Neill, in Irish Folk Music (1910, pp. 198-199), says:

A very ancient Irish melody is 'Baltiorum', and oddly enough it is known only by versions of that name. While euphonious, it conveys no meaning to the reader, and it is commonly assumed that notwithstanding its Latin termination it signifies something in the Irish language. And so it does when understood. The first writer who untakes to explain it is Edward Bunting. Baal tigh abhoran, usually called 'Baltiorum,' is a tune which might perhaps be assigned to the Pagan period, inasmuch as it is still customarily sung at the bon-fires lighted on St. John's Eve, the anniversary of Baal-tinne, and has so been sung from time immemorial. He does not give the translation in English, although his dissertation is much more comprehensive than the extract above quoted. To the writer it appears to be the song of praise or worship of Baal, the Fire-God.

The Pagan festivals eventually were wisely turned into account as Christian holidays, and in this instance the Baal-tinne, or fire lighted to welcome the Samhain or summer solstice, was continued as the celebration of St. John's eve. The melody, Conran tells us in his National Music of Ireland (1850), may still be heard from the groups assembled around these bonfires. In the writer's boyhood days the melody was forgotten and so was the Pagan significance of the celebration.

In O'Farrell's Pocket Companion, etc., before mentioned, the name of the tune is printed 'Baulthy Oura'. In Aird's Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, it is 'Baltioura.' Haverty in 300 Irish Airs calls it 'Baltighoran,' the same title given by Bunting over the printed music, regardless of his explanations. The air, or rather dance tune, as 'Baltiorum' is also one of the numbers in Bland and Weller's Annual Collection of Twenty-four Country Dances for the Year 1798.


Ann Heymann (1990) thinks Bunting's translation is in error; rather than referencing Baal, the beginning of the title she believes is simply a phonetic approximation of the common Irish noun Baile, meaning 'townland', 'farmland' or 'place'. Thus the title would be better translated as "Place of the Song House."

Source for notated version: the Irish collector Edward Bunting noted the tune from T. Conlan in 1831, according to the index of his 1840 collection.

Printed sources: Bunting (Ancient Music of Ireland), 1840; No. 108, p. 79. P.M. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs vol. 1), 1858; No. 68, p. 29. Heymann (Off the Record), 1990; pp. 4-5. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 80. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1128, p. 213. O'Sullivan/Bunting, 1983; No. 108, pp. 155-156 (appears as "Baltighoran").

Recorded sources: Temple Records 013, Ann Heymann & Alison Kinnaird - "Harper's Land" (1983).




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