Blue Ribbon Polka (1)

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X:1 T:Blue Ribbon Polka [1] C:Trad. S:Julia Clifford M:2/4 R:polka N:Parts in tune identified by Fr. John Quinn & Conor Ward for comparison with N:other members of tune family. L:1/16 K:D P:B A2FA defg|a2a2 fdfa|g2g2 eceg|f2f2 d2dB| A2FA defg|a2a2 fdfa|g4 f2e2|d2f2 d4:| P:A a2f2 d2cd|e2A2 ABcA|d2c2 A3g|f2d2 defg| a2f2 d2cd|e2A2 ABcA|d2c2 A2F2|G4 G4:||



BLUE RIBBON POLKA [1]. AKA - "Blue Riband Polka." AKA and see "King Pippin's Polka," "Maurice O'Keeffe's (1)," "New York Polka (The)." Irish, Polka (2/4 time). D Major ('A' part) & G Major ('B' part). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. A polka from the Sliabh Luachra region of the Cork-Kerry border, popularized by the 1977 recording in London of County Kerry accordion player John Clifford with his spouse, Sliabh Luachra fiddle player Julia Clifford. Philippe Varlet remarks that the tune was fairly popular in the early 78 RPM era and was recorded by both Michael Hanafin and Dan Moroney, also originally from County Kerry and members of Dan Sullivan's Shamrock Band in Boston.

Two key tunes are rare in Irish music, and, according to researchers Conor Ward and Fr. John Quinn, the polka's origins are in 19th century light classical repertory, assimilated into Irish tradition. This assertion is supported by Breathnach and Small's finding that the tune is related to "The Huntsman's Chorus"[1]. A march called the "Huntsman's Chorus" (Was glecht wohl auf Erden) opens the third act of Carl Maria von Weber's opera Der Freischütz, first performed in Berlin in 1821; it is not cognate with any strain of Breathnach's untitled polka but there is a general similarity. Ward and Quinn find two versions of the polka in the music manuscript collection of Terence Reilly (1868-1941) of Drumreilly, Co. Leitrim, compiled around the year 1900. One, a three-part version (RY2. 146), is an untitled polka, while the second (RY1.041) appears under the title "King Pippin's Polka." Conor & Quinn also find a cognate version by Francis Reynolds in the c. 1885 O'Farrell-Reynolds music manuscript of Ballinamuck, County Longford, entitled "New York Polka (The)" (set in the key of G). Further, they find the English morris dance melody "White Ladies Aston" corresponds to the second strain of "Blue Ribbon Polka."

See also a related, untitled, polka collected by Brendan Breathnach[2] from a Radio Éireann recording of musician John Ryan, who himself submitted a transcription to the periodical Treoir, noting it was recorded by the Cliffords.

Some Sliabh Luachra versions (e.g. Matt Cranitch's) kept the key signature consistent throughout (key of 'D' major), eschewing the key changes of other versions. However, older versions indicate that parts were in different keys.


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Paddy Ryan [Treoir].

Printed sources : - Cranitch (Irish Fiddle Book), 1996; No. 44, p. 142. Cranitch (Irish Session Tunes: Red Book), 2000; 44. O'Brien (Jerry O'Brien's Accordion Instructor), Boston, 1949. Treoir, vol. 32, No. 1, 2000; p. 22 (appears as "The Blue Riband").

Recorded sources : - Topic 12TS311, John & Julia Clifford - "The Humours of Lisheen: Music from Sliabh Luachra vol. 3" (1977).

See also listing at :
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [1]



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  1. Printed in English Dance Music vol. 1, ed. Dave Townsend), p 142
  2. Brendan Breathnach & Jackie Small, Ceol Rince na hÉirreann, vol. V, 1999, No. 85