Denis Murphy's Polka (1)

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X: 1 T: Denis Murphy's Polka [1] O: Ireland R: polka C: Denis Murphy D: Planxty Z: John Chambers <> M: 2/4 L: 1/8 K: D |: "D"f/g/f/e/ d/[e/c/]d/B/ | AD FA | "Em"GE e>d | "A7"cB BA | | "D"f/g/f/e/ d/[e/c/]d/B/ | AD FA | "Em"GE "A7"e>f |1 "D"ed de :|2 "D"ed d>B || |: "D"Af f/e/f | "G"Bg g/f/g | Af f/e/f/d/ | "Em"e/f/e/d/ "A7"cB | | "D"Af f/e/f | "G"Bg g/f/g/a/ | "A7"ba gc |1 ed "D"d>B :|2 ed "D"d2 |]

DENIS MURPHY'S POLKA [1]. AKA and see "Casey's Polka," "Sweeney's Polka (3)." Irish, Polka. Ireland, Sliabh Luachra region of the Cork-Kerry border. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Fiddler Denis Murphy (d. 1974), who is strongly associated with this polka, was born in Gneeveguilla, Sliabh Luachra region, County Kerry, into a musical family. His father played the flute and his two brothers and five sisters were all fiddlers. An early influence (in the 1920's and 30's) was the "near legendary itinerant fiddler and schoolmaster" Pádraig O'Keefe (1887-1963). Murphy removed to New York after World War II, but often returned to County Kerry. Paul de Grae remarks that although its technically easier to play most polkas than most reels, Denis Murphy maintained that polkas 'do have their own little secrets'.

Banjo player, composer and writer Bill Black [1] relates that one of Murphy's jobs in New York was working at the Bronx Zoo where he was classified as a specialist mechanic- thatcher-and his job was to maintain the various thatched roofs of the animal houses. A fellow Sliabh Luachra fiddler, Jerry McCarthy, and whistle player Rory O'Conner (the former King of Doolin in the old local King tradition in Ireland) worked with him. It seems that the trio had been out quite late playing, so that they just had time to get to work the next day. Murphy was badly in need of a few hours sleep, and McCarthy obligingly showed him an out-of-the-way spot where he could take a nap-the back way into a lion cage. When Murphy was settled and dozing peacefully, McCarthy let in the lion, an aged creature that had lost all its teeth and claws due to rickets. By the time Murphy stirred, the lion was staring him in the face, and the fiddler beat a heart-thumping and hasty retreat!

McCarthy is the source of another tale about Denis. The story goes they both were employed as security guards at the Librrary of Congress, in Washington, D.C. in the 1950's. The President, then Dwight D. Eisenhower, had occasion to pay a visit and McCarthy and Murphy had been stationed on either side of the main entrance. Ike ascended the steps and remarked casually "Nice day, guys." Nonplussed, Murphy responded in his deep voice, "Tis looking like rain!" A good story, marred not a bit by the fact that Murphy never lived in Washington, and only came to the United States in the early 1960's...after Ike had left office.

Terry Moylan thinks "Denis Murphy's Polka [1]" may have first been published under this title on one of the early albums released by the Chieftains, who evidently obtained several polkas and slides from Kerry musicians Denis Murphy and Johnny O'Leary. The tune is much older, however. It was recorded by famed Sligo fiddler Michael Coleman (1891-1945) as the second tune in a set called "Casey's."

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - accordion player Johnny O'Leary (Sliabh Luachra region, Kerry), recorded in recital at Na Píobairí Uilleann, February, 1981 [Moylan].

Printed sources : - Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 85. Bulmer & Sharpley (Music from Ireland), vol. 2, 1974; No. 70. Carlin (Master Collection), 1984; p. 155, No. 276. Mac Amhlaoibh & Durham (An Pota Stóir: Ceol Seite Corca Duibne/The Set Dance Music of West Kerry), No. 19, p. 20 (appears as "Sweeney's Polka"). Moylan (Johnny O'Leary), 1994; No. 42, pp. 25-26. Treoir, vol. 40, No. 2, 2008; p. 29.

Recorded sources : - Polydor 2383 397, Planxty- "Planxty Collection." Shanachie 79011, Planxty- "Cold Blow and the Rainy Night." Shanachie 79012, Planxty - "The Planxty Collection" (1974). The Chieftains - "Chieftains 2" (1969).

See also listing at :
Alan Ng's [2]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index [3]

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