Fairy Queen (1)

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FAIRY QUEEN [1], THE ("An Beanriog Sige" or "Banríon na Sióg"). AKA and see "Before the Battle," "Ciste no Stór," "Hide Me from Death," "My Love and Treasure," "Save Me from Death (O)." Irish, Air (3/4 or 6/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Barnes): ABC (Complete Collection): ABCD (O'Neill {both versions}). The historical record is not definitive regarding the provenance of the tune. Belfast collector Edward Bunting [1] (1773-1843), who identified a number of different variants, variously attributed the tune to Carolan (in his 1796 Ancient Music of Ireland), then later recorded that the "tune is not Carolan's, but was adapted by him from an original melody", and (in a letter) wrote the piece "was not intended by him for words, but as a piece of music for the harp." Bunting apparently thought Carolan adapted the tune from an older air called "Ciste no Stór," to which the harper added two parts. The tune takes its name from the first line of the accompanying verse (an alternate title "Save/Hide Me from Death" is taken from a translation of the last line of the first verse). Words to the tune were recorded by Patrick Lynch from Richart Barrett, notes Donal O'Sullivan (1958), "and probably date from not much before Carolan's time. They are thus subsequent to the air, which is, however, hardly so ancient as Bunting supposed."

The tune was published in Carolan's lifetime in John and William Neal's Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes (1724), the earliest appearance in print, where it is given as "Fairy Queen by sigr Carrollini," in 3/4 time. "Fairy Queen" was recorded by the Belfast Northern Star of July 15th, 1792, as having been played in competition by one of ten Irish harp masters at the last great convocation of ancient Irish harpers, the Belfast Harp Festival, held that week. The harper who played it was Arthur O'Neill (1734-1818) of County Tyrone, as indicated in Bunting's notes from the festival (1796), blinded at age two but known as a good harper who became a close friend of Bunting's. Previously O'Neill had played the air (along with "The Green Woods of Truagh") at the second Granard Harp Competition in 1782, a performance which earned him the second prize of six guineas.

That the melody continued to be played on the harp after that time is attested to by a German traveller named Kohl, who published a work on Ireland in 1844. While visiting a residence in Drogheda an unknown harper was brought in to entertain the assembled guests. O'Neill (1913) quotes:

The march of 'Brian Boru' was followed by an air called 'The Fairy Queen,' which I was told was a very old melody. Old or not I can testify that it is a charming piece of music, so tender, so fairy like and at the same time so wild and sweetly playful that it can represent nothing but the dancing and singing of the elves and fairies by moonlight. I afterwards heard the piece on the pianoforte, but it did not sound half so soft and sweet as from the instrument of the blind young harper (p. 99).

The tune is discussed in DOSC, volume II, pp. 116-117 and in Willis' edition of Neale's Celebrated Irish Tunes, No. 17.

Source for notated version: Collector Edward Bunting (1840) notes that he "obtained this charming melody from the late Doctor Matthew Young, afterwards Bishop of Clonfert", but elsewhere collected a version from harper Arthur O'Neill; John and William Neal's Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes (Dublin, c. 1726) [O'Sullivan].

Printed sources: Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes, vol. 2), 2005; p. 41. Bunting (A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland), 1796; No. 5, p. 3. Bunting (Ancient Music of Ireland), 1840 (appears as "My Love and Treasure"). Complete Collection of Carolan's Irish Tunes, 1984; No. 195, p. 133. P.M. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs vol. 2), 1858; No. 165, p. 75. Heymann (Legacy of the 1792 Belfast Harp Festival), 1992; pp. 12-16. Mulholland (Ancient Irish Airs), 1810; p. 62. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 229. Neal (Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes), 1724; p. 13. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 637, p. 114. O'Neill (Irish Minstrels and Musicians), 1913, p. 72. O’Sullivan (Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper), 1958; No. 195, pp. 211-212. Oswald (Caledonian Pocket Companion, vol. 1), 1760; p. 23.

Recorded sources:




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