Fox Chase (3) (The)

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X:1 T:Fox Hunt, The T:Fox Chase [3] M:C| L:1/8 R:Air Q:"Slow" B:Smollet Holden - Collection of favourite Irish Airs (London, c. 1841; p. 20) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:G DE|G2 GB d2d2|dedB d3z|G2 GB edBG|A4 G2 (3def| g2fe f2ed|edBG A2 GE|G>ABG AGAB|G4 G2|| DE|G2 GA B2B2|c2c2 B2B2|c2c2B2 BG|A4 G2 (3def| g3a gfed|edBG A2 GE|G>ABG AGAB|G4 G2:| |:z2|G2 GB d2g2|e2g2d2g2|G2 GB d>edB|A4 A2 (3def| (gf)(ga) (gf)(ed)|e2 dB A2 GE|G>ABG A2G2|G4 G2:| |:G2|DEGA BGGG|AGGG BGGG|AGBG cGBG|A4 G2 (3def| G2 ba gfed|e2 (3dBG A2 GE|G>ABG AGAB|G4 G2|| P:Horns F2E2F2E2|F2E2F2E2|B2A2B2A2|B2A2B2A2|{FE}F8|{FE}F8|{FE}F8|{FE}F8| P:Cry of the Hounds F/D/E/D/ F/D/E/D/ F/D/E/D/ F/D/E/D/|F/D/G/D// F/D/E/D/F/D/G/D/F/D/E/D/| f/d/e/d/ f/d/e/d/ f/d/e/d/ f/d/e/d/|f/d/g/d/ f/d/e/d/ f/d/g/d/ f/d/e/d/| g/d/g/d/ f/e/d/ g/d/g/d/ f/d/e/d/|.g.g.gz .f.f.f.z|.e.e.e.z .f.f.f.z| P:Horns A4 A4|A4 A4|d4 d4| P:The Fox’s Lamentation M:3/4 L:1/8 "Slower"A/B/c/|{DFA}d2 F2A2|[F4d4]fe|d2F2A2|{d}[E4c4]BA|B2F2^A2| B4 AG|F2d2d2|F2 (ec)(BA)|(Bd)(cB)(AF)|E2F2A2|~A4:| |:de|f2f2 ag|f2e2d2|cBcefc|B4 BA|A2d2d2|F2 dc(BA)|BdcBAF|E2F2A2|A4:|]



FOX CHASE [3], THE (Seilg An Madradin Ruad). AKA and see "Fox Hunt," "Irish Fox Hunt (The)," "Modhereen rua." Irish, March (4/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABCDEFGHIJJKKLMNNOOPPQQ. A programatic piece replete with 'horns' and the 'cry of the hounds', 'death of the fox', and winds up with "Foxhunter's Jig (1) (The)." Some sections are variously in 3/4, 6/8 and 9/8 time. This "Fox Chase" was composed around 1799 by celebrated blind Co. Tipperary piper Edward Keating Hyland (1780-1845), who once received a set of expensive pipes from King George IV of England (who heard the piper while visiting Dublin in 1821) as a mark of recognition for his performance, according to Irish antiquarian Gratten Flood. It is the model for the Scottish "Hunting of the Fox (The)," but Hyland based his piece on an older (though short, eight-bar) song called "Maidrin Ruadh (An)" (Modhereen rua), which is based on a dialogue between a farmer and a fox which he had detected "with the goods" on him in the form of "a fine fat goose." The piper's piece concludes with the well-known slip jig "Foxhunter's Jig (1) (The)." Hyland's version, the first full version, appears in O'Farrell's Pocket Companion of the Irish or Union Pipes (vol. 1, book 2, c. 1806) {under the title "Irish Fox Hunt (The)"}. Hyland was no simple country piper, but an individual who studied harmony under Thomas Moore’s musical collaborator, Sir John Stevenson. O'Neill (1913) also prints two MS versions of the tune, one from Henry Hudson, c. 1841, and the other from Prof. P.H. Griffith of Dublin--the latter being a Tipperary version. Knowles (1995) finds parts of "The Fox Chase" in an anonymous 18th century English manuscript, in which it is entitled "Foxhunter Hornpipe (The)," and calls it "certainly the oldest known version" of the tune.

"The Fox Chase" is the tune by which every piper seems to have been judged, at least in the 19th century, when it was ubiquitous among pipers. O'Neill mentions piper after piper in his Irish Minstrels and Musicians who considered the tune the heart of their repertoire. He also relates the tale of Kerry uilleann piper Dick Stephenson (c. 1840's-1897), who for many years was paired with a banjo player named John Dunne and a fiddler by then name of Thompson. It seems the trio played a date in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, and Stephenson got a bonus for playing "The Fox Chase" while his partners sat out, not being able to follow Stephenson's variations. "Dunne remarked he wouldn't hunt a fox that cold night for any consideration. A rejoinder from Stephenson to the effect that 'maybe he couldn't' was the spark that fired the flames of jealousy, and a round of fisticuffs put an end to years of friendship and companionship, although the Dunnes and Stephensons and Thompsons were all intermarried." Another 19th century champion piper, Robert Thompson of Cork, distinguished himself particularly in O'Neill's eyes as having an aversion to the humming of the drones and to playing "The Fox Chase." O'Neill obtained Stephenson's variations from piper Pat Touhey ("which fills fifteen staffs"), and he thought them to be so excellent the none equaled them (Irish Folk Music, p. 38). In a 1906 letter to Alfred Percival Graves (printed in "A Few Gossipy Notes" in the Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, London, O'Neill wrote that "The Fox Chase," universally mentioned but known to few, is given, for the first time, I believe, in print." He also mentions in the letter the line of transmission to him, from "Stephenson, a great Kerry piper, who came to America once with Ludwig through [Patsy] Tuohy, and later Sergt. Early to me."

"The Fox Hunt" was famously played by the incomparable uilleann piper from County Kerry, James Gandsey (1769-1857), who concertized well into his seventies (Breathnach, 1997). Donal Hickey (Stone Mad for Music, 1999), also says the "The Fox Chase" was associated with James Gandsey, 'the Killarney Minstrel', who died in 1857 at the age of 90. Gandsey survives in folk memory in the Sliabh Luachra region and some facts are clearly remembered. The son of a soldier in Ross Castle and a native Killarney mother, Gandsey was almost completely blinded in infancy by smallpox. He became known as Lord Headley's Piper and contributed several tunes to the regional repertoire, including as well "Jackson's Morning Brush" and "Madame Bonaparte." He is buried in Muckross Abbey, Killarney, where a plaque has been erected in his memory.

Researcher Conor Caldwell, in his thesis on John Doherty [1], writes that "The Fox Chase" was the first tune that the Donegal fiddler recorded for collector Peter Kennedy. The peripatetic Doherty, who followed a travelling trade, was notoriously hard to track down by collectors who often looked for him for days (sometimes not finding him), and Caldwell suspects the fiddler's choice to tune was "no doubt a wry nod towards Kennedy’s own pursuit." "It is without doubt one of the most virtuosic pieces in Doherty’s repertoire," states Caldwell, "and he shifts up the fiddle to seventh position in the key of F major (with a highest note of A, nearly three octaves above middle C)" [2]

Additional notes

Source for notated version: - originally from Mrs. Kenny of Dublin, via John L. Wayland of the Cork Pipers' Club via Chicago piper 'Patsy' Tuohey [O'Neill].

Printed sources : - Smollet Holden (Collection of favourite Irish Airs), London, c. 1841; p. 20. O'Neill (O’Neill’s Irish Music), 1915 ; No. 125, pp. 70-72. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1850, p. 349. O'Neill (Irish Minstrels and Musicians), 1913; p. 128.

Recorded sources: - Island ILPS 9501, "The Chieftains Live" (1977).

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



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  1. Conor Caldwell, "‘Did you hear about the poor old travelling fiddler?’ - The Life and Music of John Doherty", PhD thesis, 2013, p. 119 [2].
  2. ibid, p. 145.