Melancholy Martin

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MELANCHOLY MARTIN. AKA - "Mártan Dubhach." Irish, English, Country Dance Tune (9/8 time): Irish, Slip Jig. A Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Sharp): AABB (Karpeles, Kennedy, Levey, O'Neill, Petrie, Raven). Irish versions entered the repertoire through George Petrie's Ancient Music of Ireland (1855), along with R.M. Levey's Dance Music of Ireland (1873), picked up from one of those sources by Francis O'Neill for his Music of Ireland (1903). Petrie's note reads:

This air, which is both a song and dance tune, was set in 1837 from the singing of a peasant in the parish of Bagagher, county of Londonderry, and it probably belongs to that county. Though of sufficient merit to deserve preservation, it is not apparently an air of much antiquity, nor one strongly marked with Irish sentiment, but on the contrary, as it appears to me, with a sturdy English one, and particularly in the closing cadences. Its structure, in nine-eight time, is however, peculiarly Irish, as the two or three airs in this time recently claimed as English seem to be much more probably ours; and the one or two tunes in this time claimed by the Welsh are better known in Ireland as Irish, than they are known in Wales as Welsh tunes. It would be strange indeed if none of our innumerable airs in this time had ever passed into England or Wales and become naturalized in those countries, as many of our airs in other measures certainly have; and there being so few of them claimed in either, can only perhaps be accounted for by the assumption that their lovely character was alien to the musical sensation of the Teutonic and Cimbric races in those countries.

The slip jig "Portrush" has some resemblance to this tune in the first strain.

The provenance, as Petrie points out, is unclear. Irish sources predate English ones, which seem to stem from Cecil Sharp's Country Dance Tunes (1909), and Sharp noted he had the tune from Petrie. Nontheless, it has English "character" (as Petrie says), and appears in the English Country Dance repertoire of the last century to now (where it is sometimes loosely attributed to "Playford", although there is no evidence that it has any such antiquity). "This tune can be used as an alternative accompaniment to the Hey in the Flamborough Sword Dance" says English collector Maude Karpeles.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: P.M. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs vol. 1), 1858; No. 47, p. 19. Karpeles & Schofield (A Selection of 100 English Folk Dance Airs), 1951; p. 27. Kennedy (Fiddler's Tune-Book: Slip Jigs and Waltzes), 1999; No. 45, p. 11. Levey (Dance Music of Ireland, 2nd Collection), 1873; No. 66, p. 29. O'Neill (Music of Ireland), 1903; No. 1154. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 84. Petrie (Ancient Music of Ireland), 1855. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 26. Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1909; p. 61.

Recorded sources:




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