Back to Moving Clouds
MOVING CLOUDS. AKA - "Moving Cloud." Irish, Reel. F Major (most versions): G Major (Martin & Hughes): D Major (Miller & Perron). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (Songer): AA'BB' (Miller & Perron, O'Malley): AA'BB'CC' (Miller & Perron): AA'BBCCDDEE (Martin & Hughes). A 1942 composition of Donegal fiddler Neilly/Neillidh Boyle (1889-1961), whose title ("Moving Clouds") was in the plural despite the number of appearances in print in the singular. Boyle can be heard claiming composer credits on his "Fairy Fiddler of Donegal" tape, recorded in 1953 by Peter Kennedy (Folktrax FTX-170), where he says:
I've composed a good lot of reels me self. There's one I composed, and.. everyone that's heard it is very much impressed with it, especially the fiddlers. When they hear it, they all want to get it. I composed this reel round about the years 1942. I composed "The Moving Clouds" in this house, up in... the room. I was playin' the fiddle and I struck on lovely chords. I thought to me self, which had a great effect on me, and the strains ran through me head. And I managed one chord after another 'til the whole tune ran through me head, and it didn't take very long to do so. I was very near forgettin' about it altogether, when I saw how much all the people were interested in the tune, since I kept it in practice and didn't forget it. There's a lot of pieces I composed, but I've forgot a good lot of them. So, this is The Moving Clouds, composed by... me.
Boyle plays a tune that resembles the modern "Moving Clouds" in both parts. The reel is sometimes attributed to Belfast fiddler Seán McGuire, who recorded a related version (which he may have composed), and who helped to popularize it; it is a somewhat different tune than the Boyle original, and it may be that Boyle simply claimed his own version of it. Randy Miller (2006) points out that flute player Matt Molloy considered it a traditional tune on his "Heathery Breeze" recording (1981). A third part to the tune is sometimes played and is attributed to accordion players Joe Burke by some, and to Martin Mulhaire by others. Musician, writer and researcher Don Meade strongly supports Mulhaire's claim, told to him by Mulhaire himself in the early 1990's. Mick Brown sees similarities between Boyle's "Moving Clouds" and an older tune called "Lignadruan Reel (The)", a composition of John Mhósaí (John McGinley) from Glencolmcille, Donegal. He suspects Boyle may have been inspired by or even based his tune on John Mhósaí's. The Moving Cloud is also the name of a six-piece Irish traditional band. The tune is sometimes played in the key of 'G', perhaps to accommodate instruments such as the tin whistle, although Meade maintains the key shift was introduced by Martin Mulhaire as the key of G sits well on the B/C accordion playing system.
Sources for notated versions: Bronx-born fiddler Andy McGann (1928-2004) [Miller & Perron]; three-part version in key of 'D' from Clare-based band Damp in the Attic (1999) [Miller & Perron]; a home recording of Seán Maguire made for fiddler Lou Quinn [O'Malley].
Printed sources: Bulmer & Sharpley (Music from Ireland, vol. 2), 1974; No. 11. Martin & Hughes (Ho-re-gheallaidh), 1990; p. 12. Miller & Perron (Traditional Irish Fiddle Music), 1977; vol. 2, No. 35. Miller & Perron (Irish Traditional Fiddle Music), 2nd Edition, 2006; p. 90 (two versions, in 'F' and 'D'). O'Malley (Luke O'Malley's Collection of Irish Music, vol. 1), 1976; No. 43, p. 22. Songer (Portland Collection), 1997; p. 142.
Recorded sources: Green Linnet, Andy McGann, Joe Burke, Felix Dolan - "A Tribute to Michael Coleman" (reissue of the 1965 Shaskeen album). Shanachie 34014, James Kelly & Paddy (Offaly) O'Brien - "Spring in the Air." Shanachie 34014, James Kelly, Paddy O'Brien & Daithi Sproule - "Traditional Music of Ireland" (1995). Shanachie 79064, Matt Molloy - "Heathery Breeze" (1999). Shaskeen Records OS-360, Andy McGann, Joe Burke, Felix Dolan - "A Tribute to Michael Coleman" (c. 1965. A somewhat distanced version from Boyle's). Sean McGuire - "On Two Levels" (1978). Phil Cunningham (et al) - "The Big Squeeze."
See also listings at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index 
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources 
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info 
Hear fiddler Sean Gallagher's version at the Comhaltas Archive 
Hear accordion player Pat McCabe's version at the Comhaltas Archive