Muckle Reel o' Finnigirt (Da)

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MUCKLE REEL O' FINNIGIRT(H), DA. Shetland, Aald Reel (2/4 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. At one time the Muckle Reel, or Aald/Auld Reel, was danced throughout Shetland though it varied from district to district. This particular tune accompanied a dance whose steps have been lost, although it was remembered that they were walking steps that matched the irregular rhythm of this piece, and that the piece itself was played and danced as a break from the more strenuous reels (the Muckle Reel was also the time when the hat was passed to collect for the fiddler!). The Muckle Reel may have been derived from the figures of a Scandinavian long dance or could have some connection with a song dance from the Faro islands, note Anderson & Georgeson (1970), who believe that it is likely that all the Muckle Reels were of Norwegian derivation. "The Muckle Reel o Finnigirt" is the most complete version that has survived. Flett & Flett (1964) give that the distinguishing characteristic of the dance is that the dancers are constantly moving, and there is no setting figure so common to most of Scottish reels. Thus there is no need (as Peter Cooke points out) for a balanced bipartite structure in the music, which only requires one part. "Back Reel (Da)" was traditionally played after "Muckle Reel o' Finnigirt", and indicated to the dancers that they were ‘back’, or returning, to the Shetland reel rhythms and steps. There are several 'Muckle Reels' or 'Aald Reels' surviving, some fragmentary: see also "Aald Reel o' Whalsay (Da)." Pat Shuldham-Shaw also collected and transcribed the tune in 1952 from the playing of fiddler Peter Fraser (Lerwick).

"Da muckle reel o' Finniegirt" was one of the reels used in the Walls District (according to Old-Lore Miscellany of Orkney, Shetland, Caithness and Sutherland, Vol. VI, Part 1, Jan., 1913, p. 7): "This seems to be an original composition, probably of Norse origin, which was danced on the last night of Yule, and had a measure for each of the thirteen nights, followed by a series of other reels."

Peter Fraser, Finnigarth, Walls

Source for notated version: Peter Fraser (Walls, West Mainland, Shetland) [Anderson & Georgeson, Cooke].

Printed sources: Anderson & Georgeson (Da Mirrie Dancers), 1970; p. 9. Cooke (The Fiddle Tradition of the Shetland Isles), 1986; Ex. 4, p. 56.

Recorded sources: Front Hall 018, How To Change a Flat Tire - "Traditional Music of Ireland and Shetland" (1978).




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