Salamanca (1)

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X:1 T:Salamanca Reel M:2/4 L:1/8 R:Reel and Hornpipe B:R.M. Levey – First Collection of the Dance Music of Ireland (1858, No. 54, p. 22) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D d/>B/|A/D/ (3F/E/D/ A/D/ (3F/E/D/| A/d/c/d/ f/e/d/c/|B/E/ (3G/F/E/ B/E/ (3G/F/E/| (B/e/)e/d/ (c/e/)e/g/|f/B/ (3d/c/B/ b/B/ (3d/c/B/|f/e/d/c/ d/b/a/g/|f/(g/e/)(c/ d/)(A/B/)(G/|F/)(G/E/)(F/ D):| |:(f/g/)|a/(f/d/)(f/ b/)(g/e/)(g/|f/)(g/e/)(c/ d/)(c/B/)(A/|B/)(d/c/)(e/ d/)(f/e/)(g/|f/)(a/^g/)b/ a(3A/B/c/| d/(e/f/)(g/ a/)(f/b/)(g/|f/)(e/d/)(c/ d/)(b/a/)(g/|f/)(e/d/)(c/ d/)(A/B/)(G/|F/)(G/E/)(F/ D):|]



SALAMANCA {REEL} [1] (Seisd/Cor Salamanca). AKA - "Salamanco." AKA and see "Boyle's Reel," "Coronation Reel,” "Maigue's Tide," "Salamander," "Tartan Plaid (The)," "Wild Salamanca (The)." Irish, Scottish, English; Reel or Hornpipe (cut time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Breathnach CRÉ 2, O'Connor, O'Neill (all versions). AABB (most versions): AABBCCDD (Breathnach, CRÉ 1). Bayard (1981) says it is "probably no older" than the early 19th century, and, though apparently once-popular (inferred from the number of printings) it is of unknown origin. The reel (as "The Salamnche Reel") was entered into the mid-19th century Sliabh Luachra music manuscript collection in the possession of D. Curtin of Stagmount, Rockchapel, Co Cork (No. 66, p. 26 [1]).

Brendan Breathnach (1976) gives that the tune is named after Wellington’s victory of the Peninsular Campaign in Spain in 1812 and not for the Irish college (or, for that matter, the famous 19th century racehorse of the same name), however, there is a Catholic seminary in Salamanca, Spain, The Royal Scots College, where Irish priests trained during the penal years[1]. Salamanca lies 107 miles northwest of Madrid, and there Wellington won a spectacular victory over the imperial French forces, commanded by one of Napoleon’s Marshalls, Auguste Marmont, who was wounded in the battle. Wellington promptly marched for Madrid and forced the French puppet King Joseph Bonaparte (the older brother of Napoleon) to flee with his government. It is a popular reel in County Donegal, although the 19th century Munster collector and Anglican cleric James Goodman (1828-1896) claimed it was a Connacht reel. Brendan Breathnach (1963) says that he heard that it is played as a hornpipe, although he himself never heard it being played so ‘sluggishly’. The tune was collected, with parts reversed, by Samuel Bayard in southwestern Pa. under the title "Boyle's Reel."

The piece has long been a particular favorite of uilleann pipers. The title appears in a list of tunes in his repertoire brought by Philip Goodman, the last professional and traditional piper in Farney, Louth, to the Feis Ceoil in Belfast in 1898 (Breathnach, 1997). It was recorded early in the 78 RPM era by pipers Michael Gallagher and Liam Walsh. Dublin Piper Tommy Reck recorded the tune as a pipe solo on his first commercial effort, for the Copley label, paired with “Scholar (The)” and “Tom Steele.”

It was a performance piece of fiddler Micky Mór Doherty, influential County Donegal fiddler John Doherty's (1900-1980) father. The younger Doherty admired his father's playing and tried to emulate it:

My father, the, was called up to be the king fiddler of all. My father, when he would be playing a reel with a cheer and in good spirits, you could feel the top of the bow whistling, and that's no lie. […] But there was one evening I was after coming in [from some place […] and he] was in great spirits […] he took down the fiddle and he begin to play a reel that's called The Salamanca, The Salamanca Reel. Well, now the performance that evening I thought was something more than I ever heard or ever saw him doing before. And of course at the time he was getting to be an old man. But the performance now was […] his action with the bow was more than I ever knew that could be done with the bow.[2]

Improbably, Boston music publisher Elias Howe credited the composition of his version (called "Salamanco") to one T.G. Scott in his Musician's Omnibus Nos. 6 & 7 (1880-1882).


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Rev. Luke Donnellan music manuscript collection[3] (Oriel, Ulster) [O'Connor].

Printed sources : - Alewine (Maid that Cut Off the Chicken’s Lips), 1987; p. 30. Breathnach (Ceol Rince na hÉireann, vol. I), 1963; No. 146, p. 58. Breathnach (Ceol Rince na hÉireann vol. II), 1976; No. 209, pp. 108-109. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 6. Giblin (Collection of Traditional Irish Dance Music), 1928; 38. Harker (300 Tunes from Mike Rafferty), 2005; No. 94, p. 30. Elias Howe (Musician’s Omnibus Nos. 6 & 7), Boston, 1880-1882; p. 636 (appears as "Salamanco"). Kennedy (Fiddler’s Tune Book, vol. 2), 1954; p. 8. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880; No. 26, p. 45 and vol. 4, p. 8. R.M. Levey (First Collection of the Dance Music of Ireland), 1858; No. 89. Mallinson (100 Essential), 1995; No. 8, p. 3. McDermott (Allan's Irish Fiddler), c. 1920's, No. 39, p. 10. O'Connor (The Rose in the Gap), 2018; No. 26, p. 37. O'Neill (O'Neill's Irish Music), 1915; No. 239, p. 126 (appears as "The Salamanca Reel"). O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 123. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1348, p. 252. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 603, p. 110. Peoples (Fifty Irish Fiddle Tunes), 1986; 28. Phillips (Fiddlecase Tunebook), 1989; p. 42. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 165. Robbins Music Corp. (The Robbins collection of 200 jigs, reels and country dances), New York, 1933; No. 142, p. 45. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 1), 1912; No. 134, p. 54. Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 29. Vallely (Learn to Play the Fiddle with Armagh Pipers Club), 197?; No. 47, p. 42.

Recorded sources : - Claddagh Atlantic 832812, Tommy Reck (originally recorded 1971). Comhaltas Ceoltoiri CL13, Tommy Peoples. Copley 9-191, Tommy Reck. Folktrax Records FTX 075, John Doherty - "The Star of Donegal" (1975. Originally recorded 1953 by Peter Kennedy). Green Linnet SIF-1110, Seamus Connolly & Brendan Mulvihill - "My Love is in America: The Boston College Irish Fiddle Festival" (1991). HMV B1947 (78 RPM), Liam Walsh (uilleann piper) {1924}. Kicking Mule KM216, Arm and Hammer String Band - "New England Contra Dance Music" (1977). Regal Zonophone MR 1106 (78 RPM), Frank Lee's Tara Ceilidh Band (1933). Shamrock 1235 (78 RPM), Michael Gallagher (uilleann pipes) {c. 1920}.

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Alan Ng’s Irishtune.info [3]
Hear piper Michael Gallagher's c. 1920's recording at the Internet Archive [4]
Hear piper Liam Walsh's 1924 recording at the Internet Archive [5]
See a standard notation transcription and music analysis of John Doherty's entire version, by Conor Caldwell, in his PhD. thesis "‘Did you hear about the poor old travelling fiddler?’ - The Life and Music of John Doherty", 2013, pp. 328-330 [6]



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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. 330 [7].
  2. Conor Caldwell, "‘Did you hear about the poor old travelling fiddler?’ - The Life and Music of John Doherty", PhD thesis, 2013, p. 331 [8], transcribed from Folktrax recording FTX 075, track 10.
  3. Donnellan researcher Gerry O'Connor came to believe the ms. is not the work of the curate but rather was originally compiled by a unknown but able fiddler over the course of a playing lifetime, probably in the late 19th century. The ms. later came into the possession of Donnellan, who was also a fiddler.
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