Shaskeen Reel (1) (The)

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X:1 T:Shaskeen [1], The M:C L:1/8 S:Séamus Ennis K:G A|:DG G2 A2 Bc|dfed cAAc|BG G2 AGFA|GBAG FAEF| DG G2 ADFA|dfed cAAe|f3d ecAF|1 GBAF G3:|2 GBAF G2|| Bc|dggf g3a|(3bag ag fddc|B2 BG AAAF|GBAG FDDc| dggf g2 fg|abag fddc|B2 GB (3AcA FA|GBAG FAEF| DG G2 ABcA|dfed cAAe|fadf ecAF|GBAF G2||



SHASKEEN REEL [1], THE (Cor na Seiscinne). AKA and see “Ballinakill Shaskeen (The),” “Shaskan,” “Shaskeen Clog.” Irish, Reel. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Mitchell, O'Neill/1915 & 1001): AAB (Taylor): AABB (Mulvihill): AABB’ (Cranford/Holland, Mallinson): AA'BB' (Harker/Rafferty, O'Neill/Krassen, Vallely). The word ‘shaskeen’ is derived from the Irishseisgeann, meaning either a marshy country or fen, a truss of corn, or gleaned land. Seamus Ennis, once introduced the tune in the Tradition Club by saying the word meant ‘a red piece of flannel that was tied to the tail of a cow that had mastitis’, according to Finbar Doyle, who points out Seamus sometimes had a “delicate conjunction with veracity.” It is the name of a townland in County Sligo. Supposedly, the tune was played by a piper from the area, but instead of being named for the musician (as is often the case), the melody was called by the place the piper lived. A version of the tune, somewhat distanced from that usually played today, was entered as "Sheskan Reel" into Book 2 of the large c. 1883 music manuscript collection of County Leitrim fiddler and piper Stephen Grier (c. 1824-1894).

The first part of the reel is a form of the "fundamental strain" of the tune "Johnnie Cope," observes Bayard (1981). Dr. Henebry, the famous Irish collector, musician and priest, once famously remarked that piper Patsy Touhey’s rendering of “The Shaskeen” was a higher achievement than the Brooklyn Bridge (at the time still an engineering marvel). Later, in the 1920’s, a famous recording was made by Co. Sligo raised, New York fiddler, Michael Coleman. In fact, it was the second recording Coleman ever made, although it was the first he waxed for the Vocalion label, in April, 1921, backed by a competent piano player named John Muller (“The Shaskeen” was paired with “The Bag of Potatoes”). Philippe Varlet reports that Coleman for some reason re‑recorded the "Shaskeen" side a year later for the same company, although he played the tunes somewhat differently, and copies from both masters were issued under the same catalogue number. Two versions of the “Shaskeen” are identified: the East Galway, or Ballinakill, “Shaskeen,” and the more common “Shaskeen” as played in Sligo. Flute player Mike Rafferty’s version (see Harker, 2005) is a prime example of the East Galway version, as popularized by the Ballinakill Ceili Band (on whose 78 RPM recording the “Shaskeen” was paired with “The Green Blanket”).


Additional notes
Source for notated version : - piper Willie Clancy (1918-1973, Miltown Malbay, west Clare) [Mitchell]; Buddy Fury (Co. Limerick) [Mulvihill]; set dance music recorded at Na Píobairí Uilleann in the 1980’s [Taylor]; from the playing of piper Séamus Ennis (Dublin), who learned them from his father, a piper taught by Nicholas Markey who in turn had been taught by the renowned piper and pipe-maker Billy Taylor of Drogheda and later Philadelphia [Breathnach]; New Jersey flute player Mike Rafferty, born in Ballinakill, Co. Galway, in 1926 [Harker].

Printed sources : - Breathnach (Ceol V, No. 2), 1982. Breathnach (The Man and His Music), 1997; No. 3, p. 72. Cranford (Jerry Holland: The Second Collection), 2000; No. 208, p. 77. Harker (300 Tunes from Mike Rafferty), 2005; No. 11, p. 4 (Galway version) & No. 25, p. 8 (Sligo version). Lyth (Bowing Styles in Irish Fiddle Playing, vol. 1), 1981; 28. Mallinson (100Essential), 1995; No. 67, p. 29. Mitchell (The Dance Music of Willie Clancy), 1993; No. 110, p. 94. Mulvihill (1st Collection), 1986; No. 57, p. 15. O'Neill (O’Neill’s Irish Music), 1915; No. 276, p. 140. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 90. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland:1001 Gems), 1907; No. 802, p. 139. O’Neill (Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody), 1922; No. 327. Peoples (Fifty Irish Fiddle Tunes), 1986; 42. Reavy (The Music of Corktown), 1979; No. 68. Taylor (Crossroads Dance), 1992; No. 46, p. 32. Taylor (Music for the Sets: Yellow Book), 1995; p. 8. Treoir, No. 2, vol. 33, 2001; p. 27. Vallely (Learn to Play the Fiddle with Armagh Pipers Club), 197?; No. 46, p. 41.

Recorded sources : - Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 167, Peter Horan & Gerry Harrington – “The Merry Love to Play” (2007). Coleman Center CD CC004, Harry McGowan & Mick Loftus – “The Mountain Road” (1999. Various artists. “A Compilation of tunes popular in South Sligo”). Coleman Music Center CHC 009, flute player Sonny McDonagh (1925-1991) – “The Coleman Archive, vol. 2: The Home Place” (2005). Comhaltas Ceoltoiri CL13, Tommy Peoples. Intrepid Records, Michael Coleman - “The Heyday of Michael Coleman” (1973). Larraga MOR 1302, Mike & Mary Rafferty – “Speed 78” (2004). Leader LEA 2004, Martin Byrnes. Piping Pig Records PPPCD 001, Jimmy O’Brien- Moran – “Seán Reid’s Favourite” (1996). Shaskeen - "Shaskeen Live.” Talcon Records KG240, Paddy Cronin – “The House in the Glen” (197?). Jerry Holland – “Lively Steps” (1988).

See also listing at :
Alan Snyder’s Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [1]

Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]

Alan Ng’sIrishtune.info [3]



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