Annotation:Were You at the Rock? (1)

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WERE YOU AT THE ROCK? [1] (“An/’A’ Rabais ag an gCarraig?” or “An Raibh Tú ar a’ Charraig?”). AKA and see "Raibh Tu ag an gCarraig (An)." Irish, Slow Air (3/4 time, with irregular measures in some settings). Ireland, Munster. D Dorian (Roche): E Dorian (Cranitch,Ó Canainn). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Cranitch,Ó Canainn): AB (Roche). Hamish Henderson (1971) remarks that the tune is one of the best known Munster song tunes. The Gaelic title can mean 'Have you been at Carrick?' or "Have you been at the Rock?', the latter giving rise to speculation that the piece was a 'secret' song during the Penal Age, containing a covert message about a secret rite of Mass at a Mass Rock during the time when such ceremonies were outlawed by the English, or that it refers to the removal of the rock from Christ’s tomb. The periodical An Piobaire records that the song was originally a love song, afterwards appropriated by nationalists. Henderson himself also believes it to be a straightforward love song, and in fact several others (such as Prof. Michael Robinson) have also voiced scepticism over the mass-rock legend, pointing out that the Gaelic An Carraig, as well as meaning "the rock", is also a fairly common name for a town (there is a Carraig in south Donegal, for example) and that the lyrics could simply be a straight-forward love ballad. Further, regarding the level of repression necessary for a coded message, there are many political songs from the 18th and 19th century which are very explicitly anti-English but which are without any sort of code and which presumably were discretely though popularly sung, and there is only a very small number of sean nos songs in the body of the literature referring to religion or religious issues. Linguistic evidence argues against the Mass Rock theory, Harry O’Prey argues, for “In Irish Language placenames, those preceded by the definite article (an or na) require the use of the preposition ar indicating English ‘in’. In the case of non-placenames, as would be the case if the reference were to a ‘Mass Rock’, then the ordinary Syntax of the language takes over and the preposition ag = ‘at’ is used.” Music for the piece appears in Poets and Poetry of Munster (1849), though Ó Canainn (1978) says the version in that volume “is a rather frightening example of the worst excesses of a player who feels that the more notes he puts into a tune the better it is.”

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Cranitch (Irish Fiddle Book), 1996; No. 99, p. 167. Ó Canainn (Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland), 1995; No. 55, p. 50. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 1), 1912; No. 61, p. 30.

Recorded sources: Shanachie 79023, "Cheiftains 3" (1971/1982). Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40481, Brian Conway – “First Through the Gate” (2002. Learned from a recording by Cork city fiddler Matt Cranitch).

See also listing at:
Alan Ng's [1]

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