Earl's Chair (The)

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EARL'S CHAIR, THE (Cathaoir an Iarla). Irish, Reel. D Major {Mallinson, Taylor}: B Minor ('A' part) & D Major ('B' part) {Songer}. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (Breathnach, Harker/Rafferty, Mallinson, Miller & Perron, Taylor): AA'BB' (O'Malley, Songer). The chordal backing to the tune is more complicated than most, and there are discrepancies between those who hear it in B minor and those who hear it in D major (the beginning chord can be a G major chord as well as a B minor or even E minor). The melody actually resolves to D Major in both parts, though the accompaniment in the 'A' part starts on either a G Major or B Minor chord and the 'B' part starts either on E Minor or A Major. Historian and concertina player Gearoid Ó hAllmhuráin relates that the tune's origins lie with an East Galway flute player by the name of Pakie Moloney (who was an uncle of Galway-born New Jersey flute player Mike Rafferty). Moloney is said to have composed "The Earls Chair" while sitting on a large rock in the Derrycrag Wood, East Galway. Since he was mid-way between the townlands of Derryoober East and Derryoober West at the time he originally entitled the piece "Down between the two Derryoobers," although he fortunately rethought this later and changed the name to the name of the rock, "The Earl's Chair." That formation is named after the Earl of Clanrickard who reportedly rested there during his hunts (Clanrickard territories comprised much of south Galway, from Oranmore East to Portumna). Joe Burke has said the tune was popularised by fiddler P.J. Hayes and the Tulla Ceili Band, who had the tune from accordion player Joe Cooley. Bronx flute player Jack Coen, originally from Woodford, East Galway, learned it from local flute players back home who told him it was composed by another local flute player named Pato Maloney. Philippe Varlet suggests that fiddle player Aggie Whyte was instrumental in disseminating the tune.

Source for notated version: flute player Éamonn de Stabaltún (Ireland) [Breathnach]; a recording by Chris Droney [O'Malley]; a 1959 recording of east Clare fiddlers Paddy Canny and P.J. Hayes [Miller & Perron]; New Jersey flute player Mike Rafferty, born in Ballinakill, Co. Galway, in 1926, who's maternal uncle is the tune's composer, Pa(c)kie Moloney [Harker].

Printed sources: Breathnach (CRÉ I), 1963; No. 142, p. 57. Harker (300 Tunes from Mike Rafferty), 2005; No. 61, p. 19. Mallinson (100 Essential), 1995; No. 6, pg. 3. Miller & Perron (Irish Tradtional Fiddle Music), 1977; vol. 2, No. 28. Miller & Perron (Irish Traditional Fiddle Music), 2nd Edition, 2006; p. 67. O'Malley (Luke O'Malley's Collection of Irish Music, vol. 1), 1976; No. 45, p. 23. Songer (Portland Collection), 1997; p. 69. Taylor (Through the Half-door), 1992; No. 14, p. 11.

Recorded sources: Coleman Music Center CHC 009, fiddler P. Fitzpatrick & flutist Desmond Higgins - "The Coleman Archive, vol. 2: The Home Place" (2005. Various artists). Green Linnett SIF1071, "Patrick Street." Green Linnet GLCD 3009, Kevin Burke - "If the Cap Fits" (1978). Harp 10, Paddy Canny & P.J. Hayes - "All Ireland Champions - Violin" (1959. Various artists). Shaskeen - "The Joys of Life". Shaskeen - "Shaskeen Live."

See also listings at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [2]




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