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Tarbolton, The/Longford Collector/Sailor's Bonnet (Celtic fingerstyle)

Posted by Tom Hanway


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- Play count: 1430

Size: 1,260kb, uploaded 2/21/2008 8:59:48 AM
Genre: Fiddle/Celtic/Irish / Playing Style: Other

This famous reel medley is associated with Michael Coleman, the legendary stepdancing fiddler from Sligo and New York City, whose impact is still felt worldwide at sessions. I learned these tunes from Coleman's 1934 recording, incorporating Sligo-style "rolls" and slippery triplets, also being influenced by New York's Sligo-style masters - fiddlers Andy McGann, Paddy Reynolds, Tony DeMarco and Brian Conway. Andy and Paddy are gone, but they left behind a wonderful musical legacy. I consider myself very lucky to have been in their company, especially at Andy's laid-back sessions in Manhattan, where the mighty Joe "Banjo" Burke, who had amazing songs, also played regularly. Joe, Andy and Paddy are three of my early mentors and heroes. Driving the tunes on guitar here is string wizard Gabriel Donohue from Athenry, and keeping immaculate rhythm on bodhran is Robbie Walsh from Dublin, now the 2008 All-Ireland Fleadh Champion! With gratitude to Mel Bay for letting me upload this here, another sample from my first book/CD, Complete Book of Irish & Celtic 5-String Banjo - find it here:

4 comments on “Tarbolton, The/Longford Collector/Sailor's Bonnet (Celtic fingerstyle)”

imac50 Says:
Friday, February 22, 2008 @3:15:22 AM

Hi Tom, Great set. I see the Irish are claiming the Tarbolton Lodge as their own! :) It appears in the Athole Collection of 1884. Tarbolton is in Ayrshire and has strong links with Burns. It is where his Bachelor's Club used to meet. My guess is the tune was written in connection with this and then drifted over the water. (The ferry terminal is close by!) My version is slightly different as usual. You can see the Tarbolton cottage where Burn's and his cronies met here, Good set, well played as always.

Tom Hanway Says:
Friday, February 22, 2008 @9:43:49 AM

Thank you Iain.  "Steal from the best!"   };^D>  Hey, we should play this set for the Celtic Banjo Colloquy at North Wales.  The Fiddler's Companion offers this:  "It's possible that Coleman learned the tune in America, from Cape Breton (Scottish) fiddlers.  Here's more:  Several writers have commented on the ‘Scottishness’ of the tune, suggesting its origins in that country, and, in fact, the town of Tarbolton lies in Ayrshire in western Scotland, not far from the banks of the River Ayr. Its name—Tor-Bealtiunn or Beltane Hillock—belies its association with the Druidic celebration of Beltane, held on May 1st. At that time fires would be lit in sacred places, most often on hills. The Scots national poet, Robert Burns, lived with his family of origin near the town for some years when he was a young man. It was at the Bachelors’ Club in Tarbolton, in an upstairs room, that Burns was initiated into Freemasonry, where he attended dancing classes, and where he helped found the Bachelors’ Club debating society. The great Sligo/New York City fiddler Michael Coleman (1891-1945) recorded this in 1934 as the first tune in a very famous medley with 'Longford Collector' and 'The Sailor's Bonnet'.  The tunes are still commonly played together as a set at modern sessions. It has been suggested that Coleman might have learned 'Tarbolton' from Cape Breton musicians in Boston."  Source:  The Fiddler's Companion:

Banjophobic Says:
Friday, February 22, 2008 @10:37:32 AM

Amazing how you navigate so easily thru the postions. Loved it

Tom Hanway Says:
Saturday, February 23, 2008 @6:51:20 AM

Thanks, John.  For me it's all about streamlining and taking the most direct route to melody.  It's never a purely mechanical choice between playing pure single-string or melodic style, and because I incorporate a lot of fretting-hand techniques to get the melody, especially here in 'The Longford Collector', I streamline the roll patterns, using an economy of motion and effort.  There are lots harder ways of playing these tunes.  I try to use as few chord/neck positions as possible and get the maximum amount of coverage out of both hands, making the technique serve the music - not the other way around.  So I might play a tune ten different ways before I "crystallize" its many motifs, and then I try to find ways of ornamenting it, adding variations to the bare-bones melody - avoiding licks - instead ornamenting like fiddlers, pipers, flute, whistle and even tenor banjo players.  I am not a triplet addict, and I love Clare- and Sligo-style fiddle ornamentation and use a lot of it.

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