The Book



The theme I have chosen for this book is the slow airs and melodies of Ireland, which fall broadly into three categories: First the ancient airs and songs which Edward Bunting started collecting at the Belfast harp festival of 1792. Secondly the popular songs known to every generation in, and outside Ireland, and finally the Music Hall favourites of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Of the ancient airs, I have picked such tunes as
The Coolin, The Humours of Tuaimgréine, and Give Me Your Hand. Many of the old ballads were plaintive laments to the loss of personal, religious and political freedom in Ireland.

The evergreen popular songs include
Sally Gardens, Carrickfergus and Maggie. Most of these have beautiful melodies with a distinctive haunting melancholy. There is the stirring folk anthem Gile Mear – always a popular choice at the end of a session. The Last Rose of Summer was penned by Thomas Moore in the early 19th century, but set to a much older tune called the Groves of Blarney, and published in a volume of his highly successful Moore’s Melodies.

My personal favourites are the Music Hall songs such as
I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen, The

Rose of Tralee and My Wild Irish Rose. I love these big, almost excessive arrangements and as with my Music Hall Favourites book, I made every attempt to get the oldest piano scores available and devour each and every bar to extract the theatrics of the accompaniment. I have added two songs of the era written by Percy French – The Mountains of Mourne and Come Back Paddy Reilly, French was a travelling Irish troubadour and entertainer of the late 19th, early 20th century who is perhaps better remembered for his comedic jewels like Drumcolliher and ‘Are Ye Right There, Michael?’

There is also a selection of more contemporary arrangements.
Mary from Dungloe is lovely song I heard by the band Show of Hands, and which works well as a medley with Sally Gardens. My slow version of The Holy Ground, (with all the ‘fine gels’ being given the night off) was inspired by Mary Black’s soulful rendition. The Constant Lover (which isn’t Irish at all) is an arrangement I just had to publish somewhere.

Is it for you?
When I started out learning to play the guitar, I was constantly frustrated by the lack of good arrangements available. They were either, too simple and tedious to play, or way over my

head. Many Tabs were hand-written and difficult to read. When I contemplated this small series of books, I wanted to bridge this gap and provide good arrangements for the average player.

My philosophy is not to over simplify the arrangement, but to develop it in a way that will challenge the player and encourage him / her to push the boundaries of their playing skills and musical appreciation. If my starting point is a piano score, it would invariably be in the impenetrable keys of B flat, A flat or E flat, so I unpick the notes and then transpose to an easier key for guitar. All these arrangements are in the keys of C, G, or D, so I can retain more of the spirit of the original piano music without the constraints of more difficult chord shapes. You should be able to master most of the tunes very quickly.

The only time I deviate from standard tuning is if the arrangement is in the key of D, in which case I might lower the bottom E string a full tone to D. I have always played finger-style guitar, but I play with just thumb, first and second fingers. Therefore that is how I arrange so you do not need a classical right hand technique. I have always detested bar chords so, unless unavoidable, I simply stay away from them.