Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Pride of the Springfield Road" - sheet music w/ note on drones and modal harmony

Catchy song from Belfast that I learned from Jim Rainey of the Irish traditional band Craobh Rua (pron. "crave roo-uh") at Common Ground on the Hill. Rainey said Springfield Road is a working-class Catholic neighborhood once dominated by the textile mills, now gone overseas of course; Protestants had a lock on the shipbuilding industry, and Catholics were relegated to working in the mills. This background is reflected in "The Pride of the Springfield Road," but it's a lovely little song about a young couple who hope to get married and work in the mills. Very nice YouTube clip here of Rainey fronting Craobh Rua.

Apparently "The Pride of the Springfield Road" is performed in B dorian in Ireland. At least the sheet music and chord sheet have it so (written as B minor with the 6th - a G - sharped). Music at:
  • Sheet music - PDF file of a lead sheet in B dorian on a German website (so H = B natural in the chords above the notes)!
  • Lyrics and chords - chord progression over the lyrics with a little background below (in English notation so B = B this time) on an Andy Irvine fan site.
The fansite has a link to a very brief, tinny sounding clip of Irvine singing it. It may be the quality of the recording, but I like Craobh Rua's better.

Although the song is sometimes given as traditional, and it's apparently been around Belfast for quite a while, it's usually credited to Andy Irvine of Planxty and the Patrick Street trad supergroup.

Tangent on modes, drones and Irish trad music: Irvine's website has a detailed first-person bio. A couple of extracts follow. One from the early to mid-60s, when he was mostly busking in Dublin and learning traditional music:
But at that time I loved the really old "classic" ballads. Songs like Sir Patrick Spens, The Douglas Tragedy and Edward. Other publications that made a deep impression were Bert Lloyd’s "Penguin Book of English Folk Songs" with lovely modal tunes.

I used to sing them in O’Donoghue’s [pub] in the very early morning in the Men’s toilet, smelling of disinfectant. There was something wrong with the cistern and a drone emanated from somewhere all the years I frequented the place. Singing against a drone is something I love to this day.

I had begun to try to accompany myself on the mandolin some years before and my style was simple. I more or less played along with the tune adding the odd harmony note and half chord as I had learned from records of Old Timey American musicians accompanying themselves on the fiddle. Johnny Moynihan had taught me to tune down the top string of the mandolin—GDAD instead of GDAE which gave echoes of 5-string banjo playing with the top D usually a constant note.
Also Irvine's reason for naming his first duo Sweeney's Men (formed w/ Joe Dolan in Galway in 60s): "... we decided to name ourselves after the pagan king, Suibhne, who was cursed for throwing a pushy cleric’s bell in the lake. We found it quite easy to identify with Sweeney against the power of the clergy in 1960’s Ireland."<

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