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ROWAN PIGGOTT - Irish Fiddle Tunes 

ROWAN PIGGOTT - Irish Fiddle Tunes 
Scribe Records BK002 

The irrepressible Rowan Piggott has been keeping himself busy during lockdown with various projects, and here, he has released a book of Irish Fiddle Tunes, aimed at fiddlers trying to widen their Irish repertoire, but equally well-suited to other instrument players. The A4, ring-bound format makes it very easy to use, with large legible musical notation, and suggested accompanying chords. Although it would be useful for beginners, it assumes some knowledge of music and how to read it, and though there are some simple tunes that absolute beginners may start with (e.g. Britches Full Of Stitches, Maggie In The Wood and Sonny Brogan’s Mazurka), most of the tunes require a little bit of technical ability.

After a general introduction which touches on the importance of listening and the use of modes, metres and ornamentation, the book is divided into eight sections, each dealing with a specific tune type (polkas, jigs, marches etc.). Each section has a short intro to the tune type, how it sounds, useful bits of technique, suggested speeds and examples of which players or recordings might be useful to listen to in order to get the feel of the tunes (something Rowan rightly emphasises as important for the learner).

The tunes themselves (around 200 of them) come from all over Ireland and are mostly session standards; tunes that any self-respecting Irish fiddler wants to have in their arsenal – Banish Misfortune, The Boys Of The Lough, The Humours Of Tulla, The Mountain Road, Chief O’Neill’s Favourite. There are also some more recent tunes from the likes of Sean Ryan, Jimmy McHugh and Maurice Lennon that are being absorbed into the tradition and played in Irish sessions. Rowan introduces each tune with interesting notes about the composer, where known, the area the tune came from, and who popularised it etc.

As someone who is trying to learn the fiddle myself, a collection like this is a godsend, and even though I’m a bit rusty with the dots, using this book alongside recordings of the tunes will be really useful. Anyone working their way through the melodies here will gain a solid base of Irish repertoire, and Rowan’s practical, real-world advice on the way through is invaluable.

Fiona Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 140 of The Living Tradition magazine