UKULELE MUSINGS 2020 No. 11–Saint Patrick’s Day, Pub-less this Year, Alas . . .

Keeping a “social distance” on St. Patrick’s Day is not an easy thing to do but, we ukers will survive even if we have to go “pub-less” and move our chairs and music stands at least six feet apart while the world sorts out how to deal with the gremlins trying to infiltrate our respiratory systems. Hopefully we all have enough Guinness stout and Jameson whiskey on hand to last the siege; and we have our ukuleles. Time to practice, practice, practice!

So, in keeping with my goal of recycling posts of the past, here’s one that a lot of folks liked from a few years ago. So put on something green and let’s go!

St. Patrick’s Day and musical tales of the “Emerald Isle” are low hanging fruit for those of us (both Alison and I) who have bent over backwards and actually kissed the Blarney Stone.  There are, however, way too many branches to climb on this tree for a simple ukulele posting.  Nonetheless, with a dram or two (or three) of Jameson “in the jar,” try I must and I will.

A rowdy celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in the US but only lately in Ireland itself.  It was always a religious holiday over there but seldom rowdier than a night of good “craic” at the neighborhood public house or “pub.” 

Needless to say, the ukulele is not a traditional Irish instrument although some can, of course, be found.

But, it’s only in the past few years that the ukulele began to increase in popularity in Ireland.  Now, what is know as the “Ukulele Hooley” is an annual event celebrated throughout the island and ukes in music stores and ukulele clubs can be found in almost every town.

Of course, there is a long, long tradition of Irish music going back to the early days.  Irish–and similarly, Scottish, Welsh, and English–traditional music has been collected, studied, and played to this day.   So-called Celtic music (pronounced “Keltic,” only in Boston is it “Seltic”) followed the early Ulster (Scots-Irish) migrations to the US and Canada in the 17th and 18th centuries.  This migration of mostly Protestant “Orangemen” settled in the mountainous frontiers of America, such as Appalachia, and their music became the foundation on which old-time, hillbilly, country/western, and bluegrass music was built. 

Later, these and more contemporary Irish dance tunes and ballads went all over the world with the diaspora of mostly Catholic Irish immigrants during the potato famine years of the mid-19th century.

While the early migration brought traditional Irish/Celtic dance and ballad music to the countryside and mountains, the later migration brought this and newer music to the cities.  It was in the cities where nostalgia for the “Old Sod,” or “Emerald Isle,” and the whimsical, often satirical, and too often pejorative portrayal of the Irish immigrant rose. 

Needless to say, this was quickly picked up by songwriters—most of them non-Irish, many Jewish—on New York’s Tin Pan Alley and performed on Vaudeville stages and parlor pianos throughout the country.

It’s this latter migration that gave us St. Patrick’s day as we know it in this country and the “wearin’ o’ the green” that is celebrated today.

On St. Patrick’s Day nearly everyone aspires to be a bit o’ the Irish. Just remember that the three-leaf Shamrock is not a four-leaf Clover! But I digress.

And, let’s not forget the great Irish tenors of the past—a unique contribution to popular vocal music.  Anyone remember Dennis Day on the Jack Benny radio show?  And that great English/American/Irish Song  . . .     

Tap on the image below to see the YouTube:

In Ireland, the fellowship, banter, and fun conversation over a pint or a few at the local pub is said to be “good craic!”  (Pronounced: crack.)  And, a pub is a favorite venue for song.  

Here, folks with pints in hand will shout/sing a chorus as the house band (rarely with a ukulele but often with a tenor banjo) will run through verse after verse.  Here is what is said to be the most popular tune of this tradition— “The Wild Rover.”

Tap on the image below to see the YouTube:

If you’d like to give it a try yourself, grab your uke and a pint and give it a go. Here’s a chart for this song, with chord melody TAB, that I have arranged.  Try it, you’ll like it!

To end on a bit o’ good craic:

O’Donnel’s Missus was sittin’ in the pub with her ukulele in her hand and himself at her side.  “You have been” says she, “the rock o’ me life.  I could’na live without ya!”  “Dearie,” says he, with a blush to his face, “is that me you’re talkin’ of?”  “No, no Luv,” says she, “I’m talkin’ of me ukulele!”

A Sister, not a Missus  .  .  .

Avoid crowds, create your own at-home pub and . . . Stay Tuned!

Author: NohoBanjo of Northampton and, now, Easthampton, Mass.

Hi friends, neighbors, and fellow strummers. These “musings” are based on my interest and study of Banjo and Ukulele history, lore, and music. My goal is to both educate and enlighten by sharing what I have learned within a broad musical and historical context—with honesty and, at times, a bit of humor. Needless to say, your thoughts and comments are, as always, welcome.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: