A Halfpenny for a Jig…

A pair of jigs from Robin Lewando. The first is called Wild One and was written by Mer Boel from Ithica, New York, as a ‘contra dance’. What is a contra dance? I found this definition in the newsletter of the Santa Barbara Country Dance Society and I take no responsibility for it whatsoever!

…English country dancing gained a certain legitimacy in the 17th century … The French, who thought that they invented country dancing (as well as anything else culturally significant), and who were miffed at the notion that the English should receive credit for anything, converted the name ‘country dance’ to French contredans (which conveniently translates as ‘opposites dance’), then turned around and claimed that the English term was a corruption of the French! Later, the French term evolved in the USA into contra dance

I am sure you are all much the wiser! But it’s a terrific tune, so why should we worry?

Robin follows this with another fine jig – The Mad Jig, also known as Pat Mahon’s. Give them a listen:


Robin has usefully given us the following background to The Mad Jig, gleaned from the excellent website The Session:

…This tune was composed by the blacksmith, John Mosey McGinley, who travelled throughout Donegal. Paddy’s father Denis heard both John Mosey and his brother Paddy play. John Mosey, who was born in 1840 and died early in this century, sold secondhand clothes from a horse and cart. He taught fiddle tunes at the following rates: two pence for a hornpipe, a penny for a reel and a halfpenny for a jig, highland, march or mazurka. The title was given by a key figure in the musical and social life of Teelin, Mickey Golly (Gallagher), an accordion player who died in 1986…

How wonderful to now have the relative value of our Irish tunes enumerated. The pic at the top, by the way, is a rendering of Tartini’s Dream, by Louis Léopold Boilly (1761 –1845). One night, composer Giuseppe Tartini dreamed that the devil appeared before him and offered his services, and so Tartini ordered him to play on the violin. It was such an exquisitely beautiful solo it took Tartini’s breath away. Upon awakening, he feverishly tried to transcribe what he experienced in his dream. The piece is now his best known work: the Devil’s Trill Sonata. It is an enduringly difficult piece. It was rumoured Tartini had an extra finger on his left hand to allow him to play the piece…

Just how many fingers do you have, Robin? You do all know, I’m sure, that the fiddle is the Devil’s instrument?

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