So we finished the term with the concluding tune of The Tarbolton Set of reels associated with Michael Coleman.
The Sailor’s Bonnet sits pretty solidily in D with some B minor phrases. The first part is repetitive and rhythmic, with the B part flying out high from this with high B rolls possible. The leaps can be quite demanding for the wind player, flutes especially as the notes can easily go out of tune if not shaped correctly. However, it makes for a strong finish to the set and the phrases are relatively straightforward, especially when compared with The Tarbolton Reel.
While it is quite common for D and Bm to go together in tunes, the structure of this reel is unusual as the B part is twice as long as the A part. Certainly it is often played that way.
Alan Ng suggests that the earliest recording is Coleman’s of 1934, however while he certainly popularised it, The Fiddler’s Companion puts Leitrim flute player John McKenna and Sligo fiddler James Morrison as getting there first, citing musicologists Harry Bradshaw and Jackie Small. The alternative title The Highlander’s Bonnet hints at a Scottish connection, but it could simply refer to similar styles of hat.
Resources are up for this tune. Term begins again 24th April. In the meantime, sign up for the Scottish Flute Day on 10th of May while sitting back and enjoying the last two tunes of The Tarbotlon Set:
Image: Sailing on the North-Sea, Germany by Peter Femto, some rights reserved.