Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Anthem Do They Play For Northern Ireland At The Commonwealth Games?

The surprising answer is the lovely "Londonderry Air," which is seen as a neutral anthem by both traditions in Northern Ireland. Of course its usually a moot question because N.I. doesnt often get gold medals but at the last games they in fact won three golds (one of their highest totals ever) all in the boxing. I wish they would play The Derry Air (nice pun for our Francophone readers) at N.I. football matches too, instead of the doleful God Save The Queen, but football is more politically charged than the Commonwealth Games so I wont hold my breath.
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For those of us engaged in the war against stereotype and cliche it is somewhat disheartening to learn that half of Northern Ireland's entire medal total came last time in either boxing or shooting.
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The Londonderry Air has got an interesting history - this is what Wikipedia says about it:

The air was collected by Jane Ross of Limavady. Ross submitted the tune to music collector George Petrie, and it was then published by the Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland in the 1855 book The Ancient Music of Ireland, which Petrie edited.[1] The tune was listed as an anonymous air, with a note attributing its collection to Jane Ross of Limavady. This led to the descriptive title "Londonderry Air" being used for the piece; the title "Air from County Derry" or "Derry Air" is sometimes used instead, due to the Derry-Londonderry name dispute. The origin of the tune was for a long time somewhat mysterious, as no other collector of folk tunes encountered it, and all known examples are descended from Ross's submission to Petrie's collection. In a 1934 article, Anne Geddes Gilchrist suggested that the performer Ross heard played the song with extreme rubato, causing Ross to mistake the time signature of the piece for common time (4/4) rather than 3/4. Gilchrist asserted that adjusting the rhythm of the piece as she proposed produced a tune more typical of Irish folk music.[3]
In 1974, Hugh Shields found a long-forgotten traditional song which was very similar to Gilchrist's modified version of the melody.[4] The song, Aislean an Oigfear (recte Aisling an Óigfhir, "The young man's dream"), had been transcribed by Edward Bunting in 1792 based on a performance by harper Donnchadh Ó Hámsaigh (Denis Hempson) at the Belfast Harp Festival. Bunting published it in 1796.[5] Ó Hámsaigh lived in Magilligan, not far from Ross's home in Limavady. Hempson died in 1807.[1] In 2000, Brian Audley published his authoritative research on the tune's origins. He showed how the distinctive high section of the tune had derived from a refrain in "The Young Man's Dream" which, over time, crept into the body of the music. He also discovered the original words to the tune as we now know it which were written by Edward Fitzsimmons and published in 1814; his song is "The Confession of Devorgilla", otherwise known by its first line "Oh Shrive Me Father".
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For those of you who have read Julian May's fantasy novel The Golden Torc, The Derry Air has an entirely different and fascinating imagined provenance which involves time travel and aliens...