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Welcome to the Traditional Tune Archive
The Semantic Index of North American, British and Irish traditional instrumental music with annotation, formerly known as
The Fiddler's Companion.

Featured Tunes

Denis Hempson

LOVELY LASS/NUN TO A FRIAR CAME (2), A (Cailín Deas Chum Brathar Tainic). Irish, Air (4/4 time). C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. The Irish collector Edward Bunting had the tune from the harper Denis Hempson (at Magilligan in 1796), who asserted it was an Irish melody learned from his first master (with variations in the octave above to signify a female voice speaking to a friar at confession, who replies in the lower octave); however, Bunting states in the introduction to his 1840 volume that the tune may not, in fact have originally been Irish, but that it was such a favorite with the old harpers and their audiences for so long and "the emphatic manner in which the fourth tone of the scale is used, seems to claim for it a high antiquity, and justifies the restoration of the air to its proper place among the melodies of Ireland." He records that variations were added by Lyons the harper in 1698. O'Sullivan finds the earliest reference to a variant of the tune printed in Bunting to be on an engraved single-sheet edition c. 1710, now in the British Museum. See also notes for Lovely Lass to a Friar Came (1) (A) and for the "Friar and the Nun (The)."

Source for notated version: Bunting greatly admired the playing and repertoire of Hempson, an elderly man when the nineteen-year-old, hired to make some transcriptions at the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792, first met him:

Hempson, who realized the antique picture drawn by Cambrensis and Galilei, for he played with long crooked nails, and in his performance, “the tinkling of the small wires under the deep notes of the bass” was particularly thrilling, took the attention of the Editor with a degree of interest which he never can forget. He was the only one who played the very old—the aboriginal—music of the country; and this he did in a style of such finished excellence as persuaded the Editor that the praises of the old Irish harp in Cambrensis, Fuller, and others, instead of being, as the detractors of the country are fond of asserting, the ill-considered and indiscriminate, were in reality no more than a just tribute to that admirable instrument and its then professors. ... [Bunting, Ancient Irish Music, 1840, Preface p. 3]

Printed sources: Bunting (Ancient Music of Ireland), 1840; p. 104. O'Sullivan/Bunting, 1983; No. 142, pp. 198-199.

Recorded sources:

T:Lovely Nun to a Friar Came, A
S:Hempson, at Magilligan, 1796
B:Bunting - Ancient Irish Music (1840, p. 104)
z A/B/|c2B2 A4|AGAB G2 AB|c2B2A2G2|TA2 z2 G2z2|
GABc d2d2|e2d2B2 cB|e2d2d2 cB|TA2z2G2z2|
d2z2G2z2|AGAB G2 AB|c2B2A2G2|TA2 z2 G2||

(LOVELY LASS/NUN TO A FRIAR CAME (2), A full annotations and Past Featured Tunes)

Why there is a need for the Traditional Tune Archive

Although we are not trained musicologists and make no pretense to the profession, we have tried to apply such professional rigors to this Semantic Abc Web as we have internalized through our own formal and informal education.

This demands the gathering of as much information as possible about folk pieces to attempt to trace tune families, determine origins, influences and patterns of aural/oral transmittal, and to study individual and regional styles of performance.
Many musicians, like ourselves, are simply curious about titles, origins, sources and anecdotes regarding the music they play. Who, for example, can resist the urge to know where the title Blowzabella came from or what it means, or speculating on the motivations for naming a perfectly respectable tune Bloody Oul' Hag, is it Tay Ye Want?
Knowing the history of the melody we play, or at least to have a sense of its historical and social context, makes the tune 'present' in the here and now, and enhances our rendering of it.

Please register as a user to make the most of the many functions of the TTA, and enjoy the many ways that information about traditional tunes can be elicited and combined, from simple to complex situations. Users may make contributions, which, when reviewed by an editor, become part of this community project. Serious user/contributors may become editors through the TTA's autopromotion process, in which quantity and quality of entries allows increased levels of permission to edit and review the entire index.
Above all, the developers wish you joy in the use of the TTA.

Andrew Kuntz & Valerio Pelliccioni

Getting started


Navigation: Registered users can navigate the Traditiona Tune Archive for information in a number of ways.

  • Search. The Search function is located at the bottom of the SideBar on the left, and can be used to search the entire index for any key word.
  • Alphabetically by tune title. Under “The Index” on the SideBar on the left is “All Tunes”. Click on “All Tunes” to open up the list of tune titles in the TTA arranged in alphabetical order, 200 titles to a page. At the top of the page is an alphabetical breakdown that serves as a shortcut to pages. Clicking on any title will bring one to the music and tune fields. Once the tune appears, clicking “Tune Discussion” at the bottom of the page (below the notation) will open up the narrative information on the tune.
  • Query the Archive. The “Query the Archive” function under “The Index” in the sidebar can be used to draw down reports from the TTA in either in single items or in a number of combinations. One might, for example, use a single item query to run a report in the TTA for a particular composer/core source. Clicking on the arrow at the right of the bar draws down a list of composer/core sources, or one may be typed in. For example, clicking on “Bill Pigg” and then the “Run Query” tab at the bottom left will result in a list of all compositions listed in the TTA that the Northumbrian piper either composed or is the core source for. Reports may also be run in combinations, as, for example, by selecting “William Marshall” as a composer/core source, “Three Flats” for the number of accidentals, and “Major” for the Key/Mode. This will result in a report of all Eb Major compositions of Scottish fiddler/composer William Marshall that are indexed in the TTA.
  • Drill Down. Cumulative information about TTA entries can be found in the “Drill Down” under “The Index” in the SideBar on the left.
  • Tune Books/Magazines in the TTA can be accessed under “Issues” in the left side bar. These are reproductions of publications for which access has been granted to the TTA by the copyright holder, under the Creative Commons license.

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