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The Music for the comment is on our page Radio player.
Long before I became a storyteller I would often talk to our audiences about the history, inspiration, context and folklore of the tunes we would play. I also feel that melodic music has an emotive language or communication to it. Many melodies imitate the language of the culture they come from and they communicate a great deal. I should say that among Celtic musicians it is jokingly said that all the love songs are sad and all the glorious lost battle tunes are joyous. If you know the cultures it somehow makes sense even with instrumental music.
I’ve listed the radio player tunes on my website as an example of the power of music to communicate information.
1. Black Oak © 1999 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on Mountain Dulcimer, Flute. I wrote this when we got back from our trip in the British Isles and Ireland. We were driving south from the Scottish Highlands toward Stranrar where we planned to take the Ferry over to Belfast and tour through Ireland. On the way we passed through Shieldaig a town with an interesting pub sign advertising the Black Oak. It was carved out of wood which caught my attention since I am a wood carver, and the tree itself was stained black against a lighter brown with some kind of stain. We didn’t get to stop, but cruised right through on our way to meet the Ferry, but my mind took a kind of snap shot of it and later when we did our album project that wooden sign came to mind. One of the first few things I’d composed, my traditional music friends gave me great reinforcement for it. Which of course led to my wanting to compose some more.
2. Kokuryukai ©2008 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on the Japanese Shinobue in Bb. I wrote this song with the Society of the Black Dragon in mind. A secret and mysterious Japanese society founded in 1901 they were initially formed to drive the Russian Empire out of Asia. Spies, politicians and high ranking military officers were among their numbers they operated in many locations and had many operations throughout the world. Kokuryukai was officially disbanded by order of the American Occupation Authorities in 1946. I made this transverse flute out of bamboo with measurements taken from an existing Shinobue. I was very pleased that it had the correct traditional sound.
3. The Winsome Widow (Irish traditional air) Scott Jorgensen on the Celtic Harp and David Sharp on Flute. This beautiful instrumental air may have had words at one time, that have been lost within a few generations. It still conveys a sense of what the sentiment was like. Transcribed by Chicago’s police chief O’Neill in his 1850 publication “O’Neill’s Music of Ireland”.
4. Polka (French traditional polka) David Sharp on Mountain Dulcimer, Alto Recorder, Carol Sharp on Tambourine, Marion Carter on Clarinet, Steve Keen on Button Accordion and Mark Jardine on Hurdy Gurdy. This is a typical untitled Polka from Central France. The Hurdy Gurdy and Button Accordion were a main stay of this type of peasant ensemble.
5. Megan a Gollodd ei gardas– “Megan lost her Garter”(Welsh song air) Carol Sharp on Celtic Harp and David Sharp on Flute. My wife is especially fond of Welsh Harp music since her family were Welsh Pioneer’s to Utah from Pembrokeshire in Wales. The manuscript “Music and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards” 1794
6. The Jackdaw’s Ring - ©2009 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on Flute – I wrote this piece inspired by a bit of Welsh folklore about a the magical Ring of the Jackdaw King. Jackdaw’s collect shiny babbles and this particular Ring allowed the wearer to understand the language of Birds. I wrote a little Poem for it along with a story as well. Something about a Ring, a Princess and of course a Bard.
Jackdaw’s love cabbage, Jackdaw’s love peas;
Jackdaw’s love apple and maybe some cheese;
Jackdaw’s tell stories and flock in the Trees;
Where they taunt you and mock you and squawk when they please;
Jackdaw’s love Saphires, Diamonds and String;
Old Glasses, Old Coins, Buttons and things;
Yet one treasure of treasures, a magical Ring;
They gave as a tribute to the Jackdaw King.
By David Spalding Sharp
7. Mis Mel (Welsh Reel) “Honey Moon”– David Sharp on Mandola, Carol Sharp on Whistle, Teresa Welch on Fiddle, Steve Keen on Button Accordion, Aaron Rashaw on Guitar. We obtained this tune from our friend and acquiantance Robin huw Bowen. Robin is a famous Welsh Triple Harp player that stayed at our house and later met again on our tour through Wales. Robin had worked at the National Museum in Aberstwyth and put together a group of historical publications of traditional Welsh music. We bought several booklets from him. His music is wonderful and well worth hunting for his recordings on line.
8. Promontory ©2010 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on Mountain Dulcimer, vocals, Carol Sharp on Whistle, and Mark Jardine on Fiddle. I wrote this tune about the building and subsequent joining of the transcontinental Railroad in Utah at Promontory. My ancestor John Sharp was the contractor for the Union Pacific. His firm “Sharp and Young” built the southern and central railroad in Utah as well.
9. The Lost Treasure of the Cimeron ©2010 David S. Sharp – David Sharp – Clawhammer Banjo. I wrote this tune about a lost shipment of Gold in the Cimeron area of the Old Santa Fe trail. Many generations of treasure hunters looked throughout the dry inhospitable desert. Needless to say it has never been found. I used a two finger style pick as used by Bascom Lamar Lunsford, instead of the regular clawhammer technique on this tune.
10. Black Elk ©2009 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on Gm Native American Flute, Elk Drum. I wrote this tune in honor of Black Elk a Medicine Man of the Oglala Lakota Sioux. Black Elk was at the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the Wounded Knee Massacre. He wrote an interesting work “Black Elk Speaks” where he describes his rather unpleasant travels with Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West Show” and his unique perspective on the Ghost Dance movement. A great spiritual leader and Medicine Man, he later converted to Catholicism and made an interesting blend of the two spiritual concepts.
11. Bianco Fiore (Italian Renaissance Dance) “The White Flower” – Aaron Rashaw on Guitar, David Sharp on Mandolin. This beautiful stately dance was composed by Cesare Negri (1535-1604) It is generally thought that the title refers to what is know today as the Madonna Lily.
12. The Wood Carver’s Apprentice ©2009 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on Mountain Dulcimer, Carol Sharp on Tambourine. We live in different times and wood carvers and other craftsmen or artists used to have apprentices to pass on their knowledge and secrets to. I’m a wood carver and on occasion I’ve wished for a grandchild to teach it all too.
13. The Glittering Plain ©2010 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on Finger-style Guitar – I improvised on an idea in an open D tuning for Guitar. (DADF#AD) It is one of several ideas for a new project of improvisational music for Guitar inspired by the writings of William Morris’, the leader of the Artist Craftsmens movement in England. (1834-1896)
14. Les Jongleur ©2009 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on Epinette – The title literally means the Juggler. In the middle ages that title included Poets, Actors, Musicians, Jugglers and performers of any stripe. I wrote this tune on the Epinette a small Mountain Dulcimer like instrument from France.
15. Illiam y Thallear (Manx traditional air) “William the Tailor” – Carol Sharp on Celtic Harp, and David Sharp on Flute. An ancient tune from the Isle of Man. I love the mysterious quality of this melody.
16. Black Nag (English and New England Reel) David Sharp on Guitar, Bass, Carol Sharp on Hammer Dulcimer, Teresa Welch on Fiddle. This English tune ended up in the American colonies in New England as well. A Black Nag was often a portent of death. It may well be that Washington Irving’s story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” may have taken much of its form from traditional lore of the Black Nag. Especially the image of the Headless Horsemen on a Black Nag chasing Ichabod Crane. Playford published this interesting tune in his “Playford Collection 1670”.
17. Glastonbury Tor / The Black Swan / The Orchards of Avalon ©2007 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on Mountain Dulcimer, Carol Sharp on Tambourine. I wrote this set of tunes after our trip to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales a few years ago. We were especially taken with the area of the Chalice Well at Glastonbury. The town of Glastonbury lies at the foot of Glastonbury Tor, the great megalithic mound with a Gothic bell tower at the top. King Arthur is said to be buried beneath the Tor awaiting England’s greatest need. We were there during the Summer Solstice and hiked to the top. The view was fantastic. The Black Swan was a charming little pub we ate at and I had the Ploughmen’s lunch. A Black Swan was a term used as an impossibility, since prior to the discovery of the Australian Black Swan there were only white Swans known to exist. The Orchards of Avalon (Apple Orchards) were said to have surrounded Glastonbury in ancient times. It was believed to be the site of the earthly Heaven of the Celtic Brits. I have used them many times for the Groom’s Processional at weddings we get hired for.
18. The Minstrel Boy / Longbowmen’s March (Irish song air / ©2002 David S. Sharp) David Sharp on Mountain Dulcimer, Carol Sharp on Tambourine. The Minstrel Boy was once known as a song air from Maureen in Ireland. Thomas Moore (1746 -1852) later put his words to the old melody to make it his own. The Longbowmen’s March I wrote in honor of the Welsh Bowmen that contributed to the stories of what later became the English Longbow.
19. The Holy Thorn Tree ©2009 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on Glastonbury Pipe. I wrote this improvisational piece in honor of the White Thorn Tree that grows in the Chalice Well Garden at Glastonbury. Legend says that when Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail to Glastonbury to hide it in the hillside where a miraculous healing well sprang forth. He then planted his staff in the ground where it grew and blossomed into the current tree of today. It was said to be the made from the very type of thorns used for the crown of thorns for the Savior.
20. Oil Slick Eddie’s Hornpipe ©2009 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on Bb Whistle, Bodhran. I was inspired to write this hornpipe after the Captain of the Aircraft Carrier I served on during Vietnam. He inadvertently spilled oil on the Pacific Ocean and forever after the men onboard would refer to him as Oil Slick Eddie. Not to his face of course, and he was an Admiral of a task force, even though he was Captain of the Ship.
21. The Band of Shearers (Scottish Song) David Sharp on Flute, Vocals, Scott Jorgensen on Celtic Harp. This song was about the courtship that occurs in the Scotland of those days. Young Men and Women would go on Sheep shearing parties to shear all the sheep in their communities, and it was a great way for young couples to meet.
22. The Milking Song (Manx Song air) Carol Sharp on Celtic Harp, David Sharp on Flute. This is the ancient melody of a song that had words at one time. It was believed the words were a type of magic charm on the milk to be consumed.
23. The Derby Ram (English Mummers tune) David Sharp on Bodhran, Vocals, Carol Sharp on Tambourine. This tune is an ancient Mummer’s tune from the Derbyshire area of Britain. Mummers would dress up in costumes and dance and sing to a little play along with musicians. They would typically go to each house in the village and perform the owners of the home would give the Mummer’s Bread, Wine, Cheese and other treats. The Mummer’s would be on their way to the next house in the village during Boxing Day or Christmas as it’s known here.
24. Air dune’ Volta / Pinagay Bransle (Thionot Arbeau’s Orchesography 1558) David Sharp on Glastonbury Pipe, Carol Sharp on Tambourine. Queen Elizabeth the first was said to have danced the Volta when she was young. Both tunes are from Thionot Arbeau’s Orchesograpy 1558. It was a treatise on instruction in music, percussion and dance.
25. Old Hag you’ve killed me / The Hag at the Churn (Irish Traditional jigs) David Sharp on Tenor Banjo, Teresa Welch on Fiddle, Aaron Rashaw on Guitar. Traditional Irish Jigs played at many a session. The Old Hag was a poetic analogy for Ireland, sometimes known as the Poor Old Woman of Europe during the 1700 through 1800’s.
26. The Lindorm’s Cup © 2009 David S. Sharp – David Sharp on Flute. I wrote this tune as a bit of music for a story about a Cup found in the treasure hoard of a Lindorm (Dragon) and the terrible properties when one tries to take a drink from the mysterious cup.
27. Dans de les Marionettes / El Tu Tu © 2007 David S. Sharp / Italian Renaissance – David Sharp – Mountain Dulcimer, Carol Sharp – Whistle. I wrote this as the title cut to the album of that name inspired by my love of Puppets and puppet shows. I created the album with the intent of using the music for my puppet theatre. El Tu Tu is an anonymous Italian Renaissance dance.
28. Old Yeller Dog (American Old Time) David Sharp on Mountain Dulcimer and Fiddle, Carol Sharp on Whistle, Pat Leary on Guitar, and Mark Jardine on Fiddle. You may recognize the Old Grey Mare melody a little bit.
29. Dames Blanches © 2009 David S. Sharp - David Sharp on Epinette. I composed this piece for french Epinette. The title means White Ladies and is a reference to the type of other worldly ghosts that have died of a broken heart they are known to tempt young men to thier peril as they dance in the moonlight.
30. Snow in the Pass © 2010 David S. Sharp - David Sharp on Clawhammer Banjo and Spoons. I composed this piece because the pass is closed during the winter when it snows near our ranch.
31. Aokigahara © 2008 David S. Sharp - David Sharp on Shakuhachi. This is a piece I composed about the forest at the base of Mount Fuji. It has a reputation as a haunted forest since the medieval period, and over the centuries has been a popular place for suicide, even to the current day. The instrument I play is a Shakuhachi I made from bamboo. I used an unusual scale for this piece to give the melody an especially mornful quality. The name translates to sea of Trees.
32. Oh my Darlin' © 2010 David S. Sharp and Carol H. Sharp - David Sharp on Clawhammer Banjo and vocals. I started writing the words after I'd written the melody, and my wife Carol kept singing me verses she was suggesting from the previous verse I had written. It soon became a song about us and building a cabin in the west. I hope we get to write more tunes together.
33.The Wild Geese (Irish Traditional) Scott Jorgensen on Celtic Harp, David Sharp on Flute. This beautiful tune was said to be the melody to a forgoten song or lament, about the defeat of the Irish soldiers of under KIng James by soon to be King Billy, or William of Orange. They fled to the continent and formed many mercenary groups that fought for many other countries.
34. Over the Waterfall / Soldier's Joy (American Traditional) David Sharp on Guitar and Whistle, Carol Sharp on Hammer Dulcimer, Chris Carlson on Fiddle, Steve Hollander on Banjo, Ruth Hollander on Accordion. Both tunes are mainstays of the Old Time session tunes you would need to learn, since they are literally played by all Old Time American musicians. We used to play this set for many a contra dance and appalachian square.
35. Hungry Ghost © 2008 David S. Sharp - David Sharp on Bamboo Flute and singing Bowl. I composed this piece with the tradition in mind of the Tibetan Priests leaving offering for hungry spirits. The essence of the food or offering is taken by the spirits and is a remnant of an older religion preceding Tibetan Buddism. I made the Bamboo flute played here with an unusual scale to give it an otherworldly sound.
36. Shiprock © 2009 David S. Sharp - David Sharp on High Am Native American Plains Flute. I composed this tune for Shiprock in New Mexico. It is a sacred place to the Navajo People who call it "Tsi' Bit' a i" or rock with wings. It has great religous and historical significance. According to one legend, after being transported from another place, the Navajos lived on the monolith, coming down only to plant their fields and get water. One day, the peak was struck by lightning, obliterating the trail and leaving only a sheer cliff, and stranding the women and children on top to starve. The presence of people on the peak is forbidden for fear they might stir up the ghosts, or rob their corpses. Every year on our way to a Renaissance Fair in New Mexico we drive by Shiprock. Often there is a dust storm with lightning that sweeps through the vast landscape that holds this amazing feature.
37. Silent, O Moyle - ( words by Thomas Moore 1779-1852) to an older tune called "My Dear Eveleen". Carol Sharp on Celtic Harp, and David Sharp on Vocals. Transformed into Swans with the gift of music, Fionnuala and her brothers spent 300 years on the Straights of O'Moyle. One of the most beautiful Irish myths and stories is the source for Thomas Moore's verses. The Children of Lir was written down by Irish Monks from the tales about the Tuatha de Danann in the Irish "Book of Invasions".
38. Blarney Pilgrim (Irish Traditional jig) From "O'Neill's music of Ireland 1850". David Sharp on Flute, Tenor Banjo and Guitar. Chris Carlson on Fiddle and Bodhran. The Blarney Stone was and is a famous destination for tourists who after kissing the stone supposedly obtain the "Gift of Gab". (My wife says I have the gift of Blab.)
The term Blarney originally ment "empty flattery" after Queen Elizabeth I, requested an oath of loyalty to obtain occupancy of the land from its then current Irish Lord Cormac Teig McCarthy. Cormac used such subtle stalling tactics and flattery that Queen Elizabeth proclaimed "enough with all this Blarney"! Giving rise to the saying "a bit of Blarney".
39. The Jackdaw's Palace © Carol H. Sharp - Carol Sharp on Hammer Dulcimer, David Sharp on Flute and Bass. My wife composed this tune after our trip to Britain and traveling in Wales we came to Saint David's and it's beautiful pre-reformation Gothic Cathedral. Next to the Cathedral were the ruins of the "Bishops Palace", we strolled around the grounds of the Palace at twilight as flocks of Jackdaw's flew and squaked from tree to tree on the grounds. It was a very magical and Celtic moment in the half light of evening.
40. The Mug of Brown Ale (Irish Traditional jig) David Sharp on D Whistle and Bodhran. This tune was originally published in "The Roche Collection of Traditional Irish Music 1912" under the title "The Clare Jig" it is a main stay tune of many an Irish Session.
41. Morgan Megan (Turlough O'Carolan 1670-1738) Scott Jorgensen on Harp and David Sharp on Flute. Turlough O'Carolan was Ireland most famous Harp Player. Blind at an early age he was trained on the Harp to make his living, and he traveled from town to town playing and composing his music for his patrons. His compositions are musical portraits of his patrons and their family members.
42. Robin Ddiog (Welsh dance) Carol Sharp on Hammer Dulcimer, David Sharp on Flute, Mandolin and Guitar. We used to play this for several of the Welsh Country Dances we played for. We also danced this at our weekly folk dance gathering. In Cymraig the title translates to "Lazy Robin".
43. Marazula Schiarazula (Italian Medieval dance) Sometimes called the "Maltese Bransle". Carol Sharp on Gothic Bray Harp and Drum, David Sharp on Alto Recorder. The Gothic Bray Harp my wife plays is a replica of the Gothic Harp in the Nurenburg Museum. It has beautiful Gothic curves in forming the frame of the Harp, much like the Gothic arches in Cathedrals of that time period. Small wooden pins with wooden blades near the strings give it that unusal buzzing sound so unlike the Celtic or Pedal Harp. It reminds me more of the Crumhorn or double reed sound which was in vogue during the period as well. My wife bought this Harp when a more practicle couple would have replaced their couch or oven. I just laughed when she came home from Harp camp with this Harp, because I would much rather hear her playing than have most any luxury. I tell her she doesn't play it often enough.
44. Southwell / Picardy / Pastime with Good Company / The Falcon (English/French/Henry VIII/D. Sharp) David Sharp on Flute d'Amore, and Carol Sharp on Tambourine. Pastime with Good Company was written by Henry the Eighth, he was a gifted composer and his day gig was King of all England. It's always good to have something to fall back on. I wrote "The Falcon" as a courtly dance with the Falconry of the Nobility with their bird hunting in mind.
45. Ar Hyd y Nos (All Through the Night) Welsh Traditional Lullaby - Carol Sharp on Celtic Harp and David Sharp on Flute and Vocal. Originally this tune was a Lullaby sung in Cymraig or Welsh. It came into use a Christmas tune at some point. My wife and I took a tour through the Isles and stayed for two weeks at the Pliad Cymry language school in Nant Gwertheyrin in the north of Wales. I learned to sing and pronounce the words to this song in the northern dialect. I got a chance to use many of my phrases at the B & B's, but would soon get into real trouble, since I was well drilled in pronunciation, but couldn't keep up a rapid discussion in that language. The School was housed in an old Slate miners village, we loved every minute, you could see the Island of Angelsey from the shore far to the north. The ferns grew everywhere and were waist high.
46. A Guardian of the Way by David S. Sharp - © 2010David Sharp cut capo Guitar. I fooled around with this cut capo arrangement and did a one time improvisation in the studio. The title comes from a chapter in one of William Morris' many books.
47. The Dusty Miller - David Sharp - Flute, Teresa Welch - Fiddle, Aaron Rashaw - Guitar. An English Country Dance from the Playford Collection.
48. Moses Hoe yer Corn - (Old Time American Traditional) David Sharp - Mountain Dulcimer and Tenor Banjo, Carol Sharp - Whistle, Pat Leary - Guitar. We've played this tune for many a Barn Dance and Mountain Man Rondyvoo.