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 Post subject: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2019 4:31 pm 
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On The Session, another trad music site, The well known tune, "The Irish Washerwoman" was lambasted as insulting to Irish music and heritage. What do members of C&F think?


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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:15 pm 
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I think in the end it's an 18th century dance tune much like all the other 18th century dance tunes making up a lot of the repertoire.

It's been a bit misused and overplayed but on the other hand it was still good enough for Leo Rowsome:

https://www.itma.ie/digital-library/sound/cid-231211


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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2019 6:02 pm 
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My take on the IW thing is that it got so overplayed, then appropriated by people outside the tradition (movie soundtracks etc) that it became almost taboo within the tradition.

The same thing happened in the Highland pipe tradition with The Campbells Are Coming. Every old movie plays CAC in the background whenever they're showing something/someone Scottish onscreen. Laurel & Hardy used it. Yet I had played Highland pipes for years, and had heard hundreds of hours of pipers and pipe bands and never heard anybody play CAC. It has become too hackneyed for people within the tradition, too appropriated by outsiders. It has all but disappeared from the traditional repertoire. (EDIT: the exceptions are Clan Campbell and the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, for which the tune is standard.)

One result of IW being appropriated and played endlessly by outsiders is that the versions one hears are invariably cheesy and horrid and bear little resemblance to ITM.

Also with CAC the hokey versions heard on movie soundtracks bear little resemblance to the actual pipe tune, which sounds pretty cool due to being in the key of G heard over A drones.

Likewise I have heard versions of IW which are quite nice and fully within traditional ITM performance practices.

One bizarre thing about IW is how frequently the ITM-adjacent bands that play it start it out slow, then steadily go faster and faster, until it becomes an tuneless and meaningless jumble.

Stuff for listening if you so desire:

Irish Washerwoman and Campbells Are Coming (yes a medley of the two!) in typical hokey arrangements

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOeb971srfo

Campbells Are Coming as played as within the piping tradition as you could get, by the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, an old Campbell regiment. It's their regimental march. (jump to 1:16)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meoAjrj8aQg

Irish Washerwoman being played, sounds to me, in a version that sounds acceptably ITM.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFBRaIOI85k

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Last edited by pancelticpiper on Tue Aug 06, 2019 4:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2019 10:41 pm 
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Totally unhokey version of
the campbells are coming
albeit an Irish one.
Scroll to 2:03
https://youtu.be/LNJscyS7I1c

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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 3:20 am 
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I play an unhokey version of The Irish Washerwoman in my current set ... then segue into the Rondo from Mozart's Horn Concerto No.4 (at jig tempo) ... then back again into The Irish Washerwoman. It works, I enjoy it, the public like it, and the ITM police haven't made an arrest yet :wink:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2foUMsN5iI

All the best,

Seán

PS That's not me playing the horn in the clip, but I did once perform that piece on the baritone saxhorn in a UK concert hall

PPS Another classical/Irish combination I play is the slow section from Czardos (by Victor Monti) going into The Rakes of Mallow. Great craic.


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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 3:45 am 
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It can be a problematic tune in some contexts, look up John Sheahan and Andre Rieu on youtube, if ever there was an example of cringeworthy Paddywhackery you have it right there. Here's some historical background to the tune.

I think there's a bit of an ambivalent attitude among musicians because of the audience response to hearing it. That said there are
plenty of respectable musicians who had a go and while Patsy Touhey and Leo Rowsome could be thought to have a commercial eye on the audience, the likes of Tommy Reck, Paddy Fahey and others who played intricate and interesting versions of the tune can be assumed to have taken it up on its own merits. I have heard the likes of Joe and Dermott McLaughlin play it at concerts during the eighties and have been known to have a go myself although perhaps not so much in public.

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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 3:47 am 
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In my opinion it's so overplayed in popular culture as to be a cliche. And part of the reason it's overplayed in culture is its title: it references Irish women as domestic servants. The stereotype of "Bridget" the washerwoman is all over the place in 19th and 20th century US culture. Bridget is invariably drawn as burly, coarse, ignorant, morally compromised and combative. To me the song recalls a time when Irish women had few options and their willingness to work very hard for little money was turned into a charge against them, treated as racial defect of Irish women. See this description at google books https://bit.ly/2YsbdAs and this famous cartoon comparing Florence Nightingale to "Bridget McBruiser"


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So I think the song represents the perpetuation of a particularly mean-spirited stereotype and believe that its title is part of why it got played whenever Irish people showed up on stage and in movies. I just feel like there are at least a thousand other good songs to play: why play the one that was used to belittle Irish women?

True, Francis O'Neill recorded Patsy Touhey playing it, but in Dance Music of Ireland it's listed as just "the Irish Woman" with the washer part removed. Touhey himself got into trouble with his fellow Irishmen for being too much of a dealer in stereotypes: see Nick Whitmer's excellent account from An Piobaire republished here: http://www.whitmerpipes.com/touhey_trou ... illage.pdf.

Of course that was long ago, and most people have no idea of the stereotype of Bridget and most Irish Americans are probably too busy stereotyping Latina workers to think about their great grandmothers washing rich women's laundry by hand and being mocked for it. I'd just pick a different tune.


PS John Ford let it into the soundtrack of The Quiet man but of course that movie doesn't have any stereotypes in it at all, does it ? :wink:


Last edited by PB+J on Mon Aug 05, 2019 4:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 3:50 am 
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There are, by the way, some attractive reel versions of the tune about. Without the baggage.

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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:12 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
There are, by the way, some attractive reel versions of the tune about. Without the baggage.



It's not the song's fault! It's a fine tune. "Dixie" is a great song as well, but I'm not going to go around playing it!


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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:53 am 
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PB+J - And anyone who care to respond- I'd be glad of suggestions to replace IWW. I'd always thought it the iconic tune and had no idea it was held in such low esteem.

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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 8:12 am 
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PB+J wrote:
Mr.Gumby wrote:
There are, by the way, some attractive reel versions of the tune about. Without the baggage.



It's not the song's fault! It's a fine tune. "Dixie" is a great song as well, but I'm not going to go around playing it!


That's true about Dixie, an American original written for the minstrel stage by a northerner. There are many Civil War tunes based on Irish volunteers who fought for the Union in exchange for a new blue suit and three squares, plus citizenship that I like to play. Here in Richmond Virginia, legions of Irish immigrants were employed during the mid 19th century in the construction of canals linking Richmond to the western part of Virginia. They were appalled by the summer heat, but got used to it quickly. The Irish women had very few options, other than working in kitchens or later after the Civil War as domestic servants. There are still local accounts of nice and proper Irish ladies making excellent maids and nannies. With regards to the Irish Washerwoman, I think the years have taken the edge off the disparaging aspects, but at its core, it still is based on a stereotype. However, the Irish themselves play the tune with no qualms today. The same cannot be said for some catchy tunes composed by Stephen Foster such as Ring de Banjo and other tunes that originated on the minstrel stage. We used to belt out those songs during music class (1960s) without a second thought, unthinkable today.


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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 8:48 am 
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I'm probably overly aware of or concerned with history in general. I think it's revealing that O'Neill seems to have changed the name of the tune. He sometimes changed the names of tunes that were Irish in origin but had American sounding names. Paul DeGrae has written about this--O'Neill changed "The Bells of Omaha" in Ryan's Mammoth Collection to "The Belles of Omagh," for example!

Dropping the "washerwoman" had to be deliberate. O'Neill was part of the Gaelic League effort to suppress the "stage Irishman" stereotype. He helped organize a Feis in 1912 and then again in 1913 where people dressed as "stage Irishmen" were not allowed on to participate. From the Chicago Tribune, july 29 1912:

"Two young Irishmen, dressed In knee breeches, green stockings, ragged swallow tail coats and wearing dilapidated hats and green neckerchiefs—they were stage Irishmen-walked up the stairs to the platform where Irish dances were being danced in Gaelic park yesterday. They did not get quite up to the platform because two of the officials saw them. The two young men were firmly but courteously thrust back down the steps by the officials. They were told they could not enter the Irish Jig dancing contests,

”We have been fighting this sort of thing for twenty-five years," explained Donald O'Connor, master of ceremonies at the first annual Chicago Feis. "This is no place for burlesque stage Irishmen.""


I have no idea how Irish musicians feel about it, and of course it would be silly to ban thing simply because it might offend modern sensibilities, but I'd personally avoid that tune for the reason given.

Stephen Foster was a brilliant composer! His songs are marvelous and then you get to the lyrics and just cringe. "hard times come again no more" is always a safe bet.

I don't think there's any need to be a zealot or dogmatic about this stuff but I assume most of us are into ITM because we value history and tradition and think about their meaning.


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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 9:38 am 
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PB+J wrote:
I'm probably overly aware of or concerned with history in general. I think it's revealing that O'Neill seems to have changed the name of the tune. He sometimes changed the names of tunes that were Irish in origin but had American sounding names. Paul DeGrae has written about this--O'Neill changed "The Bells of Omaha" in Ryan's Mammoth Collection to "The Belles of Omagh," for example!

Dropping the "washerwoman" had to be deliberate. O'Neill was part of the Gaelic League effort to suppress the "stage Irishman" stereotype. He helped organize a Feis in 1912 and then again in 1913 where people dressed as "stage Irishmen" were not allowed on to participate. From the Chicago Tribune, july 29 1912:

"Two young Irishmen, dressed In knee breeches, green stockings, ragged swallow tail coats and wearing dilapidated hats and green neckerchiefs—they were stage Irishmen-walked up the stairs to the platform where Irish dances were being danced in Gaelic park yesterday. They did not get quite up to the platform because two of the officials saw them. The two young men were firmly but courteously thrust back down the steps by the officials. They were told they could not enter the Irish Jig dancing contests,

”We have been fighting this sort of thing for twenty-five years," explained Donald O'Connor, master of ceremonies at the first annual Chicago Feis. "This is no place for burlesque stage Irishmen.""


I have no idea how Irish musicians feel about it, and of course it would be silly to ban thing simply because it might offend modern sensibilities, but I'd personally avoid that tune for the reason given.

Stephen Foster was a brilliant composer! His songs are marvelous and then you get to the lyrics and just cringe. "hard times come again no more" is always a safe bet.

I don't think there's any need to be a zealot or dogmatic about this stuff but I assume most of us are into ITM because we value history and tradition and think about their meaning.


It really is fascinating how songs have been reworded and retitled. The Irish Jaunting Car became both the Bonnie Blue Flag and the Irish Volunteer depending on which side you fought on. You're right about Foster, what a genius but a rather difficult one today. Another safe Foster besides Hard Times you mentioned is Sweet Virginia Belle. I'm struggling with a catchy (non Foster) tune called, of all things, "Kill That Yankee Soldier". Good grief. I'm going to rename it and "erase:" the lyrics. Maybe I'll just stay away from that tune altogether.


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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 11:16 am 
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Quote:
"Two young Irishmen, dressed In knee breeches, green stockings, ragged swallow tail coats and wearing dilapidated hats and green neckerchiefs—they were stage Irishmen-walked up the stairs to the platform where Irish dances were being danced in Gaelic park yesterday. [...]"


Sounds like two cast members of a Comhaltas Tour group that got lost :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Washed Up!
PostPosted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:30 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
... look up John Sheahan and Andre Rieu on youtube, if ever there was an example of cringeworthy Paddywhackery ...


Sigh. I've never understood the appeal of André Rieu ...

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