Polka, A Dorian, Traditional Irish
Also known as: Tom Billy’s Polka; The Ballydesmond Polka No. 3
“Ballydesmond Polka 1” and “Tom Billy’s Polka” are two of the names for this traditional Irish polka. It is one of the “Ballydesmond Polkas,” a collection of tunes often played as a set. Which of the tunes is in the set, what order they are played in, and what name each tune goes by varies widely. Whatever the construction of the set, these tunes are cheerful and fun to play. Ballydesmond is a rural village in County Cork, in Ireland’s Sliabh Luachra region. Be sure to look at the “Nifty Mnemonics” lyrics below for a handy way to remember how the tune starts.
- Audio – Comhaltas: Ballydesmond No. 1 – session recording, from the album Foinn Seisiún Volume.
- Video – Julia Clifford & Denis Murphy: The Ballydesmond Polkas – from the album The Star above the Garter. (This tune is the third tune in the track; it starts at time 1:52.)
- Video – Kevin Burke: Ballydesmond Polkas – played on fiddle. From the album Sligo Made. (This tune is the third tune in this recording, starting at time 2:49.)
Dots (Music Notation)
As always for traditional tunes, the musical notation and chords do not indicate the “right” way to play the tune, but are a useful reference.
Play from the Dots
Examples of sets that include this tune.
- Ballydesmond Polka 2 / Ballydesmond Polka 1 / Ballydesmond Polka 3
- Ballydesmond Polka 1 / Ballydesmond Polka 2 / Ballydesmond Polka 3
Nifty Mnemonics –
Lyrics for Remembering the Tune
Here are some silly lyrics to help you remember how the tune starts. (They are not traditional.)
Ballydesmond Polka 1 -- memory aid lyrics by Jonathan Lay Opening phrases: And it's: Cheer up lads, it's the Ballydesmond Pol - ka
References and Resources
For those who want to dig deeper, here are some other resources.
- More Recordings
- Audio – Stephen Ducke: The Ballydesmond Polka 1 – played on tin whistle. From the book Irish Music – 400 Traditional Tunes
- Lesson – Kevin Burke (FiddleVideo): The Ballydesmond Polka 3 (Tom Billy’s) – Trad Irish Fiddle Lesson by Kevin Burke – partial lesson. (Full lesson requires subscription to FiddleVideo.)
- Video – Shannon Heaton: Backer Corner with Matt Heaton – Polka Rhythm – advice on playing backing rhythm for polkas on guitar or other rhythm instruments.
- Lesson – Marla Fibish (Peghead Nation): Irish Mandolin with Marla Fibish, “The Ballydesmond Polka No. 1” – video preview of the lesson. (Full lesson requires subscription to Peghead Nation.)
- Other Resources
- Wepage: The Session: The Ballydesmond (Polka) – crowdsourced sheet music, comments, and other information.
- Webpage: The Irish Traditional Music Tune Index: Tune ID#107 (Ballydesmond Polka) – curated reference information about the tune.
- Article: Dorian, Mixolydian, Oh My: Modes in a Nutshell, by Jonathan Lay, TrailJams
- Video – Musica Universalis: Understanding Form: The Polka