Jig, D Mixolydian, Traditional Irish
TrailJams Tune of the Week September 11, 2002; December 17, 2023
Wild, fierce and exuberant, this tune invites repetition, variation, and growing intensity. It is a traditional Irish jig that brings a legacy in folklore with it, concerning the dangers of churning butter.
The photograph in the illustration above was taken around 1897 by J.W. Dunn. It shows a woman churning butter, with a kitten to help manage any leaks, and with a book in hand to help pass the time.
- Video – The Bothy Band: The Pipe on the Hob/The Hag at the Churn – from the album After Hours. (The Hag at the Churn begins at time 2:19 in this recording. It is played in D Mixolydian.)
- Video – Chris Smith: Gallagher’s Frolics/The Pipe on the Hob/The Hag at the Churn – from the album Coyotebanjo, Irish Traditional Music from America, Chris Smith with Roger Landes and Randal Bays. (The Hag at the Churn begins at time 2:18 in this recording. It is played in D Mixolydian.)
- Audio – Mochara: The Hag at the Churn/The Maid at the Spinning Wheel – played on uilleann pipes with guitar backing, in D Mixolydian. From the album In Your Blood.
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.
About the chords: In this arrangement, most of the chords are open chords, omitting the “third” that would be in a standard major or minor chord. The D5 chord consists of D and A notes, with no F. The Csus2 chord consists of the notes C, D, and G — in other words, a C5 chord with an added D (C5addD) to give tension that pulls toward D. These stark cords support the tune’s edgy sound and leave plenty of room for melodic variations.
Examples of sets that include this tune.
- Pipe on the Hob Jig Set: The Pipe on the Hob (A Dorian) / The Hag at the Churn (D Mixolydian) / Banish Misfortune (D Mixolydian)
- Gallagher Jig Set: Gallagher’s Frolics / The Pipe on the Hob (3-part) / The Hag at the Churn
- Garret Barry’s / The Hag at the Churn
- The Monaghan Jig / Scatter the Mud / The Hag at the Churn (Jigs)
- The Gander in the Pratie Hole / The Hag at the Churn
- The Hag at the Churn / Banish Misfortune
References and Resources
For those who want to dig deeper, here are some other resources.
- More Recordings
- Video – Dulahan Ireland: The Hag at the Churn – played on tenor banjo in D Mixolydian.
- Audio – Stephen Ducke: The Hag at the Churn (Jig) – played on tin whistle in D Mixolydian. From the book Irish Music – 400 Traditional Tunes
- Video – Niamh Ni Charra: The Hag at the Churn / Banish Misfortune – Hammersmith Irish Cultural Centre, London 03.04.2008. Played on concertina.
- Video – Steve Levy, Traditional Music Project: Hag at the Churn – played on mandolin in D Mixolydian.
- Lesson – Whistle Workshops: Hag at the Churn (Jig) – lesson on tin whistle by Conor Lamb. With video, sheet music, and animated (SoundSlice) sheet music. Played in D Mixolydian.
- Lessons – Online Academy of Irish Music: The Hag at the Churn – lessons for playing the tune on guitar (flat-picking) and on uilleann pipes, taught in the key of D Mixolydian.
- Other Resources
- Webpage – The Session: The Hag at the Churn (Jig) – crowdsourced sheet music, comments, and other information.
- Article: Dorian, Mixolydian, Oh My: Modes in a Nutshell, by Jonathan Lay, TrailJams