The Musical Priest

Reel, Bm, Traditional Irish
TrailJams Tune of the Week for November 21, 2021

Two features of this tune set it apart from most traditional Irish reels. First, it is in the key of B minor, which is a fairly rare key for Irish tunes. Not difficult, just rare. B minor uses the notes of the D major scale, and this tune lays out well on whistles, concertinas, and fiddles. Second, this tune is a three-part single reel. So, rather than having the usual A and B parts, this tune has A, B, and C parts. But as a single reel, each part is short: each is four measures long rather than the more typical eight measures of a double reel. While the basic tune is fairly simple to play, it invites ornamentation and variation, as you will hear in the recordings.

Recordings

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.

Musical score for The Musical Priest, Reel, Bm

About the Dots

This tune is simple, but invites variation. The musical notation here is simplified, but if you listen to how the tune is played by skilled players, you will hear a lot more detail in each measure, and variation each time a phrase is repeated. The first and third measures of the tune, in particular, cry out for ornamentation beyond what is written in the dots.

Regarding the triplets in the B part of the tune, they are an essential part of the tune, not just an ornament. If you are unable to play the triplets, you can play two eighth notes instead while you build your skill; in the meantime, if you are playing with a group of musicians, someone should play the triplets. Be aware too that in Irish tunes the three notes in a triplet do not have an equal duration for each of the three notes. A triplet played over the space of two eighth notes (as in this tune) has a rhythm of 16th-16th-8th.

Play from the Dots
Slow tempo 65bpm
Moderate tempo 85bpm

Sets

Examples of sets that include this tune.

  • The Musical Priest / The Blackthorn Stick
  • The Silver Spear / The Earl’s Chair / The Musical Priest

References and Resources

For those who want to dig deeper, here are some other resources.