January Tune: Brian Boru’s March

Once again it’s properly winter here in the PeterPatch, with snow swirling merrily about outside. The snow first arrived on Tuesday. Concerned that it might just up and melt away the way it has every other time this year (it had been a disturbingly warm and wet winter up to that point), M. and I decided to take advantage of the stuff and dig out our snowshoes. So the past few days have seen us tromping through the snow, and coming home cold but happy to cups of hot chocolate. The cats, of course, are deciding that this is the perfect time to curl up under warm blankets. What has this to do with harps, you ask? Not much, I admit. Except that since this is a very quiet time of year as far as harp gigs are concerned, I’m able to dedicate more time to working on the update of the Chubby Sparrow Site, and to playing with Sibelius. January’s tune is Brian Boru’s March, because – well, because I just couldn’t avoid it any longer. This is one of the very first tunes I learned on harp, and one that I teach to many beginners. It’s easy to pick up because of its repetitive patterns, and it’s a cheerful little upbeat march that works well on just about any instrument. Enjoy!

The HarpBlog Tune of the Month is courtesy of Chubby Sparrow Music . For a printable version, right click on the picture and choose “save target as”, or pop over to the Chubby Sparrow Free Music page for more detailed printing instructions (note: if you just left click and try to print directly from the browser, it probably won’t print at the right size).

5 thoughts on “January Tune: Brian Boru’s March

  1. Pingback: Ireland in 2001

  2. (edited 1:02 a.m. EST)

    Okay, I see what you mean by the 3/4 now. I was initially confused by your comment, but I can see why, given how the notes are grouped, it might make more sense to simply change the time signature to 3/4. However, there’s no need to re-write the tune to play it as a march.

    3/4 marches are actually more common than you might think. They’re simply counted as one in a bar (a quick-paced ONE-and-ah TWO-and-ah), rather than the slower ONE-two-three we usually associate with waltzes. As long as the strong beats can match a walking pace, you can have march-like tunes in a variety of time signatures.

    In that way, 3/4 marches follow the exact same principle that 6/8 marches do. The only difference is, the ONE-TWO march beat is based on the strong beats of two groups of three quarter notes, rather than two groups of three eighth notes. In the case of Brian Boru’s as notated above, the strong walking beat is the first beat of each bar (so the ONE-TWO of the march beat happens over two bars).

    I’ve played Celtic marches in 2/2, 6/8, 3/4 and 4/4, and they all work fine, it really just depends on the tune, and on personal preference. Some people may prefer notating Brian Boru’s using the pattern of dotted-eighth/sixteenth/eighth followed by dotted-quarter/eighth, but personally I find the dotted-quarter/eighth/quarter — half/quarter pattern (as above) to be easier to read. (Sorry, no way to do actual notes in the comments section!)

    As for Sibelius, I’ve been using it for years and am quite happy with it. It’s a very sophisticated bit of software, which allows for great flexibility in creating bars of varying lengths (something I really appreciate when arranging medieval music). On the other hand, as part of that flexibility, it assumes you as the arranger/composer know what you’re doing, and doesn’t automatically try to correct you (for the most part, anyhow).

    Hope that helps clear things up!

  3. first time to visit the site, nice to find a harpy site!
    Thanks so much for your version of Brian Boru March, there are so many different ones on utube I noticed.
    Was contemplating purchasing some score writing software, but now wondering whether Sebelius might be a tad too complicated?

    A March has two beats in a bar( usually 2/4. two crotchets in a bar to match the “Left,right” of a march,occasionally written in 4/4 and often in 6/8:- two dotted crotchets in a bar, as above ) yet the software has allowed you to write the body of the music in 3/4 walz time which is crazy! How on earth did a quality piece of software allow this?

    So here I go again, just made myself known and complaining already!

    Anyway, will enjoy the task of re-writing it in 2/4 or 6/8 for one of my students.
    Thanks so much.

  4. Hi Kitty,

    Letters in music can mean several different things. Boxed letters can sometimes indicate the beginning of a section. For instance, as in poetry, sometimes different parts of a tune are referred to by letter, e.g. the “A” part followed by the “B” part, to show where themes repeat themselves or when new melodic themes appear. So a melody that is in three parts might have these parts marked “A”, “B” and “C”.

    Letters can also refer to chords. Chord markings typically appear above the line but can also appear below it. Chord markings are not usually boxed. If you are playing in the key of C major, and as you follow the tune you can see occurences of the letters C, G, F, Am and/or G7, for instance, those would be chord markings indicating when to play a different chord.

    Indications to play with the right or left hand are usually marked “RH” or “LH”, for instance when the left hand crosses over the right to play in the treble cleff, or the right hand drops down to play in the bass cleff.  Beginner books usually assume everyone is playing harp with the right hand as the treble hand, so that everything in treble cleff is played with the right hand and everything in the bass clef with the left hand, unless otherwise indicated (with “RH” or “LH” as above).

  5. Hi, can you tell me what the A and E in boxes and the letters under some notes mean, I hve noticed these on my beginner’s harp books but I don’t understand them, are they to say what to play with the left hand?


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