Carrickfergus Ensemble, part 4 of 5
Carrickfergus Ensemble, Part 4 of 5 (level 1) - with FREE MP3
While the song is indeed sad, it is sung with tenderness and love – and here it is in a simple arrangement of 5 parts for Level 1 players (an average student in their second year of study). The phrases are long, and the first entry is ‘off beat’, so it is important to ‘count the timing’ and every part gets the tune at some point. There are also scale-like passages decorating the movement of the music – All-in-all this piece has been much loved through the generations of my students at least.
There are 2 ‘Carrickfergus’s in Ireland! The one usually associated with the great song is in East Antrim, just north west of Belfast in Northern Ireland. It was here that King William of Orange landed in the 1790 on his way to victory at the Battle of the Boyne.
But it is more properly the ‘Carrickfergus’ from County Clare – on the River Fergus as the song evolved from the Munster (Ireland’s southern province) ballad of the title: “Do Bhí Bean Uasal” (‘There was a Noble Woman”) and its first line is ‘I wish I was in Carrick Fergus….’
The ballad became popular after actor Peter O'Toole related it to Dominic Behan, who put it in print and made a recording in 1965. In his book, "Ireland Sings" (London, 1965), Behan gives three verses of which he says, that he obtained two verses from O'Toole and wrote the middle one himself. It is also referenced in the song, "Galway Girl" written and performed by Ed Sheeran on the album "Divide".
The ballad itself is plaintive and tells of a man tired of life. He longs for his youth and carefree wandering – He calls for a drink and calls: ‘Come, Molly my love! Come and lay me down.’