Perhaps the most famous of Irish ballads, this tune has been reworked for almost every combination of instruments and vocalists imaginable.
The lyrics commonly sung with this tune, Danny Boy, may have a lot to do with the popularity of the song. Though somewhat ambiguous, it seems to tell the story of a last parting, as though sung by an ailing grandfather to his precious grandson in the waning days of a summer visit, not knowing if the elder would survive to see him again in the spring.
Regardless of the meaning of the lyrics, the tune is magnificent, though challenging in range, and allows the performer to load up the delivery with emotion.
The first stanza is lead by the tuba, with the other parts playing a rhythmically simple but harmonically complex background. A short transition puts the second stanza in the hands of the trombonist, with a similar accompaniment, now with a bit more motion and richer for the tuba in the bass.
After the full second stanza, the first trumpet takes over for a final half-stanza. The accompaniment is similar in style but has a bit more motion and uses tension and relief in the harmony to good effect.
Finally, the last two phrases are repeated once more with a very sonorous accompaniment to achieve a restful ending.
Scored for two trumpets, french horn, trombone, and tuba, the pdf includes a euphonium part that easily substitutes for the french horn.
LONDONDERRY AIR arranged by Tom Kirkland for brass quintet consisting of two trumpets, F horn or euphonium, trombone, and tuba, comes in a pdf file of 757K, with a four-page score, six one-page parts, and a license page, eleven pages in all. Performance time should be about three minutes.
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Last update: 28 February 2019