Click to enlargeLondonderry Air (flute/cello duet)

Sooner or later, just about everybody hears this old Irish song. That it is sometimes badly butchered by would-be Irish tenors trying to milk the audience for the sentiment they may have for the tune is a tragedy that often mars an otherwise wonderful piece.

This tune is most often set to the words "Danny Boy," and was used as theme music for Danny Thomas' television show in the 1950s. The Danny Boy lyric tells the story of a fond separation that the singing party fears may be permanent, so other than the title it is not obvious what connection the song would have with the show. The tender and melancholy lyric is perhaps one of the reasons it has been so often performed, yet the tune itself has much to recommend it.

The melody has a moderately large range for a vocalist, but instrumentalists find it easy to negotiate. The rising and falling of the tune evokes a picture of the green hills of western Ireland, one of the most beautiful places on the earth.

This treatment is intended to frame the natural beauty of the melody in a relatively uncluttered and unaltered form, so that the tune remains completely recognizable, though ornamented in the reprise chorus, while still allowing the artistry and technique of the two players to come through.

This piece can easily be performed by other soprano/bass instrument combinations such as oboe/bassoon or violin/cello. Good high school players should have little difficulty with this piece.

MP3 sound sample: Entire piece (synthesizer/midi).



LONDONDERRY AIR for flute and cello, by Tom Kirkland, comes in a PDF file of 769K that contains three pages of musical score, a two-page flute part, a two-page cello part, and a license page, eight pages in all. Performance time should be around 3:10.


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Last update: 27 September 2017