O’Keefe’s Slide

OKeefes
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Pádraig O’Keefe (1887-1963) was known as ‘the last of the fiddle masters’ (Fintan Vallely, Companion to Irish Traditional Music, 2011). From the Sliabh Luachra region of southwest Ireland, he was initially a schoolteacher, and latterly a fiddle teacher, numbering Denis Murphy amongst his students.

There are a number of tunes known as ‘O’Keefe’s Slide’, but this is probably the best known. It is very nearly pentatonic, with just a couple of F#s as passing notes towards the end. Very often it will be notated with a key signature of just one sharp (corresponding to G major). This would put it in the dorian mode. To my ear, this does not sound like a dorian tune. Therefore, I have notated it with two sharps in the key signature (corresponding to D major) even though there are no C#s – or Cs for that matter – in the tune. This would place the tune in the mixolydian mode, which, for me, is the correct mode. Alternatively, who cares?

I first came across the two slides – Denis Murphy’s and O’Keefe’s – on a little-known 1974 LP called Merrily Kissed the Quaker by a band called The Blacksmiths. They included in their ranks a young Paddy Keenan, later of The Bothy Band and now thought by many to be the best uilleann piper out there.

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Pádraig O’Keefe

The Jones Boys play highly accomplished traditional music from Ireland, England, Scotland, Brittany, Sweden, Bulgaria …

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