On "The Juice of the Barley" - (2016)    

for piano


The theme is a traditional Irish drinking song said to come from the mid-19th century, though earlier forms may be found.


Mention is made of "Stingo, or Oil of Barley, or Cold and Raw" in "The British Broadside Ballad and Its Music," by Claude M. Simpson, Rutgers University Press, 1966, a survey of ballads circa 1550-1700, broadsides being printed ballads, often sung to a variety of tunes and on "broad" sides of paper. The mention of ale is turned to the more modern view of a "juice of the barley" as whiskey. A last and perhaps more modern verse promises "...I'll dance out my days drinking whiskey galore." Ale or whiskey, inebriation and the humorous human tales which surround it are the "broad" theme. The 6/8 rhythm captures that sense of dance.


One part of the modern song lyric:

One Sunday the priest thread [called] me out from the altar
Saying you'll end up your days with your neck in a halter;
And you'll dance a fine jig between heaven and hell
And his words they did frighten me the truth for to tell,
Singing - bainne na mbó ar na gamhna,
And the juice of the barley for me.

So the very next morning as the dawn it did break
I went down to the vestry the pledge for to take,
And there in that room sat the priests in a bunch
Round a big roaring fire drinking tumblers of punch,
Singing - bainne na mbó ar na gamhna,
And the juice of the barley for me.


The phrase "bainne na mbó ar na gamhna" in the chorus is Irish, and means "cows' milk for the calves", and the last line reminds "the juice of the barley for."


4 pages, circa 4' 30" - an MP3 demo is here: 


The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano score.


On "The Juice of the Barley"