Belle of Belfast

Arranged by William Hunt
Voicing: SATB
Instrumentation: piano
Catalog number: AMP 0387
Price: $2.10

Belle of Belfast

Editorial notes by Ray Wallace, D.A.

School children learn this song in a variety of venues. First, the song is still heard in the villages, towns, and cities of Ulster (the northern counties of Ireland), and the Belle of Belfast has achieved folkloric stature with its multi-generational acceptance and acquisition. Young girls use it as a rope-skipping song, and young boys usually learn it from their older sisters. However, it is also formally taught in elementary (or primary) schools allover the North. Music is taught at all elementary schools in Ulster, most would have formal choirs, and thus many school children at this level would certainly have this piece in their repertoire.

The Belle of Belfast is also heard at sporting events, especially at soccer matches (football games). As in America, fans generally follow their local teams, but one striking point about the Belle of Belfast is that it is performed publicly by fans from allover the province, and, in fact, is more likely to be heard outside Belfast than within the city confines. In addition, it is also sung publicly at international sporting events by fans supporting Northern Irish and/or Ulster teams in soccer and rugby. Politically, the Belle of Belfast is also situated in an interesting spot in Northern Irish culture. While the piece is certainly performed by Protestant marching bands (especially flute and accordion bands) during the July marches celebrating a decisive battle in 1690, Catholic marching bands also perform it is a similar ceremony in August each year. However, people from Northern Ireland, regardless of religious or political division are just as likely to sing this song at their local pubs!

The most important point about the Belle of Belfast is its popularity throughout Ireland and overseas. Over the last fifty years it has now been more commonly titled I'll Tell M.v Ma and many world-renowned Irish artists proudly perform the Isong. Recent performers to have presented this work have included Van Morrison, : The Chieftains, and The Cranberries. The simplicity of the tune and the text of Belle of Belfast affords a charm that has been enjoyed by many generations of Irish people, and when current recording artists perform this work concert goers usually already know the words and the tune and sing along!

Click here to see a sample.

Click here to listen to a recording (MP3).

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