The Litany of the Saints: Musical Quotations and Influences in the Music of Tommie Potts.

John McCormick, Kreisler, and 'Andy McGahan's Reel'


Our next example follows on naturally from the previous one in that it is another instance of general ‘modal influence’ rather than of direct borrowing. It concerns a recording by the Irish tenor, John McCormick, of ‘Angels Guard Thee’ which has a violin obligato part played by Kreisler. Potts refers to it as follows:

POTTS:  ...and now I don’t know, and I’ve no training in music, but it seems to me that Kreisler was playing [plays]. Then he goes down to whatever the note was and then McCormick is in [plays]. Now they’re all different notes.

MOS: But how did you incorporate this into the dance tune?

POTTS: It was just like [plays - see Illustration 10]. I didn't play that tune in a long time.

MOS: What’s the name of it?

POTTS: ‘Andy McGahan’s Reel’.

MOS: By putting that introduction to it, does that set the mood for you Tommie?

POTTS: Yeah! And then, it also makes a piece of music out of it. The reel is limited, like not up above the first position, you know. It’s not that I have a chip on my shoulder, or inhibitions, but it’s a desire that’s in me, like -and what ‘ear hath not heard’! [Speech Transcriptions, p.24 see Ó Súilleabháin 1987]


illustration 10

Illustration 10. Introduction and opening bars of Potts' setting of 'Andy McGahon's reel'



Audio 4. John McCormack & Fritz Kreisler, ‘Angels Guard thee’ (1913).

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Illustration 11. Potts' version of the introductory violin obbligato (as played by Kleisler) to 'Angels Guard Thee'



Potts’ memory of the vocal line of ‘Angels Guard Thee’ is accurate. His version of the introductory violin part played by Kreisler, however, is very different from the original (see Illustration 11). Nonetheless, his verbal description of the interplay of violin and voice in the above extract is exact, and there can be no doubt that his own version has developed over the years without him realising the extent to which the thematic material had changed. Illustration 9 shows the Kreisler inspired introduction in the context of the opening of ‘Andy McGahan’s Reel’ into which it leads. The repeated chordal motif which links into the reel by establishing the meter and tempo is  a ploy also used by Potts to link the Thomas Moore song, ‘Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms’ with the slip-jig ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ (see Ó Súilleabháin 1987, 429). What is important here, important here, however, is that the introduction sets a particular mood for Potts which inspires him to move into his setting of ‘Andy McGahan’s Reel’. Whether this inspiration finds tangible form in motivic development is something that we cannot say. Certainly, Potts is not conscious of any, and it would serve little purpose to point to incidental motivic overlapping since such overlapping would most likely be inevitable in two pieces operating around the same ‘modal structure’, or ‘key’ as Potts puts it.