The Holly Bush Reel by Finbarr Dwyer

Top Irish fiddle player, Liam O’Connor, treats us to Finbarr Dwyer’s The Holly Bush. 

This brilliant reel, composed by legendary accordion player Finbarr Dwyer, is one that sounds great on any instrument. Written in D Mixolydian (essentially the key of D major but with a C natural rather than a C sharp) it has an edgy, distinctive sound.

This is a popular session tine. but not so overly played that you’ll encounter any eye rolling if you choose to introduce it at a session. 

Here it is in the expert hands of Irish fiddle maestro Liam O’Connor. 

I’ve included the sheet music and ABC notation below so you can try your hand at learning it too. You won’t be able to play along with Liam’s recording without some transposing however. Liam is playing up a tone, in E Mixolydian, so adjust accordingly! (Every note needs to move up by one, with D becoming E, for example.)




The Holly Bush Sheet Music Notation


T: The Holly Bush
R: reel
M: 4/4
K: Dmix
A2FA DAFG|ABde fded|cGG2 EGG2|cedc AGFG|
A2FA DAFG|ABde fded|cGG2 cedc|AcGE D2FG:|
|:Add^c defg|adde dcAc|GccB cdeg|aged cAGc|
Add^c defg |adde dcAB|cGG2 cedc|AcGE D2FG:|


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  1. Hi Guys,
    I have purchased a Gaelic Banjo on line with a book of tunes, Happy to say I am making good progess, especially with The Kesh,
    I am puzzled when I see [online] tunes written not only notation and tab but also in capital and small letter and numbers eg, A2FA DAFG] ABde]cGG2. Can you please explain,

    1. Hi Tony, great to hear you’re getting to grips with The Kesh – fantastic tune! Regarding the notation, when you see a small letter, like a d for example, that means you play the octave up or the ‘high d’ – you’ll also see these three versions D’ D and D, – high D, standard D and low D respectively. The default note length is a quaver (a half beat) so when you see G2 for example, this means you hold a middle/standard G for one beat or a crotchet (two half beats).

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