The Wind That Shakes The Barley is part of the Irish repertoire and is also played across the Atlantic and in Scottish Country Dance (Dashing White Sergeant) at an upper tempo.
Its origins are uncertain : firmly integrated to the Irish reels, it could however come from Scotland, like many reels.
It could have been composed by Nathaniel Gow (1763-1831), Niel Gow's son whose Farewell To Whisky can be heard on this site.
The Reel is a Scottish and Irish dance but also the music that goes with it. It is often played after a strathspey, offering a release of the rhythmic tension of that one.
The score is in 2/2 with a variable tempo, depending on the air, the background and the piper or even on the instrument :
- pipe bands play generally at 83-88 during Championships (even until 96); apart from that, the beat is often higher, near 100.
- soloists play within a range of 89-122; Gordon Duncan also displays many various tempi depending on the air : he's of course one of the fastest (up to 122).
- in Scottish Country Dance (Dashing White Sergeant), with others instruments than the bagpipe, the tempi are frequently higher, between 120 and 128.
Apart from dancing, the melodic structure and the grace notes are decisive to choose a tempo which will respect the musicality : you'll have to try with different values and to take the one that will fit well to the air - it's the most subjective element - and will allow a good clarity of the grace notes - depending of course on the piper skills.
The reels submitted here - with one exception - have been chosen to follow the same beat (94) for being played together during my show : you must keep in mind that it's only an indicative beat, as a working base.
The Wind That Shakes The Barley