The Best ITM Tune-Learning Tutor

Madame Bonaparte (G)

This is a very basic setting of the hornpipe Madame Bonaparte.  The tune is sometimes played as a reel for set dances (and so flattened out a bit), but more commonly played as a hornpipe in sessions. It’s also played in A as well as G.  According to the Fiddler’s Companion,

the tune is named in honor of Bonaparte’s wife, the Empress Josephine, probably reflecting the Irish sympathy with powerful Catholic France and the hope that Napoleon might at some point aid the cause of Irish independence.

In fact, the aid was one-way, consisting only of “Wild Geese” from Ireland (i.e., Irish soldiers who left Ireland to serve in continental European armies). According to Donal Hickey (in Stone Mad for Music, Mercier Press, 1999),

[the tune] “Madame Bonaparte” was associated with James Gandsey, “the Killarney Minstrel”, who died in 1857 at the age of 90. Gandsey survives in folk memory in the Sliabh Luachra region and some facts are clearly remembered: the son of a soldier in Ross Castle and a native Killarney mother, Gandsey was almost completely blinded in infancy by smallpox. He became known as Lord Headley’s Piper and contributed several tunes to the regional repertoire, including as well “Jackson’s Morning Brush” and “The Fox Chase.”  He is buried in Muckross Abbey, Killarney, where a plaque has been erected in his memory.

A raucous version of this tune is played by the Canadian group Leahy on the Chieftains compilation CD entitled Fire in the Kitchen (1998).  If you are listening around, you should note that there are at least two different versions of the B part. One version is what is played in the Irish tradition, and the other is favored by Northumbrian musicians.  The versions below have the Irish B part, and are recorded by Eddie.

For the ABC click Madame Bonaparte

Basic Chords:

[D/] G        / C / G  Em / D / G      / C Am / G D / G  D G/

G Em / D / G Em / D / G / C / G Em / D / G / C Am/ G D / G  D G/

Madame Bonaparte, slow tempo (mandolin)

Madame Bonaparte, med tempo (mandolin)

Madame Bonaparte, 3/4 tempo (mandolin)

The 3/4 tempo would be good for Bodhrán practice.

Madame Bonaparte

Madame Bonaparte

Thanks! Any comments?

%d bloggers like this: