The jig “Tripping Up the Stairs” is a universally popular jig in sessions, and seems to come from co. Donegal. It is sometimes thought to be titled “Tripping Upstairs.” Some even think that its current title is a joke, a play on “Tripping Down the Stairs” which they think is the actual title. Still others think it’s “Tripping Downstairs.” For most tunes the title and the melody have little in common. There are some exceptions, however. We know that “The Butterfly” was composed to represent the flight of a butterfly. There are those who believe that this tune too was composed so that the melody would represent a person tripping down (or up) the stairs. Of course, to “trip down the stairs” (or even “trip up the stairs”) does not mean to fall down. Just as “to trip the light fantastic” means to dance lightly (or even sprightly!), the phrase “to trip the stairs” (whether up or down) is to ascend or descend dancingly — either excitedly or playfully, like the incredible stepper Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. As the melody of this tune ascends more than it descends, we might then decide that “Tripping Up the Stairs” is the right title, whatever the history of titles attached to this tune.
As some of the tune that are played frequently in many, many sessions get the reputation of being too popular, there are players that scratch through them and don’t play them anymore. Well, they may play them if someone else starts the tunes, but won’t start them themselves. It’s unclear how long it’s been around, and I don’t know of any sources older than the 1970s. There is another tune, seemingly related in my opinion, titled “A Trip Up Stairs.” This one was published in John Walsh’s Compleat Country Dancing Master, vol 6 (London, 1754), and is in Rutherford’s Compleat Collection of 200 of the Most Celebrated Country Dances (1756). I believe the tunes there could be the ancestors of our tune here, but don’t have much to go on yet.
There’s a lot of room for variation on the melody, and the tune is great for punching that jiggy feeling.
For the ABC click Tripping Up the Stairs
Tripping Up the Stairs, slow tempo
Tripping Up the Stairs, med tempo
Tripping Up the Stairs, med-fast tempo
Tripping Up the Stairs, the dots