Dunhill - A Song of Erin


Thomas Dunhill (1877-1946) was very much a member of the Establishment. Having studied composition under Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, he became a music master at Eton at the turn of the century before being appointed a professor at the Royal College of Music in 1905.

LIsten to part of his most famous song cycle 'Wind among the Reeds', sung here by Felicity Lott, accompanied by Graham Johnson (Chandos 1990 - Favourite English Songs).

Pupil Match & Suitability

A typical choice for younger children, or for those who might benefit from practising to play a fairly simple piece with lots of well judged legato and cantabile.

Style & Tempo

An expressive piece which demands a lyrical approach.

Whatever tempo is chosen be sure to cultivate a smooth, gently flowing character.

There are few markings in the score from the composer, but the dolce at the start gives an important overall clue.

Phrasing & Articulation

Long legato lines are called for.

Observe LH notes values in particular for a clean effect and to avoid any overholding.

Tone & Texture

There is not a large range of dynamics indicated.

It may be wise to heighten the louder dynamics rather than going for too quiet a range at the other end.

On an unfamiliar instrument, players will find it harder to get smooth gradations down to pp.


Early level technique means playing with confident finger independence and hands together amongst other things.

One often hears performances where the hands are rather sloppily co-ordinated.

This is usually remedied by careful listening.

Students are often unaware that hands are played untogether.


Much lies within simple five finger positions.

By looking ahead, students should easily be able to find new positions and next notes (LH, for example, bars 8 - 13)


If you have an eager student, why not get them to apply the sustaining pedal on the F major chord in bars 8 and 16.

It is an excellent way to make them feel a little more sophisticated about their playing and to get them to understand what the pedal does.

Be certain that they do not depress it until after the 1st beat of the bar. Otherwise blurring will happen. Probably best to depress it firmly on beat 2.

It will not really be worth doing this if a nicely seated young child has to get off the stool to do so.

Teaching Strategies

This is a straightforward piece.

Lines 1, 2 & 3 are mostly the same, so it is best to concentrate on achieving the best musical effect you can from the outset, as quantity of work is not the issue.

Practice Tips

Make practice fun!

Any means of doing this will add to the interest and increase self motivation.

Try out some of these games (tabs below) in the lesson time and set some homework accordingly.


The dotted crotchet quaver rhythms of bars 3, 7 and 15 may well be uncertain.

Counting may be effective, but by far the best and simplest way is to make up an exercise for copying me such as the one played hear.

Final Performance

An excellent performance will tell a story. There will be lots of gentle, expressive nuances within a nicely controlled tempo.

A good performance will certainly have shape and be musically projected. Perhaps there may be the odd slip and/or a little wavering in the pulse in places. there may be more scope for tonal refinements, too.

A sound performance will be a solid one in which notes and timing are secure. Sometimes the pressure of performance is responsible for players getting faster and sometimes losing control as a consequence. A sound performance my be in time and confident but too heavy and rather unsubtle.

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