Londonderry Air: Irish Folk Song

Arranged by Jeremy Niles Kempton

3 tenor, 1 bass trombone

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Publisher: Cherry Classics Music
Date of Publication: 2019

Score and parts


Originating from County Londonderry in Ireland, the Londonderry Air is perhaps one of the most famous melodies in the world. It was popularized by the American Irish diaspora in the 20th century. Jeremy Niles Kempton’s arrangement for trombone quartet captures all the drama and beauty most of us have come to expect from this melody.

Except for some brief two part harmony at the first cadence, the 16 bars of the arrangement begin with all four parts in unison. After measure 17, Kempton’s florid contrapuntal harmonization is at times reminiscent of Percy Grainger’s concert band arrangement of the same melody in Irish Tune from County Derry. While Kempton’s version only presents us with two repetitions of the melody, it creates much of the same textural variety as the Grainger by setting the melody in an inner voice, the third trombone part in this case,  on the repeat, with all the other voices harmonizing around it.

This arrangement of Londonderry Air is accessible to a wide variety of ensembles at many levels of experience. All four parts are written on the bass clef. The bass trombone part contains no pitches below C, making it possible to be played by a tenor trombonist with an F attachment. The first trombonist is never asked to play above a¹, and the abundance of unison doubling creates plenty of opportunities for a player in need of rest to tacet.

While not the most technically or musically demanding music, the Jeremy Niles Kempton arrangement of Londonderry Air is everything that any of us would likely expect it to be. It creates many opportunities to work on intonation, ensemble blend, and phrasing, and is sure to be an audience favorite on any trombone quartet recital program.

Reviewer: Greg Strohman
Review Published November 29, 2020