Downfall of Paris (The)

This tune has quite a history. Here goes...

The melody started off as a French dance tune called "Le Carillon National". During the French Revolution, the tune was adapted for a Revolutionary anthem called "Ça ira". "Ça ira" means, "It'll be OK" - which is supposedly what Ben Franklin said when the French asked him about the American Revolution.

"Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Le peuple en ce jour sans cesse répète, Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Malgré les mutins tout réussira !"

"Ah ! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine The people on this day repeat over and over, Ah ! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine In spite of the mutineers everything shall succeed."

In 1793 at the Battle of Famars, The British West Yorkshire Regiment, attacked the French to the music of "Ça ira" (the colonel hoped that he would "beat the French to their own damned tune").

This got it into the British (and by extension, American) fife and drum repertoire, where it got renamed "The Downfall of Paris". After that everyone seems to have played it.

It survives to this day as an Irish set dance and, I believe, provided the basic musical DNA for the classic Appalachian fiddle tune, "Mississippi Sawyer".

I would guess that Allen Ash thought of it as a dance tune.

Surprisingly I haven't been able to find it in the John Buttrey Manuscript

The old military beatings for "Downfall of Paris" can still be found in textbooks of drum rudiments.

There are links below to a fife & drum version of the tune by the band of the 41st Regt. of Foot at Fort George and by the late Eugene O'Donnell a great Irish fiddler. Neither are exactly the version in the Ash Manuscript.


Title Downfall of Paris (The)
Subject Allen Ash Manuscript Reels, Hornpipes, Strathspeys, Marches
Year 1850
Locale Central
Keywords Ca ira drum fife military



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